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Welcome back, dance aficionados and lovers of cheesy reality television contests everywhere! Last week you may remember that Cloris almost cost ABC about a million dollars in FCC fines, Kim Kardashian tried and failed to shake her big behind, Brooke Burke wowed everyone all the time, and both Jeffrey Ross and Ted McGinley got eliminated but it was kind of hard to care. This week? Much of that all over again, but … with more sequins! And sparkle! It’s everywhere tonight!

According to Tom, they’re making the dancers prove their mettle early on this year (because TV dancing is srs bzness, don’tcha know), by having them tackle the two most intense ballroom dances of all: the rumba and the paso doble. Plus, plus, our couples have all only had 4 days to train for whatever reason, so the intensity just got kicked up to like Orange Alert levels. (LIIIVE!)

We kick it to Len to have him explain why this is such a tough week, and what he ends up saying is that this sure is going to be a tough week. Thanks, Len! He also says that he’s fearing the worst but hoping for the best from everyone. Master of the backhand, that guy is.

Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong

And now we dance! They’re sparing poor Toni Braxton’s heart this week; she and Alec are up first tonight. Turns out that Toni and Alec had a deal such that if they made it past the first week of competition, Alec would have to meet her in her comfort zone and do some singing, and that’s how we end up watching Alec at a karaoke bar with his shirt undone, butchering Toni’s own “Unbreak My Heart” while we all laugh at him forever and in perpetuity, because this is totally going on the internet. It’s probably there right now. Bonus, though; Edyta’s at the table with Toni having a ball while all this embarrassment of her husband takes place. Hi, Edyta!

Meanwhile, back on the dancing show. Toni and Alec have to do the rumba this week, and Toni’s confidence is clearly taking a sick day, because she doesn’t even think she’s as good as Cloris is. That’s some poor self-esteem, is what I’m saying. Alec continues to pump her up and show her the basics, and then all of a sudden here we are in the present and they’re on the floor. Out at Karaoke Night Toni must’ve gotten Edyta’s permission to fill her Least Dressed shoes, because Toni’s wearing little more than a long, sparkly (sparkly’s the theme for the night) peach vest and be-spangled Underoos. Alec skips the sparkles and goes for the sheen in his matching shirt and pants. So they do a very soft love story of a rumba to “I Can’t Make You Love Me”; Toni is really good at creating long, pretty lines and Alec, of course is a professional dancer, so they look really swell together. But before, we get to the judging of the dance, Tom wants Alec to know that his singing rated a 2. Whoa. Way harsh, Tai. But, there is better news in store for the thing he actually cares about. Len says he’s surprised how good they were, which is probably supposed to be a real compliment, and then he says he wished there were more basic rumba steps involved, but it was very good overall. Bruno loved the sensuality and I think calls Toni a homewrecker? We pass by that really quickly. Carrie then says that Toni dances like she sings (really prettily), but must note as the official Chief of the Lift Police that she saw two moments where Toni’s feet came off the ground. Don’t mess with Carrie Ann. She carries a badge.

Backstage Alec jokes that he’s starting a band with William Hung (and they shall be called, the Hymn Class Zeroes), and then we get scores: 7 from Carrie, 8 from Len, and an 8 from Bruno, giving them another 23.

B-E Aggressive!

Brooke Burke is up now with Derek, and they’re both feeling the pressure to keep themselves on top of the leader board. The paso doble isn’t going to make that super easy. During rehearsal Brooke is having trouble commanding the aggressive and passionate mien needed to set the tone for the dance. She likes the fun stuff better, but Derek takes her to a karate lesson to help her harness her inner growl. She hits stuff, and then it feels intense, and I’m sure all of that is going to come roaring through now in the dance.

The awesome full red skirt, super tight chignon, and (bedazzled!) corset should help her. She and Derek go on to do a really, dare I say it, intense paso doble set to a score of deep, syncopated strings; their movements are all precise and dramatic, and Brooke is really good at whipping her skirt around like a cape. Carrie Ann calls herself truly mesmerized by the performance. Except for that the connection wasn’t as solid as she would’ve liked in their holds. Len says the aggression was way controlled and awesome, but they frittered away too much time at the beginning and end with the posing and fluttering the skirt, etc. Bruno thinks that Brooke is born to dance because she’s picking everything up so quickly.

Hard-hitting Backstage Reporter Samantha gets Brooke and Derek to say that they put a lot of hard work into their show this week, and then they get triple 8s from the judges for a score of 24. Brooke thinks that great, even though for some reason Samantha does not.

