It’s possible they were in denial last week, but it appears that none of the contestants realized that they’re competing against a lot of really, really good dancers.

View Photo Gallery: Former contestants return for the 15th season.

But in the second week of competition, after bidding farewell to Pamela Anderson last time, the final 12 mull the fact that they have some serious competition, and they better step up their game if they don’t want to leave in shame on Tuesday night.

Reality star Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani

Dance: Jive

“Everybody dances what the finals look like in a regular season,” Melissa says, sounding frightened. She reminisces about her first season on the show, when she suffered a rib injury and wasn’t allowed to perform one week. She cringes, remembering how the judges had to review her rehearsal footage, instead — she can never let that happen again.

She and Tony fly through the jive at a dizzying pace. Len is all smiles, which is new and unusual. “That was one of the fastest jives I’ve ever seen,” Bruno says, impressed. Then, he and the judges all start bickering about whether or not Melissa did something wrong (it’s impossible to understand), and no one knows what’s going on. Carrie Ann keeps it short, mostly because all the arguing means she’s run out of time: “You were made to jive.”

Scores: 8, 8, 7.5 for a total of 23.5 points.

Reality star Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas

Dance: Quickstep

Bristol confirms she had fun last week, and reveals she’ll be dancing to “Redneck Woman” by Gretchen Wilson, since she greatly identifies with the song. “I’m a redneck; I always have a baby on my hip,” Bristol shares, basically quoting the lyrics to the song. This somehow transitions to Bristol and Mark to a shooting range, so Mark can see what it’s like living in Bristol’s world. “Being at the gun range triggered something in me that makes me really want to do well in this competition,” Bristol boasts, not even realizing the pun.

Bristol stomps around the stage in her cowboy boots during the country-themed dance, and ends the performance pretending to break a beer bottle over Mark’s head — he falls to the floor. Cut to a shot of Sarah Palin and Todd Palin cheering in the audience — will this become a weekly tradition? “That was definitely different,” Bruno starts carefully, saying that Bristol lost a bit of the technique. Carrie Ann tells Bristol that she’s come so far since her first time on the show, and that she loves watching her perform. Len throws out an impressive rhyme: “I liked the hoedown, but the technique was a bit low down.”

Scores: 6, 6, 6 for a total of 18 points.

Racecar driver Helio Castroneves and Chelsie Hightower

Dance: Jive

During rehearsal, Helio complains that the dance is too fast. Chelsie’s confused — Helio’s a racecar driver. Shouldn’t he be used to high speeds? To show Chelsie what racecar driving is really like (and to give the producers some footage that’s more interesting than rehearsal), Helio takes Chelsie to the racetrack. She screams loudly the entire time, terrified.

After they whip around the dance floor — and some adorable scenes of Helio’s young daughter in the audience — Carrie Ann says that Helio’s body caught up to the charm going on in his face during the dance. Len keeps up with the freestyling, and remarks that Helio has “style with a smile.” Is he getting paid by the rhyme? Bruno is full of specific critiques, and no one likes constructive criticism on this show.

Scores: 8, 7.5, 7.5 for a total of 23 points.

Olympic speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno and Karina Smirnoff

Dance: Quickstep

Apolo is not happy about his first week performance, because he tied for fourth. And as an Olympian, he knows that unless you make it at least in the top three, you may as well go home. Karina demands that Apolo step up and be the man in the dance, but that turns out to be tough, because he doesn’t know any of the moves. He even grabs an iPhone and asks Siri for help learning the dance — no dice.

Still, something works out. “Gold medal,” announces Len, adding that Apolo combined speed with control. Bruno thinks his footwork was incredible. “Someone put on his competition pants last night,” Carrie Ann purrs. No complaints from Apolo, who tells Brooke Burke Charvet that he’s glad it went well after dress rehearsal didn’t go as planned, which according to Tom Bergeron, means that Apolo accidentally headbutted Karina.

Scores: 8.5, 8, 8 for a total of 24 points.

Singer Sabrina Bryan and Louis Vam Amstel

Dance: Quickstep

During rehearsal, Louis wants Sabrina to fly up three sets of stairs in a risky move — and on the way back down, he drops her, causing the first injury of the season. Sabrina injured her arm — cut to a dramatic scene of Louis asking Sabrina after rehearsal, “Do you want to keep it moving or do you want to take it out?” We don’t get an answer.

However, the answer does become clear when the producers immediately transition to Louis and Sabrina, launching into their performance with no apparent side effects. “Oh my god, it is Miss Ginger Rogers at her best,” Bruno purrs. Carrie Ann lets her feelings known by shrieking before she finally starts talking, but thinks the dance was “awesome!” Len is equally pleased, and says Sabrina had her upper body under control, and still kept her legs moving fast.

Scores: 9, 9.5, 8.5 for a total of 26 points.

Actress Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy

Dance: Jive

Kirstie is determined to make up for last week, when she finished second-to-last. And the season gets its first “50 Shades of Grey” reference, as Maks uses latex gloves to tie Kirstie’s legs together to help her dance technique during the jive rehearsal, and Kirstie makes a crack about it being a very “50 Shades of Maks” move. It’s sufficiently creepy. Anyway, Maks yells at Kirstie that she is competing against 20-something Olympics, so she better get her act together. Kirstie doesn’t seem to mind his age insults. “Three lifetimes of Shawn [Johnson] is how old I am, so he has to push me,” she explains.

Wearing a short wig, Kirstie slides around the dance floor appearing much more confident than last week. The judges are impressed. “Age is just a number,” Carrie Ann reminds her. “Flirty, dirty Kirstie,” says Len (who may really be getting paid per rhyme), adding it was a huge improvement from last week. Kirstie can barely breathe when she goes to talk to Brooke Charvet, but thinks it was worth it. Scores: 7, 7, 7 for a total of 21 points.

