PureDWTS Season 18, Week 5 – Power Rankings

Well Disney week went just as predicted, for the most part – overall, it was a pretty feel-good evening in terms of scores and critiques, (minus one or two puzzling comments here and there), and the rules seemed to be relaxed a bit; the animations dancing along the couples were not as intrusive as they were made to sound; Donny, of course, managed to make every critique all about himself instead of the dance he just saw; and Erin (who looked like she was going to the prom and her bff had done her hair & makeup and let her borrow a “super expensive” Claire’s rhinestone necklace) did not call a moratorium on obnoxious questions in honor of Disney week, and continues to bug.  The opener was probably the best we’ve seen so far this season – tons of fun and a good use of the Disney songs they were actually able to clear (more on that later).

So what did we learn tonight? That if you give the impression of not really caring about being on DWTS, then the audience won’t really care about voting for you.  Such is the case with Cody, our first “shocking” (but not really, when you think about it) elimination of the season – I think many of us had commented that he seemed rather blase about the whole experience, and just didn’t seem to be very invested or enthusiastic about learning the dances.  I know many had assumed that he was getting “tons of votes” from his teenybopper fans, but once again, I reiterate: it’s not how a small (but vocal) minority is voting; it’s how the main demographic (middle-aged women) is voting that will determine long-term success on DWTS.  I doubt Cody is too disappointed about getting sent home, though – his pride may be wounded, but I’m sure he will be right back to donning his genie pants and admiring his hair in the mirror while singing “Surfboard” to his supermodel girlfriend in no time.  :-P He got his exposure, he’s good to go – I just feel bad for Witney, who made a pretty damn good showing for her first outing as a pro and just suffered from having a partner that didn’t connect with viewers, despite her best efforts.  Thank god for the switch-up – I think her week with Drew was just a taste of what she’s capable of as a pro. She’s got a thumbs-up from me if they want to bring her back as a pro next sesaon! ;-)

So now that we’re at the halfway point of the season, how are things looking, overall? Hate to say it, but I’m starting to get the William Levy-vibe from Meryl – somebody that the judges/PTB seem intent on jamming down my throat as the be-all, end-all, and someone who manages to avoid negative critiques altogether despite making technique mistakes that other couples get called out on in a heartbeat.  I’m also still not quite sure what the deal is with Charlie – the judges seem to be much harder on him than Meryl, despite him not really being inferior to her in terms of skill; can’t decide if they’re setting him up for more of a “journey” arc or what.  Danica seems like she  might still be in the mix as a potential contender, but the judges seem to run hot & cold on her; James, however, has solidified his position as this season’s “dark horse” in a BIG way – I would be nervous if my name were Meryl, Charlie, or Danica, because James is HUNGRY for that MBT.

1.) Meryl & Maks – This is the portion of the power rankings where I remind our readers that this is NOT a ranking of who I think danced the best last night, but who I think has the most staying power :-P So that being said – I think if any other couple had done this exact same samba, they would have gotten chewed out for complete lack of bounce and not wearing heels.  The problem with Meryl’s technique on this one is that the whole feel was just a bit too “smooth” – samba is syncopated, and the 1&2, 2&2 count isn’t divided up evenly – the first count is held longer, with the “&2″ done quickly right after, so it’s more of a “1…&2, 2…&2″; that little pause is essential in helping to get the feel of the bounce, and Meryl didn’t have it.  The addition of those flat shoes also didn’t help much, and just enhanced the more jazzy feel of the dance.  The samba rolls, while pretty, were also not 100% correct – Meryl’s right arm should have been extended out behind her instead of folded over Maks’.  Danica pwns Meryl when it comes to samba rolls – check back to her week 2 samba to see what I’m talking about. I’ll cut them a break on the swing/Lindy portion in the middle, as I have a feeling they were told they had to do that portion with the animated characters; but it didn’t exactly help me to remember that what I was watching was a samba and not a jazz or freestyle routine.  I’m definitely a bit irked that the judges didn’t have the balls to call them out on any of it – it was all “You were great!” and then they just handed out 9’s.  For a non-samba, samba.This is part of why I find myself just getting really turned off of Meryl, to no fault of her own – it’s as if she can do no wrong on this show (or rather, she can do wrong and not get called out on it) and TPTB feel the need to CONSTANTLY remind me how great Meryl is.  I’d rather form my own opinions, thanks – Meryl is talented enough on her own that I don’t need someone constantly gushing in order to remind of it.

