Nine weeks in.  Six couples left, one of which (Ty & Chelsie) is obviously the least capable.  But wait!  Tom informs us that Melissa has suffered an injury and will not be performing tonight.  And, of course, he'll explain what that means for the competition a little bit later. In the meantime, here we go:

Gilles Marini & Cheryl Burke

After weeks and weeks of being the frontrunner, Gilles has floundered a bit recently.  And he's also having a lot of trouble with his shoulder (which conveniently results in a shirtless trip to the doctor).  The shoulder seems like its going to be fine, but Gilles is totally questioning himself.  But with the linde-hop, Gilles proves quickly his insecurity was unwarranted.  Dressed in very comic, matching polka dot outfits, he and Cheryl give us a fun, energetic performance that reveals a different side of the usually sexpot-oriented Gilles.  While he's still undeniably sexy, its much more goofy that we're used to, and the judges praise his diversity.

Score: 27 (which is actually the same score as last week, but they are celebrating it anyway)

Lil' Kim & Derek Hough

After giving us a toned down, uncharacteristic performance last week that resulted in a fifth place finish (down from first the week prior), Lil' Kim lets us know that the real her is "back with a vengeance."  Given the green light by the judges to bring all of her personality to her dance, Kim brings it to her and Derek's casa nova.  In a black widow-inspired dress, she is fiery and focused, keeping up a perfect pace with Derek. The crowd (including Lance Bass!) gives a rousing standing ovation, and the judges follow suit.  "The bitch is back and she means business," Bruno announces, and Kim tears up as judge after judge serenades her with compliments.

Score: 28 (the 10 is from Bruno)

Chuck Wicks & Julianne Hough

Chuck and Julianne are ecstatic that after last week's personal high score of 27, they might really be in this competition.  They follow it up by continuing their questionable fashion choices (especially Chuck, who is wearing blue suede pants - which I'm sure was a self-conscious move to accent his ass, which he seriously shakes nonstop through the performance - and a blue silk tank top).  But also by continuing the energy they finally found last weekend.  It seems at this point its truly a five couple race.   Carrie Ann has some issues with Chuck's chin (I didn't notice), and the boys both have issues with his arms, but otherwise they agree.

Score: 26 (though a little let down by Bruno's 8, the pair are pretty stoked).

Shawn Johnson & Mark Ballas

Too-cute Shawn and Mark want to "sizzle" this week, and Mark decides to bring in his mom (!?) to show Shawn how. It turns out she's a three time Latin American dance champion, and she has a move or two to send Shawn in the sexy direction.  Its clear that Mark has inherited some of his mother's skills during their samba, though Shawn seems to struggle to keep up with his spark.  Her attempts at "sizzling" hip moves come across as awkward and forced.   It's certainly not a bad performance - but this late in the game its not w . Len agrees, though Bruno and Carrie Ann are much more into it.

Score: 27 (including a erroneously perfect score from Carrie Ann)

Melissa Rycroft & Tony Dovolani

We learn Melissa's not here because she has a rib injury. And it looks like she'll be able to come back to the performance (she's on the phone with the doctor "right now").  The judges are going to have to base their scores on Melissa's rehearsal tape, which she did in the midst of the injury.  Her practice video mostly involves a trip to the doctor after hurting her rib during a "very difficult move." Serious, suspenseful music in the background, we learn "she hope she's can pull it together!"  She certainly doesn't for the rehearsal.  Dancing the jive to The Go Gos (Belinda Carlise, we hardly knew ye), it feels very unpolished and it is clear Melissa's injury is proving problematic (she makes lots of "I'm in pain" faces).  The judges are sympathetic, but unimpressed.

Score: 21 (eee, let's hope those Bachelor-fans bring out the pity votes in full force)

Ty Murray & Chelsie Hightower

Melissa's injury is Ty's only hope as the episode saves the truly worst dancer for last.  Desperate Chelsie brings in another dancer to show Ty some salsa moves, and the situation turns wacky when a comparison of Ty's chest to the dancer's lead them to attest Ty is too fair skinned.  So, of course, he gets a spray tan.  On the dance floor, he shows off his fake tan in a sleeveless silk shirt, and I have to say Ty is more fluid than I've ever seen him.  He flies across the dance floor with a confidence that can only come from - spray tans? It's still evident he's not a fantastic dancer, but he's working hard, and the dance leads to his first ever standing ovation, and generally warm notices from the judges (Len still believes he should go, which leads to boos from the audiences, and a close up of Ty's wife Jewel giving her best "angry face").

Score: 24 (same as last week, and slightly low in my opinion).

The Group Dance!

I blissfully had forgot about this.  But I should have known something was up when its 9:02 and all the dancers have danced.

For the first time, the judges will actually SCORE the group dance.  2 teams of 3 couples, working together for one score, which will be added to their individual scores. How complicated is this? [Editor's note: Very.]

Team Mambo: Chuck & Julianne; Melissa & Tony; Shawn & Mark

We learn Lacey Schwimmer will be filling in for Melissa, and Melissa will (unfairly?) get the score anyway.  To Beyonce's "Single Ladies," the six come out as a group and then pair off into the solos.  They are all doing moves very indicative of the moves Beyonce does in the "Ladies"' video (which, last time I checked, is not a mambo), and the girls are all dressed in the Beyonce unitard.  It's a bit over the top, and distracts from the actual dancing, which is nothing groundbreaking.  Shawn & Mark pull it off best as a solo pair, and I have to say that Lacey - with what was allegedly just a few hours of rehearsal - does an incredible job given the circumstances.  And in what I suspect is supposed to be funny, the boys end off the dance in Beyonce inspired unitards as well (Chuck had touted a secret weapon for the end, and I guess this is it).  Bruno is all over puns about the boy's bulges, but the judges overall are somewhat underwhelmed.

Score: 25

Team Tango: Lil' Kim & Derek; Gilles & Cheryl; Ty & Chelsie

I wonder how they came up with these teams? Was it a random draw?  Gilles and Kim are a perfectly sexy match, but being forced to collaborate with the generally stiff cowboy is a bit of a shame.  But whoa - they realize how to make it work at the starting point it.  To Britney Spears' "Womanizer," shirtless, fake tanned Ty joined shirtless, naturally tanned Gilles and pick an on-fire Kim off from a table.  This leads into the solos, which have a few issues (Kim stumbles at one point, Ty - for the most part - just stands there).  Gilles & Cheryl are the obvious stand out (the tango was made for Gilles), though he has unfortunately put his shirt back on.   It ends with a very well-choreographed group dance though, that makes it clear that Team Tango is winner of group dancing duel.

Score: 28 (including a 10 from Bruno).

So, if you add up the individual scores, Lil Kim & Derek are the leaders with a 56, and Melissa & Tony are at the bottom with a 46.  I'm not a big fan of Melissa, but it would be unfortunate if the undoubtedly inferior Ty makes it past her tomorrow night. 

What did you think of the couples tonight? Impressed by the group dances? Share your thoughts below.