J.R. Martinez, the one-time Dalton, Ga., resident who is a finalist on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars," struggled with his first dance but redeemed himself in the freestyle segment, garnering a perfect score.
Doing a Latin-inspired number, Martinez and partner Karina Smirnoff wowed the judges with the high-risk moves and high energy.
"Two things were revealed," said judge Len Goodman, "Karina's body and your talent."
Earlier in the show, the pair scored last among the three pairs in the first round. Dancing the Cha Cha, Martinez seemed out of sync, perhaps because of an ankle injury he suffered last week. Judge Carrie Ann Inaba said the Dalton resident was off on his "musicality" and that he got ahead of the music on a couple of occasions.
Goodman was harsher.
"This wasn't that good," he said.
Martinez and Smirnoff scored a 24. Robert Kardashian and partner Cheryl Burke, and the team of Ricki Lake and Derek Hough each scored 27s on their first dances.
"I felt that I was off in the beginning" and was off on the beat, Martinez said after the first dance.
The popular ABC show pairs a celebrity contestant with a professional dancer.
Martinez had scored at or near the top through much of the competition, slipping somewhat last week perhaps in part because of the ankle injury. The injury was an issue during rehearsals, he said during the taped segments, and it forced the pair to alter their routine for safety reasons.
It did not seem to be an issue during the freestyle segment.
Martinez, who attended Dalton High School, was seriously burned when his Humvee hit a land mine while serving in the military. He first gained celebrity status playing an injured war veteran on the daytime soap opera "All My Children."
Regardless of how the voting turns out, Martinez will be the grand marshal for Pasadena's 123rd Tournament of Roses on Jan. 2. The theme for this year's parade is "Just Imagine..." He also was featured last night on "Nightline."
The "Dancing With the Stars" winner will be announced tonight when the show concludes at 9 p.m. on ABC, WTVC-Channel 9.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6354.