Each of the remaining five couples had to perform two dances tonight, including an "instant jive" -- a dance choreographed on the spot just 20 minutes before performing it.
Rob Kardashian danced first with a polished quickstep and earned a gold star from the judges for tucking in his bum this week. Judge Carrie Ann Inaba called Rob the "ideal contestant" as someone who came in as a poor dancer and has improved each week. He earned 9s across the board. Bonus: Host Tom Bergeron told Rob, "You had the best week of any Kardashian."
Rob's instant jive: Rough around the edges with a few moments of sloppy footwork, but a decent effort. Three 8s.
Hope Solo and partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy started the week with a heart-to-heart about their weird and rocky relationship on the show. He took responsibility for being "overly rough," agreed to be a kinder, gentler coach and even invited her to dinner with his family. As Hope said, they "hit the reset" button.
Maybe the approach helped because both seemed to be more relaxed and enjoying themselves on the dance floor. The judges said she finally fulfilled her potential tonight. "Is that what it means to have fun on the dance floor." This couple also earned three 9s from the judges.
Hope's instant jive: Hope redeemed herself from a messy jive earlier in the season by nailing her kick sequence this time -- and in a very fast number at that! Two 8s and a 9 from Len.
Ricki Lake performed a dreamy, flowing waltz with partner Derek Hough. Carrie Ann complimented her for losing herself in her dances. Ricki got two 9s and a 10.
Ricki's instant jive: Almost as impressive as a regular choreographed dance. It probably helped that Derek had Ricki rehearse basic jive movements to sample songs with three different tempos during practice. Three 8s for this one.
Tristan MacManus gets blotchy when frustrated with partner Nancy Grace. Comments from Nancy like this tend to set the skin off the skin reaction: "Are you actually acting tired? Because you don't have twins that get up at 5 and you don't have a full-time job."
The couple took on the tango. It's probably her last week on the show, then of course I thought that for a couple weeks now. Len told Nancy she'd been on a plateau for the past several weeks, but that she finally elevated her performance this week. Nancy got straight 8s -- something that would have been a great feat in week 4 or 5 of the competition, but not so in week 8.
Nancy's instant jive: Nancy viewed this week's instant challenge as her second chance to master the jive, which she also performed last week. She vowed to "jive her heart out" to stay in the competition. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out that way. She certainly was moving her feet around a lot, but it wasn't much of a jive and it was obvious that she forgot much of her choreography. Partner Tristan had to take her by the waist a couple times and physically move her to where she needed to be. Two 7s and a 6 from Len.
This week's show saved the best performances for last.
Karina Smirnoff is a drill sergeant in practices with J.R. Martinez. You'd think she'd give the guy a break, considering how well he always performs and his status as a fan favorite. But perhaps her no-nonsense attitude pays off: His waltz earned a perfect score of three 10s. Much like Ricki, J.R. has great fluidity and presence while performing.
J.R.'s instant jive: Best instant dance of the night. Looked anything but "instant." I love how J.R. is so confident in his footwork that he doesn't need to peek at his partner to be sure he's in point, like several other contestants tend to do. And J.R. got yet another perfect score from the judges.