Well, Dancing With the Stars managed to go on without its most talked-about contestant.
But even though it's just a plain-old dance competition now, there was still plenty to cheer, chuckle and cluck at with just seven contestants—none of them dressed like they were starring in a movie about zombie prom queens—left to duke it out, Latin-ballroom style.
From Evan Lysacek's "worst dance" yet to Maksim Chmerkovskiy's proposed trip to the mental ward to Nicole Scherzinger's so-so score for a "superlative" samba, Monday's show was dripping with drama, if not high marks.
The stars also had two chances to wow as the Latin round was followed by a group swing-dance marathon, which paid off for a few but just looked painful for some...
Jake Pavelka and Chelsie Hightower: No, as Jake commented in his rehearsal interview, he's not as good a dancer as Evan or Nicole. But he made do with what he had for the samba, shaking his hips and shoulders as fast and far as they would go. It seems as if he can't get through a routine without a stumble these days, tonight tripping over his feet while in hold on the edge of a step. Otherwise, he compensated for the lack of spice in his limbs with a black shirt open to the navel. Spray tan much? Len Goodman thought it lacking in Latin rhythm "a little bit throughout," and Bruno Tonioli also noticed that Jake "didn't wiggle correctly." Carrie Ann Inaba advised him to let the music flow through his body and "ride it like the ocean."
Evan Lysacek and Anna Trebunskaya: The Olympian had supremely graceful moments mixed in with the awkwardness that was him dancing the samba. His hips didn't lack for jelly—were you ready for it?—but the continued extension of his long limbs didn't suit the bouncy, down 'n' dirty carnival dance. "Samba requires a different kind of action," Bruno advised, though he complimented Evan on "the little devil" inside him. "Tonight I definitely felt that you lost the battle," Carrie Ann lamented, while Len plainly called it Evan's "worst dance." We'll chalk it up to the minor concussion he suffered when he banged his head on the floor during rehearsal.
Niecy Nash and Louis van Amstel: She did it all for the cookie! Louis crafted a "funny" Argentine tango, and it produced one of Niecy's best dances in weeks (though it almost killed Louis when he inhaled a piece of the cookie she was supposedly chasing throughout the routine). "Can you believe he picked all this up, girl?" the zaftig comedian cracked when Carrie Ann praised them for going through with a lift. For a change, Len didn't think that the gimmick interfered with the performance, though we think he could have phrased it better when he told Niecy, "It's obvious you're an enthusiastic eater."
Erin Andrews and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: There was absolutely zero reason for Maks to shed his whole shirt during their samba…but he did, maybe due to the stress of it all. "I'm going to get institutionalized after this season is over, without a doubt," he deadpanned during another tempestuous rehearsal. Either way, the bare torso was enough for Len to go after the Dancing veteran. "From week one I've given you a 7 every week, and I'll tell you now, you're going to get another 7 tonight," he said. "You should be getting 8s, 9s and even 10s...I'm fed up, Maks, with shirts coming off! She's too good for that!" But Bruno and Carrie Ann appreciated every shimmy, shake and step on Erin's part. "You nailed it!" applauded Carrie Ann.
Chad Ochocinco and Cheryl Burke: "Dramatic, powerful, arrogant": Words to describe Chad on the field during football season and on the dance floor tonight. Carrie Ann praised his "sensual" Argentine tango, while Bruno called their performance "the revenge of Ochocinco." The NFL star did indeed adapt very well to the dance's brute-force style, and his ridiculous strength was the asset to have during those trick lifts. Len finally even broke his streak of 7s for Chad's most-improved performance. "You either grow or you go. You grew tonight," the Brit applauded.
Nicole Scherzinger and Derek Hough: No gimmicks necessary when you already have everything you need for a killer samba: the best choreographer, a great rhythm and hips that are hot like wow. Except for one second where Nicole paused to brush some hair out of her face and grabbed onto Derek's hand a smidge late, their routine was perfection. So wasn't it strange to see Len shooting Carrie Ann daggers when she raved over it. "I can't accept it!" he protested, saying that Derek didn't include either of the steps Len demands in a samba, including botafogos (which is just fun to say). "It's a hodgepodge of sexy moves and gyrations," he sniffed. "The dance was superlative," Bruno countered. "You've got nothing to worry about!"
Pamela Anderson and Damian Whitewood: Speaking of too sexy for school, Pam and Damian's Argentine tango was just banned in 48 states. Her, ahem, assets were dangerously close to escaping from the black, lacy slip dress that barely contained them. But though Pam had a few rough beats that would then take her a few more beats to snap out of, her tango had all the intensity, passion and smut Bruno could possibly want. "You're not just dancing, you're living the part, and I love to see that," he growled. Len approved of the "smoldering intensity" but admitted it was "scruffy and ragged here and there." Carrie Ann also wanted to see a little more technique, if not less characterization.
Swing Marathon: This was just kinda weird. The music was too slow, the women spent too much time on their hands doing splits, and it was one big tangle of arms, legs and spandex under skirts. But for the record, here's the order in which they finished, followed by the points each received: Nicole, 10; Erin, 9; Pam, 8; Chad, 7; Evan, 6; Niecy, 5; Jake, 4.
So, Len's still got it in for Nicole and Derek, Maks can't get enough of himself and even Evan's worst score yet is one that other couples say they're quite happy with.
Here's the leaderboard:
Nicole & Derek: 36
Erin & Maks: 34
Chad & Cheryl: 31
Pam & Damian: 30
Evan & Anna: 27
Niecy & Louis: 26
Jake & Chelsie: 25
Another contestant will be eliminated Tuesday.
So what was with all the low scores tonight? Did Derek and Nicole make a mockery of the samba or is Len losing his mind? Does Jake deserve to go home?! Discuss all this and more in our comments section.
Stars don't just dance, they also get drawn, like the ones in our Stars Get Animated gallery.