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'Dancing With the Stars': week six performances

It's a night of two dances -- first each couple has to take on a dance they haven't tried before, and then there will be a big group country-and-western number.

Jason Taylor and Edyta Sliwinska take on the cha-cha for the first time this season. In their preparations, they focus a lot on judge Len Goodman's comment last week that Jason didn't dance enough -- that too often he was just kind of there while Edyta danced around him. That is not a problem in this performance, which is fun and kicky and has way more hip action than most cha-chas I remember on this show. Len says this week definitely had enough content and that they captured the flavor of the dance, though his heart went out to Jason a couple of times when he could tell Jason was counting, but still, he calls it a "marvelous job." Bruno Tonioli says Jason always seems heroic, but they showed much more personality this week. He does agree that the missteps were a problem. Carrie Ann Inaba says Jason needs to work harder to keep his arms in check and to dance bigger. Scores: 8-8-8, for a 24/30.

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Shannon Elizabeth and Derek Hough prepare to dance the rumba, and Shannon is concerned since she had a rough time last week. Speaking of last week, several of the contestants had trouble with the rumba last Monday, mostly because its slow speed revealed a lot of flaws. I think it largely worked for Shannon tonight and let her really extend her long limbs more gracefully. But let's see what the pros think. Bruno says they had a lot of romantic interplay, but that they had the cardinal sin of the rumba: no hip action. Carrie Ann says she needs to go beyond her potential and that she has "the ability to make great shapes, you just have to sustain them." Len says he loved the start and that they were "all over each other like a rash." Despite the lack of hip action and moments that lacked fluidity, he says they did a good job. Co-host Samantha Harris asks them just how close they have become (referring to the steamy photos of them on the beach that recently surfaced). Derek says they were on the beach practicing and in character and that was all. Scores: 8-8-8, for a 24/30.

Marlee Matlin and Fabian Sanchez try to get a new start after last week's stumbles. They are doing the mambo, which is Fabian's favorite dance. It's an improvement over last week, but there are still a couple of moments of stiffness -- maybe she still doesn't quite trust herself after last week? Carrie Ann pulls a Paula Abdul and starts by saying that Marlee looks amazing. She adds that every week she tries to put herself in Marlee's position and imagine what it's like for her and that this week, she was especially worried because the mambo relies so much on the connection to the music. Carrie Ann says it didn't really work out for them because in parts they really seemed to be forcing it. Len says she has proved that the only limitations she has are the ones she puts on herself -- "I thought you did a great job, but you looked uncomfortable throughout." Bruno says timing is crucial in the mambo and she lost it a few times, but, "what you do here is a plus for the show." Scores: 7-7-7, for a 21/30.

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Cristian de la Fuente and Cheryl Burke were in the bottom two couples last week, and they are hoping to have a comeback with the foxtrot. He's aiming to be as graceful as Fred Astaire, and while I don't think anyone is going to catch up with Fred anytime soon, they still put on a nice, smooth performance. Len: "If you're in the bottom two tomorrow, I'll show my bum in the supermarket." I will stay far, far away from that store. "That was your best dance." Bruno: "OK, picture go," he says of Len's comment. "... Cristian at his dashing best! ... Your footwork tonight was excellent; you obviously paid a lot of attention to it, and it showed." Carrie Ann says there is a fine line between being rigid and being refined, and that tonight he was absolutely refined. Scores: 9-9-9, for a 27/30.

Marissa Jaret Winokur and Tony Dovolani get refined for the Viennese waltz. It's a sweet, flowy performance, and despite fears about all the spins, she handles it. Bruno says it's light and frothy and that she kept her head as she took on some difficult moves. "I liked it, very good." Carrie Ann says she loved it and Marissa showed a whole new side of herself. Len says she came out like a true princess and with true elegance. Scores: 9-8-9, for a 26/30, and her best scores ever. Marissa freaks out.

Kristi Yamaguchi and Mark Ballas take on the super-fast jive. As usual, they do a spot-on job and give a fun performance (Mark complete with Buddy Holly glasses for a 50s vibe). Carrie Ann gives them a standing O. Carrie Ann: "Hell yeah! That is what I'm talking about. ... I think that was my favorite dance this season so far." Len says it was like a buffet, and, "It was absolutely great." Bruno says, "This absolutely was top-notch high-definition entertainment." He adds that it was his favorite dance of the season so far, too. Scores: 10-10-10, for a 30/30, the first perfect score.

After the break, what the heck? Paula Abdul is in the audience. Maybe that's why Carrie Ann was channeling her earlier.

Mario and Karina Smirnoff are last, with the rumba. During the preparations, he calls his little brother back in Baltimore to get some tips on some dance moves. His brother is 6, so it's adorable. He says he's trying to be a good role model for his brother and that he is dedicating his dance to him. Which is a little weird when it turns out he and Karina are doing a very, very sexy performance to "Let's Get It On." But it's not like Mario could control which week the producers would decide to visit his family in Baltimore for footage, so let's get back to the dance. Hawt! Len says he doesn't particularly want them to actually get it on in the ballroom. "Listen, you did a good job." Bruno interrupts and says, "You're starting to get all crusty and stiffy again." Um, OK. Len says the rumba is the story of a developing romance, not the story of "a strumpet and a gigolo." He says he liked it but thought that the characterization was too raunchy for him. Bruno says it was fabulous: "It was grace, savage, primeval." He gets censored at one point (or else my audio dropped out), so I don't know what else he said. Carrie Ann: "That was better than good sex. That was just ridiculously good, but there was a lift, and I'm going to dock you for it." Scores: 9-9-10, for a 28/30, their best score so far, and second place for the night.

That leaves the group country dance. It's fun, but a whole lotta chaos, too. Tom points out that for sports fan, this was probably the only chance to see Jason Taylor in a Cowboys uniform. Tee hee!

What did you think of the night's performances? I'm glad to see our hometown contestant getting better by the week, though a little disturbed at the commentary his performance inspired in the judges. Kristi, of course, was fantastic as usual, and it was nice to see so many couples getting their highest scores yet.

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