Dancing With the Stars Recap: Bindi Irwin Brings Her A Game, Paula Deen (Maybe) Soils Her Pants

Derek Hough and Bindi Irwin took the ballroom by storm on the DWTS Season 21 premiere. Credit: Adam Taylor/ABC

The Season 21 premiere of Dancing With the Stars twirled into living rooms with all the glitter, glitz, and enthusiasm that audiences have come to know and love on Monday, Sept. 14. Host Tom Bergeron kicked off the evening by explaining that he was wearing a pocket square to honor Len Goodman, who gave up his spot at the judges' table after last season (and who apparently really loved Tom's pocket squares). 

Last season's winner, Rumer Willis, was in the crowd to cheer on the new Mirrorball Trophy hopefuls, but the night went better for some than others. Read on to find out who went to the head of class and who risked being sent home. (Disclaimer: Final grades made up by Us Weekly and have no bearing on actual rankings.) 

Victor Espinoza and Karina Smirnoff

Dance: Salsa

How they did: Sure, he rode American Pharaoh to Triple Crown glory, but can Victor dance? Let's just say pro Karina Smirnoff has her work cut out for her. They face two major challenges: First, Karina is roughly four feet taller than Victor. (Okay, the height difference may not be quite that extreme, but still). Second, due to repeated concussions, Victor has virtually no short-term memory, which makes learning dance moves difficult. What he lacked in skill, however, he made up for with passionate hip shaking … kinda.

Judge Julianne Hough called the routine "fun" and "interesting," but both Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba took issue with the lack of actual salsa moves in the routine — though Carrie Ann did give him credit for his "galloping." 

Score: 15 out of 30

Grade: B (To quote Julianne, "Those hips, though!") 

Tamar Braxton and Valentin Chmerkovskiy

Dance: Quickstep

How they did: Grammy-nominated singer Tamar and her pro, Val, both like to be in charge, based on a clip of their rehearsal session. That could lead to trouble later, but for premiere night, it worked for their ambitious and complicated quickstep.

Bruno called the performance "high-octane" and praised the "incredible amount of content" they worked in, while Carrie Ann simply said, "You blew me away." 

Score: 23 out of 30

Grade: A- 

Chaka Khan and Keo Motsepe

Dance: Cha-cha

How they did:  "You can call us the royal couple," music icon Chaka Khan joked of herself and pro partner Keo. Indeed, she made an entrance fit for a queen as she came down from the ceiling on a platform. Unfortunately, her entrance may have been the best part. (But whatever. She has 10 Grammys, people. Ten.)

"You had so much fun that sometimes you forgot the choreography a little bit," Carrie Ann explained. Julianne echoed her fellow judge, urging the singer to "use the space" around her when she danced. 

Score: 13 out of 30

Grade: B-

Hayes Grier and Emma Slater

Dance: Cha-cha

How they did: 15-year-old Vine star Hayes is the youngest competitor this season and has over 3.5 million followers on the site, which could give him a leg up on the competition assuming he can deliver the dance moves. Upon meeting partner Emma, Hayes quipped, "She doesn't look 26, if that makes her feel any better." (To be clear, he thinks 26 is old.) But what he lacks in age, he made up for in a certain joie de vivre that the judges absolutely loved. 

Bruno declared the teen the "Season 21 boy wonder," and Julianne praised his "natural ability." Carrie Ann lamented, "If I were 30 years younger, I'd still be way too old for you!" She went on to encourage him to keep his eyes open when he danced.

Score: 21 out of 30

Grade: B+

Andy Grammer and Allison Holker

Dance: Foxtrot

How they did: The "Honey, I'm Good" singer spent a lot of time during their introduction video talking about how much he missed his late mother. 

"I guarantee your mother was smiling down on you," Carrie Ann began before adding that he needed to work on having a better connection with Allison when they were dancing. "I disagree with Carrie Ann," Julianne shot back. "I thought that connection was wonderful." 

Score: 21 out of 30 

Grade: B

Paula Deen and Louis van Amstel

Dance: Quickstep

How they did: At 68, celebrity chef Paula is the oldest competitor this season. Still, the saucy cook (who lost tons of endorsements due to her racist remarks in a 2013 deposition) hit the dance floor with pro Louis armed with a ton of personality. But nerves got the best of her — and she knew it. "I was scared. I had white underwear when I started, but it probably ain't white no more!" Paula joked to the judges. 

