DWTS 15, Week 9 – Power Rankings

Well, if you’re reading this, it means enough people FINALLY stopped hitting “refresh” on the homepage that I could get logged into the dash and actually get these posted :-P And with the way things are going, things might not calm down until Tuesday morning…so if this is late, sorry, but we got hit with too much traffic and my pleas for people to scale back the traffic on Twitter went unanswered.  C’est la vie.

Maybe I’m just tired and apathetic from a full day of Thanksgiving grocery shopping and house cleaning, but I’m feeling a bit blasé about tonight – a few standout performances that I enjoyed, but overall, nothing too surprising, and I think things played out the way they should have…and as we suspected, the judges finally got real and managed to call certain couples out on the crap they’ve been getting away with for the past several weeks, and couples that have been putting in the effort finally got the love they deserved. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

1.) Shawn & Derek - In quite possibly the biggest surprise of the night for me, I actually ended up enjoying their Knight Rider bhangra the most out of any dance I saw tonight! Judging from some of the frustrated tweets we were seeing from the usually-unflappable Derek this weekend, I was fully prepared for this to be a hot mess – but it actually was the most high-energy, in-synch, and entertaining routine for me tonight.  I think the speed of it was what really impressed me – they were both moving so fast, and doing such intricate steps, and were still somehow staying almost perfectly in synch.  And the most amusing aspect? Shawn actually seemed to dance it better than Derek! :-P I also thought they managed to put that hideous Bollywood routine that Gilles & Peta did to shame, which was another perk ;-) Overall, I think they handled the wacky dance  theme challenge the best of the five couples.  Moving onto their Argentine tango – another technically flawless dance.  Shawn’s feet & legs were sharp and precise, which was the main complaint I had about Melissa’s dance – but I do agree a bit with Carrie Ann (and those words literally hurt my mouth) that Shawn & Derek had a little bit of a disconnect with the emotion of the dance.  HOWEVER – this is something for which I really have to blame the music.  “Bad” is a great song, but maybe not a great song for an Argentine tango – it’s a song about a guy asserting his authority and masculinity, and he’s doing it in a cheeky way.  It’s not about passion or the thrill of the chase between a man and a woman…so I feel like if they had actually gone the smoldery route, it would have looked a little odd and out of place given the music.  I also thought Derek did a slightly better job of really accenting the music with his choreography than Tony did.  When it came to the two Argentine tangos we saw tonight, Melissa may have had more of an emotional connection, but I thought Shawn had the better technique.  I thought they should have gotten the same score – either downgrade Melissa a point or upgrade Shawn a point, whichever.  In the end, I think they may be the only couple that is a lock for the finale…at least I hope.

2.) Apolo & Karina – HALLELUJAH!!! They finally got the praise they deserve for their chemistry.  Loved their rumba – I thought it was the perfect combination of good choreography and good emotion, and Apolo just NAILED the technique.  And for those who poo-pooh “Man in the Mirror” as a rumba song – I think they injected far more romance into that rumba than Kelly & Val did with a song that was far more outwardly romantic.  Then there was the “Big Top Jazz” – sigh.  It wasn’t perfect – I agree that there were a few stumbles, and it felt a little frantic at times.  But I really don’t think it was nearly as bad as the judges (Carrie Ann in particular) were making it sound – the degree of difficulty was much higher than Kelly’s flamenco or Emmitt’s Lindy hop, and possibly even Melissa’s hustle, and I still think he managed to stay far more in-synch than both Kelly & Emmitt.  I also thought the lifts were amazing, and didn’t know what Carrie Ann was talking about, claiming they were clunky – I actually think Apolo could give Tony a run for his money, and I’ve always said that Tony is the best lifter we’ve ever seen on the show (and Julianne the best liftee).  Was it his best dance? No.  Did I enjoy it? Somewhat.  But hopefully it’s just a minor, mediocre hiccup in an otherwise pretty damn strong season.  I think Apolo is the strongest guy left, and deserves to be in the finale – and I feel a little bit better knowing he’s got a 3-point lead over Emmitt & Kelly, even if it doesn’t equal out to a huge margin.  I do think he’s getting a decent amount of votes – both from loyal voters who’ve gotten pissed at his low-balling this season, and possibly from the voters who go for the “hot guy”…now that Gilles is gone, at least some of them must be impressionable enough to toss a few votes Apolo’s way ;-) Perhaps I’m being optimistic there, but while I wouldn’t necessarily put money on Apolo making it through to the finale next week, I would say I’m at least 76% confident he will.  I think the judges do realize he’s one of the strongest dancers left, and probably want him in the finale…hopefully America agrees.

3.) Melissa & Tony – First of all, I’m just glad Tony got to dance tonight – I do really like the guy and I’m happy that he’s enjoying himself this season :-) Second of all, I think Melissa may have made the strongest showing tonight that she has all season to prove she deserves to be in the finale.  I thought her hustle was really cute and captured the caveman theme well – I would have liked a little more basic hustle, and I do think Melissa stuttered a bit on those portions, but I thought the lifts were great and the energy was high.  Very cute, fun dance.  I thought her Argentine tango was impressive – lots of cool lifts, and that’s one area where I think Tony really beats a lot of the pros.  Tony actually used to work for the same franchise that my boyfriend does, and they really seem to put a lot of emphasis on good lifting – and I’ve noticed that Tony is the one male pro that doesn’t seem to balk at lifting over his head, which is extremely difficult.  Just wish we got to the opportunity to see him doing it more :-) Anywho, I thought they connected well to the song and handled the lifts really well, but I do wish that Melissa had been a bit sharper with her feet & legs – she still seems to move a bit softly, like she’s afraid to really hit the steps hard.  But overall, I think she had a strong showing tonight, and I think she deserves to be in the finale.  However, of the 3 people I do want in the finale, she’s the one I’m the most uncertain about actually MAKING the finale.  She’s got a half a point more than Apolo, but I’m still just not positive that she’s got the fanbase to carry her through.  Yes, she likely has more voters than she started this season with.  But is she going to be able to stay ahead of Emmitt’s NFL fanbase? Or Kelly’s supposedly “huge” soap fanbase? I just don’t know.  I think Shawn has always been getting a slew of votes, and Apolo has likely benefitted from his fans getting pissed off, but Melissa has remained relatively safe these past few weeks.  Does she have the juice to advance? I sure hope so.  I’m going to err on the side of optimism and say she does, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she was the last one saved tomorrow night.

