An orchestra, operatic stars and an extra dose of formality set the scene for Classical Week on "Dancing With the Stars," but it also proved the perfect setting for some ballroom drama -- and this time it didn't come from the man known as the bad boy of the ballroom.
Well, at least not directly.
Sometimes-temperamental pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy was on his best behavior all night, but the same can't be said about "Dancing's" judges, who threw their weight around with harsh criticism and questionable scores, or the audience, who let those judges know just what they thought of them.
The biggest sparks of the night flew after Maks and his star partner, Melissa Gilbert, took the stage alongside two competing couples -- Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd, and William Levy and Cheryl Burke. Together they formed Team Paso and put on a show-stopping routine that judge Carrie Ann Inaba admitted would likely "go down in history as the fan favorite paso doble."
She wasn't wrong. The dance had everything fans clamor for, from an intense, character-driven dynamic to perfect poses to outstanding foot and legwork (especially from the gents) -- and of course, some well-placed shirtlessness. (Again, courtesy of the guys.) It was nothing short of amazing, as the standing, cheering crowd clearly communicated.
Which begged the question: Why the heck did head judge Len Goodman call it a routine of "fire and ice," with the ice alluding to the lack of heat in execution? And how could any of the judges excuse the scores they gave the anything-but-icy routine?
Carrie Ann billed it as the best, but gave it a score one point shy of the best. Len could only grump together an 8. And Bruno Tonioli matched Carrie Ann.
Now a 26 out of 30 might not seem so bad. It is, after all, just four points off a perfect score. But the kicker was that Team Paso danced head-to-head against the remaining pairs (aka, Team Tango) and clearly bested them. Yet somehow Team Tango tangoed away with a higher score.
The injustice wasn't lost on the audience, who then delivered some of the biggest and longest lasting boos heard in the ballroom to date.
That hubbub capped off an odd night of highs and lows in the ballroom – the very lowest, scorewise, also involved Maks and Melissa.
For their non-group effort, the pair put on an Argentine tango full of extreme lifts and intense choreography -- quite the feat considering that the pro was off his feet for much of the week due to an injury. As for Melissa, she did her best to follow the dance set to Mozart's ballet-friendly but not tango-ready "Marriage of Figaro," though she did it all with a look of panic.
The judges could have focused on the positives of the routine's complexity or the negatives, including the look of fear or occasional stiffness from Melissa. Instead, they mostly focused on delivering low-blows.
Bruno compared to it Coney Island's Cyclone. Len vaguely complained that it lacked "dance quality." And Carrie Ann? She said it was like "Cirque du Soleil gone terribly wrong."
In seasons past, that was the point in the evening when Maks would have earned his bad-boy rep and given the panel a review of his own (as the audience did with more boos). But (sadly) that wasn't the case on Monday night. Through gritted teeth, the pro just looked the other way and ignored the harsh words. And when co-host Brooke Burke-Charvet asked him what he thought of the judges' opinions on the 21-point dance, he simply said, "I don't think. I just dance, and I teach."
Of course not every couple received that sort of reception from the judges. In fact, for Maria Menounos and Derek Hough, the night was full of wins. Not only did they collect kudos for their Team Tango effort, they also put on a perfect paso doble -- and unlike the perfect team version, they nabbed a perfect score to show for it.
The judges each raised their 10 paddle for the pair to make for the season's first 30.
Other nearly top contenders included Katherine Jenkins, Donald and William, each of whom continued to display the sort of moves that might just take them all the way to the finale. Each of them also scored 27 points for their near-perfect routines.
In the middle of the pack were Jaleel White, with a 24-point Viennese waltz and Roshon Fegan, with a 25-point Argentine tango (oddly set to Lady Gaga's not-so-classical "Bad Romance").
Which means Melissa (and Maks) is in last place with the judges, and will have to hope for fan support to stay out of the bottom two. After all, Tuesday night's dreaded ballroom boot once again goes to the panel of (possibly biased) experts.
This week marks the last installment of the Dance Duel experiment that's so far sent both Gavin DeGraw and Gladys Knight packing -- at least it's the end for now. So the viewers will only help decide the overall ranking, and the judges will make the ultimate call "based solely" on the final dance off.
Do you think the judges made classic mistakes for Classical Week? Share your thought on our Facebook page. And be sure to join me and Anna Chan for our weekly "DWTS" live chat Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. ET.
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