'Dancing with the Stars' Recap: Rising to Len's Side-by-Side Challenge
'Dancing with the Stars' Recap: Rising to Len's Side-by-Side Challenge
Ted Kindig
Ted Kindig
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
While the horrific events in Boston have shuffled parts of tonight's TV schedule around, Dancing with the Stars is expected to air as planned. Maks will be returning as part of some sort of professional comparison initiative, and we'll be live-blogging the proceedings as always.

Live blog starts now:

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As expected, the show opens with an acknowledgement of the events in Boston. It's possible that ABC News will cut in if there are any major updates in the story, but other than that we'll proceed as planned.

On a lighter note, Maks is out front and center for this opening number. If they've only got him for one episode this season, you can bet the show-runners will squeeze as much as they can out of him, innuendo not intended. And on an even lighter note, D.L. is already missing moves.

Ingo and Kym vs. Tony and Emma
Dance: Cha-cha-cha

Ingo Rademacher is forced to square off against Tony Dovolani in something called Len's Side by Side Challenge, in which the contestants are made to perform side by side with a rating-grabbing returning dancer. While that premise could easily be dismissed as gimmickry, it does provide a pretty stark visual comparison, and not entirely to Ingo's advantage: his missteps are far more visible, as his movements appear far less crisp.

Judges' comments:
Len: "You've got the flair, you need the care."
Bruno: "By sheer strength and willpower, you got out of it."
Carrie Ann: "The pelvic thrusts were obviously a hit."

Scores: 7+7+7=21

Jacoby and Karina vs. Maks and Anna
Dance: Jive

Jacoby Jones takes on the one and only Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Maks  is quick to go as hard on him as any other partner, even telling the 6'2" Super Bowl champion that some of his moves aren't masculine enough. Jacoby doesn't quite sync up with his doppelganger either, but he rises to the dance in every other sense.

Judges' comments:
Bruno: "It was like watching two stalions at the pique of their power, fighting for supremacy!"
Carrie Ann: "I love me some Jacoby!"
Len: "You'll never get a nine off me with those feet!"

Scores: 9+8+9=26

Victor and Lindsay vs. Tristan and Emma
Dance: Viennese Waltz

Apparently Victor Ortiz is having some romantic troubles--at least he has Tristan MacManus to cheer him up. That seems to bring out the best in Victor, as he matches Tristan's form just about perfectly in their side by side segment. Unfortunately, he struggles a few times through the rest of the dance, appearing to almost trip Lindsay over his own foot at one point.

Judges' Comments
Carrie Ann: "I'd say that was a victory."
Len: "This is better than last week, and that's the way to go."
Bruno: "Usually [your mistakes] show on your face, this time you rolled with it."

Socres: 7+7+7=21

Aly and Mark vs. Tony and Witney
Dance: Samba

Alexandra Raisman is judged against troop dancer Witney Carson tonight, and she's the first contestant that I can say, without reservation,  rose to the side by side challenge -- while Victor achieved synchronicity through simplicity, Aly matches Witney with far more content and energy.

Judges' Comments:
Len: "Your bottom is the tops."
Bruno: "Oh missy missy, I had no idea you could be sassy and saucy!"
Carrie Ann: "She had it, but she sort of lost it at that falter."

Scores: 8+8+9=25

Sean and Peta vs. Tristan and Chelsie
Dance: Quickstep

Sean Lowe spent much of his rehearsal time mimicking his professional competitor Tristan, and it pays off in a nicely matched quickstep. It seems like a lot of the contestants put extra effort into matching the other couple at the expense of their own routines, and Sean suffers from that dip to a limited extent.Other than that temporary drop though, this was Sean's best dance.

Judges' Comments:
Bruno: "Tonight you turned into a swan!"
Carrie Ann: "You're back! And you were bold, and it was beautiful."
Len: "Last week a statue, this week a pigeon! [...] Pigeons sit on statues..."

Scores: 8+8+8=24

Len's bizarre pigeon/statue critique is officially my highlight of season 16.

Kellie and Derek vs. Henry and Anna
Dance: Foxtrot

Kellie Pickler is another top performer tonight, as she not only matches Anna Trebunskaya in the side by side, but builds on that energy for an even more impressive showcase segment. The backstage footage implies a tough week in rehearsals, but it absolutely pays off in the night's best dance so far.

Judges' Comments:
Carrie Ann: "I think you have all blossomed by working with another set of pros"
Len: "You dance like that, I tell you what, you're in the final!"
Bruno: "The elegance of The Great Gatsby, Baz Lerman would use this!"

Scores: 9+9+9=27

D.L. and Cheryl vs. Sasha and Chelsie
Dance: Tango

It will blow no minds to discover that D.L. Hughley is not as good a dancer as Sasha Farber -- heck, he's frequently upstaged by Cheryl. While his upper body is focused to the point to rigidity, his feet are in some sort of speed-walking competition. I know better than to count D.L. out at this point, but he's at the bottom of the leader-board tonight.

Judges' Comments:
Len: "It was like a decaf coffee, it looked good but it lacked that snap."
Bruno: "Instead of being a stalking panther you became a romper stomper."
Carrie Ann: "You could tell in the side by side that it wasn't quite right."

Scores: 6+6+6=18

Zendaya and Val vs. Maksim and Anna
Dance: Argentine Tango

It's Maksim time again. The elder Chmerkovskiy opens the number in firm control of the routine, but to their enormous credit, Zendaya and Val manage to upstage him. Their sharp, precise and content-heavy routine is quite simply one of the best this season.

Judges' Comments:
Bruno: "Next to Anna, you were as good and as strong."
Carrie Ann: "What I love about you is that every move you do has a story, and I love it."
Len: "It was like a lemon tart: sharp and tangy at the top, crisp and tangy down below."

Scores: 10+9+10=29

Andy and Sharna vs. Sasha and Emma
Dance: Paso Doble

While I still wouldn't necessarily cast Andy Dick as Zorro in the next inevitable remake of the property, he rises to the role admirably tonight. As with his other entertainment-heavy routines, it's hard to critique the technical aspects when the entertainment value is so high. Unfortunately, I think the low score might do him in this time.

Judges' Comments:
Carrie Ann: "That entrance will never be forgotten, ever."
Len: "It was more Pasadena than Paso Doble."
Bruno: "I think it was indescribable to be honest."

Scores: 6+6+6=18

With the events in Boston still fresh, that can't have been an easy episode for the cast and crew -- the attack was clearly weighing on host Tom Bergeron in particular. Kudos to all involved for providing a small oasis of entertainment on a tough day.


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