All this time, Nicole Scherzinger has been the one to beat.
While Olympians have a great track record on Dancing With the Stars (all except the track stars, interestingly enough), Evan Lysacek had been playing second fiddle to the Pussycat Doll throughout much of the season.
He even tied for last place in the individual routines last week, and had to wait till the waning minutes of the results show to find out whether he was safe.
That's all behind the gold medal winner now, though, because he didn't just redeem himself Monday, he triple-flipped over the competition with the first perfect score of the season.
So why wasn't there much breathing room between worst and first by the end of the night? And why isn't Evan alone in first place?!
Erin Andrews & Maksim Chmerkovskiy: The pants-off-dance-off intro that Maks came up with, enabling them to turn into a salmon-colored whirling dervish, was just dumb—but all the quickstep moves were fantastic. We figured Len Goodman was going to disapprove of the time they spent out of hold, but all he said about the acceptable "foolhardiness" was, "I'm dreading if you ever have to dance to 'Great Balls of Fire.'" "Slick, lightning fast and brighter than Len's tie," Bruno Tonioli exclaimed, referring to the Brit's fluorescent yellow-on-lime-green-shirt combo. "Erin, without a doubt, your best dance yet," Len said. "Gorgeous," Carrie Ann Inaba agreed.
Chad Ochocinco & Cheryl Burke: You could tell how hard Chad was trying to dance a graceful, smooth Viennese waltz. And his efforts paid off, for the most part. His posture was a little off in the lower back, but his rhythm was spot on—he neither attacked it too hard nor fell behind. "Truly a gentle giant," a stunned Bruno said admiringly. "There is nothing sexier than watching a man find out how to be tender," Carrie Ann exclaimed. "Your arms, for me, were full of fluidity," praised Len. "Remember this date, May the 3rd, 2010, the night you became a contender." Once again, Brooke Burke bombarded him and Cheryl with questions about their off-camera relationship, entreating Cheryl to turn around and show off the diamond necklace Chad bought her for her birthday. "I know how hard I have to work with Chad. He feels sorry for me," Cheryl joked, explaining the gift.
Nicole Scherzinger & Derek Hough: There's no doubt Derek can choreograph on command. Chastised multiple times this season for thinking too outside the box, he fashioned a super-traditional yet technically challenging waltz for his star pupil—and it really was beautiful. "I just have to say, flat-out, you are by far the best dancer we've ever had on this show…You dance almost as Derek's equal," said Carrie Ann, who then went on to critique the pair for not becoming one! "You still were kind of side by side," she quibbled. Len noticed "one or two technical things" when they were in hold, but overall he just loved it. "You're as close to dancing royalty as you can possibly be," Bruno said, though he added, "Some of the choreography was so difficult and amazing, you actually made a few mistakes." Yada yada yada...
Pamela Anderson & Damian Whitewood: Playing the demure fairy-tale princess this week, Pam and her "convincing upper body" danced a very convincing waltz. "If you've just joined us, welcome to double entendre theater," joked Tom Bergeron as the judging got under way with talk of "assets" and whatnot. "If you stay on, there are other things to get together," Bruno said, shaking his shoulders a little. "Boys, boys, focus!" Carrie Ann reprimanded them.
Niecy Nash & Louis van Amstel: Finally, Niecy brought the bounce when it counted—i.e., during the quickstep. She performed really well, looking like a 1930s-era movie star, and she kept up with Louis step for step. All three judges agreed it was her best dance yet. "You never looked more gorgeous," raved Bruno, "and your footwork was better than ever." "Everything worked well," added Carrie Ann. "I've got to agree," Len concurred, though he reminded her to lift her rib cage more. "I've got a lot to lift!" Niecy protested.
Evan Lysacek & Anna Trebunskaya: We're not sure why this pair were doing an Argentine tango when everyone else was doing ballroom, but regardless—it was awesome! Yay for lifts, which really add some necessary spice when done properly. Evan ditched his graceful skater lines just enough to get believably down and dirty for this unequivocally sexy dance. "Just the perfect combination of power, control and sexy in a whole different way!" growled Carrie Ann. "I know you're nice on ice but I had my doubts about whether you'd be good on wood," Len quipped before dusting off his "10" paddle for the first time this season. "You danced like a true alpha male," Bruno said.
Team Gaga (Nicole, Chad, Pam): Nicole hadn't danced the cha-cha yet, but she looked like a pro. Chad, too, looked like a Latin-dance veteran. Unfortunately, the two of them were somewhat slowed down by Pam and her sequin-clad assets. The blond bombshell had numerous missteps in her and Damian's solo portion of the group routine to Lady Gaga's "Telephone." But, according to Carrie Ann, "the sexual energy that this team has…will make it so tough to beat!"
Team Madonna (Niecy, Erin, Evan): News flash: Niecy does a better vertical split than Pam. Anyway, each member of the "Holiday" crew held his or her own better on an individual level than did the members of Team Gaga, though they weren't as in sync as a group. The routine was decidedly more cute 'n' fun than steamy 'n' sexy—although, ironically, it was Team Madonna that ended up in Gaga-esque leotards and tights at the end. "I have no problem with Erin taking clothes off, it's you," Len reminded Maks.
Unfortunately, someone's got to go Tuesday, following a performance by Train and some other time-killers scene-stealing entertainment.
Here's the rundown of tonight's leaderboard combining both scores:
Evan & Anna: 54
Nicole & Derek: 54
Chad & Cheryl: 52
Erin & Maks: 51
Pam & Damian: 51
Niecy & Louis: 49
Who do you think deserves to go home?
You think these stars looked stunning tonight? Check out what the ladies were stepping out at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Gala Benefit right here!