"Dancing With The Stars" season 23 premiered on Sept. 12 on ABC. Twitter/DancingABC

“Dancing With the Stars” returned for its 23rd season on Monday, and the premiere episode features serious competition for the coveted mirrorball trophy this season and some unexpected (and unwelcome) audience participation.

The biggest news of the show was not a top score, but instead, audience members rushing to the dance floor towards Ryan Lochte and began making a scene.

Lochte was undoubtedly one of the most anticipated contestants this season. The shamed Olympic swimmer admitted in his video introduction that he had been in the news recently “for the wrong reasons.” Her partner, Cheryl Burke, did her part “to help Ryan find his way again” by choosing the song “Call Me Irresponsible” to put a playful spin on the swimmer’s recent scandal. After their dance, Bruno Tonioli said he felt like he had just watched a “condensed season of ‘The Bachelor’” and expressed that maybe Lochte’s limbs weren’t used to “dry land” yet.

As Carrie Ann Inaba began giving her critiques next, she became distracted as protesters stormed the dance floor to attack Lochte. Although it wasn’t clear to television viewers, security rushed in to seize the protesters, who were reportedly wearing white anti-Lochte T-shirts, and ABC immediately cut to commercial.

Lochte expressed that despite being “a little hurt” by the protest, he felt accomplished with his performance. “I came out here, and I wanted to do something that I’m completely not comfortable with, and I did, and I came out here with a big smile, and I have the best dance partner,” he said. Lochte and Burke received a score of 24/40 for their foxtrot dance.

Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez and pro Valentin Chmerkovskiy emerged as one of the show’s front-runners. Chmerkovskiy admitted he felt pressure this season for being paired with Hernandez because she was an “American treasure.” The pair performed a cha-cha to “American Girl,” where Hernandez showcased her athleticism and totally slayed the competition with her flawless moves. The judges were enamoured with Team USA’s “human emoji,” and the pair ended up tying for the highest score of the night, 31/40.

The other couple who earned the top score were race car driver James Hinchcliffe and pro Sharna Burgess. The pair wowed the judges with their foxtrot to “Live Life,” and Julianne Hough even called the handsome IndyCar driver “a breath of fresh air.”

Other notable pairs included 64-year-old actress Marilu Henner with returning pro Derek Hough, who did a jive to “Can’t Stop Dancing,” and country music artist Jana Kramer with returning pro Gleb Savchenko, who performed a Viennese Waltz to “Dangerous Woman” by Ariana Grande. Both pairs earned a score of 27/40.

Rounding out the middle were football legend Calvin “Megatron” Johnson with pro Lindsay Arnold who danced cha-cha to “That’s What I Like” by Flo Rida; music icon Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds with pro Allison Holker who danced the foxtrot to “Deed I Do” by Ray Charles; rapper Vanilla Ice with pro Witney Carson who danced to “Ice Ice Baby”; reality TV star Terra Jol é with pro Sasha Farber who did a jive to “Stuff Like That”; and model Amber Rose with returning pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy who danced the foxtrot to “Here” by Alessia Cara.

Meanwhile, 60-year-old actress Maureen McCormick of “The Brady Bunch” seemed to have spent most of her rehearsal crying as she danced with pro Artem Chigvintsev. It appeared that dancing has always been one of her biggest insecurities, and being in the ballroom brought her out of her comfort zone. The pair danced the Viennese Waltz to “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” by Mary J. Blige and earned a score of 22/40.

Also near the bottom were former child actor Jake T. Austin and first-season pro Jenna Johnson. Johnson fangirled over her dance partner since she grew up watching him on TV, and Austin was thrilled that their astrological signs “go together.” However, the judges were not totally impressed with their jive to One Direction’s “Kiss You” and gave the pair a score of 22/40.

Landing at the bottom of the leader board were former Texas Governor Rick Perry and pro Emma Slater who performed cha-cha to “God Bless Texas.” Perry said he was inspired to join the show because his daughter is getting married soon and he wants to learn some moves for the occasion. “People are probably watching this and going, ‘What a dumbass,’” the politician said with a laugh. Len Goodman commented that he found their dance to be “a bit pedestrian” at times. Everyone seemed to appreciate how fully he committed to the routine, though, and the pair earned a score of 20/40 for their efforts.

All the pairs will return on Sept. 19 but elimination will begin with one pair going home on Sept. 20.

“Dancing With the Stars” airs Monday nights at 8 p.m. in the US on ABC.