“Dancing with the Stars” started its landmark 25th season on Monday night, September 17, with a roster full of 13 celebrities from the worlds of sports, music, theater, acting, and even business. They include Paralympian Victoria Arlen, WWE wrestler Nikki Bella, “Shark Tank” entrepreneur Barbara Corcoran, NBA champion Derek Fisher, Broadway actor Jordan Fisher, singer Debbie Gibson, husband-and-wife stars Nick Lachey and Vanessa Lachey, actor Frankie Muniz, NFL star Terrell Owens, actress Sasha Pieterse, HGTV host Drew Scott, and violinist Lindsey Stirling.
According to our early predictions, Jordan Fisher is the celeb to beat, with Stirling not far behind. Terrell Owens and Nick Lachey are also among early favorites, while our readers aren’t too confident about Barbara Corcoran and Frankie Muniz. We don’t think anyone will be eliminated in tonight’s episode, but even if that’s the case they will need to put their best foot forward — literally — to earn high scores from the judges and earn enough support from fans voting at home to advance.
“DWTS’s” three long-serving judges are back for season 25: Len Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba, and Bruno Tonioli. Who will be their favorite performers of the night? Who will be their least favorites? Which judge will be the most generous with their scores, and which will be the stingiest? Below, check out our minute-by-minute “DWTS” season premiere recap and then sound off in the comments section about the reality TV show’s most shocking moments.
8:04pm — And we’re underway with an opening number by recent Emmy winner Mandy Moore. Football player Terrell Owens is up first!
Terrell Owens & Cheryl Burke, Cha Cha (“Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”)
8:08pm — At first glance, Owens doesn’t necessarily look like a Mirror Ball winner with that Cha Cha to “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” but I can see some promise there.
8:09pm — Len Goodman thought Owens was full of fun and full of energy — “Well done!” Though he had some notes about Owens’s rough-around-the-edges technique. Sounds like he’s off to a good start with the judges.
SCORES: 5 (Carrie Ann Inaba), 5 (Len Goodman), 5 (Bruno Tonioli) = 15 total — Ouch! I wasn’t anticipating scores that low for that routine, but it’s always hard to dance first on “DWTS.” The judges can’t be sure how good (or bad) the subsequent routines might be.
Debbie Gibson & Alan Bersten, Foxtrot (“Lost in Your Eyes”)
8:16pm — Gibson is one of the big question marks of the season. She drew first-time pro Alan Bersten, and she’s coming back from a struggle with lyme disease. She might have the musicality for the show, but hopefully her body and her health won’t let her down. “Nobody puts Debbie in a corner!”
8:18pm — There’s an ease and elegance to Gibson’s foxtrot with Bersten, a natural rhythm and comfort. She might be around for a little while if her health allows.
8:20pm — Bruno Tonioli‘s turn to give comments. The judges are taking turns with so many celebs this season. “Lovey, dovey, dreamy, great partnering.” And the had “great chemistry” that Tonioli would love for them to explore more. But she’s got to watch out for problems with her shoulders during underarm turns.
8:23pm — “No matter what happens in this competition it’s a personal victory,” says Gibson about competing on the show despite her illness.
SCORES: 6 (Carrie Ann), 5 (Len), 6 (Bruno) = 17 total — A little better than Terrell Owens, but it feels like the judges are saving big scores for later.
8:24pm — It was announced that next week there will be two eliminations, one based on tonight’s scores and votes, and then next week there will be a second results show to reveal another ouster. Ouch! Though it makes sense with so many celebrities crowding the dance floor this season — gotta start narrowing that down quick.
Sasha Pieterse & Gleb Savchenko, Cha Cha (“Like That”)
8:27pm — “He’s one of the stricter pros,” says Pieterse about her pro partner, but he thinks she has “natural rhythm” and is a hard-worker. “It takes hard work, focus, and lots of sweat,” Savchenko adds about winning the competition.