Former NFL player Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke

Dance: Quickstep

Unlike his fellow competitors, Emmitt isn’t afraid of injuries . “I’ve been hit over 4,000 times,” he boasts of his football career, though it left his head crooked. He doesn’t seem to mind it, though, and scoffs at being intimidated by his competition. An actor, a racer, and a speedskater? Please.

Dressed in a floor-length red cape, Emmitt goes through the quickstep almost robotically. Len enjoys Emmitt’s “cool cat” attitude, but thinks his quickstep technique was lacking. “Red hot chemistry with Cheryl — meow,” says Bruno halfheartedly, reminding Emmitt that his timing was off. “You might want to watch out for the racer and the speedskater,” Carrie Ann chides him, puncturing his ego with every word, saying that both were better than Emmitt tonight. Ouch!

Scores: 7.5, 7.5, 7.5, for a total of 22.5 points.

Singer Drew Lachey and Anna Trebynskaya

Dance: Jive

Drew is stunned that he found himself in the bottom two last week, and feels like he needs to find a way to stand out this time. They decide to start the dance with Anna slapping Drew in the face — but he warns her not to hit him too hard. “It’s the moneymaker,” he deadpans. “It’s why I’m broke.” Who knew Drew Lachey was funny?

Maybe the slap worked, because Drew looks a lot better than last week through the jive. Bruno rambles on for awhile about Drew’s aggression, and how he liked it, but says that Drew was too flat-footed. Carrie Ann, however, is pleased: “Welcome home, Drew,” she says, adding that she likes the new “edgy” Drew that’s an improvement for last week. “Bottom two Drew? Not this week,” Len predicts.

Scores: 7.5, 7.5, 7.5 for a total of 22.5 points.

NSYNC member Joey Fatone and Kym Johnson

Dance: Quickstep

The show plays up the boy band rivalry, with a shot of Drew Lachey asking Joey Fatone, “You know you’re going to lose, right?” Joey plays along, but is shocked when Drew is in the bottom two couples. He says he has to work harder than ever, since the playing field is especially even during all-star season.

Wearing a Charlie Chaplin costume, Joey doesn’t appear to be doing a “quickstep” — but he seems to be having fun, especially at the end, where he leaps over Kym and tumbles to the floor. Carrie Ann calls the dance “fantastic,” even though he made a few mistakes. Len also has a list of complaints about Joey: Poor posture, bad footwork, frame wasn’t constant etc. -- but it was an entertaining performance. “If you can’t dance much, come out and entertain us,” Len says helpfully, perhaps thinking he’s paying Joey a compliment, but doing the exact opposite. The audience boos.

Scores: 7.5, 7.5, 7.5 for a total of 22.5 points.

Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough

Dance: Jive

Stuck in the middle of the pack, Shawn decides to use the secret weapon at her disposal -- throwing some gymnastics into the routine, which means cartwheeling down the stairs. “Oh really? Now you’re doing gymnastics? You’re already pulling [bleep] out?” Joey Fatone pipes up, as he sticks his head into the rehearsal room. Sadly, we agree with Joey — it does seem a little early in the competition to be using super special gymnast moves.

But Shawn’s cartwheel down the stairs works well with the bouncy routine set to a song from “Hairspray.” Tom Bergeron takes a minute to point out the discrepancy between them after the dance. “Not breathing hard,” he says, pointing to a calm and collected Shawn. “Almost dead,” he adds, pointing to a panting Derek. Anyway, the judges: Len thinks they could have done better with the performance. Bruno, on the other hand, goes with “exhilarating” and “eye-popping.” Carrie Ann agrees with Bruno, and pronounces Shawn and Derek the all-star sweethearts.

Scores: 8.5, 8, 8.5 for a total of 25 points.

Actress Kelly Monaco and Val Chmerkovskiy

Dance: Quickstep

Everyone is still fixated on the fact that Kelly is the contestant who’s been away from “DWTS” the longest. But seven years later, she still manages to land in the middle of the leader board. Meanwhile, Kelly complains when Val criticizes her dance moves, in particular her upper body movement. “I’d like to get a set of fake boobs and make him do rehearsal all day with a big...rack,” she says. Sure enough, she arrives with the aforementioned set of fake boobs (filled with water) and makes Val rehearse in them strapped to his chest. He does not seem to be particularly sympathetic, even after that experience.

Kelly floats through the dance, though it’s not particularly memorable. Bruno calls Kelly “extremely elegant,” but thinks it was very pretty. Carrie Ann says Kelly needs to extend her lines, because she’s so tiny, and needs to dance bigger. Len, on the other hand, likes the parts of the dance that were out of hold, but overall they did a good job.

Scores:7.5, 7, 7.5 for a total of 22 points.

Actor Gilles Marini and Peta Murgatroyd

Dance: Jive

The duo set the bar high last week, which is only unfortunate because Gilles pulled a hamstring, and that means he finds it very difficult to kick during the jive. He goes to see the “DWTS” doctor, who says that Gilles strained one of the muscles on the side of his thigh, and recommends rest for one to two weeks. Of course, that’s out of the question, so Gilles is determined to perform anyway, even if it makes his injury worse.

Gilles performs lots of high kicks that seem super painful in the wake of his injury, but he flies through it. But his pain is worth it, because Carrie Ann says his kicks were amazing. Len pronounces it “fabulous,” and Bruno roars to “let the good times roll.”

Scores: 8.5, 8.5, 8.5 for a total of 25.5 points.