PureDWTS Season 18, Week 7 – Power Rankings

Sooooo…anyone else have an unpleasant sense of deja vu from season 14 after last night’s show? Cause I sure am…it’s only the names that have changed: William Levy has been replaced with Meryl, and Donald Driver has been replaced with Charlie. William/Meryl can do no wrong in the eyes of the judges, is bathed in praise, and gets free passes for doing things that other couples get called out on in a heartbeat; while poor Donald/Charlie busts his ass and delivers not only some stellar dances, but manages to keep a smile on his face – yet week after week, he’s nitpicked to death by the judges and looks (along with his partner) beyond hurt as it’s happening. I hated the whole situation two years ago, and I hate it again now – the blatant pimping and obvious hosing of some couples vs. others is making me check out of this season just a little bit more with each passing week. There’s only one glimmer of hope on the horizon: William, despite all the pimping on his season, was only able to eke out 3rd place…while Donald, the weekly redheaded stepchild in the eyes of the judges, ended up winning the whole thing. Just some food for thought…

So Latin week was kind of a joke, which we already expected – The majority of the music did not fit either the dances they were meant for, nor the overall theme of the evening – and I saw some pretty INTERESTING costuming choices tonight (which is saying something, considering it was only 2 weeks ago that Mark was dressed as a crab and we had troupe members dressed as dinnerware). Most of the dances were also too overproduced, with extraneous props and dancers muddling up the stage. As for Ricky – he was better than Redfoo and not as good as Julianne. Probably on-par with Robin & Donny. I found myself thankful for his presence overall, especially when he wasn’t afraid to whip out a ten paddle for a couple that the other judges were really ripping apart without reason. He seemed like the equalizing force on the judging panel tonight, and he did seem to be genuinely enjoying the performances.

The surprise scene-stealers from tonight’s show? Danica’s fractured rib, which was pretty swiftly upstaged by Amy’s injured back – and both seemed to throw a wrench into things, to some degree. As for the elimination – it was NeNe’s time to go, whichever way you cut it. I think both her individual dance and team dance tonight really made that clear – she just wasn’t at the same level as her fellow competitors. But I did end up enjoying her on this season FAR more than I thought it would. 🙂 Not sure what to make of James & Charlie joining her in jeopardy – part of me thinks it was a bit of a gimmick (“OMG!!! All of Team Vida in jeopardy???”), while the other part thinks it was trying to spur more votes for the boys in order to keep them around – the girls outnumber the boys 2 to 1 now. Might make for a more interesting final few weeks if they can keep both guys and girls around…

1.) Meryl & Maks – Can we just talk about her costume really quickly? I’m not quite sure what type of look they were going for there – I saw all sorts of comparisons on Twitter: “She looks like Paula Abdul circa 1988!” “She looks like she’s 25 years late to try out as a Fly Girl on In Living Color!” “Was Maks trying to make her look like a chola???” Her hair was really bugging me – it was that over-teased, over-permed look that we saw in the late 80s-early 90s.  I finally figured out who it reminded me of: Paula Jones, the gal that sued President Clinton for sexual harassment. I just did not get that look – what’s wrong with some of the more feminine Latin costumes we’ve seen for salsa in the past? They seem to enhance the hip action of the dance so much more, and they don’t make the ladies look like caricatures of themselves. But anywho – it was a great dance, yes, and Meryl handled it well; but was it really necessary to have the troupe there AT ALL, let alone present for the entire dance??? It was a distraction and only added to the overstuffed, overproduced feel of the dance.  The routine was stuffed to the gills with choreography – almost too much choreography – and then you added a bunch of extra people to the stage? Visually, just wayyyy too much to process.  If I were the judges, I probably would have deducted another point just for over-utilizing the troupe…it did detract from the performance, for me, since Meryl was obviously handling the dance masterfully.  And the princess gets bathed in praise and gets by with only a minor scolding from Len – and another near-perfect score.  Color me not surprised.  I will reiterate: I’m sure Meryl is a lovely human being and is working hard and really learning to dance.  But I feel like she’s already been pre-determined as the winner, and the whole narrative of the season is being set up in order to ensure she wins – at the expense of others who are working just as hard and dancing just as well.

