PureDWTS Season 18, Week 4 – Power Rankings

Tonight’s episode of Sesame Street was brought to you by the phrases “these are the couples you chose!”, “keep it all in the family”, and “incestual”.  :-) I know I can’t be the only one that thought they were trying to drive the point home just a bit too hard that the couples we saw last night were the ones that we voted for – defensive much? Had they actually given Meryl to Derek (as the voters had), it would have created an entire cascade of partner changes that I think would have created an entirely different outcome last night.  But that’s neither here nor there – I guess I’m just sort of over the entire partner switch at this point. It’s over and done with, and it’s hard to dwell on what a turd the whole thing was when we’ve got Disney Week  next week :-)

I do feel the need to touch on the phrase “keep it all in the family!” though – on the surface, it seems innocuous enough, but I feel like it’s yet another barrier the Chmerkovskiy brothers (and Tony, to a lesser degree) put up between themselves and the other pros on the show.  I know they seem to have a sort of “us against the world” mentality, but more often than not, they themselves are the ones creating that environment.  “Keep it all in the family” says to me “I don’t trust the other pros.  I refuse to associate with the other pros.  I am better than the other pros. Don’t let the other pros near my partner…mine, mine, MINE!” It implies that the only family that matters is theirs – and the relationships with the other pros that they’ve cultivated over the years are worthless.  The Chmerkovskiys are a family, but so is DWTS – when the cards are down, the pros do look out for each other. I guess the reason I’m bringing it up is because I was rather surprised to hear Meryl repeat it in her package – I think it was probably just out of politeness to Val & Maks, but in the spirit of the switch (which so many of the other pros embraced with open arms – including Tony), it just seemed almost like self-segregation.

I’m left feeling rather puzzled by the judges’ comments & scoring last night – there were certain couples that got raked across the coals that I didn’t think were that bad (Candace & Tony, Charlie & Peta), couples that got treated with kid gloves (and this is probably gonna get me in trouble, but Amy & Mark), and couples that just did not really register at all with the judges (Danica & Maks, Cody & Sharna). And apparently there was fallout backstage last night after the show – a source says that Peta was in tears and was being consoled by Charlie & Sharna, and Mark was allegedly overheard saying that he thinks he’s “as good as done” next week thanks to Tony (which I don’t agree with…at least not the reasoning).  Tough day at the office for those two :-(

On the upside, we got a pretty cute opening number (that was perhaps a little heavy on the “switch” theme, but whatever), and the Macy’s Stars of Dance segment returned triumphantly with a pretty cool flamenco-infused number by Derek, Artem, Sasha, Henry, Jon Platero, & the beast that is Kathryn McCormick.  I smell some potential Emmy fodder, if the Stars of Dance segments in the coming weeks measure up to the one we saw last night! Julianne also returned as a judge, to both cheers and jeers – and WTF was up with her eyebrows??? Somebody get Anastasia Soare on the phone, because somebody is using the wrong color pencil on Miss Hough…

Bear with me as I try not to repeat too much of the stuff I said in the live discussion post last night – guess I should have held back a bit for my power rankings :-P I went ahead and put the original pro partner names in parentheses here, as they will be the ones potentially at-risk to be eliminated next week.

1.) Meryl & Val (Maks)  – I may not be a Chmerkovskiy fan, but I can give props when they’re deserved – and Val deserved it, with the choreography he gave Meryl for her Argentine tango.  It was phenomenal, and Meryl nailed it – it might have been a tad too sharp in certain spots, and I would caution Val not to fall into the same “kitchen sink” trap that Sharna & Peta have this season with jam-packing as many steps as possible into a routine, but beyond that, it was the dance of the night.  Saw a lot of people saying that Meryl “is a shoo-in to win the MBT this season” after seeing this routine – but here’s the rub, guys: Val basically pwned his brother with that choreography last night, and Meryl goes right back to Maks (and his so far lukewarm choreo) next week, and she’s gonna remain with him the rest of the season.  Had Meryl been paired with Val, I would agree that she absolutely would be a shoo-in for the MBT – but so far, I don’t think Maks has been able to truly utilize her talents with his choreography…and that may ultimately be what prevents him from winning this season. Will be interesting to see if he’s able to step up his game after being called out both directly (by Julianne) and indirectly (by his brother showing him up) on his choreography this week. And can we please get rid of the term “incestual”? It’s either “incestuous” (implying a sexual relationship between two close relatives) or “ancestral” (pertaining to one’s ancestors).  Not both, Val. :-P

