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'Dancing With the Stars': week five performances

It's Latin night on Dancing With the Stars, which means the couples will be taking on the samba and the rumba. (Also, it's the halfway point, woo.)

Mario and Karina Smirnoff are up first, hoping to impress Len Goodman with their samba. In the interview, he says he feels the judges are wanting to see something special from him and he doesn't think he's given it to them yet. In the lead-in footage, Mario visits Stevie Wonder for some inspiration, after which he says, "I've got my swagger back." That's no lie -- there's all kinds of hip action going on, and they seem to be having fun again, which is good. Len Goodman says: "This dance suited you. It's got a freedom about it, it's a party dance. You came out with gay abandon. Great hip action you had throughout the dance. ... Work on your footwork a little more, but ... best dance so far!" Bruno Tonioli tells him: "If your hips could talk, we'd be censored tonight. ... Quite classic. ... I loved it." Carrie Ann Inaba says they got to the point and danced, and it was great. Scores: 9-9-9, for a 27/30, their best score yet.

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Priscilla Presley and Louis van Amstel are next, with the rumba. They start with a slow walk, and then Priscilla, who turns 63 next month, does the splits. I am not kidding. Their performance is very sensual, and Priscilla sells the drama with her acting skills, as usual. Bruno says she plays her part well every week, but, "the problem is, the rumba being so slow, it reveals some faults." He says she pushed a little too far this week, but the performance was good. Carrie Ann agrees that she was going for so much technique that she was dancing in her head instead of flowing naturally. Len says her footwork was disappointing, and the other two get mad that he doesn't give them credit for the difficulty level. Scores: 7-7-7, for a 21/30.

Marissa Jaret Winokur and Tony Dovolani were thrilled by their success last week, and they hope to have as much success with their samba. Their performance is fun, with a boatload of shoulder shimmying, and they are totally psyched at the end. It's cute. And the audience goes wiiiiild. Carrie Ann says she was working it and that this was her best routine by far, but her musicality was off a little at the beginning. Len liked the mix of steps, and "more bounce to the ounce than I've ever seen." Bruno says she had more shakes than a cocktail bar, and once she started, there was no stopping her. Scores: 8-8-8, 24/30.

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Cristian de la Fuente and Cheryl Burke hope to ramp up the romance in their rumba. I feel kind of bad for the couples doing the rumba because the samba is so much fun and so full of energy that it makes the rumba seem a little bit dull. But anyway, they seem to capture a sense of romance in their dance. Len says it was "competent but not fantastic. ... It wasn't gruesome to watch." He adds that Cristian handled his arms correctly. Bruno says they had great chemistry, but that again, the walks expose the flaws, but still, the performance was OK. Carrie Ann disagrees, saying that the chemistry wasn't there, but that he needs to work on sustaining his movement. Scores: 7-8-8, for a 23/30.

Marlee Matlin and Fabian Sanchez work hard because the samba has such reliance on the beat. Their performance seems a little off somehow, and I don't necessarily think it has anything to do with the rhythm. A couple of moves toward the beginning seem really stilted and awkward, but it gets better as it goes along. Bruno says it was hot and sexy, and that she is so determined. He says she did lose the timing at times and stumbled a couple of times, but she's still an inspiration. Carrie Ann says she stumbled a couple of times, but after that she pulled it back together. Len says there is so much going on with the samba and that, considering she couldn't hear the music, she did a great job. Scores: 7-7-8, for a 22/30.

Kristi Yamaguchi and Mark Ballas develop alter egos to deal with the awkardness of the rumba, which Mark calls "a vertical expression of a horizontal desire." As usual, any awkwardness Kristy might have felt during practice is invisible during the performance, which is spot-on and lovely and sexy. Carrie Ann says she took a risk and that she worried they had hit a plateau. She adds the Kristi might have sacrificed some of her movements to communicate emotion, but it was a good call. Len: "Three words: Fab. U. Lous." Bruno calls her Kristi Yummilicious and says they showed true artistry. Scores: 9-10-10, for another 29/30.

Shannon Elizabeth and Derek Hough are next. Tom points out that Derek spent part of today in the hospital with food poisoning, and they are hoping that doesn't present a problem this evening. (Side note: It irritates me when Derek wears his hair all bowl-cut like that because I'm reminded alternately of Ricky Schroder in Silver Spoons or Fisher-Price Little People. Call me crazy.) It's another performance where, had they not told us of all the drama, I doubt people would have suspected something was the matter. It's another fun party dance, I guess. Len says, as good as that was, it wasn't good enough and didn't have enough hip action. (Shannon, by the way, can hardly breathe.) Bruno tells her, "You have to come out and shake those maracas." He says maybe the choreography was too hard. Carrie Ann says usually she goes for it, regardless of whether it looks awkward, and this time, she didn't really go for it. Scores: 8-8-7, for a 23/30, which the audience doesn't like.

That leaves Jason Taylor and Edyta Sliwinska as the final couple of the evening, with the rumba. Their dance is remarkably passionate and lovely, with a couple of Edyta's trademark weird moves (a standing vertical split?). Bruno says he looked like a love god and wonders how he can be so light and so big at the same time. Carrie Ann says they have crazy chemistry and that it was great, but when his arms are down, he doesn't seem to know what to do with them. Len says he doesn't like the "clever" poses because Jason is just standing there, but that he liked it, and that Jason just looked like a "proper bloke having a dance." Scores: 9-9-9, for a 27/30.

What did you think about the performances tonight?

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