Monday night kicked off classical week on “Dancing With the Stars” — allegedly. Sure, there was a 46-member orchestra on hand delivering tunes far more suited to the ballroom than the usual fare, but by the end of the evening, it was clear that another theme had taken over the show.
Forget classical week — this was judge week, where the biggest competition took place off the dance floor.
Head judge Len Goodman and his fellow experts Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Anne Inaba just couldn’t come to a consensus when it came to several of the show’s major movers, and that sparked a series of unexpected and at times nonsensical battles among the paddle-holders.
Tensions first flared following a shake-up-making performance from the newest “Dancing” queen, Chelsea Kane. After the Disney Channel star finished a charming and near-perfect Viennese waltz set to “Hedwig’s Theme” from the “Harry Potter” movies, Goodman launched into a misplaced string of nitpicks.
“There is no doubt about it, you’re a fantastic dancer,” Goodman began deceptively. “So why is it that every time I see you, there’s something I don’t like that jars me?”
In this case, what jarred the venerable dance man was the fresh and whimsical take Kane and partner Mark Ballas brought to a routine still packed with traditional moves. It was an opinion that Tonioli wouldn’t let stand without a counterpoint.
“What? Oh, come on!” the usually verbose judge sighed before getting out of his chair, whipping his pen around and working up a classic Potter charm to disarm his adversary. “Expelliarmus! Expelliarmus, Voldemort!”
Goodman suggested Tonioli jump on his “Nimbus 2000 and bugger off.” (Note to Len: Firebolts are way faster. Just FYI.)
Once the wizarding world putdowns were behind them and Kane had waltzed away with a high score of 26, the panel prepared for their next showdown — a face-off over the musicality of Chris Jericho.
The wrestler put on one of the best paso dobles of the night, as did top competitor Hines Ward. Despite that, Jericho’s score lumped his performance in with Romeo and Petra Nemcova’s lesser 23-point pasos.
While the ballroom has certainly seen superior paso dobles in the past (and far, far worse), no one could fault the wrestler’s spot-on link to the music as he moved to Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” Well, no one but the game’s resident grump.
Inaba raved about Jericho’s connection to the tune. Tonioli followed suit. Goodman?
“The music conquered you,” he grumbled. You didn’t conquer the music.”
Boos erupted from the audience, and in accordance with the unofficial theme, Goodman’s counterparts sided with the crowd, gasped and shook their heads in disbelief.
Goodman was once again the odd man out when it came the night’s most unfortunate moment.
When “Dancing’s” former leading lady Kirstie Alley took the stage, memories of last week’s unforgettable fall weren’t far behind her. While she wasn’t knocked off her feet this time around, Alley suffered the worst mid-waltz wardrobe malfunction possible when her foot came right out of her shoe. The mishap meant several moments in a not-so-graceful floor pose followed by one heck of a save.
According to Inaba, Alley “didn’t miss a beat.” But she barely got the phrase out before Goodman shouted, “She DID miss a beat!”
OK, maybe Goodman was right about that one.
There were a few controversy-free routines. The judges found common ground in Ralph Macchio’s comeback waltz, Sugar Ray Leonard's light-on-dance, heavy-on-entertainment Viennese waltz and Kendra Wilkinson’s just plain awful effort.
As for the contestant destined to waltz away from the ballroom Tuesday night, boxing great Leonard appeared to be down for the count before Monday night’s show, but Wilkinson really gave him some stiff competition for the ballroom boot before it was over.
This one will come down to a popularity contest.
Ree Hines can’t believe how many lifts professional nitpicker Carrie Ann missed Monday night. Follow on Twitter and tell her your feet-off-the-floor count.