Bristol Palin hasn't tried to endear herself yet this season on Dancing With the Stars—why start now?
She butted heads again with partner Mark Ballas, who lamented that they were dancing a "dumbed-down" rock and roll routine, "making things easier," because Bristol was refusing to try more challenging moves.
"She needs to be open-minded, but if she isn't, it could be a challenge for us this week," said the concerned pro, who took the controversial star all the way to the semifinals in 2010.
And they had even less to go on then—so did Bristol's lack of joie de vivre hurt her tonight in the judges' eyes?
The reverse, actually—though guest judge Paula Abdul did strike a rare concerned note in addressing the all-star's reservations.
"If you don't push the boundaries, the boundaries end up pushing you, and maybe in a direction you don't want to go," the pop star turned veteran competition judge noted.
But four 8s were enough to get Bristol out of last place, which is now occupied by Kirstie Alley after a Charleston that began with the Cheers star awkwardly climbing out of a cake and into the still-roaring, yet slightly less synchronous 1920s. (Remember, the nine remaining all-stars were all tasked with brand-new dance styles, selected for them by their fellow contestants.)
It appeared that Louis Van Amstel almost lost his hold of Sabrina Bryan at the end of their disco routine. But he didn't and the judges loved the Studio 54 homage and, despite pointing out some flawed footwork, gave out mostly 9s. Still, we're not sure if the former Cheetah Girl has picked up enough momentum so far to avoid the bottom three tomorrow (airing an hour earlier than usual, FYI, due to the second presidential debate).
Emmitt Smith got a fair amount of his groove back, as well, during the bolero, which Bruno Tonioli called "steamier than August in Louisiana." Plus, lifts and Emmitt mix like peanut butter and jelly, so...the allowance of lifts for the night made him a force to be reckoned with.
Meanwhile, Kirstie and Maks may have taken the cake, but Gilles Mariniand Peta Murgatroyd's routine was a little slice of Bollywood heaven. Paula growled in a Len Goodman-channeling British accent that the dance was "as smoldering and spicy as a vindaloo," while Carrie Ann Inaba simply said, "Namaste."
Len was a bit stingy with the half-point, otherwise Gilles and Peta would have had 10s across the board. Regardless, the night ended with them tied for first place. (With who, you might ask?)
Hot on their heels were Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani, who noted earlier that he was "finally getting to show what [he] was capable of as far as choreography." Putting his skill where his mouth was, they trotted out a jitterbug that was jam-packed with tricks and well-received by the judges.
It was Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough's mambo that earned a standing ovation, however—even though they still ended up in 10s-except-from-Len territory.
Apolo Anton Ohno's stab at hip-hop with Karina Smirnoff was super fun and fast, albeit more of an homage to '80s, Run-DMC-style jams than a modern routine.
It was no reason for Karina to cry, though! The former champ was in tears over a mid-dance slip that she felt ruined the whole thing. The judges were kindly quick to reassure them, with Bruno telling Apolo, "You even made the running man look good! Normally it's rubbish."
Kelly Monaco and Val Chmerkovskiy performed DWTS' first-ever real contemporary number (minus the contemporary-ish freestyle Maks crafted for Erin Andrews once upon a time).
Sorry, we've been weaned on So You Think You Can Dance, and this was just not up to snuff. Kelly dancing in her underwear was a nice touch.
The judges loved it, though, and Bruno was right when he told Kelly that she had the toughest assignment of the night. Carrie Ann was also correct when she applauded the courage it took to get out and at least attempt some of the moves.
Here's how the leaderboard stacked up tonight (out of 40, including Paula's score):
Gilles Marini & Peta Murgatroyd: 39.5
Shawn Johnson & Derek Hough: 39.5
Kelly Monaco & Val Chmerkovskiy: 37.5
Melissa Rycroft & Tony Dovolani: 37
Emmitt Smith & Cheryl Burke: 36
Sabrina Bryan & Louis van Amstel: 35.5
Apolo Anton Ohno & Karina Smirnoff: 34.5
Bristol Palin & Mark Ballas: 32
Kirstie Alley & Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 30