4.) Emmitt & Cheryl – Yes, Emmitt is a charming guy, and he has a lot of fun out on the dancefloor – but I think tonight, we kinda saw that he’s more style than substance, compared to some of the other couples this season.  I thought his Lindy hop was cute, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that Emmitt DID get off-time at a few points, and yet he didn’t get called out for it while Apolo did (surprise, surprise).  I also thought it was a bit elementary and repetitive, compared to what we saw from most of the other couples tonight. And what was with him dancing with those binoculars for so long??? Yes, it was a cute routine, and he seemed like he enjoyed it, but I don’t think it was particularly innovative or special.  Then there was his tango – I had heard from Deep Throat that Emmitt was still REEEEALLLLY struggling with it during camera blocking yesterday, so I guess they at least managed to get it looking presentable between then & showtime.  But while they didn’t really have any huge blunders, I also didn’t think there was anything particulary eye-catching or special about it – they got through it, but it wasn’t hard choreography, and he looked a little stiff to me.  And worst of all – he stopped looking like he was having fun.  It was all just intense focus.  Nothing terrible, but nothing great – and it just didn’t leave a lasting impression.  I think it was probably the most forgettable routine of tonight’s show.  And in the end, I’m still left saying the same thing about Emmitt that I have been for the past several weeks: he’s (usually) fun to watch, but he’s nowhere near the skill level of some of the other couples this season.  And this week, he actually lost a good bit of the “fun” that has likely helped him stick around as long as he has (along with some inflated judges’ scores).  I don’t think he’s got the skills to make it to the finale, but his fanbase? Who knows.  I think he may be able to bump Melissa out of the running, but I don’t think he could overtake Apolo or Shawn.  But who knows.  I think his fate is hanging solely on his fanbase at this point, and I don’t know if it’s enough to pull him through.  Guess we’ll see – I do think he’ll be one of the last two standing tomorrow night, though.

5.) Kelly & Val – I hate to say “We told you so!” but…we told you so.  :-) Val did exactly what we had predicted he would do with their surfer flamenco – he basically just choreographed a stompy (and gimmicky) paso doble and tried to pass it off as flamenco (just as an aside – paso doble does borrow some steps from flamenco, so they are related, but flamenco is still a distinct dance that has very noticeable differences from paso doble).  Unfortunately for him, though, the judges DIDN’T do what we predicted, and they actually called him out on it – even Carrie Ann, who can usually be swayed by a scantily-clad dancing male, pointed it out.  I did see SOME more flamenco-ish parts, but I think those got lost in between sections of choreography that were so blatantly paso doble-y that they just seemed inconsequential.  And then the whole bit in the water with Val in a Speedo? Somebody please break it to Val that surfers don’t wear Speedos…they know better than to risk scratching the family jewels on an errant piece of coral.  As for Kelly – she just looked kinda lost to me the whole dance. Like she was having a hard time remembering her choreography, and was ending up a bit behind because she was looking to Val to see what came next. So overall, it wasn’t very surfer-y, and it definitely wasn’t very flamenco-y…so I’d say it was probably the biggest fail of the night, although not the least memorable routine.  Trainwrecks are memorable, too :-) As for their rumba – it was better than their flamenco (although I wouldn’t say that’s too much of a feat), and was overall pleasant to watch.  But I thought Apolo had much more difficult (and varied) choreography, and handled it better than Kelly did hers, which seemed a bit repetitive, with the multiple spins that Val seems to love adding in.  It also seemed like Kelly was standing relatively stationary for a good part of the routine…while Val did his own thing in the background.  Oh, and I had an epiphany as to why they may have gone last – you see that circular light rigging they were dancing in? Yeah, apparently those take a bit of time to set up & tear down, as I learned from Deep Throat in week 5 as they were pretaping night 2 and were taking their merry time setting up the platform for Shawn’s rumba.  Compared to the other MJ routines, which had more easily removable sets, maybe they opted to get those knocked out first before futzing with Kelly’s set.  Just a thought :-) Anywho, I’d say Kelly is probably a goner tomorrow night – unlike Emmitt, I don’t know that she has the fanbase to cover the margin between her and anyone except maybe Melissa…and while I think Melissa has been gaining support as the season has worn on, I think Kelly may have lost some from week 1.  So I’m guessing that Kelly may be the first one eliminated tomorrow night.

So what are your thoughts on tonight’s dances? Who do you think will be eliminated…and who do you think will advance to the finals? Oh, and before anyone asks – I’m hearing three dances for next week: some sort of repeat dance (either a judge’s choice or couple’s favorite or something like that – don’t know if it’s an entirely new routine or just a repeat of a previous one) and the “supersized” freestyle on Monday, and then an instant dance on Tuesday…and here’s the kicker: it could be one of any 10 styles for the instant dance, meaning it could be Latin OR ballroom.  Dun dun DUN :-P But keep in mind that they have switched things up A LOT this season, and that dance lineup could change…just like all the other wacky sh*t this season :-P