J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff walked away with two perfect scores for their dances. (Adam Taylor/ABC)

Though Nancy Grace missed the Conrad Murray verdict coverage on HLN while she was rehearsing her jive and tango Monday, she was full of opinions on the subject backstage after the show.


Show of hands — out of the five celebs that remain on “Dancing With the Stars,” how many of you thought Rob Kardashian would still be here? Or Nancy Grace? Or Hope Solo, for that matter? Hope and Maks have been threatening to implode for a while now, though it’s that time of the season when all the pro dancers start to become frustrated at the amateur-ness that surrounds them.

Tonight is the famous “Instant Dance,” Tom Bergeron and Brooke Burke Charvet tell us. After their performances, each couple will choose a song and have 20 minutes during the live show to rehearse a pre-choreographed jive to that music. But first, they must get through the regular competition and perform a dance they haven’t yet tried. And everyone is scared of the unfamiliar.

Reality star Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke

Dance: Quickstep to A-ha’s “Take On Me”

“Week eight, woooo!” Rob says to kick things off. He encourages Cheryl to nitpick as much as possible so he can improve his skills, and she happily accepts the challenge. Keep your frame. Don’t stick out your rear end. Learn the steps. Improve your posture. She starts to look frustrated as Rob gets that “but I’m a Kardashian” smugness about him.

However, the newly found confidence serves him well, as Rob hops around a lot but has a good grip on the moves. Len hates the opening section but is still a fan. “Buttocks were tucked in ... your best dance so far,” he says. Bruno thinks Rob was speedier than a drag race, which sounds like a compliment, and agrees that Rob’s improved at an incredible speed over the weeks. And just when you thought someone would let Rob and his family drama off the hook, Tom Bergeron pipes up: “And you had the best week of any Kardashian!” Seriously, why doesn’t Tom Bergeron get more airtime? Scores: 9, 9, 9 for a total of 27.

They choose their Instant Dance song: “Maneater,” Hall and Oates. “This is my favorite group EVER!” Rob exclaims. It’s hard to tell if he’s being sarcastic.

U.S. women’s soccer team Hope Solo and Maksim Chmerkovskiy

Dance: Quickstep to Mark Ronson’s “Valerie”

The rehearsal footage for this season’s most volatile couple kicks off like a “The More You Know” PSA. After last week (in which Maks was seen tossing Hope around in rehearsal none too gently), Maks has some making up to do, and the producers are willing to help. Hope and Maks have The Talk. “I will take full responsibility for being, you know ... overly rough. It’s 100 percent on me,” Maks says, sounding like a robot. Hope admits she’s insecure because dancing doesn’t come naturally to her, and she admits she needs his help. Group hug?

Not yet, but Maks says he will try a gentle approach this week, which means lots of passive aggressive comments about how long it’s taking Hope to learn the routine. And to continue the Maks Is Actually a Gentle Soul theme, the producers set up a dinner for Hope to meet Maks’s family, where they tell stories about he was a mama’s boy.

Hope Solo and her partner, Maks Chmerkovskiy, definitely improved after a tough week. (Adam Taylor/ABC)

Instant Dance song: “The Best Damn Thing” by Avril Lavigne. Hope has never heard of it, and we’re guessing Maks isn’t a big Avril Lavigne fan, so they scurry off to practice.

Talk show host Ricki Lake and Derek Hough

Dance: Waltz to Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman”

The theme of rehearsal is: shoulders. Derek is having major issues with how Ricki is handling her shoulders during their waltz, and Ricki is starting to lose it. Things calm down when they visit former “DWTS” champ/Derek Hough partner Jennifer Grey, and Ricki asks her for advice. “You’re on Planet DWTS,” Jennifer tells her. “You just have to keep having fun. ... When it’s over, you’ll miss it.” Ricki is inspired and talks about wanting to continue dance lessons after the show, while Derek has a “Let’s just focus on getting through this week, lady” look on his face.

Ricki gracefully twirls in a princess dress and mostly keeps up with Derek. Carrie Ann harps on Ricki’s shoulders again. Len thinks it was beautifully executed and says her name shouldn’t be Lake, it should be River, because she flows through the dance. Dear Len, please leave the crazy talk and nonsensical puns to Bruno. Sure enough, Bruno calls the dance “deliciously dreamy.” Scores: 9, 9, 10 for a total of 28 points.

Instant Dance: “Land of 1,000 Dances” by Wilson Pickett.