2.) James & Peta – Last night just proved to me that James has IT – the skill, the drive, and appeal to win this whole thing, and may prove to be a strong 3rd party candidate for those who might not be all that jazzed about Meryl & Charlie in the finale.  And I do have to give props to Peta, who seems to have bounced back from a bit of a lackluster week in terms of choreography with her rumba with Charlie – I actually LOVED how this all came together with the animation, and the lifts were fantastic.  James did a star lift – a f*cking STAR LIFT (sorry John)!!!! That’s widely considered one of the  most difficult lifts in pairs figure skating/ice dancing/cabaret & theater arts-style ballroom dancing – it’s incredibly difficult to get into and maintain and requires a LOT of strength on the part of the man.  And James handled it like it was no big deal – I’m not even sure I’ve ever seen Charlie do one (then again, I don’t follow figure skating religiously).  Even Tony (who is probably the best lifter on the show) and Julianne (the best liftee we’ve ever seen) struggled with holding it at the end of the season 4 “Ballroom Blitz” pro dance.  But anyway – besides that stellar (no pun intended) lift, I also appreciated the rest of the dance because James just surrendered completely to it, and also just has a great quality of movement.  And on top of that – James just seems like an all-around good guy.  Inviting the fan with Down Syndrome to the show? Above and beyond.  He’s got my stamp of approval if he just wants to go ahead and win this whole thing :-)

3.) Charlie & Sharna – Poor Charlie – last week it was the choreography the judges took issue with, this week the poor guy flubbed one cane toss in a routine riddled with complicated prop movement.  And I think that’s actually one beef I have with the choreography – I felt like they might have gotten a bit bogged down in the complex movements of the cane and umbrella, and if it were me, I probably would have ditched the props halfway through and focused more on the side-by-side choreography.  Overall, it was a cute routine, though – as always, Charlie kept up with it well and really committed to it…I get the feeling he is a really good sport and unconcerned about looking goofy or corny, which just makes him more adorable :-P Loved the bumper they did with him and the penguins – kinda wondered why they didn’t just add it into their routine, but it was already pretty crowded onstage with the “chorus” of troupe members up there.  Overall, I don’t have a whole lot more to say about it – I guess I was just expecting them to totally SLAY this routine, and they really only gave it a good smacking around.  I’m hoping he can rebound next week and maybe get a perfect score – he’s had a rough go of it the past few weeks and needs a break. :-)

4.) Danica & Val – I was honestly surprised that they were able to get “Be Our Guest” for Danica, because there were apparently issues with clearing the rights to both this song and “Hakuna Matata” (which apparently cost too much moola, because Cody ended up with “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” instead).  But I think it all worked out nicely for Danica – it was a sweet, pleasant quickstep to watch, and I thought having the troupe members play plates and cups and whatnot was cute (if not a tad distracting).  No major issues, although I am a bit irked that they called her out for lack of body contact (which was a major sticking point in Candace’s low-scoring quickstep last week), then give her a near-perfect score??? God, it gets my goat when the judges critiques and scores do not match up AT ALL.  But oh well – Disney week was kind of a lax week anyway, so I guess it doesn’t really matter too much.

5.) Amy & Derek – Probably the dance I saw the most arguments about last night – some arguing that Amy deserves to be cut breaks due to her special circumstances, others saying that it’s not fair that she doesn’t get called out for the same things that the other contestants do.  I guess I fall somewhere in between the two camps: I do think the judges have to take special consideration when critiquing and scoring her, because there’s certain things that, no matter how hard she tries, she simply isn’t physically able to do – pointing her toes and really getting rise and fall being one of them; in the same token, though, I don’t see anything wrong with pointing out that Amy does get judged using a different set of rules than the rest of the contestants – I think denying that she’s getting special treatment is also denying that she’s disabled in the first place. Anyway – I enjoyed their dance and thought it was lovely to watch, with or without rise & fall and/or lifts.  Honestly, in the great scheme of this season – is it really going to matter much that Carrie Ann didn’t deduct one point from one dance for some lifts? Hell, at least once a season, Carrie Ann conveniently misses a blatant lift and doesn’t deduct points.  I don’t think it was any different than Len not deducting for Drew & Cheryl breaking hold in their quickstep – and really, Disney night was kind of a cushy night, anyway.  Everyone got cut a break or two.  I just don’t see the sense in getting all riled up about it.  As much as I love Amy, I don’t see her winning this season, or even making it to the finale (especially if Meryl continues to get pimped and James stays hungry) – so I guess I don’t mind a whole lot if they cut her some slack on things that are just a physical impossibility for her.  I do have an interesting question to pose, though: would we be hearing this much complaining if her partner’s name wasn’t Derek? Just some food for thought….