2.) Charlie & Sharna – I definitely had one of those “I wanna shoot my t.v. with my .38 special!!!’ moments last night when I watched Charlie & Sharna’s hearts both break as they got hosed by the judges…YET AGAIN.  I’m just at a complete loss at this point – why do the judges seem to have it out for them??? I watched this paso doble 5 times after the show wrapped last night, looking for errors – besides the VERY slight wobble on the knee spin, I could find nothing wrong with it.  The choreography was spot-on, the technique was great (which was good to hear, since earlier in the week Deep Throat said Charlie was looking wayyyy too flowy), and I feel like they both really sold the performance.  The way the judges were talking, you would have thought Charlie had gone center stage and bit the head off a bat, a la Ozzy Osbourne.  Carrie Ann in particular just sounded like a high-and-mighty twit this week, incoherently babbling on and on about what Charlie needs to do to get a 10 (while Ricky looked totally disinterested in what she was saying…muahahaha!!!); Len wasn’t at all helpful, just saying “It wasn’t special. Sorry.” The only judge that gave halfway constructive feedback was Bruno, and all he cited was the wobbly knee spin.  So not only did the judges hose them – they also didn’t really offer up any ways in which they could improve.  So yeah…I can’t blame Sharna for being totally pissed on Twitter.  They can’t please the judges, and the judges won’t tell them how it can be done.  Is Charlie doing well that threatening to the narrative of Meryl & Maks winning this season that the judges simply cannot bear to praise them??? Thankfully, I’m seeing more rage than ever from the fans – lots of Charlie fans & non-Charlie fans alike going “Ok, WTF is going on?” and throwing votes this way – and who knows, maybe this is what TPTB intended all along: rile up the fans enough that they flood the lines with votes for Charlie and he ends up winning.  Lord knows – but it’s a dangerous game they’re playing, and if they keep it up for much longer, they run the risk of both fans and some of the couples checking out – because who wants to fight a losing battle?

3.) Amy & Derek – Color me pleasantly surprised – I was afraid that Amy was going to REALLY struggle with hip action, but she actually handled it really well – very nice transfers of weight and even some nice swivel actions. Loved the simplicity of the routine – notice that there were no extraneous props or dancers, and still this dance was nice to watch? Less is more, people 🙂 Loved her dress, too, and I think the song actually worked.  I rewatched this routine as well, trying to figure out where the back injury occurred – my only guess is that something got torqued when she went down into that back bend at the end, and then it got exacerbated when Derek carried her up the stairs to the Celebraquarium – because she didn’t seem to be in significant pain until she got up there.  Who knows – I’m just hoping she is able to find some relief, because I really want to see their Argentine tango next week.  Will likely be a challenge, but I think they’ve both proven they’re up for it.  As for Carrie Ann? She’s a wimp and a twit who can’t stand behind anything she says without caving in to pressure.  So she can take her lift policing and shove it up her…

4.) James & Peta – *sigh* I think I would have liked this dance sooooo much more if they hadn’t gone for the smut angle…and I’m not a prude.  Yes, they got one of the sh*ttier songs last night, and that probably dictated what they were and weren’t able to do; but was it really necessary to have Peta in her underwear??? “Your costume might be too skimpy”… if they can’t find a place to put your mic 😛 I didn’t really see how that fit in with the mechanic theme – the stripping down to the underwear just seemed self-indulgent.  Also didn’t really like James with the coveralls falling off his torso – reminded me too much of Cody’s stupid genie pants that looked like he had deuced in his diaper.  It also obscured  a lot of the hip action (or lack thereof), which was probably the idea.  Cringed on the samba rolls – it was a nice try, but James was just too stiff to get a good, smooth rolling action.  Saw some other samba “standards”, but was not seeing a lot of hip action from James – and I get the overall feeling that this was a dance he & Peta just kinda wanted to get out of the way, and they weren’t really enjoying themselves.  Guess I can’t blame them, with a song that bad.  Hopefully they handle their Viennese waltz next week better – and I get the feeling that the “Rushers” are voting harder than we might think.  They seem very active online – seeing a lot of retweets from them, which I appreciate 🙂

