The stars of "Dancing With the Stars: All-Stars" were handed artistic control of their dances tonight and asked to re-invent iconic routines from past shows. They rose to the occasion.
When the night ended, actress Kelly Monaco and TV personality Melissa Rycroft were tied for first place, each having received 27 out of a possible 30 points for their respective routines. TV personality Bristol Palin brought up the rear with 22.5 points.
"I was actually impressed with Bristol. She stepped it up. She's not as good as the other dancers, but she's working really hard," Sherri Shepherd, "View" co-host and former "Dancing" star said Tuesday on " Good Morning America" when she weighed in on the performances.
The stakes are particularly high for competitors this week, because two all-star participants will be voted off Tuesday.
It's usually just the one dancer with the lowest scores - after judges' and viewers' votes are combined - who gets voted off during the weekly results show.
The stars remaining at the end of the competition will battle each other for the championship.
Singer-dancer-choreographer Paula Abdul will be a guest judge next week. Also next week, the all-stars will pick the dance styles for each other, including some new styles that have never before been performed on the show.
Drew Lachey: The former 98 Degrees singer's cha-cha was met with praise from judges Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli. "Your moves were tight and precise, really great cha-cha," Inaba said. Goodman, the head judge, said he liked Lachey's overall concept for the dance. Judges awarded him 24 points.
Gilles Marini: The French actor did something that had never been done on the show before: He flew from a harness suspended from the ceiling, turning in a sultry tango that brought the ballroom to its feet but which drew mixed reviews from the judges. While they praised the creativity and intensity of the performance, they pointed out that Marini's footwork was not clean and that he and pro partner Peta Murgatroyd were not perfectly in sync. "It was strong, dominant, erotic, powerful, fifty shades of Gilles," Tonioli said, referring to "Fifty Shades of Grey," the bestselling erotic novel. Marini earned 25.5 points.
Melissa Rycroft: The TV personality's ambitious re-imagined samba drew rave reviews from all three judges, who commended her for the routine's complexity and entertainment value. "It was like a can of cola. It was fizzy, it was refreshing, it was satisfying. Great technique," Goodman said, pronouncing the performance "a knockout." Rycroft earned 27 points - the highest score of the season so far.
Apolo Ohno: The Olympic speed skater's sultry foxtrot also drew cheers from the audience, and judges were impressed, too. "It was sensual, it was classy, it was classic … I thought it was exquisite," Tonioli said, although he pointed out that Ohno's hands were a little tense when he extended him. Inaba came to Ohno's defense, saying she liked the way his arms appeared. She called the dance memorable and "absolutely stunning." Ohno earned 25.5 points.
Kelly Monaco: The "General Hospital" star took on a paso doble that Laila Ali and Maksim Chmerkovskiy performed in a previous season, and with her partner, Val Chmerkovskiy - Maksim's brother - Monaco delivered a dramatic routine that earned her 27 points and the tie for first place. Tonioli called the performance artistic and powerful, adding: "I'm tingling with pleasure. Wonderful, darling." Inaba and Goodman were also full of praise. "Where did that come from?" Goodman asked, as he praised Monaco's musicality and expressiveness. "Kelly, where have you been?"
Kirstie Alley: The actress chose to reinvent TV host Carson Kressley's cha-cha, with her pro partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy channeling Mick Jagger - shirtless, and wearing tight pants, eyeliner and a shoulder-length black wig. The judges found the dance creative and entertaining. "I want the celebrities to be in charge of the choreography every week … honestly, it was such fun," Goodman said. Inaba and Tonioli joined Goodman in praising Alley's performance. The routine earned the actress her highest score of the season: 24 points.
Sabrina Bryan: Their powerful paso doble - a reinterpretation of singer Mel B's paso doble from a previous season - wowed Goodman and Tonioli. "It was full of risk but in addition to that, it was full of great technique," Goodman said. Bryan earned 25.5 points.
Emmitt Smith: The NFL player slipped in the scores last week, but his fiery paso doble had judges praising the return of his competitive spirit. "What you have, Emmitt, is presence. You come out and dominate the floor," Goodman said. While Goodman wanted to see more finesse and Tonioli thought Smith's shoulders were raised too much, they were full of praise for the dramatic routine. "It was awesome," Inaba said. The judges awarded Smith 25 points.
Helio Castroneves: The race car driver chose to reinterpret a quickstep that Ohno performed, doing it with high energy and style until he stepped on partner Chelsie Hightower's dress and stumbled. "It was so good. You're the quickstep king," Inaba said, but judges believed his performance suffered after the mishap. Despite the troubles at the end of the dance, Castroneves earned 25.5 points.
Bristol Palin: The reality-TV personality came into her paso doble tonight with after experiencing some tension with pro partner Mark Ballas last week during rehearsals. During the video introduction to their live performance, an emotional Palin accuses Ballas' of being unhappy he had been paired with her and of not being invested enough in the process. She also suggested that maybe he wanted to be sent home. He denied that, apologized for being late to one rehearsal and denied that he was unhappy to have had her for a partner. Their rehearsal troubles didn't seem to affect their performance, which judges deemed Palin's best. Goodman said the routine had plenty of attitude and aggression. Tonioli told Palin she had never looked or danced better, while Inaba said Palin was coming proving herself a worthy competitor. Palin earned 22.5
Shawn Johnson: The Olympic gymnast's bubbly quickstep - a take on Helio Castroneves' iconic dance from an earlier season - drew cheers. Even as judges called it possibly the best dance in 15 seasons of the show, they said they would have to penalize Johnson for breaking the rules. Johnson earned 26.5
Former 'N Sync member Joey Fatone was voted off the show last week. Actress Pamela Anderson was the first of the all-stars cast to be eliminated.
Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani: 27
Kelly Monaco and Val Chmerkovskiy: 27
Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough: 26.5
Helio Castroneves and Chelsie Hightower: 25.5
Gilles Marini and Peta Murgatroyd: 25.5
Apolo Ohno and Karina Smirnoff: 25.5
Sabrina Bryan and Louis Van Amstel: 25.5
Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke: 25
Drew Lachey and Anna Trebunskaya: 24
Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 24
Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas: 22.5