'Dancing With the Stars' Season 25 premiere recap: Big highs and bigger lows

Victoria Leigh Miller

SPOILER ALERT: This recap of Dancing With the Stars premiere contains spoilers.

It’s Season 25 of Dancing With the Stars and the ballroom is bigger than ever. A supersized opening number, 13 celebs with varying degrees of star power, sashays, sequins, spray tans — it’s all there. Even the lack of two Houghs (!) is offset by the return of Mark Ballas and Cheryl Burke. Life is good in Dancetown U.S.A.

DWTS25 came at us with a pre-taped opener that had the stars literally dancing in the streets before jumping right into the competition. With 13 couples this season, the comments had to be quick, which proved difficult for Bruno and the bunch.  Still, even with the abbreviated commentary, the score paddles do most of the talking, so there’s  already a clear frontrunner or two. Here’s how Week 1 played out.

Lindsey Stirling and Mark Ballas: 22/30         

Did you really think Mark Ballas would come back without a  ringer? Violinist Lindsay Stirling could be playing a victory song in 10 weeks if the rest of her dances are anything like her opening night cha cha. We know, Week 1 the judges aren’t going to give anything higher than a 7 — except, Len did. Yep, grumpy judge himself praised the “crisp, clean, lovely leg and hip action” in this routine, crowning it “the dance of the night” and capping his comments off with an 8.

Jordan Fisher and   Lindsay Arnold: 22/30

Carrie Ann Inaba was simply giddy over Hamilton star’s Jordan Fisher’s tango with perpetual runner-up pro, Lindsay Arnold. “That was WOWZA!” the judge shrieked. “This is Week 1!”  CAI praised the Broadway star for taking control and leading the dance with his swagger, and she deemed this season’s youngest duo “a partnership to watch.”

Vanessa Lachey and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 21/30

Mommy dearest was in the house! Vanessa Lachey teamed up with new dad Maks for a mommy-themed cha-cha (were those Cabbage patch dolls in his BabyBjorn?), and Bruno gave the “yummy mummy with a sexy carriage” a thumbs up. “That hand can rock the cradle!” the judge announced, before reminding Mrs. Lachey that she has to maintain things now.  “Oh crud,” she said.

Nikki Bella and Artem Chigvintsev: 20/30     

Now-platinum pro dancer Artem may have met his superwoman with Nikki Bella. The WWE star admitted she’s used to delivering spinebusters and rack attacks, but, we have to say she’s not bad at tangoing, either. Len liked the couple’s body contact, although he warned the pro wrestler to stop looking down. Meanwhile, fiancé John Cena’s tweet to vote for his girl probably won’t hurt Nikki’s numbers this week.

Frankie Muniz and Witney Carson: 19/30

Frankie Muniz is all grown up, races cars, and now dances, apparently. The Malcolm in the Middle star admitted he never knew how much he loved dancing until now, even though his heart has been racing for three weeks straight. Carrie Ann Inaba loved Muniz’ “honest, vulnerable” foxtrot, and we loved his enthusiasm.

Victoria Arlen and Val Chmerkovskiy: 19/30

The back-story of the season goes to ESPN host/ Paralympic swimmer Victoria Arlen, who cannot feel her legs after being paralyzed for a decade. It’s been just a year and a half since she started walking again, so her cha cha was especially poignant. Carrie Ann Inaba called Arlen’s dance “the most joyous performance” she’s ever seen — and that’s saying something.

Sasha Pieterse and Gleb Savchenko: 18 /30

Hello, Sasha Fierce! The Pretty Little Liars alum signed on to Dancing With the Stars to help get in shape for her wedding, but she admitted she was nervous about the live performances. One cha cha later and Carrie Ann Inaba told her she’s already on the right track with partner Gleb Savchenko.

Derek Fisher and Sharna Burgess: 18/30       

We’re not sure what was better: The former NBA star’s Kurtis Blow “Basketball” salsa or his mom’s reaction to him being cast on Dancing With the Stars.  Bruno liked how Fisher took command of this dance, telling him it was “tailor-made” to make him shine. “I am impressed by how you were commanding the stage and its only week one,” the judge said.

Nick Lachey and Peta Murgatroyd: 18/30     

Nick Lachey knows he’s in a no-win situation. If he wins Dancing with the Stars, he will only tie his brother, Drew, who took home the mirrorball trophy in Season 2 — and he’ll have to take his wife out to do it. And for everyone who thinks Lachey has an edge because he was in a boy band for much of the ‘90s, he wants you to know that 98 Degrees was the non-dancing boy band.  We can kinda tell, but all things considered, the dad of three’s cha cha impressed Len Goodman and Co. enough to earn him a trio of sixes.

Debbie Gibson and Alan Bersten: 17/30        

Former ‘80s pop princess Debbie Gibson has had a rough few years after being diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2013. She partnered with newly promoted pro Alan Bersten to deliver a “lovey, dovey, dreamy” foxtrot (as described by Bruno). Gibson’s own song, the 1989 ballad “In Your Eyes” helped ease her pain as she showed off her moves after a sleepless night.

Drew Scott and Emma Slater: 16/30   

Reigning mirrorball champ Emma Slater has her work cut out of her this time around. Not only is she a full foot shorter than her new partner, Drew Scott, but the Property Brothers star needs some serious work on his foxtrot. Len Goodman was especially harsh after the couple’s first dance, telling the star: “If you were a house you’d be a fixer-upper.” Still, Emma has extra motivation to transform this guy into a ballroom dancer, considering he promised her he’d renovate her kitchen if they win.

Terrell Owens and Cheryl Burke: 15/30         

Former NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens scored the first dance of the night, and he immediately brought out his T.O. alter ego. Terrell’s cha cha with Cheryl Burke to the Temptations classic “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” could have him begging for votes, though. Len said the dance was fun and full of energy, but he told the six-time Pro Bowler he needs to dance “up.” Carrie Ann also called out a heel lead, which is, apparently, a no-no for Latin dances. (Who knew? Erin Andrews didn’t!)  Still, the NFL star seemed unfazed. “You just saw T.O,” he said. “He’s a performer.”

Barbara Corcoran and Keo Motsepe: 14/30  

The Shark Tank star was more cougar than shark as she crushed on her partner, Keo. The millionaire moneymaker shook her money maker, but when Bruno mused that her salsa looked like a shark attack with Keo as the bait, she corrected him: “That was a sexual turn on, my dear,” she said. Too bad Len was turned off enough to pull out his lowly “4” paddle. This shark may need to fight for her life on this show.

Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC. Watch clips and full episodes of DWTS for free on Yahoo View.