I'm a long time viewer of “Dancing With the Stars:” the first season I used every vote I had towards Kelly. John O’Hurley and his demand for a re-match still infuriates me to this day. The only saving grace is that she’s still recognized as the winner. As a new writer for Joker’s and such an avid fan, I was eagerly anticipating tonight’s show. I love it when Tom Bergeron makes promises to us: “This promises to be…!” I know he’s just reading off of a tele-prompter, but he’s so dang adorable that I can’t help but believe him. Tom promised us last week that tonight’s show would be epic because, “for the first time ever,” the stars would be the ones in charge of every element and would put their own spin on some iconic routines done in the past.

As the band breaks into the show’s all-too-familiar theme music, I’m leaning forward in my seat to catch the first glimpse of each couple’s costumes as Tom introduces them. Now I am the farthest thing from being a fashionista, but I always find myself picking some of them apart and admiring others. Tonight’s showstopper for me was Maks'. At least, Tom said that was Maks with Kirstie and I knew it had to be, but his face was almost unrecognizable until he stood in front of the judge’s desk. I’d recognize that dancer’s physique anywhere!

The dancing kicked off, and the unlucky couple chosen to take the automatically-lower-scores-because-they’re-first position was Drew and Anna. Drew decided he wanted to take on the show’s very first dance – season 1’s Joey McIntyre and Ashly DelGrosso’s 20-point cha-cha to Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” – and put a concert-themed spin on it. I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out how the ‘concert’ fit into it other than the top of the steps (set up like a rock concert stage with pyro for the end,) and Drew's leather pants/vest, but that was all. I happened to spot a lift that Carrie Ann missed (I love it when that happens). I was going to post a picture of it but decided to save Anna some dignity since it also happens to be a full on crotch-shot. Amazingly enough, the judges surprised me by giving them 8/8/8 for a total of 24.

I was a bit disappointed with Gilles’ attitude towards picking an iconic dance to enhance; instead of feeling honored that one of his prior routines was so legendary that someone else would attempt to try and enrich it, he took a negative view as though they were denigrating his version. For himself he chose season 10’s Erin and Maks’ tango routine to The Eurythmics “Sweet Dreams” that had earned them an 18 for technical and 21 for performance. His creativity in this routine was spot on: a dream sequence where he flew out of bed through the air before landing to dance a smoldering tango with Peta, the woman of his dreams. She happened to have been wearing a lingerie-inspired costume that definitely should be worn in the bedroom instead of the ballroom. The dance climaxed when Peta shoved him back onto the bed; he snapped bolt upright, panting and glaring at me, making me feel slightly ashamed for being naughty enough to have entered and witnessed one of his erotic dreams. The judges praised him for his drama but told him he needed a tighter hold (I thought any tighter and we would have been watching soft porn) and scored them an 8.5/8.5/8.5 for a total of 25.5.

Melissa’s take on the weekly assignment was slightly different as she told Tony she wanted to add tricks that had never been seen in the ballroom. She decided on season 13’s J.R. and Karina’s samba to Gloria Estefan’s “Conga." The trick at the beginning where she bent over backwards and slid all the way down to his knee before he tossed her up and caught her head on top of his foot: I’d swear I’ve seen that before, but maybe it was on “America’s Got Talent." The trick at the end seemed a little slow and hesitant compared to the fast-paced flow of the rest of the dance and looked a little clumsy. She squatted down with her shoulder tucked behind his knee and grabbed hold of his upper thigh so he could step over her twice and have her roll with him. BTW, these two were absolutely beaming in their breast-cancer-awareness -inspired pink costumes and I love seeing the complete and utter joy that Melissa brings out in Tony. The judges were impressed and gave them a 9/9/9 for a total of 27 and the highest score of the night and season to date.

Apolo picked season 8’s Gilles and Cheryl’s foxtrot to Michael Bublé’s “Fever” because he wanted to channel his inner sexiness. Three all-white living statues adorned the floor as the music began and Apolo slowly approached the center statue who was obviously Karina. Sadly, he stripped off her toga to reveal some very ugly black lacy pants that distracted from the overall beauty that could have been. His dancing was well done but I don’t think he succeeded in his quest – I’ve seen him sexier – but Carrie Ann is in lust and always sees his sex appeal, which is why the scores were 9/8/8.5 for a total of 25.5.

Kelly is a soap opera star and knows a good sibling rivalry storyline works so she chose season 4’s Laila and Maks’ paso doble to Enrich Kunzel’s “Espana Cani." She didn’t want the fluff and tricks she knew other dancers would put into their routines but she did want a huge matador cape to fly over and reveal the two of them – I pitied the poor guys who had to run the length of the floor holding long poles high in the air, a billowy soft material floating above – but it was a cool effect. Despite my reservations for doing a dance I loved so much the first time, Kelly and Val did an outstanding job: how could they not with the natural smoldering chemistry these two share? They received an uproarious standing ovation and nothing but unbelievable praise from the judges, but only scored her 9/9/9 for a total of 27 and a tie for highest score of the night and season. As a side note, I love seeing her “General Hospital” co-star and on-screen mom, Nancy Lee Grahn (who plays ‘Alexis Davis,’) every week in the audience wildly cheering her on.