2.) Amy & Mark (Derek) – Ok, let me preface this: I think Mark did the best he could, given that he was given a partner with some special needs and certain limitations, and only a week to make a certain dance work given those limitations.  I also think Amy did the best she could with a new partner and a dance that’s pretty dissimilar to any of the ones she’s done so far.  That being said – I don’t feel like this was Amy’s strongest dance, and I feel like the judges kind of copped out on giving any truly valuable constructive criticism.  It was kind of as if it was week 1 again, and they were afraid to critique her due to her obvious limitations.  I actually disagree with whichever judge said that Mark did a good job of letting her move on her own – he did give her a lot of spots on her own, but then he seemed to immediately pull her back into hold, and it seemed as though her movement got really limited while in hold.  The result felt a bit jarring – as if Amy was hitting a groove by herself, and then suddenly Mark was pulling her back to him and she lost a bit of balance and “flow”.  Also seemed like a lot of (repetitive) arm work – maybe to minimize how much she was actually moving; but Amy is able to move, if you give her enough room – and I guess my big complaint is that she didn’t seem to get a whole lot of breathing room in this routine.  It’s funny how Derek can keep Amy relatively close to him in a routine, but still give her a lot of breathing room; and Mark can let Amy move on her own, and yet not give her any breathing room.  I guess it kind of reminded me of a mother watching over an infant that’s just learning to walk – they’re reluctant to truly let them move on their own, for fear that they might fall.   I appreciate that Mark seemed to really watch out for Amy, though – shows he really cares.

3.) James & Cheryl (Peta) – I almost feel like TPTB were subliminally trying to reinforce the point that James is this season’s “dark horse” by giving him that song :-) And really, he is – he seemed to make the transition from Peta to Cheryl very smoothly, and handled a difficult dance to a less-than-ideal tango song as if it were no big deal.  From a technical perspective, I think he may be getting to the point where he’s giving Charlie a run for his money – his frame has improved drastically, and aside from the too-flexed knee, butt sticking-out problem he had last night, he’s looking pretty damn good.  I was glad he and Cheryl were able to infuse some heat in their routine – Deep Throat had said that their routine was technically good, but lacked passion or any sort of chemistry. I know people seem hung up on Cody having “tons of fangirls voting for him”, but I think James may actually have the edge in that he might have more of the mainstream DWTS voters supporting him – remember: it’s not the tween fangirls that have the biggest voting bloc in this competition; it’s the  middle-aged housewives…and I think he’s starting to endear himself to them, while Cody…isn’t. :-)

4.) Charlie & Peta (Sharna) – Just a hard day at the office for these two – I feel like they got caught in the middle of a “judges’ war” and may also have been a bit of a pawn in the “it’s Meryl’s turn to be at the top of the leaderboard” storyline.  I guess I fall somewhere in between Team Len/Carrie Ann and Team Julianne/Bruno on this one: while it did have some extraneous stuff in it, I do ultimately feel like it captured the mood and enough of the steps to be considered a rumba.  Peta definitely has a rumba “tic”, and it’s gratuitous displays of female flexibility – I always think back to Gilles’ rumba in season 15 and Len saying “the leg goes up, the leg goes down, it’s going up again, it’s going down again!”.  I think she might have avoided being chastised so hard if she had replaced a lot of those leg extensions she was doing with some sliding doors or a fan – more basic rumba.  As for Charlie – he handled what he was given well.  I didn’t notice any major footwork or hip action issues (but I was trying to juggle the discussion post, Twitter, and taking notes at the same time), except one weird thing he did with his foot when doing a sort of lunging action.  Will have to watch again – but really, I don’t think any of the blame lies with him…and I actually feel really bad for Peta, too, because she seemed really proud of their dance and was crushed when the judges kind of tore it to shreds.  Deep Throat said that Peta & Charlie actually had the easiest switch week out of all of the couples – they got along well, worked together well, and had no major struggles; I think they probably had high hopes that their rumba would be a hit.  The only thing that really bothered me about it? They looked like twin siblings doing it, with that weird, slicked-back hair that didn’t really suit either one of them well.  Now that truly looked “incestual”. :-P

5.) Danica & Maks (Val) – Not sure where exactly I read it, but someone on Twitter (maybe) had a really good metaphor for Danica: this week, she played the role of the new girlfriend that, despite her best efforts, would never measure up to the perfect ex-wife (Meryl) in her boyfriend’s (Maks’) eyes.  I guess I can’t really blame Julianne for feeling like Maks was “checked out” of his performance with Danica – I almost feel like both Chmerkovskiy brothers were far more concerned with  how Meryl was doing this week, and Danica was an afterthought.  This is one week were I really felt sorry for Danica – here she was, asking Maks questions about the technique and what exactly she should be doing (just as we had said she would, per Deep Throat) , and Maks basically went “Durrrr, doesn’t matter, just do it!” I have a VERY hard time believing that Maks was truly invested in this week when he was basically blowing off her requests for help.  And then on top of that, the choreography of the dance itself was chock full o’ cop-outs and time-wasters – we had extraneous props (jukebox, 2 troupe dancers), time wasters (Danica running behind the jukebox while Maks just stands there), and an ill-conceived wardrobe change (the skirt removal – which served no real purpose except to waste time).  Oh – and Danica didn’t wear heels, either.  She did the best she could with what she was given, but unfortunately what she was given wasn’t really quality and was an insult to her skill level…at least Val can appreciate that she can handle tough choreography.  As for Julianne’s comment about Maks just “biding his time to get back to Meryl” – while it could have been phrased better, I don’t disagree with it: Maks didn’t seem to care much about this routine, and seemed more concerned with what was going on with Meryl down in Florida than what was going on in LA with Danica.  If I were Val, I’d be a bit miffed that big bro didn’t take better care of my partner while I was busy giving his partner a better routine than he ever could.

