Welcome to Week 8 of “Dancing With the Stars,” which host (and birthday boy) Tom Bergeron also dubbed “the special edition of ‘Len needs a cookie.'”

So much happened in this two-hour quarterfinal spectacular. Each of the remaining six couples danced two full routines. The first was an individual dance. The second was a dance trio, in which each couple invited another Pro or Troupe player to step along with them. Which is kind of like a side-by-side challenge, but with one less Pro dancer. Pretenders were turned into contenders. 3-D glasses and popcorn were distributed. Florence Henderson and the cast of "Scandal" were spotted. Head judge Len Goodman had a meltdown (hence the cookie). And we were treated to our first perfect 30 score of the season! 

That particular honor went to Zendaya and Valentin Chmerkovskiy and helped launch them back into the lead going into the semifinals. But first, Z and V had the fox trot to conquer. Val was really trying to ignite his protégé’s more competitive spirit. But with the teenage spirit of Zendaya and a song like “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” he soon realized that a smiling Zendaya is one who is at her best. And I don't care if you're an intense Ukranian, it's hard to be grumpy after this routine. I mean, come on: there were balloon images wafting in the background. Val played the canvas framing the Disney Channel star in all her colorful bubbly elegant lightness. “The longer [this competition] goes on, the harder it gets. And in your case the longer it goes on the stronger you get,” said Len. “I loved the choreography and I loved the performance.” Bruno called Zendaya “a breath of fresh air. … So alive, so fresh, so wonderful to look at.” Carrie Ann thought the beginning might have been a bit weak, but “as soon as you got into hold, you took my breath away.” Score: 28. But a 10 from Len!

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Zendaya reclaimed her throne and established herself as empress supreme of the ballroom in her trio dance with Gleb Savchenko (was Maks not available this week?). Man, that salsa was good—so hot and spicy that you couldn’t help open up another bag of tortilla chips for more. Val was the protective older brother who kept Gleb, shuttled in straight from Vanderpump land, to skip the raunch dressing and keep things age appropriate. It was an awesome routine—seamless in transitions and between partners and practically perfect in every way. “They say two’s company and three’s a crowd. Not in this case,” said Len. “These two guys gave up their talent to make you a star.” Bruno called it “a star turn—sizzling and dazzling and amazing.” Carrie Ann said it was “hot, hot, hot. You are the queen of the salsa.” And it got the first perfect 30 of the season! Total: 58 out of 60. 

“DWTS” is really a character-builder for Alexandra Raisman. After the Olympic gymnast’s near-perfect scores last week she really felt she could let loose. This week, she needed to become the harlot and seductress to take all Mark’s money and leave. If only she can tamper down the giggles! And the red light district was in full effect for hers and Mark Ballas’ sultry Argentine Tango. Great exposed legs, Batman – check out those splits! Carrie Ann thought Aly’s transformation was “unbelievable,” though sometimes there were some strange moments coming out of the lifts. “This is about a guy dancing with his mistress, and this is what we got,” Len said. “It was smooth, it was seductive, it was terrific.” “Aly, I had no idea you could be so good at being bad,” Bruno teased. “You have the sultry temptress down to a T.” Score: 29. 

Aly and Mark had a head start preparing for the trio round because they had already worked with Henry Byalikov last week after Mark’s injury. Though this exposed an Achilles heel in Aly’s work: She can’t count to the music (but who needs to count music when you’ve been to the Olympics?). And while Aly, Mark and Henry cut a very cool, Fosse-esque figure at the beginning of and the end of the routines, I thought there was something lacking in the energy of the performance. Carrie Ann said she loved Aly’s new-found dancing confidence, but pointed out she was “a little flat-footed and lost timing.” “You didn’t dilly-dally, Aly,” said Len, who commended her on the “terrific number” but cautioned her to have “more bounce through the balls of your feet.” Bruno praised her for character development. “You’ve grown so much as a performer through this competition.” Total: 56.

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Derek Hough was trying to get Kellie Pickler to take Carrie Ann’s note and infuse more honest emotion into her dance steps. So with the Viennese waltz, Derek asked the country singer to think of someone she loved. And Kellie, always the strong one, got teary when talking about her grandmother, who passed when she was 15. And their Viennese waltz, set to Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You,” definitely touched upon something deeper, even if Kellie didn’t just go out there and “fall to pieces.” Bruno called the dance “a thing of beauty.” Carrie Ann said she saw Kellie “go beyond the steps…this is what I’m looking for,” she said. “This is the key to unlocking you as a winner.” Len said he would have liked “more heel leads,” but said the dance was sophisticated and “had an effortless ease to it.”

But all hell broke loose with their paso doble trio, in which Kellie and Derek invited Tristan MacManus, a.k.a. the Irish prince of darkness, to lead Kellie from “this heavenly place to…Hades.” And Tristan was quite an imposing dark figure in his black outfit and smoky guyliner, and the whole dance had a great moodiness to it as Kellie’s conflicted soul warred against her inner demons. And I loved how Derek flipped the Viennese waltz and created the other, darker side of the mirror. Bruno loved the performance, said “it had high art and high drama” and said it was “a journey into the darkness of angel to devil … I wanted to be a part of it.” Carrie Ann hugged Kellie and said “that was incredible” and “you took my breath away.” Len, however, found the routine completely irredeemable. “Where’s the recognizable paso doble?!” he demanded. “Somebody just hose him down,” Tom suggested, before quipping, “It’s like a bad daycare over here.” But Len wasn’t done wreaking his own havoc: He slapped Kellie and Derek (and Tristan) with a harsher-than-harsh 7 for their “hodgepodge” of a routine (and he didn’t even say “se-VEN”). Kellie and Derek received a 28 for their waltz, and a 27 for their paso doble. Total: 55.

