This week's show started off with co-hosts Tom Bergeron and Brooke Burke-Charvet addressing the recent events at the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, where two bombs exploded at the finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 100 people.
Bergeron said. "Before we officially begin the show, we just want to take a moment. Our thoughts are with everyone in Boston tonight. I have family members and many friends there. My heart is with you. ABC News is monitoring the situation back there. They'll keep you updated if they have any breaking stories."
Burke-Charvet added, "Our entire cast is thinking about you and as always, our show has been planned in advance and hopefully we can still have an entertaining night of competition for you."
Now, back to our recap. We're at the halfway point of Season 16 on "Dancing With The Stars" and producers want to kick things up a notch. How can we keep people excited about the show? Two words: Maksim Chmerkovskiy!
The show comes up with an elaborate new "twist": Len's Side by Side Challenge! Our competitors trained all week with another professional dance duo. For each routine, the pros will dance first to, as Len says, "set the standard"; then both couples will dance, side by side and totally in sync (or so we hope); finally, the celebrity and his or her pro will finish the dance. (This means we get to see Maks several times during the show. Just sayin').
The evening kicked off with an all-in example of the challenge. "DWTS" veteran Lacey Schwimmer choreographed a dance that started with the pros (and included a BIG entrance by Maks), and then the competitors took over.
Here's a rundown of the night's routines, from highest score to lowest:
Zendaya Coleman, and Val Chmerkovskiy -- 29 out of 30
Here's the amazing part of this score for our highest ranking couple: neither Zendaya Coleman nor Val Chmerkovskiy had ever done the Argentine Tango before! That's crazy! This routine just goes to show what a good choreographer Val is.
We get a double dose of Chmerkovskiy with this dance, since Maks is part of the pro side by side routine. He and Anna are perfect foils for Val and Zen. Or, near perfect. Head judge Len Goodman couldn't quite give up a 10 yet. Bruno Tonioli called Zendaya the ultimate femme fatale, and told her she was every bit as strong as pro dancer Anna. And she's 16!
Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough -- 27 out of 30
Kellie tackles her first ballroom dance of the competition with the Foxtrot. And she definitely struggles in rehearsal! Derek's frustrations with her Foxtrot roadblocks are helped when their pro pairing (Anna and Henry) stop by. Kellie catches on a little easier by watching, and learning from Anna. Len Goodman told Kellie she put the "oooh" in "smooth." Kellie was just glad her wig didn't fall off!
Jacoby Jones and Karina Smirnoff -- 26 out of 30
The football star really benefited from having a male pro to help show him the way around the rehearsal room. And that male star was .. Maks. The dance was the Jive, and this group (with Karina and Emma as the female partners) performed one of the most fun, fastest moving routines we've seen this season.
Bruno used his standard subtlety and proclaimed the testosterone filled Jive was "like watching two stallions at the peak of their power, fighting for supremacy." Len was much less effusive, but still liked it. He's just after Jacoby to work on his feet. Carrie Ann said simply "I love me some Jacoby!"
Aly Raisman and Mark Ballas -- 25 out of 30
This Boston area native had to deal with the tragedy in her hometown today and said it was weighing on her, but she was able to stay focused. She and Mark Ballas were assigned the Samba so the young woman needed to get over any shyness and just shake it!
Pro dancers Tony and Witney are their side by side partners and the quartet melds very well. Aly soaked in what she could see and learn from Whitney and brought that confidence to the dance floor. Len actually said "your bottom is tops"; Bruno didn't realize she could be so sassy and saucy; and Carrie Ann praised her for bringing what she learned from Whitney to the performance.
Sean Lowe and Peta Murgatroyd -- 24 out of 30
Sean's used to getting close to more than one woman ... yes, I said it! But this week there aren't just two women with him, he also gets close to a man. And it helps him by leaps and bounds. Tristan is the pro who's doing the side by side Quickstep with Sean and Peta; he and Chelsie Hightower provide a strong second set of teaching skills for "The Bachelor." Bruno called Sean "a swan"; Len said this was his best dance so far.
Victor Ortiz and Lindsay Arnold -- 21 out of 30
Victor's really, really tired of being in the bottom two. The rehearsal video leads us to believe he'll have another tough round with the Viennese Waltz. Tristan McManus offers Victor some good advice and he has his best round yet with this Waltz. Bruno told Victor he was back in the game; Carrie Ann said this week was a victory.
Ingo Rademacher and Kym Johnson -- 21 out of 30
Tony Dovolani is the pro on hand to help Ingo. The dance is the Cha Cha Cha and its Ingo's first Latin dance. The soap star has some trouble with his hips and it seems like Tony was able to tutor him a bit in the proper pelvic thrust. Len praised Ingo's stamina and flair; Bruno likes the way he brings characters to life; and Carrie Ann congratulated him on not being intimidated by dancing side by side with a mirror ball winning pro.
D.L. Hughley Cheryl Burke -- 18 out of 30
I feel like one of those coaches that gives a kid a ribbon or a gold star just for participating. But I kind of want to do that for D.L. He really does look like he's trying; and he's improving. But it must be disheartening to do your best and then watch Zendaya nail it! D.L. and Cheryl do a fine Tango, with Chelsie and Sasha as their side by side partners. Len called it "decaf coffee: looks alright but has no buzz."
Andy Dick and Sharna Burgess -- 18 out of 30
Andy channeled his inner machismo self and transformed in to "Ando" for his Paso Doble. Once again, having the male pro on hand proved to be a huge help. Well, maybe not huge. But it helped. Troupe members Sasha and Emma stepped in the faux bull fighting ring with Andy and Sharna. And like he's done in past weeks, Andy really shines with his characterization. The dance steps ... well, he gets a gold star just like D.L.