6.) Cody & Sharna (Witney) – If Cody working with Sharna taught me one thing, it’s that Cody Simpson doesn’t seem to do anything that Cody Simpson doesn’t want to  – and that Witney may be doing her best to get him to dance properly, and he just doesn’t care.  This is gonna seem like a pretty harsh critique of our blonde Aussie heartthrob, but I’m just feeling more and more like he’s a less-offensive Bieber – just does what he wants and nobody seems to be able to get him in check.  I think Sharna tried her best to work on his frame, but I just think at this point that Cody doesn’t really care about it – I also think she may have suggested the singing portion in order to try to get him actually invested in the dance.  And that’s the biggest problem I see with Cody: if he doesn’t feel like a dance is really “relevant” to him (translation: complements his existing dance skills and makes him look good), he doesn’t really care; and that becomes pretty damn obvious with the ballroom dances.  I guess he handled this foxtrot okay – frame still looks wonky to me, and he didn’t seem to do any of the steps with any sort of conviction.  And I have to wonder if his “fangirls” are really voting as hard as some think – judging from what traffic I saw on the partner switch hashtag, there weren’t really a TON of votes for him to match with anyone…he’s no Zendaya.  I’d be ok with him going home next week…except that I’d miss Witney.

7.) Drew & Witney (Cheryl) – I really feel like Witney has gotten a bit of a bum rap, on account of Cody being, well, Cody, and giving the perception that she’s “too young” to really be effective as a pro.  I think we saw what she’s really capable of with Drew – she brough out a fun side of him that I don’t think we’ve seen yet, and really seemed to help him up his showmanship. I actually really enjoyed their cha-cha – it was entertaining, he didn’t miss any steps, and I actually think his Latin technique improved a bit.  I like Drew with Cheryl, but I LOVED him with Witney.  I just worry that his time may be running out for the simple reason that he’s probably the weakest male dancer left – although if Cody continues to act kinda apathetic and Drew continues to improve, he may have a shot at overtaking him.

8.) NeNe & Derek (Tony) – Say what you will about the simplicity of this routine or how well NeNe did or didn’t handle it – it was PERFECT for her, and I actually think going the Afro-jazz route was pretty clever on Derek’s part.  If there’s anyone that fancies themselves an African queen, it’s NeNe – so playing to that attitude was a pretty smart move; it was also smart to avoid traditional jazz, as NeNe probably can’t do pirouttes, piques, & plies with any degree of mastery.  Plus, NeNe seemed to have a ton of fun with it – I don’t think she was terribly jazzed (no pun intended…ok, yeah it was :-P ) to have Derek in the switch to begin with, but after she saw what he had created for her, she was a believer, and she committed to it like she does every dance she does.  But like Drew, I just think she’s reaching the end of the line in terms of how competitive she can be with the likes of Meryl, Charlie, James, etc.  I think she might survive Disney week (and I will just DIE if I see her do a foxtrot to “Cruella De Vil”), but beyond that? Kind of open season as far as Housewives go.  I find it interesting that she and Amy are the only remaining contestants that have yet to do a ballroom dance – and I’m not sure it’s going to suit NeNe as well as it does Amy.

9.) Candace & Tony (Mark) – I give up.  What was so damn bad about this quickstep that the judges decided to hose her with straight 7’s??? I actually thought she handled it better than that last two dances we’ve seen from her, and the problems were minimal – maybe one little snafu with the floor trick and some body contact issues.  I actually have to give props to Tony for giving her a fun-yet-doable quickstep routine that suited her personality well.  I guess at this point, TPTB have just decided that Candace is disposable – some to be speculating that her religious beliefs might be giving the viewers the perception that she’s “intolerant”, and therefore a bit of a toxic asset; I’m not sure I believe that, but then again, stranger things have happened (like Twitter votes being ignored).  Or maybe they’ve decided that it’s time to lose another female, and they’d rather keep Danica than Candace.  I just don’t even know, but I’m afraid that Candace’s number might be up next week :-(

 

The “Rivalry Scorecard” for the week:

Charlie vs. MerylMeryl.  She had the dance of the night, while Charlie kinda got hosed for something that wasn’t really his fault.   Running total: Charlie 3, Meryl 2.

James vs. Cody –  Gotta go with James again – he’s been killing every dance they throw at him these past few weeks, while Cody seems more concerned about his hair.  ;-) Running total: James 3, Cody 1.

Danica vs. Candace – Neither one had a particularly stellar week, but I’ll give it to Danica for being slightly less hosed than Candace, who seems disposable at this point.  Running total: Danica 3, Candace 1.

 

So how do you guys think the switch turned out? Good? Bad? So-so? Who do you think handled it well…and who do you think failed miserably?