Dancing With the Stars: Season 22, Week 1 “The Return of The Len”

The Dancing with the Stars signal is in the sky, and BatLen has seen it!

Guessing the show missed him last season as much as we did.

We get a flashy city montage to introduce all our stars, but the true star of it all is unmistakable. The football players and their sparkly silver football are joined by the head judge in a dressy referee shirt, declaring, “I’m Back!”

He is! He’s not the only one everyone is excited to have back, as Edyta gets a shout out from the hosts for being back too. And we give a shout out to the Official Dancing With The Stars YouTube Channel, which seems to have worked out whatever issues Disney was having with YouTube Red last fall, and has returned to posting all the dances in a timely and thorough manner. Let’s hope it stays that way all season. It’s time for our first week of dancing.

Kim Fields & Sasha Farber: Cha Cha Cha; “Sax” Fleur East In the opening montage they talk about clicking well with each other, but then she declares the best case scenario means she “don’t hurt nothing.” Best case scenario is easily realized: she gets through the dance more or less clean and even with a very shiny expression. Unfortunately she is hindered by deficient technique. “I like it,” is Len’s first returned comment. “Not all of it, but I liked it.” The other two judges likewise critique her technique and praise her smile, before Len gives a Six and the other two Sevens, totaling 20, which she gets weirdly excited over.

Paige VanZant & Mark Ballas: Foxtrot “Ain’t Got Far to Go” Jess Glynne Paige talks about wanting to do something “girly,” and the fluff is mostly about Mark trying to get her to move in a more traditionally feminine manner. But his teaching ability pays off; her moves on the floor are bold, but light, and not without softness; it works very well for this routine. The judges are glad, but do have things to say about her technique, even as Bruno and Carrie-Ann dispute the exact problem, and break out the straight Sevens for 21.

Doug Flutie & Karina Smirnoff: Foxtrot; “Sweet Caroline” Neil Diamond Doug dedicates this dance to the fans of the Boston area. (He’s trying to get those fans behind him.) The audience goes for it, cheering him on in Boston crowd manner. But despite have a dancing wife and daughter, he can’t dance. He can only try to be personable and goofy, which he does well, anyway. Carrie-Ann tells him the good news is he got through it, although Len decides to be optimistic about his paso doble next week. Their straight Fives for 15 are greeted by boos from the audience, of course.

Jodie Sweetin & Keo Motsepe: Tango; “Confident” Demi Lovato Star and pro are introduce with an adorable spoof of the Full(er) House opening sequence. But Jodie speaks of wanting to reinvent herself and be seen as the woman she is today. The tango helps there; it lets her be aggressive and a little sexy, and she sells that well. The judges even note good things about her technique, although they mention a few bad things as well. Len breaks out the word “hectic” for the first time this season, which keeps his score down to a Six; Sevens from the other two leave them with 20.

Geraldo Rivera & Edyta Sliwinska: Cha Cha Cha; “Treasure” Bruno Mars Seventy is the new 50 according to Rivera. Edyta remarks on his stamina. The fluff tries to stay apolitical, emphasizing the time he opened Al Capone’s vault, which they recreate for the routine. Edyta is inside the vault, of course. During the first part of the dance he isn’t awful enough to distract from her, but she seems to have gotten rusty strategy-wise, since she leaves the floor for ten seconds, and the results are rather cringe-worthy. The judges are generally too nice, though Bruno snarks, “Maybe you’re gonna dance next week,” and he and Len break out the Fours. Carrie-Ann gives a Five for 13.

Marla Maples & Tony Dovolani: Quickstep; “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Marla limits her opinions expressed about her ex-husband to one about his hair (she thinks it’s fine). At least she’s in her element in this number, effortless in doing the glamour and the random cart-wheel at the end. Her technique’s pretty good, but she’s not clean. Len praises her “vim, vigour, and vitality,” and Bruno tells her, “Forget about the Donald, ballroom’s your trump now!”  But they once again break out straight Sevens for 21.

Wanya Morris & Lindsay Arnold: Cha Cha Cha; “Motownphilly” Boyz II Men We learn in the fluff he’s wanted to do this show for nine years, and it’s clear just how much he intends to enjoy it. He sure does, too! He comes out very light on his feet indeed, with an exuberance beyond what anyone else has shown up, to the point that by the end you can’t help but grin. The judges certainly are, and his technique impresses them enough to get the night’s first Eights out of Carrie-Ann and Bruno, though Len, despite saying his ability could get him “to the end of the road,” also breaks out the “not my cup of tea” and the Seven, so they total 23.

Ginger Zee & Val Chmerkovskiy: Jive; “Move” Dreamgirls The fluff mostly emphasizes her being a very new mother, including a glimpse of her three-month-old son. The dance itself is portrayed at being at a competition, and the two of them stay on a stage at the head of the ballroom for it. They prove to be very fun and energetic. Carrie-Ann compares her ability to energize the crowd to reigning champion Bindi Irwin, while Len and Bruno both find the weather favorable.  They do have some quibbles about her legs, which cause them to stick with their same paddles as above, making another 23.

Mischa Barton & Artem Chingvintsev: Tango; “In the Night” The Weeknd She’s not a natural dancer, Artem says bluntly early in the fluff. Towards the end he admits her work to improve is paying off.  There’s a generic gothic setting, for an atmospheric routine, but while Mischa pulls it off clean she doesn’t put much more into it. Len accuses her of walking through the routine, and Bruno agrees she needs more spark. He gives them a Six, with Fives from Len and Carrie-Ann, for a total of 16.

Nyle DiMarco & Peta Murgatroyd: Cha Cha Cha; “Cake by the Ocean” DNCE Their first meeting, while he’s being photographed shirtless, is when Peta first leans he’s deaf. She talks about adapting to that, and learning sign language. He’s actually the first completely deaf candidate on the show. (Marlee Matlin apparently is only mostly deaf.) But we aren’t told this until after he has already come up and absolutely killed it on the floor, sexy and sharp and arguably the best thing tonight. It’s kind of amazing.  Bruno gets out of his seat and goes to touch Nyle to see if he’s real. It’s a disappointment when while he and Carrie-Ann break out the Eights again, Len still doesn’t go above Seven, so now we have a three-way 23 tie.

Antonio Brown & Sharna Burgess: Quickstep; “Bad Man” Pitbull feat. Robin Thicke, Joe Perry, & Travis Barker They take her out to his home stadium and make the first meeting a fan event. Later, she starts picking up his catchphrases. The dance they do is wild and fun, but personally, I’m not sure it’s not a little *too* intense for a quickstep. The multiple footwork errors don’t help. The judges themselves are split on it. Len criticizes it for being out of control and only gives them a Six, while Carrie-Ann raves and breaks out the Eight.  Bruno compromises with a Seven, so they end up with 21.

Von Miller & Witney Carson: Foxtrot; “My House” Flo Rida After a weird first meeting in a chicken coop, she talks about the challenge of their size different. He calls her a tiny drill sergeant of a coach. The routine starts with him announcing his DWTS participation as the Super Bowl press conference, then jumping over the table to dance with Witney. It’s a very traditional foxtrot, but cleverly combined with the hip-hop moves. It’s hard not to love, but Len does his best. But while Carrie-Ann sings the praises of the entire night, all three judges break out the same split scores they just did for Antonio, so it’s another 21.

Most of the pack ends up within three points of each other, though Nyle was definitely the surprise of the night. Three teams lagging behind, and which of them will go next week is difficult to determine. It may well depend on just how desperate viewers are to get a little more of Edyta.

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