Emmy-winning emcee Tom Bergeron and co-host Brooke Burke Charvet kept the suspense building until the judges rendered their scores – including the season's first 9 – while the audience audibly jeered those times that lower numbers were delivered.
The show kicked off with Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani's "energetic" – according to judge Len Goodman – footwork to the song "Shout," prompting judge Carrie Ann Inaba to tell them, "You were born to jive." Judge Bruno Tonioli and Len disagreed on whether or not Rycroft had some minor footwork missteps, with Bruno saying she did and Len insisting she didn’t. The duo's final score: 23.5.
Earning 26 points out of a possible 30 – including the first 9 of the season, from Carrie Ann, who said she'd never seen such lines on Dancing with the Stars – the evening top scorers were Cheetah Girl Sabrina Bryan and Louis Van Amstel. Bruno, who awarded them an 8.5, likened her to Ginger Rogers "at her best … a true dazzler." Gushed Len (also 8.5), who praised the couple's upper body control and especially the legwork: "This season, the hits just keep on coming."
Just as they did last week, Gilles Marini and Peta Murgatroyd – both displaying plenty of chest this week – scored second highest, 25.5 (8.5 from each of the judges), placing them half a point ahead of Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough, with 25 points. "Fast attack … dynamic … fabulous," Len raved about Marini and Murgatroyd, while Carrie Ann told them: "I see a little John Travolta thing happening here, and it's quite enjoyable."
Fourth highest score – 24.5 – went to crowd favorite Apolo Anton Ohno and Karina Smirnoff. "Speed, with control," judged Len, calling theirs a "gold-medal" performance. "Fast, clean and creative," determined Bruno. "You were truly driving the dance," said Carrie Ann. "And that is what wins."
Kirstie Alley's Age a Non-IssueCarrie Ann advised Kirstie Alley, 61, to stop worrying about the being the oldest contestant on the floor. (Alley told her partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy that she's lived three of opponent Shawn Johnson's lives.) "Age is just a number and you just proved that to us," said Carrie Ann. "Experience counts, and you showed it. You blended beautifully," said Bruno. And "a great improvement on last week," judged Len, who said the actress redeemed herself after her previous low-point performance. Bruno was equally encouraging. And the duo racked up a 21, with 7 points from each judge.
Also staging a comeback was PEOPLE blogger Drew Lachey, who, with partner Anna Trebunskaya, was last week's lowest scorer. "A no-fun situation," said the 98 Degrees band member.
"Watch the feet," Carrie Ann told Drew and Anna this week, as she, along with the other judges, awarded the duo 7.5, for a total of 22.5 (a one point improvement over last week). This also tied them with two other couples: Joey Fatone and PEOPLE.com blogger Kym Johnson and Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke.
And the evening's lowest scoring couple?
Before their Western-inspired dance to "Red-Neck Woman," Bristol Palin took pro partner Mark Ballas to a shooting range, "to show him a little of my world," she said. An underwhelmed Judge Bruno Tonioli found their routine "different" but advised the duo to work on their technique.
"You were not in hold enough," he said, a sentiment echoed by Carrie Ann. Len concurred, and the panel awarded the dancers only 18 – a drop from last week's 19.5.
After last week's elimination of Pamela Anderson, another couple will hang up their dancing shoes on Tuesday night. Tell us in the comments below: Who gets your vote to stay in the ballroom?