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Brawl-room battle! It's Maks vs. Len on 'Dancing'

Despite the fun Broadway theme and classic show tunes, the ballroom turned into a fighting ring when the two went head-to-head in a post-performance war of words.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

Monday night was Broadway night on “Dancing With the Stars,” but despite the fun theme and loads of classic show tunes, the ballroom turned into a brawl-room when one pro and one judge went head-to-head in a post-performance war of words.

Yes, somewhere between near perfect performances from Ricki Lake and J.R. Martinez, and the requisite weekly dud from Chaz Bono, sparks flew.

It all started after Hope Solo completed a rumba that was ... well, about what one would expect from a Hope Solo rumba — a little stiff, not quite sexy enough and not too precise with the footwork. But it wasn’t the absolute worst routine from her or the low point of the night. (For the latter, see Bono’s “Phantom of the Opera” number, which could serve as a tutorial in how not to tango.)

At first, head judge Len Goodman assured Solo that he always thought there was “so much there” in terms of hoofer potential from her. It just never comes out. From there, tough Goodman took over with heel-lead nitpicks and even criticism for Solo’s bad boots. Then he went for the kicker.

“This was your worst dance of the whole season, in my opinion,” he said.

With that, the audience erupted in boos, and feeling their support, Solo’s partner, the always outspoken Maksim Chmerkovskiy, encouraged the crowd to keep the jeers coming.

Goodman was not amused.

“Don’t start all of that, Maks, 'cause half the fault is yours,” he snapped.

And it was on!

Chmerkovskiy pointed out the praise from the audience. Goodman countered, citing his 50 years of experience. The "Dancing" pro? He suggested to the venerable panelist that “maybe it’s time to get out.”

Fellow judges Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli briefly jumped in at that point, calling for some judicial respect. But it seemed that Chmerkovskiy had already had enough of the unbalanced judging act that gives props for just for trying for hopefuls Bono and Nancy Grace, and a long list of technical complaints for Solo.

“With all due respect, this is my show,” he told co-host Brooke Burke after the panel flashed two 7s and a 6 for the dance. “You know, I help make it what it is. I love every aspect of it. I love every professional that’s ever been here, and I love ever celebrity that puts effort in to it every week. Having said that, I’m a little tired that we’re being judged some on effort and some being picked on for heel leads. That’s all I’m saying.”

Hard to argue with that logic, but some might take exception with the spotlight-stealing effect Chmerkovskiy’s ballroom battle had — someone like fellow pro Derek Hough, who pulled the best “Oh no he didn’t!” mug in the background as Chmerkovskiy ranted away. Or Cheryl Burke, who took on the uncomfortable, telltale stare of someone trying get through an awkward holiday meal with the in-laws.

At least it didn’t last too long. Soon enough, the pros and the amateurs put the drama to rest and hit the stage for the just-for-fun group dance, and as group dances go, it wasn’t half bad.

Heck, even grumpy Goodman gave it a thumbs-up.

Who’ll waltz right out of the competition Tuesday night? Well, given the random mix of ousters we’ve seen so far, it seems just as likely that a worthy boot (like the good-hearted but bad-footed Bono) could go as it does a middle-of-the-pack contender (David Arquette). But then again, the butting of heads in the ballroom could hurt Solo even though she stayed mostly silent through it all.

In other words, we’ll soon see.

Ree Hines remains a loyal member of Team Maks. What did you think of the night’s ballroom battle? Tell us on our Facebook page! Also, be sure to