8:29pm — It looks like Pieterse had a few problems with this routine, a little slow for a cha cha, could have used more energy and vitality.
8:30pm — Carrie Ann Inaba delivers her critique: “I thought you looked fierce out there. You know your body.” Pieterse brought “sexiness” but also “technique.” She’s on “the right track” even though she got ahead of the music at the beginning of the routine.
SCORES: 6 (Carrie Ann), 6 (Len), 6 (Sasha) = 18 total — That’s the best score of the night so far. I’m a little surprised by those numbers compared to the previous two routines, but she did show promise.
Drew Scott & Emma Slater, Foxtrot (“Our House”)
8:35pm — Time to see if the reigning “Dancing with the Stars” champ can turn another celeb into a champion performer. “The dude does not have any moves,” says Drew’s twin brother Jonathan Scott. But apparently Drew used to do karate in his early 20s, so there may be a dancer in there yet.
8:37pm — They got off to a strong start, but they seem to be struggling a lot while in hold. Perhaps the one-foot height difference is tripping them up.
8:38pm — Judge Len Goodman says, “If you were a house you would be a fixer-upper. You’ve got to fix up your feet … You made a humongous mistake … Work on trying to get a little more finesse.” Sounds pretty rough — could he end up getting 4s or worse?
SCORES: 6 (Carrie Ann), 5 (Len), 5 (Bruno) = 16 total — In general those scores seem reasonable, but compared to previous dances it seems they scored him higher than Terrell despite much bigger mistakes.
8:43pm — I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Drew to clean up some of those technique problems. It seems like he has the personality and screen presence to charm viewers.
Barbara Corcoran & Keo Motsepe, Salsa (“Money Maker”)
8:44pm — I’m rooting for Corcoran and Motsepe. Older contestants don’t usually last very long on the show, but Motsepe has been terribly unlucky with dance partners on this show. He’s almost always one of the first contestants eliminated.
8:46pm — This shark-themed routine is a little on-the-nose for my tastes with the “Shark Tank” star. She’s not too bad a dancer. She was definitely enjoying herself. She could be a fan favorite.
8:47pm — “She can shake her money maker for all it’s worth darling,” said judge Tonioli. “You really have to push those hips and place those feet … The intentions were good, but the execution needed much more attack.”
SCORES: 5 (Carrie Ann), 4 (Len), 5 (Bruno) = 14 total — Not a good sign for Motsepe. He has been eliminated first on “DWTS” twice during his time as a pro. But if fans like her fun-loving, feisty attitude, she could get the votes she needs to survive the first week.
8:52pm — I personally think the 4 from Goodman was a little low. Her performance was rough around the edges, but Drew Scott made more mistakes.
Jordan Fisher & Lindsay Arnold, Tango (“There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back”)
8:53pm — Broadway experience, gymnastics background as a kid — we’re about to take a look at our first ringer of the night. Might see some high scores.
8:54pm — Fisher is 23, and Arnold is thrilled to finally have a dance partner close to her age. She’s also 23, and last season she finished second with 40-year-old baseball player David Ross.
8:56pm — I’m no dance expert, but he does look like a potential frontrunner. He’s got skills. He could win this thing.
8:57pm — But what did Inaba think about that? “That was so good. That was wowza. It’s week one, you shouldn’t be dancing like that yet! … You added so much swagger … you guys are a partnership to watch.”
SCORES: 8 (Carrie Ann), 7 (Len), 7 (Bruno) = 22 total — Biggest score of the night by far. On the first night of the competition we rarely see scores higher than an 8, so that’s close to as good as it gets.
Nick Lachey & Peta Murgatroyd, Cha Cha (“Come Get It Bae”)
9:02pm — Tom Bergeron says that according to Las Vegas odds, Nick Lachey is the frontrunner. Clearly Vegas isn’t consulting Gold Derby’s odds. We think he’s a contender, but not the frontrunner, even though his brother Drew won season two.