6.) Candace & Mark – I was honestly worried that this samba was Candace’s swan song – the way the judges and even Candace herself were talking, I thought she was a goner for sure.  But thankfully, she lives to dance another week – and her samba turned out pretty cute.  I do have to commend her on actually having bounce in her samba (and actually wearing heels), which certain other contestants didn’t do this week… ;-) Sure, there were a few awkward parts here and there, but both she & Mark really committed to the character of the dance and gave a very fun, cute performance…and Candace even showed off a bit of midriff!!! Christian housewives gone wild, kids.  :-P I’m hoping she sticks around awhile longer, but I’m beginning to wonder if she, NeNe, and Drew have been labeled as “disposable” by the judges – it seemed like they were really digging to find stuff to pick at with her samba…as if they were bound & determined to justify giving her a lower score.  Guess we’ll see…

7.) Drew & Cheryl – I think Drew unfortunately  just had an off-week – from what I heard, he & Cheryl were traveling a LOT this past week, and Drew was just downright exhausted…and unfortunately, it kind of showed in his quickstep.  Seemed like he lost steam and got a little off-time at a few points, and he didn’t seem quite as invested this week as he did with his cha-cha with Witney last week.  I think his performance also suffered a bit due to the animation section in the middle, which seemed to disrupt the flow of their dance – I could have done without the genie.  Also could have done without Drew’s “squinty face” that he was making – was he just thinking really hard as he danced, or does somebody need to get this man a set of contact lenses for when he dances? Anywho, I’m hoping he can make a bit of a comeback with his tango next week – would like to see him stick around until at least Latin week.

8.) NeNe & Tony – Oddly enough, this ended up being one of my two favorite routines from Disney night – I knew NeNe would make a PERFECT Cruella De Vil, but I was impressed with how into the character she really got while still giving a pretty admirable foxtrot.  LOVED the bluesy, more urban take on the song that they used – really fit NeNe well, and seemed to enhance the slinkyness of the steps she was doing.  She might have gotten a tad off-time at one point, but other than that, she seemed to really commit to the routine and I enjoyed it thoroughly.  As for the spat with Tony in rehearsal? I didn’t think it was that big of a deal, but judging from some of the reactions I saw on Twitter, I’m afraid it might come back to haunt her – I guess I don’t blame her for being all “Derek, Derek, Derek” after having a bit of a breakthrough week with him last week, but I also feel a bit bad for Tony, who was man enough to admit that he was a tad insecure about it.  Really & truly, I blame TPTB for the circumstances of the switch and any bad blood it might have created – but a lot seem to think that NeNe was being overdramatic (eh, partially true) and have checked out on this partnership.  And then, of course, there’s some that blame Derek for the whole thing – cause giving someone’s partner a great routine and helping them to kill so that they don’t get sent home is SUCH a dick move, guys :-P Anywho – I kinda hope they last through next week, because I do think she’s a better dancer than Drew at this point (maybe even Candace, too), but I’m wondering how much effect that bad rehearsal package might have on the outcome of voting.

 

The “Rivalry Scorecard” for the week:

Charlie vs. Meryl – This is kind of an odd one – Charlie got picked on more in his critique, but got a better score; Meryl got nothing but praise in her critique, and got a lower score than Charlie. Tie again, maybe?   Running total: Charlie 4, Meryl 3.

James vs. Cody –  Well, James got the first perfect score of the season, and Cody got sent home, sooo…  ;-) Running total: James 4, Cody 1. WINNER: James

Danica vs. Candace Danica, who got one point off from a perfect score, while Candace is still only getting lukewarm critiques & scores from the judges.  Running total: Danica 4, Candace 1.

 

So how do you guys think Disney Week panned out? Did the right person go home? Who’s on the chopping block next week? What say you? :-P