Dancing With the Stars season premiere recap: Cha-cha-cha Changes!

Season 18 gets a 'Star Wars'-themed upgrade courtesy of Billy Dee Williams (but, more importantly, Emma's Princess Leia costume)
Ep. 01 | Aired Mar 17, 2014


Amy Purdy and Derek Hough: 24/30 They pretty much stepped off the plane from Sochi, where Amy just won a bronze medal snowboarding in the Paralympics, and strutted right into the cha cha cha -- presumably with different clothes on, but I do enjoy imagining people wearing fringed pants while flying the friendly skies. Bacterial meningitis stripped Amy of her lower legs and kidneys at age 19 (she's 34 now), but the double amputee is still figuring out the limits of what she can do. Another reality TV spoiler alert: There are no limits and anyone can do anything, especially in the firm hold of the Derek Hough Care Package.

Honestly, the fringed pants were a way bigger distraction than Amy's footwork and tiny shoes (by design, to be sure), and throughout their cha cha cha the pair served up a natural chemistry you'd suspect had more time to brew than a few days and four hours sleep. I also loved Amy's black-and-gold woven headband -- one of the most muted accessories to ever make the cut in the bedazzled wardrobe department, to be sure.

"You are a beacon of light in this world," Carrie Ann blubbered as Charlie White's eyes watered for her.

"Now I feel worthless," said Erin Andrews.

Cody Simpson and Witney Carson: 22/30 Yikes. Way too much "Tell me about your girlfriend…" producer-induced chit chat, especially considering we found out Witney and Guess model/Real Housewife of Beverly Hills Yolanda's daughter Gigi Hadid are actually good friends. Why even go there? It baffles me that they think Dancing With the Stars viewers want to see the on-screen partnerships mess with the behind-the-scenes relationships. That's just nuts, and frankly a little insulting!

"How was it dancing in front of your girlfriend with these distracting hips?" wondered Erin. Ew! No. Why. But anyway. Nice cha cha cha from Cody and Witney! This veritable laser show of youthful energy (and I do count Cody's sprayed-into-oblivion hair as a laser) made Bruno and Carrie Ann feel super old, but Bruno warned Cody to watch his dodgy foot placement. Carrie Ann loved his upper body and noticed Cody had really big feet. Sounds about right.

Here's a special "should-have-stayed-hidden gem" from Kellen:

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 7.35.10 PM

Terrifyingly enthusiastic child!

Drew Carey and Cheryl Burke: 21/30 "Every season there's always one contestant that makes everybody smile," raved Carrie Ann after their Monopoly-themed foxtrot. "I think we just found our crowd-pleaser," she continued as two glittery clouds of steam emitted from a fuming NeNe Leakes' ears. "That was very watchable," offered Len -- one of his highest compliments.

As always, Cheryl choreographed a clever opening routine with hat-tossing (collect $200 if you caught the hat) and just the lightest smattering of prop work: in this case, green pockets! Drew Carey's got just the idea of money in his pockets. The best things in life, like weight loss, are free.

NeNe Leakes and Tony Dovolani: 21/30 If this cha cha cha had occurred later in the show, I'm sure I'd remember it better -- but upon a second viewing post-show, it did hold up! Tony is as lovable as always and if NeNe keeps cranking out frank commentary such as "Like, look, ice skaters? Hay-ul naww," they should have no trouble sticking around.

Personality, not dance, comes naturally to NeNe, who, as reader Donna pointed out, seems to have taken over the gilded reins as the new Princess Sparkle with that bejeweled headband. (Never! No one could ever replace Carmen Cass. I didn't mean it!) Also, it deserves to be pointed out: After this routine, Hoodie Tony's sweaty face was gleaming even more than his perfect white teeth. An impossible feat! It's what Dancing With the Stars is all about.

NEXT PAGE: 'Soooo, who would Peta sleep with? That guy? Book him.'

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