Julianne told Paula, "I felt like you were holding on to Louis for dear life," and Carrie Ann noted, "You just didn't quite get your feet under you so it felt like you were being dragged around a lot."  

 

Score: 15 out of 30

Grade: C+ (Keep your underwear out of it, Paula!) 

Carlos PenaVega and Whitney Carson

Dance: Jive

How they did: Carlos shot to fame after starring on the highly successful Nickelodeon musical comedy Big Time Rush. Paired up with Whitney, he looked perfectly at home in the ballroom. The only catch? He's not only competing against a bunch of other stars, he's competing against his wife. It appeared Carlos isn’t going to make things easy for his better half, though, as he and Whitney gave one of the strongest performances of the night. 

Julianne called him a "natural performer," and Carrie Ann said his "musicality is off the charts." 

Score: 23 out of 30

Grade: A- 

Alexa PenaVega and Mark Ballas

Dance: Jive

How they did: The rivalry between the spouses was palpable from the get-go. "Carlos and I really wanted to do the show together because we really want to work together," the Spy Kids star explained before killing it on the dance floor.

Bruno called her performance "hot" and "sexy," and Julianne noted she had "an amazing presence." Still, she fell two points short of her husband when all was said and done. 

Score: 22 out of 30

Grade: A-

Kim Zolciak Biermann and Tony Dovolani

Dance: Salsa

How they did: The Real Housewives of Atlanta star is famous for her dance single "Don't Be Tardy," her football player husband, and her wigs. But it seemed the larger-than-life reality TV star let nerves get the best of her as she performed with her partner, Tony, for the first time.

"I felt that you held back so much like you were really scared," Carrie Ann noted, while Julianne echoed, "I felt like that was slow motion." Kim cited the awkwardness of getting that close to a man who was not her husband as part of the reason for her poor performance.

Score: 12 out of 30 (lowest of the night) 

Grade: C (Loosen up, Kim!) 

Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough

Dance: Jive

How they did: The 17 year-old Australian wildlife conservationist has starred in a series of wildlife shows, including Bindi: The Jungle Girl and Bindi's Bootcamp. Like her late father, "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin, Bindi is bubbly and full of life, and that came across as she hit the floor with Derek.

"That was the best performance of the night," Julianne declared, while Bruno added, "You really are the wonder from Down Under." 

Score: 24 out of 30 (tied for first)

Grade: A+

Gary Busey and Anna Trebunskaya

Dance: Cha-cha

How they did: Actor-turned-reality-star Gary Busey rose to fame when he became an Academy Award nominee for his performance in the titular role in The Buddy Holly Story. More recently, however, he appeared on Celebrity Apprentice. Though his dancing left much to be desired, Gary and pro partner Anna still made an impression, mostly due to Gary's signature nonsensical commentary. "When I'm talking to you, your left eye is spinning," he told Tom during their post-dance interview. Umm. 

Bruno compared their performance to a "summer blockbuster" full of "chaos, mayhem, and destruction." For her part, Carrie Ann praised Gary's commitment, though she didn't say much about his dancing.

Score: 15 out of 30

Grade: B (Gary brought the weird!) 

Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold

Dance: Foxtrot

How they did: The Army National Guard Specialist became a worldwide hero in August when he helped avert a massacre aboard a Belgian train, but he was a hero again tonight for a great first dance with partner Lindsay Arnold. 

"I did not expect that at all," Carie Ann began. "You just came out and showed us one of the best dances of the night." Julianne noted that they clearly "had a blast" on the dance floor. 

Score: 22 out of 30

Grade: A

Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess

Dance: Cha-cha 

How they did: The Backstreet Boys heartthrob knows a thing or two about performing, but it turned out he's insecure about his dancing. Hopefully Sharna can help cure him of that. After she totally fangirled out at their first meeting, Sharna clearly put Nick to work — and their hard work paid off. 

"What a way to wrap up the night," Julianne declared. Bruno predicted, "Carry on like this and I promise you Backstreet's back next week, and the next week, and the next week." 

Score: 24 out of 30 (Tied for 1st with Bindi Irwin)

Grade: A

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