Cooking Class

The rumba is on the plate for Rocco and Karina this week, and would you believe that Rocco is having a bit of trouble finding the romance in the dance? It’s true! He’s stalking around like every tool in a trucker hat and hipster jeans at your favorite club, instead of walking seductively as the rumba requires. Rocco wants to prove that he’s romantic, so he cooks risotto for Karina and uses it as a sexy metaphor for the rumba – in that they’re both slow to build and … probably he said something else, but boy does that risotto look good. Mmm. Hmmm? Dance? Oh, they rumba to a bossa nova version of “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine.” Karina in a rhinestone-laden purple frock and Rocco in all black. They rumba all around and then end on the steps where Rocco feeds Karina from a plate of … wait for it … sequins! Everywhere. The sparkle is everywhere, I’m telling you.

Bruno thought the rumba needed more juice though. Or delicious broth, like in risotto. Carrie Ann plumps for his passion and enthusiasm, but calls Rocco out on an ultimate lack of musicality. Len continues with the cooking metaphor, saying that Karina gave him the awesome recipe and all the ingredients, but the final product wasn’t tasty. Carrie and Bruno give them 5s, and they earn a 6 from Len for a total of 16. Yikes. I didn’t think it was all that awful. But I’m also out here in shiny happy simple carbohydrate dream world right now, so.

Passing On the Paso

Lance and Lacey are up now, still on their quest to satisfy Len. They’re always subverting traditions like the wacky postmodern kids they want to look like, so it’s kind of a struggle for them finding the compromise between the traditional moves and all the funky fresh hipness they can no doubt bring. This week with the paso doble, they want to try to keep the moves traditional, but move away from the old drama of it with the bullfighting and the cape. In other words, the whole point of the moves. Sounds like a plan. A stupid plan, but yes, still a plan.

They file out in a shocking pink gown full of lipstick kisses and a sleeveless tuxedo shirt (who’s wearing what? I’ll leave it to you to determine), and do their paso to that wretched and exploitative “I Kissed a Girl” song, which should totally satisfy all their traditional hopes, am I right? They smack each other’s behind and turn around and pose, and then they kiss at the end. I actually don’t see how it’s a paso at all, but it’s not like I’m a judge, so let’s see what they have to say! Len: “It wasn’t a paso at all, and you will pay for crimes against dance, my dears!” Carrie Ann: thanks for going for it, but I’ve never seen anything like that before. Bruno: you were missing the whole paso style, and it looked more like hip hop. So in other words, it wasn’t a paso at all. Validation, it is sweet. Their scores reflect the judges’ dissatisfaction; they earn a 7 from Carrie, a 6 from Len, and a 7 from Bruno. That’s 20, which is honestly better than they deserved.

Clip of the Week

Tom thinks it’s remarkable that people love watching Kim Kardashian on the interwebs. Oh, Tom. It’s like he doesn’t even know that the internet was practically made for pointing and laughing at people who look foolish. Anyway, Kim and Mark drew the rumba this week. Kim is struggling with it because she thinks of Mark as a brother, and can’t stop giggling like a ninny when asked to dance seductively with him. Mark calls an emergency summit with Robin Antin, apparently the Svengali of the Pussycat Dolls (so now you know where to direct all your hate mail), so that she can bring out Kim’s inner sexiness.

Anyway, by now we all know that their challenge is passion. Sparkle Report: Kim’s wearing a disco ball under a long glittery white robe, and Mark is in a bedazzled white shirt. They go on to do a totally boring rumba to “You Give Me Something” with Kim looking totally dead behind the eyes. She should’ve gone to visit Tyra instead of this Robin person; if there’s one thing Tyra knows, it’s how to make someone smile with their eyes. And if there are two things she knows, the other is how to wear a lace-front wig. But I digress. Bruno says “Pussycat Dead.” That pretty much sums it up. Ouch, though. He goes on to rant about her being cold and distant and off somewhere in Siberia (not that that’s a bad place to be, because I hear you can see Sarah Palin’s house from there). Len echoes Bruno by saying Kim has “all the gear in the rear,” but no action in the trunk. And if you think that’s not going to make The Soup, you’ve never seen The Soup. Scores: 6-6-5 for a total of 17.

Dark Horses

Misty May Treanor and Maks are on now. In their time-wasting filler, we see Maks take a field trip to one of Misty’s volleyball matches where he learns from her coach that Misty needs to work hard to learn how to dance. And then they have a frustrating rehearsal because Maks can’t teach her how to dance. And then they paso doble, biker style! Or something. I don’t know, it involves a lot of black leather and gold studs (sparkly ones, at that), lots of charging, and some hard rock chords. They get an ovation from the crowd, who must be really into leather. Carrie congratulates Maks for trotting out such an ambitious routine, but cautions Misty to watch her shoulders and posture. Bruno loved it and calls Misty a Warrior Princess, but wants more light and shade in their dancing. Len liked the aggression and attack, but says their connection wavers when they’re not facing each other on the floor. They earn triple 7s for 21.