Kirstie knows what she and the pair's fans want, and she proved it by picking season 13’s Carson and Anna’s cha-cha to Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger” so she could up the entertainment factor. After dressing Maks in skin-tight pants and a Jagger wig, she had him ‘drive up’ in a Mini Cooper complete with British flag decals, personalized ‘Maks’ license plate, and mirror balls hanging from the rearview mirror. He then picked her out of a crowd of adoring fans. She brought the comedic elements I expected; from her mimicking Carson’s chicken strut, to her boob lift and then ending the routine with the fan’s favorite faint-inducing kiss from Maks. The only thing missing was the shoe fiasco. The audience and judge’s loved it as much as I did and they received their highest scores of the season, an 8/8/8 for a total of 24.

Sabrina decided she wanted to do the dance that was dedicated to her by Mel B and Maks after she was shockingly eliminated on season 5, their paso doble to En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind”, and she was determined to stay strict to the rules. Other than the poor costume changes she made (might have looked fine on a Paris runway but that diamond-shaped front would have driven me crazy every time I looked down and it stabbed me in the throat) there really wasn’t too much to crow about. Oh yeah, she had a 3-ring neon tube through which she and Louis strutted at the top of the dance. Whoopee! Although she danced really well, she didn’t add anything amazing and new, as were the requirements. The judges surprised me by not being as overly impressed as I thought they might be, she received an 8.5/8.5/8.5 for a total of 25.5.

Emmett baffles me. He complained about his score last week being 22.5 saying, “my number is 22; point 5 is not." Is he really dumb enough to be complaining about getting a higher score? Anyway, he decided on the runner-up to his season 3, Mario and Karina’s paso doble to Desperado Los Lobos and Antonio Banderas’ “Cancion Del Manachi.” He wanted to set it as an old desert theme complete with donkey, but the donkey got stage fright and we only saw him in the previews leading up to it! There was also a crowd of mariachis which frankly distracted and cluttered the dance floor. The only amazing element was a floor-length race and foot-first slide between Cheryl’s legs which would have been even more amazing if we hadn’t been expecting it from the rehearsal clip. Judges scored them an 8.5/8/8.5 for a total of 25 – there, Emmett, no point 5, happy?

Helio loved having creative control and decided on his cast-mate Apolo and Julianne’s season 4 quickstep to Big Bad Voodoo’s “Mr. Pinstripe Suit." He brought the pinstripe from his suit into the set decoration with neon lights across the stage and stripes of light on the floor; however his suit’s stripes were vertical while those on the stage and Chelsea’s dress were horizontal. Maybe that was his way of trying to draw attention more to himself; but as always he was captivating in a fast-paced dance routine. He did have one error when he stepped on Chelsea’s dress, but I thought he recovered rather nicely though I didn’t like him trying to blame her when talking to Tom and again during their chat with Brooke: he was in charge. After the judge’s critiques he scored an 8.5/8.5/8.5 for a total of 25.5.

Bristol chose season 9’s Joanna and Derek’s futurist paso doble to Trans-X’s “Living on Video." Why she chose it we’ll never know because we had to watch as she attacked Mark over her own insecurities. She accused him first of wishing he was partnered with Sabrina or Shawn instead of her, then for missing a rehearsal, and generally not being there for her. Meanwhile she’s playing with her phone and walks out. Now I’ll admit I’m not a big fan of Mark: I don’t like the way he oftentimes out-dances his partners or his breaking the rules because he’s gotten away with it for so long, but even I have to back him up on this one. She was having a pity party (to try and gain sympathy? … Hmmm). Back to the dance: the floor is a chessboard with a few large pieces scattered about, Brooke is radiantly costumed as the white queen while Mark is dressed as the black king. Unfortunately there doesn't appear to be anything amazing added to the dance, and poor Bristol just can’t seem to express any emotion on the floor. Carrie Ann agreed with me but the judges still gave them their best scores to date, 7.5/7.5/7.5 for a total of 22.5.

We rounded off tonight’s competition with Shawn choosing season 5’s Helio and Julianne’s quickstep to “Hey Pachuco." Shawn brought her gymnastics into the routine just as I knew she would, but even worse was her blatant disregard for the rules. Derek has obviously rubbed off on her the wrong way. While their routine was entertaining and danced extremely well, they broke hold twice and had a lift! I loved their trampoline-powered somersault entrances between brass band players and the big finish of falling into the band’s pit from the staircases: those were amazing never-before-seen stunts that should have been enough, but they were also impressive during the routine with most of the stunts they pulled off while still managing to hold hands. I just wish they would have cut what they knew would cost them points. As expected, the judges raked them over the coals before rewarding them with a 9/8/9.5 for a total of 26.5.

These are my opinions: I'd be fascinated to hear yours here. Speak up!

I’m anticipating the results show to be a can’t-be-missed nail-biter as it’s a double-elimination.