PureDWTS Season 20, Week 9 – Power Rankings

First, a commendation:  I actually thought all of the judges did a great job with their respective couples, and was pleasantly surprised at how creative they all got.  Definitely would not mind if they brought back the judges’ choice dance, in its current format, to the show next season.  Second, another commendation: tonight felt like the first night in a long time where there wasn’t really a big agenda behind the scoring.  I don’t think anyone got absurdly praised, and I don’t think anyone got absurdly punished – granted, the high level of dancing we saw tonight was a pleasant anomaly, but this was the first time in awhile where I didn’t feel like the judges were being underhanded with scores or critiques. It all seemed to fit nicely.  🙂

Not a whole lot else to add – just can’t believe it’s now week 9 and I only have one more week of this stuff before we enter the off-season…and I make it my personal mission to find Sasha a partner for next season 🙂

1.) Nastia & Sasha/Derek – I think we finally saw the last of Nastia’s walls come down this  week with both of her routines – and I’m finding myself actually kind of thankful that she ended up with the two dances she did, as they seemed to really show us both her fun side (quickstep) and vulnerable side (Viennese waltz) well.  Nastia actually seemed to be having a blast during her quickstep – and once again, I’m left thanking God for the little ray of light that is Sasha the crab/pirate/greaser/assistant/whatever anyone needs him to be, for being the perfect compliment to Nastia in this bouncy, fun quickstep that was still clean and well-executed.  Loved that we got to see both the flavor of Derek (the small section of samba steps) and Sasha (the hand-holding cartwheel) in the dance – goes to show that it really was a nice team effort of the three of them that really kept this partnership afloat during the tough times 🙂 And then there was Nastia’s Viennese waltz with Derek & Len, when unfortunately my house got really dusty and irritated my eyes…it was just so PERFECT.  As I’ve said before – as hard as Len may be on Derek while the cameras are rolling, the truth is that he just loves Derek to bits and admires his work very much.  So it was nice to see Derek playing “young  Len” in his heyday, and then Len actually stepping in to finish the dance.  It did feel like Nastia & Derek sort of reconnected at the beginning of this dance – it seemed like Nastia finally, implicitly said “Ok, Derek.  We’ve been through the ringer this season.  But I’m done keeping up this tough front and I’m embracing the journey if you are.” I don’t even feel the need to comment on technique, because it was flawless; but I can’t help but feel if that Viennese waltz was a swan song for both Derek AND Len – if so, it was a beautiful send-off for both as they enter new chapters in their lives…and I think it solidified Nastia’s spot in the finale.

2.) Noah & Sharna – I think Noah, like Nastia, also had kind of a breakthrough night tonight – a sort of awakening, where he may have shed any last hangups he had about his disabilities and really just embraced both of his dances 110%.  His Viennese really felt like a nice celebration of he & Sharna’s partnership – the little arm movements on the bench at the beginning, the dips, and the little way that Sharna kicked her leg out like Noah going up the steps (in a sort of “if you do it, I’m gonna do it, too – ’cause we’re in this together!” gesture) just felt like a really nice summary of some of their dances together this season.  Plus Noah just grinned the entire time – he was loving it.  I gotta give Carrie Ann credit – that was a pretty awesome concept and staging for that paso, and if she contributed to the choreography as well, more power to her…that was some very clever utilization of his abilities, which is saying something considering that Sharna has done an EXEMPLARY job of showing us what he can do this season.  Noah really committed to the character of it, too – I was worried about seeing him play serious again, after his “badass” persona of his jazz kinda fell flat for me a few weeks back, but he really seemed to embody the aggression of the routine well. And then dammit, my house got dusty again when he proposed to his girlfriend – say what you will about him “using it as a means to get to the finale” (highly doubt it, given that Noah has never struck me as the calculating or plotting type – plus the dude probably saw the writing on the wall and knew this was likely his last chance to profess his love on live television…*swoon*), but between his Viennese and his paso, I think he earned his spot in the finale – and I’m not at all ashamed to say he got all of my votes tonight.  I personally don’t care about the “best” dancers making the finale; I care about the most entertaining & interesting dancers making the finale to put on a good show – and he is both to me. Based on what he & Sharna have shown us, I want to see a freestyle from them – and I think he’s got a good shot at a spot.  Definitely a better once than I thought initially 🙂

