PureDWTS Season 18, Week 8 – Power Rankings

Much ado about Abby Lee Miller – and honestly, for as bad as I thought she might be, I think she scores she gave were (for the most part) fair, even if she was nitpicking to death on any technique flubs she could find. It was as if the producers had told her “nitpick all you want, but you can’t give any score below an 8″. And a few of the scores seemed a bit too perfect, if you ask me – as if they had be predetermined, because some of the critiques were not matching the scores AT ALL. What I don’t think the producers had planned on, though, was Abby being a bit of a loose cannon – she said a few things that made me go “Ooh, pretty sure the producers didn’t want that broadcasted.” Watching rehearsals??? Pretty sure the judges have always vehemently denied that they do that…yet Abby admitted it like it was a commonplace thing. And then there was Abby sorta-kinda outing Danicanotadancer as a highly trained dancer…I had a good chuckle on that one…

…speaking of Danica, did anyone else get the impression that she was not all that upset about getting eliminated? Maybe she kinda had an idea that her number was up and had already made peace with it, maybe she is just exhausted and eager to get back to her son, maybe the tiff with Maks during duel rehearsal left a bad taste in her mouth…but I didn’t see the emotional display from her I thought we would see when she got eliminated. I was expecting Brandy & Elizabeth Berkeley-esque tears and displays of desperation, given how Type A Danica seems to be…was pleasantly surprised to see her so gracefully accept the whole thing. Maybe in the end, she was glad to have all that pressure off of her to do well…can’t say I blame her.  And this season more than ever, I see the difference between the Chmerkovskiy brothers: Val seems to “get it”, while I’m not sure Maks EVER will.  I think Val is starting to understand what it takes to do well on DWTS, and is developing a more clever, out-of-the-box, Derek-like attitude about things; Maks, on the other hand, seems like an old dog who can’t learn new tricks – and he’s hellbent on winning the show on HIS terms or he’s gonna die trying.  I’ve always felt like Val was the better choreographer, but now I feel like he’s also got the right mindset to win this show someday – and I think Maks is just too set in his ways to really get flexible enough to win (unless he gets a ton of help from the men upstairs).

Which brings me to the “I don’t care about anything she says” heard ’round the world.  *sigh* Do I agree with the sentiment? Yes.  Do I think Maks was just saying what the rest of us were thinking? Yes.  Do I think it was smart of him to say? Errrrr…yes and no.  As I mentioned on Twitter, I wish he would have waited until after their duel had been scored to say it – because saying it after their first dance meant that there was a target on his back for their second dance.  Abby Lee was a complete jerkwad, no doubt – but she was also a jerkwad holding the scoring paddles, and a vindictive jerkwad at that.  What’s to say that Abby might have given them a 9 on that samba instead of an 8, had Maks not said what he said after their rumba? Sure, it was only one point, but you just never know – and this is why I almost always think it’s a better idea for the pros to just bite their tongue when they get the urge to talk back to the judges.  You just never know what the consequences might be…and often, its their celebrity partner that’s paying the price.  At least Val was smart enough to wait until the scores for their second dance were already locked in before talking back to Abby…

1.) Amy & Derek – I’ll admit, I was terribly skeptical when I heard that a stool was going to play a major role in Amy & Derek’s Argentine tango – but leave it to Derek to get creative with it and do that cool (and undoubtedly difficult) chair lean move with Amy.  And of course, Amy wowed me yet again with her footwork – when you take into account that all of her movements are guided through her hips and thighs, it’s amazing that she can achieve the sort of precise foot movements with her prostheses that the Argentine tango demands.  To me, it’s kind of like having to tie your shoe – using a stick.  You have to have a very acute awareness to where your limbs begin & end, and how you have to move in order to get them to do what you want – because there are no nerves there telling the body what to do.  Rather than just muscle memory, dancing like this also becomes an exercise in spatial awareness, balance, and compensating with other muscle groups to make up for the ones you don’t have.  I’m impressed that she was able to do Argentine tango at all – let alone that she was able to master it like she did.  One slight hesitation towards the end with the stool? Not a big deal, just like dropping a cane.  :-) I just hope Amy fans actually voted and didn’t get complacent – I think they voted, but stranger things have happened…

