Credit: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Photo: Michael Bolton & Chelsie Hightower at the DWTS Premiere

Tom Bergeron intoned to our sepia-colored memories of last night that “the contenders came out swinging,” but there were some surprise stand-outs (Audrina & Tony, according to the producers), and others who “fell flat” (The Situation & Karina, according to the producers). Plus, they showed Bruno’s 3 for Michael Bolton, acknowledging the full weight of the dance’s suckiness. Tom asked, “Will he live to fight another day, or be the next star counted out?” which the producers tracked to Michael giving Chelsie’s skirt simultaneous finger-guns and sexyface. Oh, Michael Bolton, we’re sorry, but we can’t be lovers or friends — and we think you know why.

Finally, the costume designer won out over Brooke Burke and provided her with something relatively tasteful for tonight’s results show. The producers, however, obviously hate her and gave her the worst allusion of the night — and that’s saying something after Tom’s horrible metaphors in the opening — “dog-eat-dog.” Oh, Brooke Burke. We even liked your hair, but you just can’t win. For the first time, everyone looks pretty satisfied, except for Michael and Chelsie.

Kyle & Lacey and Brandy & Maks were put in the hotseat for elimination first and to draw it out, we all got to relive their dances and their backstage banter. Kyle & Lacey seem to have a cute relationship... but either there’s a whole new Maks, or the producers are cutting Brandy crazy slack to make her look super nice when she’s not. Maks intoned that he was “confused” and even put his head in his hands. What? Where’s our favorite dominant personality? Did he leave it on hiatus? They ended with a laugh, but it seemed all too legitimately fraught to end well. Kyle & Lacey were told they were safe, but Brandy & Maks were told they were in jeopardy.

Tom told Bruno that he, too, might be in jeopardy with the viewers, to which Bruno made quite possibly his most arch faced yet and intoned, “Fox is waiting.” Tom and Carrie Ann laughed, and even Len chuckled a little. But when confronted with the accusation that Bruno was too mean to Michael, Bruno doubled down: “I think Rin-Tin-Tin would have been better.” The only people that would get that reference, though, would be fans of Michael Bolton. Len thought their jobs as judges was to educate, enlighten and encourage — and not just strictly to judge. Len felt that if one, like Bruno, was so harsh in the critique to give someone a 3, was too much. Somehow, that explains some of Len’s higher scores for some of the lesser couples over the years. Carrie Ann refused to comment... and instead they brought back Kyle & Lacey for an encore performance.

Kyle seemed to have taken the criticisms from last night to heart — especially about control of his arms — and they definitely seemed to have more fun with the dance tonight than they even did last night. It was infectious and irresistible, yet again — even if, to be frank, we would have loved to have seen Jennifer & Derek again, despite the obvious exhaustion.

Then it was time for Janelle Monáe to perform “Tightrope” — and it she was not going to ruin it with some random ballroom performance. She brought her own be-tuxed dancers and her own dancing shoes and more funk than Dancing With The Stars has seen since Sadé last year. We’d write more, but we were too busy getting on iTunes to download “Tightrope.”

Backstage, Brooke Burke asked Florence if she was willing to lock hips with Corky (yes!), what The Situation will do (work to improve!), and if Bristol’s less nervous having gotten an 8 this week (yup). She then dismissed them to ask Jennifer & Derek to debunk the “rumors” that the crowd was booing Sarah Palin last night as it became clear to them — but not to us or the folks backstage — that she was up next. Seems like the producers want to convince her to come on again, eh?

Brooke, then, rolls tape, which does not, in fact, show Palin or Tom’s move over to that side of the ballroom — let alone the camera setup. It does show the judges confused about why the crowd was booing — the crowd that was initially applauding all the 8s for Jennifer and Derek — and the judges’ assumption that the crowd went from cheering the 8s to booing them, and one lone person yelling about 9s. Derek found it was flattering and they both agreed that they were happy with their scores. Supposedly, that settled it. We don’t feel settled — but, let’s be frank, we want to see Sarah Palin back, too. And we want to see Piper in cuter outfits.

Tom added, “Just to put the final nail in the coffin of Boo-gate,” Palin supposedly told him she was surprised by the controversy because she’s been booing the judges, too. Oh, Tom, you’re not helping.