9:04pm — “Just two Mirror Balls to one Mirror Ball,” says Lachey’s partner Peta Murgatroyd, bragging to her husband Maksim Chmerkovskiy about winning the show more often than he has — burn!
9:06pm — Nick shows a lot of potential, not ready to call him a frontrunner compared to Jordan Fisher, but let’s consider Len Goodman’s critique: “You came out and went for it. There was no holding back — all or nothing.” He liked many of the intricate details of his routine, though it wasn’t perfect.
9:07pm — “And I get to go home with that tonight!” says Nick’s wife Vanessa Lachey after watching Nick’s performance.
SCORES: 6 (Carrie Ann), 6 (Len), 6 (Bruno) = 18 total — Inaba noted that he was a little “laborious,” and Tonioli thought he was a bit “stiff,” but both felt he had potential.
Vanessa Lachey & Maks Chmerkovskiy, Cha Cha (“Woman”)
9:09pm — Vanessa has a “super high-octane personality,” according to Chmerkovskiy, but she’s one of the hardest workers he has partnered with.
9:11pm — Okay, in the battle of the Lacheys, I give night one to Vanessa easily. One of the stronger performances of the night as far as I’m concerned. I hope she gets a generous score.
9:12pm — “That’s a yummy mommy with a sexy carriage!” says judge Tonioli. “It was a proper cha cha cha, so well placed … Wonderful variation, you maintained your posture.” I’m with Bruno!
9:16pm — “It felt like, ‘Yes! Mama did it!'” Vanessa said about how she felt after her performance.
SCORES: 7 (Carrie Ann), 7 (Len), 7 (Bruno) = 21 total — Just one point shy of Jordan Fisher, and well earned.
Frankie Muniz & Witney Carson, Foxtrot (“Sign of the Times”)
9:18pm — “I hope people like what they see, but I’m proud of my past,” says Muniz about his life as a child actor. But during his racing career he broke his back in a crash, so might that hurt his range of motion?
9:20pm — This is definitely the surprise of the night for me. I admittedly wasn’t expecting much from him as a dancer. I don’t know if this will put him high on the leaderboard, but it’s a really solid start. Kudos to Agent Cody Banks!
9:21pm — Judge Carrie Ann Inaba said, “It was endearing. That was the kind of performance our fans fall in love with … You posture was fantastic … What a fantastic performance.”
SCORES: 7 (Carrie Ann), 6 (Len), 6 (Bruno) = 19 total — A solid score for Muniz, which can be dangerous in and of itself. A lot of people in the middle pack get eliminated if fans think they’re safe. And I’m not sure how big Muniz’s fan base will be.
Nikki Bella & Artem Chigvintsev, Tango (“So What!”)
9:26pm — This is probably Chigvintsev’s first celebrity introduction that ended in him being body-slammed. But she’s not that confident in a skirt and heels. “In the ring I’m a superhero. On the dance floor, not so much.”
9:28pm — Tango is a great dance style for Bella, full of attack and fire — literal fire and pyrotechnics. And she got to body-slam Chigvintsev again. Poor guy, his back is going to go out before the season is over.
9:29pm — Judge Len Goodman said, “Once you got into hold … you had good body contact … Stop looking down, lift your chin up and sizzle — well done!” Goodman had mixed feelings, but I think I liked it better than he did.
SCORES: 7 (Carrie Ann), 7 (Len), 6 (Bruno) = 20 total — Pretty good actually, and I agree with those scores. I’m looking forward to more from her this season.
Derek Fisher & Sharna Burgess, Salsa (“Basketball”)
9:36pm — He’s dancing to the song “Basketball,” and his performance costume is a basketball jersey. Hmmm, I think he might be a basketball player. A bit on-the-nose, just like Corcoran earlier, but we’ll see how it goes.
9:38pm — After Muniz, this is the second biggest surprise of the night so far. Rough around the edges, but he has a very natural rhythm and musicality. He’s got a lot of potential.