Commentator Nancy Grace and Tristan Macmanus

Dance: Tango to the Ames Brothers’s “The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane”

Nancy Grace missed all of her HLN network’s hootin’ and hollerin’ over the Conrad Muray guilty verdict on Monday afternoon, so all of her practicing better be worth it. After nearly getting booted from the competition last week, Tristan has choreographed a dance that illustrates a love-hate relationship between a man and a woman. “I think we can find that inspiration somewhere,” Tristan says innocently. We hope he’s kidding because he’s actually made Nancy Grace seem like a fun, carefree person over the last few weeks, which is probably a tough challenge. However, Nancy does have a problem “listening” whenever Tristan talks.

Nancy and Tristan act out a scene in which Nancy is a woman dining alone who drops her napkin, Tristan races to pick it up, and that act of kindness sends her into such a frenzy that they perform a tango. The routine comes easily, and the judges are impressed — save for some trouble with the dip at the end. Scores: 8, 8, 8 for a total of 24 points.

Instant Dance: “Upside Down” by Paloma Faith

Actor J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff

Dance: Waltz to Burt Bacharach’s “What the World Needs Now Is Love”

Karina takes the waltz very, very seriously, and the censors are forced to bleep her comments when J.R. is goofing off in rehearsal. J.R. argues that he needs to keep the mood light. Karina becomes ultra-competitive because Ricki and Derek are also dancing the waltz, and she does not want Derek to walk off with yet another Mirror Ball Trophy at the end of this race.

J.R. almost gets tangled up in Karina’s giant skirt at one point, but otherwise, the couple spins around and hits all the right moves. “You dance with your heart on your sleeve. ... It was divine!” Bruno enthuses. Carrie Ann calls the dance “magic,” but Len wants to complain about the fact that J.R. doesn’t have a tie on. Ultimately, he loves the dance too, and the scores prove it: 10, 10, 10 for a total of 30 points, and the first perfect score of the season. J.R. grabs the microphone and says “I will never say never!”He must have been truly inspired by Justin Bieber’s performance last week.

Instant Dance: “Tutti Frutti” by Little Richard

In the second half of the night, we get even more rehearsal footage, as each couple had to learn a jive before knowing which music was going to accompany their Instant Dance. To break it down:

Rob and Cheryl: After some hardcore rehearsal with a drill sergeant-esque Karina, Rob looks rigid and like he’s focusing way too hard on remembering the steps. He does manage to do a tumble across the floor that looks intentional, and not like he’s fell over. Len says there were no glaring mistakes but that there wasn’t enough flare. Scores: 8, 8, 8 for a total of 24 points, and a real total of 51 points.

Hope and Maks: Hope wants to redeem herself after her sub-par jive, and Maks won’t allow her to just repeat the same two steps over and over — or more specifically, his dancing integrity won’t allow it. Decked out in all sorts of fringe, Hope remembers her footwork this time, and her kicks are in sync with Maks. However, the music stops a few seconds before they’re done shaking around. Carrie Ann thought Hope’s hands looked strange but that her kicks were strong (well, she is a soccer player). Len simply says it was fantastic, and the crowd goes wild. Scores: 8, 9, 8 for a total of 25 points, and a real total of 52 points.

Ricki and Derek: Ricki feels confident because she has scored highly with a jive before, and Derek comes up with a strategy to practice their dance to tons of different songs before they know their actual tune. Derek starts the dance with a highly impressive leap off the stage and flies through the super-fast song. The judges criticize Ricki, saying she had too many stops and starts but that she did well with difficult choreography. Scores: 8, 8, 8 for a total of 24 points, and a real total of 52 points.

Nancy and Tristan: Tristan tries to make a frazzled Nancy feel better by explaining that it’s his first Instant Dance, too. This does not encourage her. Nancy complains that she’s the oldest in the competition, her twin toddlers get up every morning at 5 a.m., and she has a full-time job. Still, they manage to put together a jive, though Nancy rather clumsily goes through the moves. Sure enough, the judges are not thrilled — Len says that although Nancy’s been a Cinderella story, the clock has struck midnight on her “DWTS” stay. Doesn’t look good for poor Tristan. Scores: 7, 6, 7 for a total of 20 and a real total of 44 points.

J.R. and Karina: Still on a high from the perfect score earlier in the night, the couple beams happily through the very speedy jive, which looks pretty flawless. Bruno calls it sensational. “You’re in a class all on your own,” Carrie Ann adds, confirming J.R.’s front-runner status. Len explains that they’ve got the feel-good factor, as well as the “X factor,” which, as we all know in reality TV, is an unbeatable combination. Scores: 10, 10, 10 for a total of 30 points, the second perfect score of the night, and a real total of 60 points.

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