2.) Meryl & Maks – Ok, for those of you who ask me week after week “Why do you hate Meryl???” (although I’m pretty sure you don’t actually want to know the answer, you just want to feel like you’re defending her honor), here’s an answer for you: I don’t HATE her (that’s a strong word, and it gets thrown around way too much), I get annoyed with THE SITUATION surrounding her on this show.  And tonight was a great example of that – while some of you were whining about her getting “underscored” for her rumba, I thought she was getting off relatively easy for a rumba that had even LESS rumba content than Charlie’s much-maligned rumba with Peta in week 4, which got a full three points less than this one.  Did I also mention that Meryl was not wearing ballroom shoes (strike 1), there was too much “messin’ about” with the props (strike 2), and Meryl’s feet were not pointed for most of the dance (strike 3)? Charlie’s wore the proper shoes for his rumba, had no props, and still managed to point his feet – and he still got THREE POINTS LESS than this contemporary routine with a rumba label slapped on it. THIS is why I cannot support Meryl & Maks – they are constantly cut breaks for things everyone else gets called out on.  So while some of you are complaining about it being underscored – I think they should thank their lucky stars that the judges like them, because others have gotten really slammed for doing similar things.  Not sure if Maks thought he was taking a calculated risk or not with the storyline and choreography (probably not, because as I mentioned, I don’t think he really “gets” this show), but I’m not sure it paid off with the judges…and please, Meryl & Maks fans wringing your hands over her getting eliminated next week and begging Heidi to rearrange her schedule to do the “By The Numbers” post earlier, GET A GRIP.  You’re being overdramatic – it blows my mind that a fanbase that was so certain Meryl was going to win a week ago is suddenly panicking because she got low-balled.  Meryl ain’t going anywhere – and TPTB got exactly what they wanted by whipping everyone into a frenzy over her low scores.  If she gets eliminated next week (and she won’t), even I will cry foul because she does deserve to be in the finale, despite my annoyance over what I perceive to be favoritism towards her by the judges. I think TPTB’s endgame has always been a Meryl vs. Charlie final two – do you really think they would risk that by low-balling her if they didn’t think she could get the votes to make up for it?

3.) Charlie & Sharna – FINALLY!!! Charlie (sort of) gets the love he deserves :-) He was just totally “on” during this quickstep – seemed like a dance that really fit well in his wheelhouse.  He was handling the intricacies of the footwork well, and keeping a level topline – and his frame looked great.  But I did notice something while he was chasse-ing down the dance floor, and I think it was Abby that may have pointed it out as well – I feel like Charlie’s hair gives the illusion that he’s moving a lot more wildly than he really is.  Looking at his posture as he danced, I knew he was keeping everything appropriately controlled; but when even the slightest motion makes that blonde mop bounce around, it just makes it seem like he’s bobbing all over the place out there! But the weird part is – he got totally hosed in both of the dances where he gelled his hair back, and I think I remember one of the judges remarking that he looked “wild” in his paso.  I just can’t seem to reconcile the hair.  But anyway – loved the choreography in this quickstep, especially the little tango section in the middle…was skeptical when I heard about it, but it actually fit quite nicely with the music.  Was pissed when the judges started nitpicking the routine right out of the gate – and then threw up the 10 paddles. WTF.  But hey, if the only thing Abby could find to pick at was the way Charlie held his leg in the leap, then it must be a pretty damn good routine :-) I think he, Meryl, & Amy are probably a lock for the finals…but the last slot is a bit more murky…

4.) Candace & Mark – Candace may have had a rough go of it in weeks 2-6, but she’s really hit a nice stride these past two weeks – she seems like she’s shaken off the nerves and finally started enjoying herself out on the floor, and it’s had a very positive effect on her overall performance quality.  What a cute foxtrot theme – loved how into it both she & Mark seemed to get.  Seemed to have a decent amount of foxtrot content, and had a fun, upbeat rhythm to it that kept me watching…which is good, because I find that I can get bored with foxtrot very quickly if it’s not done right.  And I just love the 50’s housewife look they gave her :-P I think I said this on Twitter last night, but I’ll say it again here: I just think Candace is GORGEOUS.  Pretty eyes, pretty hair, great skin, and a youthful vibe that makes me think that she, John Stamos, Lori Loughlin, and Andrea Barber all split the cost of a hyperbaric chamber to sleep in, because NONE of them look like they’ve aged a day since Full House wrapped 19 years ago.  Say what you will about her beliefs and politics – she’s doing something right, because she looks great.  Now as for her chances of getting to the finale – I’d say she’s probably going to be duking it out with James for slot #4.  I think she’s got a decent shot – can’t decide if her fans or the Rushers will emerge victorious, but I think she has gained a nice momentum these past two weeks and is having a growth arc that seems popular with viewers.  If she makes it to the actual finale, though, I have to wonder if she’s going to be able to hack it or if she’s gonna have another meltdown – she handled two dances ok for this week, but when they throw 3-4 at her during finale week? Yikes.