9:39pm — Judge Tonioli says, “Tailor-made to make you shine … You took center stage in week one, and you were commanding it … Great debut.” Tonioli critiqued Fisher’s hip movement, but otherwise a solid start.
SCORES: 6 (Carrie Ann), 6 (Len), 6 (Bruno) = 18 total — Inaba and Goodman also had issues with Fisher’s technique, but they both appreciated his ability to perform.
9:24pm — You can usually tell a lot by who “DWTS” saves for last. I suspect Lindsey Stirling and Victoria Arlen, the only contestants left, could be potential breakouts.
Victoria Arlen & Val Chmerkovskiy, Cha Cha (“Born Ready”)
9:45pm — Arlen is the inspirational story of the season. She only learned how to walk again one year ago. “I was paralyzed for 10 years,” she explained to Chmerkovskiy. She was in a vegetative state for four years. “I can’t feel my legs,” she adds, citing nerve damage. And Chmerkovskiy thinks “she’s the closest thing I’ve seen to a miracle.”
9:47pm — I’m impressed. She’s charming and winning. She has rhythm, and their first dance made her cry with joy. She could definitely become a fan favorite. Not bad for being unable to feel her legs.
9:49pm — Judge Inaba told her, “I’ve seen some incredible routines … but that was one of the most joyous performances I think I’ve ever seen … Your balance was incredible. Your leg action was so crisp and clean.”
SCORES: 7 (Carrie Ann), 6 (Len), 6 (Bruno) = 19 total — Not bad, though I thought we’d see at least one more 7. I doubt we have to worry about her being eliminated, though. It’s impossible to dislike her.
Lindsey Stirling & Mark Ballas, Cha Cha (“Don’t Worry”)
9:51pm — I’m actually a big fan of Stirling’s music, so this is the performance I’m most looking forward to. Partnered with pro dancer Mark Ballas in his return to the show after more than a year away, I’ve got my fingers crossed that she’ll be a show-stopper.
9:54pm — “Lindsey has a lot of courage, a lot of heart,” says Ballas about Stirling’s work ethic.
9:56pm — “DWTS” definitely saved the best for last. I may be biased since I’m already a fan, but she looks like a potential winner to me. She, Jordan Fisher, Victoria Arlen, and Vanessa Lachey seem like the ones to beat this season based on these first performances.
9:58pm — Judge Goodman said, “It was crisp, it was clean, lovely leg action, nice hip action. That for me was the dance of the night.” For me too, Len, for me too.
SCORES: 7 (Carrie Ann), 8 (Len), 7 (Bruno) = 22 total — That ties Stirling with Jordan Fisher as the top-scoring performance of the night with poor Barbara Corcoran landing on the bottom of the leaderboard.
Final Predictions Contest Results
Who was eliminated? No One
Who got the judges’ HIGHEST score? Jordan Fisher AND Lindsey Stirling
Who got the judges’ LOWEST score? Barbara Corcoran
How many 10s did the judges give out? Zero
Which judge gave the MOST overall points? Carrie Ann Inaba (83)
Which judge gave the FEWEST overall points? Len Goodman AND Bruno Tonioli (78)
Did Carrie Ann Inaba comment on an unauthorized lift? No
Complete Judges Leaderboard
1. Jordan Fisher — 22
1. Lindsey Stirling — 22
3. Vanessa Lachey — 21
4. Nikki Bella — 20
5. Victoria Arlen — 19
5. Frankie Muniz — 19
7. Derek Fisher — 18
7. Nick Lachey — 18
7. Sasha Pieterse — 18
10. Debbie Gibson — 17
11. Drew Scott — 16
12. Terrell Owens — 15
13. Barbara Corcoran — 14
Be sure to make your predictions so that the contestants can see how they’re faring in our racetrack odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before the next episode airs every Monday on ABC. You’ll compete to win a spot on our leaderboard and eternal bragging rights. See our contest rules and sound off with other fans in our reality TV forum. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.