Hip Check

Last week Maurice scored with the mambo, but you can only pull out “the Worm” once before it’s old hat, so he and Cheryl have some work to do to spice up their rumba this week. Maurice says he’s the ultimate lover, so this should be no problem for him, but Cheryl’s worried about his hips. She takes him to see belly dancers and that makes him happy. I don’t think he was taking copious notes on their hip isolations though.

On the floor in bright green, Maurice and Cheryl do a cozy kind of rumba to “Mercy, Mercy Me.” It’s a little rough, but I give them credit because it’s a real rumba with figure eights and proper turns and stuff, and I love the rumba so I think that’s awesome. Len thinks they lacked finesse though. Carrie thinks Maurice’s energy was held back by the choreography, and Bruno agrees with Len that Maurice wasn’t smooth enough. Carrie Ann gives them a 7, and they get 6s from Bruno and Len for a total of 19. That seems fair.

Serious Business

Cloris! She’s sick of being at the bottom of the standings, so she wants to buckle down and focus on more than the delicious fun of being a part of this corny spectacle, because she wants to stick around. I can respect that. Corky just wants to dance; he and Cloris have a bit of a come to Jesus meeting and Cloris vows to take this a smidge more seriously than she has been.

They have the paso doble this week, so I guess it’s as good a time as any. The performance suffers for the seriousness though, in my opinion, because there’s no fun. Cloris actually dances and looks like a lusty peasant girl in her costume, which is fun, but the heart got lost in all of the effort. Cloris had a ball though; she lost her castanets at some point, and is just adorable reacting to Bruno’s calling her Norma Desmond and Frau Blucher (neeeeeigh!). Len applauds their traditionalness and says Cloris’s spins were great. Carrie hopes she’ll be half the woman Cloris is when she is 82, and then deigns to comment on the dance. Then she goes on to comment about missing Cloris’s spirit in the dance. I concur. The scores seem not to match all the positive stuff they said about her. She gets all 5s for a total of 15.

Red Eye Rumba

Susan Lucci is busy, busy, busy with her fabulous soap opera acting career! The flying back and forth, and the rehearsals for her real show, they make rehearsing for the dancing thing kind of difficult. She does however have time to talk to Cameron Mathison, sweetheart of season 5 and fellow AMC colleague about how to maximize time while on the show. Hmm. Anyway, Susan and Tony dance the rumba to “Waiting on the World to Change,” and it’s a bit of a snoozer. Carrie Ann declares her approval and then goes out of her way to compliment Tony’s bare chest. Tom celebrates the glasnost that the compliment signifies. Ha. Bruno still thinks Susan moves too much like a virgin queen, and he says he wants more “gay abandon,” but I think he’s projecting with that last part. Len hated the opening of Tony’s shirt, but he thinks that Susan acted the part of the rumba very well. They earn triple 7s for our second blackjack of the night.

Dark Warren of the Night

It’s paso doble time again, this time courtesy of Warren Sapp. He and Kym are kind of flying high after last week’s well-received quickstep, but for the paso, Kym wants Warren to think more about his old football days to get in the mood. Warren’s kind of a giggle monster, so Kym has to get in full on coach mode to get the intensity out of him.

For some reason, they’re dressed like they’re in the Matrix resistance, but a particularly glossy, shiny, sequined section of it. Anyway, the dance: it’s awesome. Full of drama, and spins, and with a very cohesive mysterious feel. Len loved the menacing quality of it, and says it was an excellent job. Carrie calls them the “Paso Doble Killers” and praises their dynamics; Bruno continues to be impressed by how light Warren is on his feet. The raves are clear in the number too; they score triple 8s for a very respectable 24, which absolutely thrills Warren.

Sweetness and Light

No matter what Julianne Hough and Cody Linley are doing, they’re probably still going to look like they’re fresh from sweeping the floor at the sock hop. True facts. They’re doing the rumba tonight though, and cute little Cody is finding it hard to be manly and sexy. Because he’s so young, you see. Also kind of a flake – it’s tough for Julianne to get him to concentrate on her instruction as he’s wandering off making space ship noises and stuff. Their rumba turns out pretty good though, set to “Bleeding Love.” Bruno thinks the routine was unfocused, but Len thinks they only were lacking a little polish because of the shortened rehearsal time. Carrie Ann approves of the age-appropriate level of sexiness involved in the dance, and liked that it seemed sweet and innocent. They earn triple 7s for yet another 21.

Well, that’s all for now, and it certainly has been one shiny night. Brooke and Derek are sharing the seat at the top of the standings with Warren and Kym; they each earned 24, and Cloris and Mark are riding the bottom wave with 15. Next up is the results show, during which not only will one more turnip fall off this wagon, but also the supremely snarky MsFroggy will be able to feast on the likes of Jessica Simpson and a real live (eheh) Pussycat Doll. You’ll want to be around for that, I assure you.

Anybody out there know how to make sparkly risotto? I have the strangest craving.