The producers then reviewed Florence again — she felt energized, of course, after he dance. The Situation said, before he danced, that it was “time to man up,” and, after the judging, that he didn’t know what musicality was. That, we have to say, makes us far less inclined to ever smoosh with him. They then reviewed Bristol and her scores — and showed Sarah backstage last night, who said that she was nervous but happy for her daughter. Tom gave Florence the good news first, followed by Bristol — but left The Situation hanging in jeopardy.

Then it was time to re-live Tony’s unfortunate bet that he and Audrina would get all 8s, or he would wax his legs — but not whatever he actually did to his poor beleaguered leghairs. And then, of course, we reviewed Jennifer & Derek’s tour de force and its after effects (utter exhaustion). Luckily for Tony, he and his partner (if not his legs) were safe, and so were Jennifer & Derek. Duh.

To fill time, the professionals talked about their rituals: Derek keeps his socks in the fridge and wears two pairs. Corky kneels and sniffs the floor on which he’ll be dancing. Tony and Maks started throwing a football before performances together. Cheryl deodorizes with hand sanitizer. Louis eats chocolate cake (the most sane ritual). Mark plays guitar (OK, that’s normal). Lacey eats her mom’s chocolate chip cookies. And then they talked about their partner rituals. Chelsie tries to joke around with Michael; Cheryl has Rick walk through his routine by himself. Tony isolates himself and his partner to eliminate distractions. Anna makes Kurt spend two minutes alone before they hit the floor.

Then it was time for tonight’s dance performance in what looked like an audition for Cirque du Soleil by Rich and Tone to an orchestral arrangement of “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” by the Police. It combined acrobatic work, modern dance, and traditional pointe ballet... and very little ballroom.

After the break, the cameras caught a glimpse of Sarah and Piper Palin in the front row again — funny how that didn’t happen last night — just in time for Seal to perform “The Weight Of My Mistakes.” Heidi Klum is a lucky woman, people. He took a stroll down the Staircase of Horror and didn’t trip and looked freaking sexy doing it. Far sexier, in fact, than Cheryl, Lacey, Kym and Chelsie who appeared, mercifully disappeared and dishearteningly reappeared to dance “sexy” around Seal. It didn’t work: he didn’t look at them, and we only did because we had to.

Then it was time to fill more time. The stars talked about how competitive they are: Margaret Cho isn’t very, and everyone else was. Well, Michael didn’t really talk about being competitive, he sort of just sad-sacked it. Kyle talked about how he was working to not mess up a step. They’re all here to win, blah blah blah. We were just waiting for them to kick off Michael.

Time to review last night’s competition, again, i.e. time to watch Michael mess up yet again. Michael thought it was great that his mom got to see it, but we think he was being sarcastic. Kurt & Anna were happy with their results. Rick was very excited to be a contender. Margaret felt she was improving, and offered to let Bruno bounce a quarter off the butt he said ought to be tighter. Kurt & Anna and Margaret & Louis were told they were safe. But, strangely, Rick & Cheryl weren’t told they were safe: they had to suffer alongside Michael & Chelsie.

Michael, backstage, called Bruno “inappropriate and disrespectful” but said he’d loved the competition so far and enjoyed his cast mates. Then it was out to the stage to join the other three couples remaining in jeopardy. Of course Rick & Cheryl were safe. Then it was time to scare the crap out of the remaining couples before cutting to commercial. Because that’s how Tom rolls.

Brandy & Maks were told they were safe, to Brandy’s evident relief. The Situation shook everyone’s hand before Tom made the announcement — and then, America proved they could be trusted with the right to vote, having voted wisely to not have Michael back again. Brooke Burke wanted to know if Michael was “surprised” to be standing there. He called it “disappointing” and was sorry that Chelsie wouldn’t be going on. Chelsie looked as though she would cry. Michael called everyone gracious and kind, and loved being a part of the competition. Chelsie told him it was an honor to work with him and that she was proud of him, as she choked back tears. They played them off to “Nowhere To Run To” as Michael sang along and the cast took the stage to hug him goodbye before they even got moments into it. Either no one really wanted to see him dance again, or he was such a sweetheart that no one really wanted to see him go. It seemed pretty much like the latter — but, we admit, we’d rather listen to him sing then watch him crawl out of a doghouse again.