5.) James & Peta – I know I said last week that James’ samba was the weakest dance we’d seen from him since his week 1 foxtrot, but I actually think this Viennese waltz actually bested that title :-( Just a rather awkward routine from him this week – his legs were, indeed, too bent, which is an unfortunate trend when he does the ballroom dances; he also seemed to be struggling to stay on top of the beat, and I saw some tangled, shuffle-y looking feet as a result.  On top of that – he didn’t seem terribly invested in the dance, and seemed like he was just trying to get it over with.  And I can’t really blame him – I wasn’t wild about the song, and I think that kinda set the tone for the whole dance.  The 10 from Abby? Absurd, but when you take into account that he got the same score as Candace & Danica when all was said & done, I tend to think the men upstairs said something to the tune of “Listen, judges – Candace, Danica, & James all need to get the same score.  Danica’s already toast, but James & Candace are probably in the greatest danger of going home next week, and we need them to be neck-and-neck.  Each gets a 36 – I don’t care how you divvy that up amongst yourselves.”  So I guess when all’s said & done, I’m not too bothered by the 10 – although I do think Candace danced better than him this week. The upside to the Viennese waltz? They can cross another ballroom dance off the list, and all they have left now is waltz.  The downside? I’m wondering if he still got the votes this week, and fear that he could be in danger of getting eliminated just short of the finals – I guess I’m kind of torn, trying to decide whether his Rushers or Candace’s fans have more clout this season. And unfortunately, I’m leaning towards the latter, who seems to be peaking at the right time…while James has hit a bit of a slump.  :-( I do think he deserves to be in the finale (and would probably cope better with the demanding dance schedule than Candace), but my gut is telling me that Candace will be there instead. 

 

Thoughts on the Dance Duels:

Meryl & Danica dancing samba – I know I can’t be the only one that got the impression that none of the 4 people dancing in this routine were particularly excited about it or having fun doing it – and I think that’s what ultimately left me feeling “meh” about it.  Sure, there were synchronization issues galore , and Meryl & Danica weren’t even doing some of the moves with the right technique (look at both girls’ arms during the samba rolls), and there were those damn clunky wedge sneakers again (wardrobe, BURN THEM), and their duo section was a complete dud, but the fact that they all looked like they’d rather be somewhere else just made the whole routine a fail for me.  I doubt Maks yelling at the girls “You don’t look like you’re having fun!!!” during rehearsal helped – it reminds me of a sign one of my coworkers used to have in his cubicle: “The beatings will continue until morale improves!”  ‘Cause yelling at people to have fun surely improves the situation :-P And like Heidi, I looked at that side-by-side section of Meryl & Danica and said “That’s seriously the best they could choreograph for them?” Both have proven they can handle hard choreography – hell, I would have taken a page out of the Riccardo & Yulia handbook and made the crowd go wild by having Danica do a shadow roll with Meryl.  But no – they were handed some pretty kindergarten-y choreography that neither one danced with any sort of conviction…or synchronization.  And please spare me the “but Courtney, samba is soooo difficult to do as a group!” – go back and watch the samba team dance in season 16.  If Derek can make it work with FOUR couples (including Andy Dick), then two much more skilled couples doing it for a much shorter period of time should have been a walk in the park.  But I will give them this: “I Luh Yah Papi” is a terrible, nonsensical song with a really flaccid (yeah, I said it) samba beat.  I almost feel like that flaccidity pervaded the entire dance – everyone was just limply & passively dancing their way through the routine.

Charlie & Candace dancing contemporary – Right off the bat, I think this group may have had a bit of an advantage in that they didn’t really have to mirror each other exactly – contemporary tends to get its organic feel from the fact that not everything is super matchy-matchy and perfect.  I thought they had a good story – two people in serious relationships with other people end up having a one-night stand, but their feelings grow, and they have a hard time breaking things off with their respective, reluctant significant others.  The choreography with all 4 of them on the floor at the same time was good, but I think the section with just Charlie & Candace was GREAT – aside from one small bobble on the second lift (I think), the rest of those lifts were as smooth as butter: I kept forgetting that Candace is not a pro at lifts, because she just flowed through them so well.  Girl must seriously be a NATURAL because the only dancers I know that handle lifts that well have all had extensive training in being lifted.  Or who knows – maybe it was Charlie being a strong partner and effectively counteracting any errors Candace may have made.  Regardless, I enjoyed the routine, and thought the judges harped wayyyy too much on some alleged slip that Sharna had at the beginning.  Nitpick, nitpick, nitpick…although, if I have to nitpick myself, I do have to say that I hate the “angsty face” that Candace makes during dances like her rumba and this contemporary.  Seems a little…overwrought :-P

Amy & James dancing jive –  I think this routine was the gold standard for synchronization this week – I didn’t even see the misstep that allegedly happened at the beginning.  Loved the side-by-side section of all four of them at the beginning – was just blown away at how in-sync they were doing it.  I actually have to commend James for partnering Amy well, too – loved that he wanted to make sure she felt supported, but also admired that he wasn’t afraid to stand too close…a kick to the shin from a carbon-fiber prosthetic leg has GOT to hurt! All the partnering here seemed effortless, and loved how they even ended the routine totally on-time and in-sync.  Just a lot of IMPACT.  It may not have had a creative storyline or fancy formations, but I think it ultimately was the best at accomplishing the goal of the duel dance: to see how well the celebs partnered each other.

So those are my thoughts on last night’s performances.  What are yours? :-)