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Warren Sapp dances his way to a comeback

Flawed footwork didn't hold the defensive end back. For the most part, he was in top form, with only Brooke Burke topping his scores.
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

In a season set on shaking things up, Monday night saw yet another new twist on “Dancing with the Stars.” Unlike last week’s team-routine gimmick, celebrities had a chance to strut their solo stuff — well, a mere 15 seconds of it. And given how some spent that time in the spotlight, brevity was a good thing.

Before each star took a turn in a solo-infused Latin dance, they completed a traditional ballroom number. That’s when this week’s leaderboard movers and shakers caught a glimpse of the coveted “10” paddles.

For retired defensive end Warren Sapp, it was the perfect time for a 10. Coming back from a flawed foxtrot that earned him one of his lowest scores in the competition, he had something to prove.

When Warren and pro partner Kym Johnson took the floor for with a slow and suave tango, he made his point. Last week must have been a fluke, as he looked to be back in the top form that has taken him so far in the competition.

As judge Carrie Ann Inaba put it “Someone brought his sparkle game back on the floor!” And that sparkle was worth 28 points.

Though Warren’s jive paled in comparison to his tango, his solo maneuvers were some of the best of the night. He bounced and kicked and kept the feel of the dance going while Kym stood on the sidelines. Unfortunately it was the parts where they danced side by side that troubled the NFL star.

Head judge Len Goodman applauded the big guy’s typical joyful presentation, but was taken aback by those fumbling size 15-EEE feet. “Warren, give us a break, your feet!” he exclaimed. “I can’t even explain it.”

Despite the problems, Warren walked away with an overall score that qualified as a comeback and put him in second place with a 54 out of 60.

Brooke continues to shineAs for first place, well, no surprises there. Brooke Burke, a.k.a. the last woman standing in the competition, was back to her winning ways, and she kicked off the night with a tango that tied Warren’s.

DANCING WITH THE STARS - \"Episode 708\" - On week eight of \"Dancing with the Stars,\" the remaining celebrities and professional dancers performed a dance discipline for the Ballroom Round and the Latin Round, on MONDAY, NOVEMBER 10 (8:00-9:32 p.m., ET) on ABC. (ABC/KELSEY MCNEAL) BROOKE BURKE, DEREK HOUGHKelsey Mcneal / American Broadcasting Companies,

Actually, had it not been for a particularly picky Len, she might have seen a repeat of that perfect score from last week. Carrie Ann and Bruno Tonioli found the passionate performance flawless, but Len took all Brooke’s “almost as good as a pro” praise to heart and judged her by that standard.

“I’m going to start treating you like a professional,” he said, before giving her an eight.

For the Latin round, the model-turned-TV host opened the dance with her solo, which amounted to mostly hip-shaking, but to her credit, it was some outstanding hip-shaking. Once Derek Hough joined her, Brooke continued her trend toward precision footwork, but lagged in the posture department.

With slight deductions for that, she ended the night with a score of 55.

Hoping to avoid their typical run-in with Len, Lance Bass and pro partner Lacey Schwimmer decided to play it safe on performance night. First, they offered up a by-the-book foxtrot that lacked their usual playful spin.

While the dance was hardly as interesting as some of L&L’s past routines, it did the trick as far as the panel was concerned. Sure, Len griped a bit about Lance’s “dodgy footwork,” but that was practically a thumbs-up compared to his previous criticisms of the boybander.

With a 26 from the ballroom round, Lance samba-ed his way to an additional 24 points in the Latin round. A generous score, considering Lance offered up one dud of a solo turn that had nothing to do with the dance at hand. Heck, it looked more like a rejected ‘N Sync stage routine. One that was rejected for good reason.

Known for being consistently inconsistent, former fastest man in the world Maurice Greene kept up his yo-yo trend, slipping a few points from his scores last week. Though this time, it’s hard to say why.

The panel had nothing but praise for Maurice after he and Cheryl Burke raced across the floor in a complex quickstep. In fact, the judges each pointed out his improved posture and footwork. Still, they only handed him a matching set of eights for the dance.

Maurice saw a repeat of that score for his paso doble. It’s a shame, really, given his built-in advantage after taking on the paso in last week’s winning team dance. He even aced the solo spot — though it was almost a gimme in a dance that frequently features a lone cape-twirling segment anyway.

Still, after another round of compliments, Maurice ended the night with just 48 out of 60.

At least the Olympian wasn’t the only one landing that score. He shared the honor with “Hannah Montana” star Cody Linley.

Cody, who landed in last place last week, and his replacement partner, Edyta Sliwinska, started things out with a weak foxtrot. Technically speaking the dance wasn’t too bad, but the loss of Cody’s usual partner, Julianne Hough, shows.

One problem is that Edyta doesn’t choreograph to Cody’s strengths, the biggest of which is his youthful energy. Worst yet, Cody just doesn’t share the same chemistry with her that he had with Julianne.

If that weren’t enough to hold him back, Carrie Ann lived up to her lift-spotting legend, and knocked off a point for a tiny infraction, leaving the pair with another set of eights all around.

It was more of the same in the mambo, and not just where the score was concerned. The dance was disjointed, or as Bruno called it, “spasmodic,” and just didn’t work. And the less said about the teen’s pelvis-thrusting solo the better. Seriously.

One more star is set to say goodbye before next week’s semifinals begin. The scores have Maurice and Cody in a dead-heat for last place this week, but Lance is only two points ahead of them. With the talent margin that close, so it’s bound to come down a battle of the fan bases. In other words, watch out, Maurice.

Ree Hines is a frequent contributor to Msnbc.com