Jacoby Jones and Karina Smirnoff were coming off their highest scores last week. And in order to keep the momentum, Karina had the NFL star working on his technique for the slower, more sedate Viennese waltz. And it was a “Man’s Man’s Man’s World” with them on Monday, with Jacoby showing off his impressive wingspan and sweeping across-the-floor movement while Karina slunk all over him. And he just about stopped the show when he ripped his shirt open to the audience, causing Carrie Ann to throw her hands up in surrender. “Hold on, let me gather myself,” Carrie Ann said. “I thought that was absolutely stunning. … It was such a nice surprise to see you come out here with beautiful posture, elegance and grace.” Len asked watchdog and Jacoby’s mother what she thought. “I loved it, Len,” she called from the audience. “So did I!” Len shot back. “I was looking, you were cooking.” Bruno commended Jacoby for making the dance look simple and effortless, even though “you lost it for a second.”  Score: 27.

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Jacoby and Karina invited Cheryl Burke to join them for their paso doble. “You got two bitches!” Cheryl proclaimed gleefully. And while he had the feeling that he was just being volleyed back and forth like a tennis ball in a Karina-Cheryl match, Jacoby handled both ladies with intense matador fashion and kept his signature leaps and end zone shoulder shimmies. “He’ll go over them! He’ll go under them! He’ll go all around them,” said Tom. Carrie Ann said Jacoby’s presence on the floor was “impressive” but “I feel sorry for Cheryl, you kind of just tossed her,” she said. “The man is supposed to take care of his women on the dance floor.” Len proclaimed that Jacoby turned from a pretender into a contender. “You came out with fantastic presence,” he said. Bruno called Jacoby “raw, powerful untamed,” and said his dance was “a paso doble by Quentin Tarantino, splattered everywhere.” He just said to take care to keep his hips under on the Spanish line. Jacoby got 25 for his paso. Total: 52.

“General Hospital” star Ingo Rademacher hit a bit of a physical and emotional block this week in his rehearsals with Kym Johnson. Though if there were any fatigue and hesitation about being in the bottom two this week, you couldn’t see it during their fox trot performance. They sure cleaned up nice. Peanut seemed a little bored by it all (he's probably counting down the minutes till the after party), but the judges all seemed to be on Ingo's side. Len liked that “it had an ease of movement,” even though Ingo could be “a bit stronger in the arms.” Bruno said the routine “worked,” even though Ingo oscillated between Fred Astaire and Fred Flintstone at times. Carrie Ann, however, was thinking more Gene Kelly: “You have a casual quality to you, and I think you should go with that.”  Score: 24. 

Ingo and Kim invited Lindsay Arnold to come jive with them in the trio round. Kym said a trio dance was like patting his head and rubbing his stomach at the same time. But it turned out that Ingo was born to be a nerd and jive. Ingo played a man on a 3-D matinee date with Florence Henderson while Kym and Lindsay were the confectionary cotton candy skirt-wearing blondes of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” who dragged Ingo through the screen and brought the movie to life. Len thought the routine was fun and full-on, even though “it could have been a little bit sharper in the feet.” Bruno likened Ingo to a kid on a sugar high, saying his “energy was great” but “the kicks and flicks have to be sharper… and tighter.” Carrie Ann also agreed, “it was a little flat footed at times,” but commended Ingo for bringing the fun back. Ingo and Kym also got a 24 for this dance. Total: 48.

Bachelor Sean Lowe offered Peta Murgatroyd a Mirrorball engagement ring right before commercial, so you know things are getting serious in the “DWTS” glitterverse. And Sean really treated his runaway groom tango with the severity of a heart attack. You’ve got to give the guy credit for trying so hard, but frankly, I’m still haunted by the sight of those gleaming white striped tube socks paired with black dancing shoes during rehearsals. And also Peta’s big sponge of a quasi bridal skirt. Bruno said Sean “started extremely well” but then he lost his footwork. “You really have to concentrate and sustain your dance,” the judge said. Carrie Ann agreed: “Now you’re back to inconsistency and lost the music again.” Len said it was a dance only a mother could love. “It wasn’t a great dance,” the head judge said. “It was a little bit ugly.”  So were the scores: a lowly 21.

Sean and Peta were joined by Sharna Burgess for their Jazz routine, which focused on a magician dancer and his two sexy, sleight-of-hand assistants. Bruno said the routine had “plenty of magic with a little bit of tragic. … I wish I didn’t watch your feet.” Carrie Ann agreed with Bruno. “You got out of sync a few too many times,” she said, though she commended Sean on “an ambitious routine.” Len said this one was like the first routine: “Attack came in and style went out.” Sean said it was so hard to do what he does, “especially with how Caucasian I am,” he said. “We’re consistent if nothing else.” Total: 42.

Which means that Ingo and Kym will probably face the bottom two again alongside Sean and Peta. Which blond hunk are you rooting to stay in the competition? Did you think Kellie and Derek's low 7 score was unnecessarily cranky, even for Len?  

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