5.) Candace & Mark – And finally the confident Candace we saw in week 1 returns with a vengeance! I think this ended up being my favorite routine of the night – just a very clean, interesting-to-watch Argentine tango.  Maybe not the most complex routine we’ve seen, but I loved the mood of it and Candace seemed to really nail the footwork and the frame.  My only complaint? She seemed to get a little squatty on some of the moves where she bent down in front of Mark.  I’m just hoping she can hold onto this momentum heading into the next few weeks – because I would much rather see her last into the semifinals over Danica.  I think she’s proven that she has fans – she’s gotten saved from elimination more than once already.  Will be interesting to see how she and Mark handle the next few weeks.

6.) Danica & Val – I think Mama Spence (despite fighting a nasty case of periorbital cellulitis) finally was able to articulate for me the problem I have when Danica tries to be “sexy”: she ends up looking like Honey Boo-Boo. Not literally, but in that “look at me, I’m a kid pageant queen, watch me get all sassy and coy in my little cowgirl outfit – and then laugh it off because I’m just a kid and you know I’m just hamming it up!” kind of way. “Sexy” does not come naturally to her – so when she tries to do it, it looks a bit awkward and adolescent. I would say this was probably the weakest dance we’ve seen from Danica – we may never know how profound a role her injury may have played in her kinda flubbing this dance, but I was seeing a LOT of missed leads, forgotten choreography, and wayyyy too much of the troupe. I have to wonder if some missed rehearsal time resulted in some lack of clarity on the choreography, as well as limited mobility due to the injury.  I also think Val unfortunately picked both a song and a theme that would have probably suited Zendaya better than Danica – I don’t see Danica as the type that is naturally more of a hip-hop-style mover.  And WTF is up with wedge sneakers??? I know the idea was to make it look more “street”, but it just ended up looking kind of clunky.  So that being said – I kinda get the feeling Danica could be in trouble next week.  Pretty weak score tonight, and she doesn’t seem to be generating the same kind of sympathy that I’m seeing for Charlie.  She could be the “forgotten woman” next week.

Thoughts on the Team Dances:

I went back and forth trying to decide whether it was an advantage or disadvantage for Team Loca to just get to use their dress rehearsal tape, while Team Vida had to perform live – in the end, I think Team Loca probably benefited from just using the rehearsal tape, as the no-pressure atmosphere likely helped Candace (probably the weak link of Team Loca) and her bad case of nerves. I feel like Team Vida gave it a valiant effort – every single one of the them seemed really committed to the dance, and I thought James & Charlie’s solos were both awesome. Especially loved Charlie’s, because he seemed to have a hunger in him that I hadn’t been able to see until now.  Not sure why Carrie Ann (who was back to being a screechy, petty shrew last night) chose to direct her ire at Charlie & James – I thought they did a pretty damn good job of staying in synch, and that NeNe was the real problem, as she seemed to space quite a bit of her choreography.  Overall, I think the main problem they had was a lack of cohesiveness in their choreography – seemed like they had a lot of “parts”, but weren’t quite sure how to fit them all together; the result was a lot of running from place to place.  I think they probably would have fared better if they hadn’t tried to jam quite as much into the dance and had focused more on keeping everything clean.  And that was the area in which Team Loca really had the edge over Team Vida: their choreography may not have been as complex or exciting, but it was much cleaner and in-synch.  I actually think sticking to dancing on the stage helped to keep everything tighter and on-track.  Kinda dug that they stuck to the club theme that Ricky had in the “Livin’ La Vida Loca” video.  Not sure Team Loca had an MVP – I guess it would have to be either Meryl or Amy, as they seemed to have the most exciting solo portions.

So what did you guys think about Latin night? Did you hate the music (and the judging) as much as I did, or are you happy with how things are going? Who do you think is in trouble going into next week?