3/4.)  TIE: Rumer & Val and Riker & Allison – I think both of these couples did really well tonight; the problem is, they did “really well” on a night where Nastia & Noah comparatively did GREAT.  I’ll start with Rumer – gotta admit, I don’t think that song from 50 Shades did her any favors, despite how many pros were clamoring to get it.  Here’s why: I think the expectation was that whoever got that song just HAD to pay homage to the book/movie – and I don’t necessarily think that’s a good thing (and it has nothing to do with the content of the book/movie – it was terribly written, for sure, but that’s neither here nor there).  Why? Because it seemed to zap any potential creativity from the routine itself – the “Mr. Chmerkovskiy will see you now” bit? The lip biting? The “ooh, watch us stand here and almost kiss”? It all felt contrived and predictable, and add to that some not-quite-fluid, dubious choreography  (punctuated by more stopping to almost kiss), and I was left feeling pretty unmoved by the whole routine, and thought it was the weakest of the 8 dances we saw tonight.  Had they taken that song, abandoned the 50 Shades theme altogether, and done something completely unexpected – I probably would have sat up and noticed.  I actually thought they were lucky to get Bruno for their judges’ choice dance – because for as wacky as he is when he’s sitting (or standing up, rather) at the judges’ table, he actually came across as really creative, insightful, and focused when  directing Rumer & Val, and gave them a pretty cool concept and theme.  Kinda wish we could see that Bruno in action more often 🙂 I thought Rumer was actually quite believable as the black swan, and that lift was GORGEOUS.  My only issue was that it didn’t seem quite as chock full o’ content as some of the other judges’ choice dances, likely because there’s only so much ballet that you can teach a novice in less than a week. I think Rumer may also be at a bit of a disadvantage in that she didn’t really have a super-emotional dance this week, whereas Nastia & Noah did – there just wasn’t as much for her to emotionally connect to as there was for the others.  Moving onto Riker – I think he, too, may have suffered from a slight lack of emotional connection to his dances, as well as some unfortunate (but kind of out-of-his-control) staging issues.  I enjoyed his contemporary and thought he handled it well enough – the problem was that, for the first time, I could actually see more of the effort behind it, rather than Riker just DOING it; he seemed like he had to focus a little more to hit the lines, and maybe got a little too stuck-in-his-head remembering the choreography to remember to really connect to the emotion of the dance…it also didn’t help that Allison just SLAYS at contemporary because she’s so good at tapping into the emotion of it, so Riker may have paled a bit in comparison.  As for his Argentine tango  – it was actually my least favorite of the judges’ choice dances, because it seemed to have the least fleshed-out concept, and for the fact that Riker seemed to get a bit lost in that dark suit, dancing against a dark background, with two strong, also darkly-dressed ladies flanking him.   Talk about something that could have been an easy fix – either more light or a different-colored suit that contrasted more with the background – just something to shift the focus back to Riker. He could have been dancing perfectly, who knows – I could just barely see him.  I also wonder if the music was just a tad too chill and smooth for the intensity of the tango – would have liked something with a bit more panache.  So I guess I’m just left feeling a bit more unsure about these two couples’ fates tomorrow night – I think both unfortunately had minor issues that will likely cost them in a week where some couples were flawless.  I have gone back & forth between thinking Rumer will go home and Riker will go  home about 10 times in the hour since the show ended…and I’m still not 100% sure.  Right now my gut says Riker could be in a bit more trouble (since he’s been in jeopardy so many times), but in 10 minutes that could change to Rumer – but I don’t really see both of them making it to the finale.  Tough call.

So what are your predictions for the finale? Who will fall short, and who will advance? And what did you think of the judges’ choice  dances?