There’s a battle going on in the “Dancing with the Stars” ballroom, but on Monday night, it wasn’t the playful rivalry between J.R. Martinez and Ricki Lake for the top spot on the leaderboard that took the spotlight.
Instead, it was professional ballroom dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy who took on the judges – and in particular, Len Goodman – for what he seemed to suggest was an unwillingness on the judges’ part to critique the celebrity contestants on equal criteria.
After performing a rumba to “Seasons of Love” from the Broadway musical “Rent,” Len called Hope Solo’s performance with Maks her “worst dance of the whole season,” and scolded her for not staying on her toes (she was wearing flat bottomed sneakers in theme with the popular show from the Great White Way).
“As long as the audience likes our journey, we’re good,” ballroom bad boy Maks quickly retorted.
“Let me tell you, Maks, the audience likes the effect,” Len began. “I’ve been in this business for nearly 50 years.”
“Maybe it’s time to go,” the always-outspoken Maks snapped back, prompting the other judges to chime in.
“Don’t be disrespectful like that,” an angry Carrie Ann Inaba quipped.
Bruno Tonioli tried to calm matters, but Maks continued.
“Let’s not be disrespectful to everybody, right, because everybody’s putting in a lot of effort,” Maks chimed in again. “Everybody on that balcony has been dying and killing themselves only to hear your guys’… a little judgmental comments.
“I’m protecting my partner,” he added.
It was show co-host Tom Bergeron who put a stop to the spat in the ballroom between Maks and the three judges, but after receiving their scores – just 20 out of 30 (Len gave them just 6 points, Bruno and Carrie Ann 7 each) – Maks took another swing, apparently directed over what he seemed to consider unequal judges’ critiques.
“With all due respect, this is my show. I helped make it what it is,” he said. “I love every aspect of it, I love every professional that’s ever been here and I love every celebrity that puts effort into every week. Having said that, I’m a little tired that we’re being judged, some on effort and some being picked on, on heel leads!”
AH Nation Poll: Whose side are you on? Maks or the judges? Click HERE to vote!
Maks’ brother, Val Chmerkovskiy, who was eliminated earlier this season with partner Elisabetta Canalis, quickly hit Twitter, in support of his brother.
“Sh** just got real,” he Tweeted, adding, “Sorry but I can’t stand double standards.”
The back and forth occurred after Chaz Bono and Lacey Schwimmer earned just one point less than Maks and Hope for a routine the judges said lacked the type of content worthy of Week 6 material.
The argument overshadowed the night, which actually featured impressive numbers from both Ricki and J.R., who both tied for the top spot on the leaderboard with 29-point scoring quicksteps.
Meanwhile, HLN host Nancy Grace showed vast improvements too, performing a “Spamalot”-inspired foxtrot with Tristan MacManus to the third spot on the leaderboard and 24 points.
AH Nation Poll: Are the judges critiquing fairly and equally? Click HERE to vote!
The Leaderboard for Week 6:
J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff performed a quickstep and took home 29/30
Ricki Lake and Derek Hough performed the quickstep and earned 29/30
Nancy Grace and Tristan MacManus performed the foxtrot and earned 24/30
David Arquette and Kym Johnson tackled the quickstep and earned 23/30
Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke tackled the cha cha and earned 22/30
Hope Solo and Maksim Chmerkovskiy performed a rumba and earned 20/30
Chaz Bono and Lacey Schwimmer performed the tango and earned 19/20