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If last week's "Dancing With The Stars" was hopelessly slow, stretching 16 performers over four hours, Monday night's episode was zippy, cramming 14 performers into two hours. Also adding some excitement was director Baz Luhrmann (most significantly of "Strictly Ballroom"), appearing as a guest judge in place of Len Goodman, alongside Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba.
First up were Joanna Krupa and Derek Hough with the jive. While their performance was solid, Joanna looked like the angles of her limbs weren't quite what they needed to be. Carrie Ann felt that the dance was a little messy, and Baz wanted more of a connection. There was energy, but not enough precision.
Swimmer Natalie Coughlin tried the quickstep with her partner, Alec Mazo. Their routine didn't entirely take flight, and Bruno stressed that she needs to relax, but given how vexing the quickstep can be, Natalie held up quite well. Keep an eye on her — her athleticism and speed, as well as her ability to pick up choreography quickly, could bode well for her future.
Chuck Liddell and Anna Trebunskaya were up next with the tango. Chuck is no dancer, but Baz gave him a lot of credit for embracing the tango. He has a long way to go where posture is concerned, but his dedication is very winning.
Next up was Melissa Joan Hart, whose performance last week was uneven — her Viennese waltz was flat, but she excelled in the relay dance. Melissa's jive looked strong, with all the lightness and pop it needed, though Baz and Bruno encouraged her to keep working on the precision in her feet.
Michael Irvin and Anna Demidova had a tough first week, so they were looking to come back. The quickstep was tough for Michael, but he improved substantially over last week. It wasn't the speediest quickstep, but he hit the steps with enough lightness, and there's plenty of charm in his delivery. Struggles aside, count on him to ride the notorious NFL vote for a while longer.
Debi Mazar is paired with brusque pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy, and this week, Debi wound up in tears, asking for a little less yelling. Fortunately, they channeled their bickering into the tango. As happened with some of the other performers this week, Debi was significantly better than last week. As Carrie Ann pointed out, her "drama queen" tendencies fit the tango, and she looked less nervous, too.
Louie Vito and his partner Chelsie Hightower were among last week's pleasant surprises, and this week, he tried the jive. His timing was flawed, and an unflattering, floppy jacket made his quick moves look frumpy, but again, even the people who are struggling this year aren't bad, they're just not great yet. Bruno wanted more content, but Louie's big grin will be good for a lot of votes.
Notably, at this point, the judges had given nothing but 6s and 7s. It was shaping up to be a very tight contest.
Aaron Carter and Karina Smirnoff were standouts last week; could they do it again? Their quickstep to the theme song from "The Muppet Show" was solid but frankly weird, and it was hard to tell whether it was supposed to be silly or elegant, given Aaron's ridiculous green suit. Bruno called it "spectacular," but it may not win over the home audience. A straight set of 9s from the judges broke that streak of 6s and 7s, though, and visits from Muppets Animal and Gonzo can't have hurt.
Kelly Osbourne was last week's sweetheart, and this week, the pressure got to her. She looked panicked, and her tango footwork suffered. As buoyed as she was by her first performance, she seemed equally upset by this one, and if she survives, it will be interesting to see her manage the setback. Still, though, she stayed in the 6-7 scoring range, making it easy for fans to save her if they choose.
Kathy Ireland didn't salsa well last week; would she and Tony Dovolani do better with this week's quickstep? In a word, no. Tackling "Shall We Dance?" from "The King And I" is a big assignment, but and Kathy's performance was listless. Hard as she's trying, Kathy is once again a good pick for elimination after barely escaping last week.
Mark Dacascos performed well last week, and this week, he and Lacey Schwimmer took on the quickstep. Mark recovered nicely after a fall and managed some crisp footwork, and his athleticism showed more this week than last. The judges urged him to clean it up, but Mark proved he can do more than last week's "Kung Fu Fighting" novelty act.
Mya's partner Dmitry Chaplin took a beating last week for his choreography, so he wanted to create the perfect jive. Mya proved once again that she means business; her skilled performance made some of the other ones look pretty silly. Still, though, for a short routine, it burned too much time at the beginning with flourishes, and if that continues, Dmitry will take more criticism. Mya's three 9s were the women's highest scores of the night.
Tom DeLay and Cheryl Burke's tango rehearsals were slowed by his injured foot, but he was determined to dance on. Most of the dance looked acceptable, but Tom was obviously in pain, and he came very close to dropping Cheryl. He's tied with Kathy Ireland for the night's lowest scores, but if the foot gets worse, he may not continue much longer anyway, particularly if it starts to look like he won't be able to safely support a partner.
Closing the show were Donny Osmond and Kym Johnson. Donny was intimidated by the idea of the jive, but he persevered. And for all his complaining, the performance itself was impressive — when Donny hits the stage, he sells it hard, which goes a long way. Credit also goes to Kym, who set up an ideal routine that let him ham it up a little, but not to the point of silliness. Donny's 25 points put him in third place for the night, which isn't bad for a 51-year-old competing in a field of 14.
So who's likely to go home Tuesday? Well, the weak points were Tom and Kathy, but they didn't trail the rest by very much. Audience votes will likely tell the tale, and it could be every good-not-great performer for himself.
Linda Holmes is a frequent contributor to msnbc.com