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'Dancing with the Stars' season 29 recap: Carole Baskin disappoints as Skai Jackson and Justina Machado shine

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ABC/Eric McCandless(LOS ANGELES) — Dancing with the Stars returned with a mighty roar on Monday and a fresh array of hopefuls competing for the coveted Mirrorball trophy.  With a new season came some changes to the familiar ballroom, complete with a new face at the judge’s table, Derek Hough filling in for Len Goodman — who is unable to travel out of London –and, of course, Tyra Banks making her flashy debut as the show’s newest host.

Also, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there was no live audience to help usher in the season — a first in series’ history.

Monday’s most anticipated moment came when Tiger King star Carole Baskin stepped onto the ballroom floor, pretty in pink with her signature flower crown, alongside pro dancer Pasha Pashkov.  While many wondered if the big cat lover would turn into this season’s top dog, Baskin did her best to keep up doing the Paso Doble to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” but she fell to the bottom of the pack with a disappointing score of 11/30.

Meanwhile, a team effort from actresses Skai Jackson and Justina Machado set the bar for the season as the two successfully asserted themselves as the acts to beat.  Both ladies closed out the first night sharing first place with a high score of 21/30.

Jackson, who is also the youngest star to ever compete on DWTS, Tangoed to the top thanks to the expert guidance from her dance partner — current Mirrorball champ Alan Bersten.  The Disney Channel star shined on the ballroom with her fiery routine to Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass.”  

One Day at a Time actress Machado made sure to bring the heat (and her SAG award) for her first performance alongside dance partner Sasha Farber.  Her impressive hip shaking allowed her to Cha Cha her way to the top as she demanded “Respect” while dancing to Aretha Franklin.

Still, several other competitors made sure to let Machado and Jackson know to not get too cozy in first place.   Catfish host Nev Schulman stunned with his classy and breezy Foxtrot to Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight” — earning rave reviews from all three judges. He, alongside former Bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe, elbowed their way into second place, both scoring a well-deserved 20/30.

In addition, Monica Aldama — head coach on the Netflix hit CHEER — showed that she not only can dominate the mat, but can also tear up the dance floor with her energetic Foxtrot to Rascall Flatts’ “My Wish,” finishing in third with a noteworthy 19/30.

Dancing with the Stars returns next Tuesday, September 22, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.  Scores from Monday night will be combined with Tuesday’s scores before the series announces its first elimination.

Here are the current standings:

Tied for first:
Skai Jackson, Disney Channel star, with Alan Bersten — 21/30
Justina Machado, One Day at a Time star, with Sasha Farber — 21/30

Nev Schulman, host of Catfish, with Jenna Johnson — 20/30
Kaitlyn Bristowe, former star of The Bachelorette star, with Artem Chigvintsev — 20/30
Monica Aldama, head coach on Netflix’s CHEER, with Val Chmerkovskiy — 19/30
Johnny Weir, Olympic figure skater, with Britt Stewart –18/30
Anne Heche, TV and film actress, with Keo Motsepe — 18/30
Jeannie Mai, host of The Real, with Brandon Armstrong  — 18/30 
AJ McLean, member of Backstreet Boys, with Cheryl Burke — 18/30
Jesse Metcalfe, actor, with Sharna Burgess — 18/30
Vernon Davis, Super Bowl champion, with Peta Murgatroyd — 17/30
Nelly, Grammy Award-winning rapper, with Daniella Karagach — 16/30
Chrishell Stause, Netflix’s Selling Sunset star, with Gleb Savchenko — 12/30

Lowest score:
Carole Baskin, Big Cat Rescue owner and star of Tiger King, with Pasha Pashkov — 11/30

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By Megan Stone
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