‘Dancing With The Stars’ Becomes A True Battle For The Top

The battle for the mirrorball is back on.

Nicole Scherzinger and professional dancing partner Derek Hough may have been ruling the leaderboard on “Dancing with the Stars” for the last few weeks, but now the frontrunners will have to share their position.

Men’s figure skating gold medalist Evan Lysacek turned up the heat during the competition on Monday with partner Anna Trebunskaya and managed to turn Nicole and Derek’s lead into a tie for first place.

Like the rest of the remaining pairs, Evan and Anna performed two dances for the fans at home and for the studio audience, which tonight included former competitors Kate Gosselin and “Bachelor” Jake Pavelka (as well as last year’s “DWTS” winner Donny Osmond), but it was their second dance that upset Nicole and Derek’s lead.

Coming on to the dance floor full of passion, strength and gusto, Evan and Anna performed an aggressive paso doble that turned the tables on the leaderboard. Judge Bruno Tonioli screamed that the number had “plenty of attack,” while Len Goodman offered some true – and unexpected – praise.

“The paso doble is the man’s dance, the man should dominate and it is so difficult for a celebrity guy to dominate these professionals,” Len said as the pair took home a perfect 30 points. “You did it. You came out [full of] attack, aggression.”

Evan and Anna’s earlier number – a whimsical fox trot – was also highly praised.

“You were high as a kite out there,” Bruno said of Evan’s movements on the dance floor. “I haven’t seen happy like that since Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.”

The pair missed out on a perfect score for that dance by just one point as Len gave them a 9, compared to Carrie Ann and Bruno’s 10s.

While Evan and Anna made a great showing, nothing could take away from the dramatic and spectacular moves from Nicole and Derek, who also achieved an overall score of 59 out of 60 for the evening.

Nicole and Derek’s perfect scoring Argentine tango prompted a comment from Len, which the British judge explained indicated his highest form of flattery.

“It was more delicious than my grandmother’s apple pie,” he said.

Their second number – a cha cha cha – which featured a solo from Nicole (all the celebrities second dances featured a solo), was also a winner thanks to its Prince tribute, but Len gave them a 9, leaving them, like Evan and Anna, one point shy of an overall perfect score.

ESPN’s Erin Andrews made some improvements over the night, but fell to third with just 56 points overall for the night.

Their first number – a Viennese waltz – featured a tiny stumble, which Bruno noted — but the pair still pulled in 27 overall points.

Their second dance – a paso doble — was more memorable, not so much for Erin’s solo portion of the dance (which included lots of kicks in thigh-high boots), but more for Bruno swearing on television. The censors managed to stop the judge’s four-letter explosion (the F word, according to sources in the studio), but they did catch Erin’s open-mouthed reaction to the blip.

Bruno’s censored faux paus came as he complimented the duo, whom he said made a “feast” of dance, one which scored a massive 29 points.

“You’re a hot chick with an attitude. Tonight this turned into a feast,” Bruno screamed. “I cannot believe the standard of dancing I’m seeing… (Censor cut out here).”

Finally, it was Chad Ochocinco and partner Cheryl Burke in fourth, although like Erin, the star showed major ballroom improvements.

Chad’s first dance – a waltz – scored 17 out of 30 and got a major commendation from Len for being the only star with absolutely no dance experience.

“It makes me more competitive,” Chad said of competing against three stars with some dance training (of various levels). “That’s what this process is about on ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ It’s about people with no dance experience at all, climbing those mountains, getting over those obstacles, so you know, I’m enjoying it all the way.”

On his second dance, Chad proved he really was enjoying things, going shirtless for a sexy samba to the “Dancing” band’s version of Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro.”

“For a really tough dance, you did a great job,” Len said.

“I am torn between admiration and bitter envy,” Bruno chimed in about Chad’s shirtless physique as the pair scored another 24 points (for a total of 51 out of 60 for the night). “I will never take my clothes off again.”

Hey, Bruno – remember THIS?!

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