PureDWTS Season 21, Week 5 – Power Rankings

Well I gotta give TPTB some props – at least they managed to last through 4 weeks before kicking the manipulation machine into high gear. But man, did they overcompensate this week – aside from Paula still at the bottom and Bindi still at the top, the scoreboard got all shuffled up this week.  Alexa shot up from being 2nd from the bottom last week, to getting the high score this week and 4th place in combined scores; Carlos jumped from 5th place last week (and in jeopardy) to getting the 2nd highest score of the night and 2nd place with combined scores. Tamar went from being part of the 3-way tie for 2nd place, to being in 7th place after this week; and poor Alek, with two weeks worth of emotional trauma (and low-balled scores) under his belt, is now second to last. Andy managed to jump from 7th place last week to 5th this week, while going from straight 7’s and 8’s to straight 9’s.  I will credit SOME of this drastic shuffling to some people getting switch partners that were much better at harnessing their talents than their original pro, while some ended up with pros that were worse than their original partner. And for the love of Jeebus, judges – be a little more understanding that it’s switch week.  I get that you have an agenda, but it BLOWS MY MIND how you can talk about how the switch is so tough in one breath, and then dole out nitpicky critiques and lowballed scores in another. Thankfully, the double elim that we were hearing about for next week was a false alarm, and only one couple is going home next Monday – but last night’s scores do make me seriously wonder what the narrative is going to look like in the coming weeks.

I found myself agreeing with Maks far more than I thought I would – and I was particularly pleased that he finally called Allison out on her busy, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink choreography. Will be interesting to see if that comment is received the same way that Alfonso’s comment to Alexa was a few weeks back – although judging from Twitch’s twitter timeline, I’m guessing it’s not going to be received well. Also felt like Maks might have taken an interesting, subtle jab at the switch-up itself, when he told Tamar “You just got together this week, so you didn’t get to connect”. He wasn’t immune to the wonky-ness, though, and he gave a couple scores that made me raise an eyebrow. I do commend  him on giving more coherent critiques this time – overall, I’d give him an 8 out of 10.

Other observations? I am very aware that Nick is a Backstreet Boy – therefore, I do not need to to see Nick doing the “Backstreet’s Back” move every week to remind me. This is the 3rd time it’s gotten thrown into a routine, and twice was enough for me – find something else for this guy to do.  Was it just me, or did the first half of the show seem to be devoted to the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it boner joke? Caught at least 3 innuendo-y moments. Also wish they would have kept Tamar in the outfit she wore for the intro dance – she looked STUNNING, and then they put her in  that weird, feathery swan dress for her actual dance.  No me gusta.

Since this is a ranking of who I think is most likely to stay or go (based on this week’s scores and last week’s), I’m half-tempted to do a “switch-up postmortem” tomorrow where I actually rank how well I thought the pros handled the switch, and maybe throw in a poll to see how you guys felt about it, too…would that be something you’re interested in?

1.) Bindi & Val (Derek) – Really and truly, I think Bindi would have excelled with any of the male pros this week, because she a) just has that much natural talent and a great work ethic and b) Derek laid a great foundation for them to rely on in weeks 1-4. So I think Val got a bit of a free pass with this one – I didn’t see Bindi sucking at really any dance or partner they threw at her.  It was a good cha-cha – choreography was a tad stop-and-go, but it’s a complaint I’ve had about his choreography before, but Bindi handled it well enough. Maybe saw a slight bobble up on the stage when she may have gotten a tad off-balance, but overall I think she handled it well.  The thing is, I thought it was at least as good as Carlos’…and yet, he got (3) 10’s while Bindi only got (1); and the 10 she did get was given simply “because I can”, according to Maks.  I think that was the one thing he did that annoyed me last night – if you’re going to give a contestant a 10, tell them it’s because they earned it; not simply “because you can”. Talk about an empty compliment.

2.) Nick & Witney (Sharna) – You know sh*t’s probably going to go sideways pretty quickly when the pro is visibly intimidated by the celeb, the celeb clearly senses it, and suddenly the celeb is taking over choreography.  Didn’t you watch Douchelord Gilles in season 15, Witney??? I don’t think this paso was meant to be funny, but it was to me – Nick was comically overselling every move, and the end result was actually kind of hilarious.  He was doing some seriously weird stuff with his hands and arms, and there were a couple times where his butt seemed to be jutting out abnormally far.  Did I mention the complete lack of shaping through his torso, too? I’m not sure where exactly the blame lies on this one – Nick for seemingly taking the reigns, or Witney for letting him…but this kinda fell apart for me, and I think 35/40 was a very kind score for what looked like zero time spent on drilling technique. Nick still seems to be the “chosen one” this season (or at least one of the chosen ones), so I doubt he’s going anywhere soon…but I daresay Witney better thank her lucky stars that Nick is popular, because I wouldn’t consider this routine a success.

3.) Alexa & Derek (Mark) – After last week’s totally bungled foxtrot, Alexa needed help – bad – and I think there’s only one pro that could have handled the task: Derek. And man, did he deliver – Alexa went from a 21/30 to a 40/40 in one week! Loved the concept and choreography on this one – just felt really dramatic, and almost epic.  I don’t know how he did it, but he managed to take Alexa’s frame from limp noodle to finely-tuned piano string in less than a week. My only gripe is this: I’m beginning to think that Alexa either just has a short neck, or isn’t able to extend it very well, because yet again I felt like her neck line looked kinda clipped again this week.  Please, hair department – give this girl a beehive and watch her neck grow. I normally don’t like the troupe being used so heavily in a routine, but loved the bit where they all linked up at the end and tangoed together. Loved that Alexa looked confident and invested for the first time this season – did she even mention Carlos once? 🙂 Still not sure how she’s doing with votes, so I kinda wondered about this score – although of the 3 routines last night that received at least (1) 10, I think hers was the most deserving. Will be interesting to see if she’s able to maintain the momentum from working with Derek when she returns to working with Mark.

4.) Carlos & Lindsay (Witney) – I daresay Lindsay kinda put Witney on-notice last night – because Carlos looked better with Lindsay than he has all season with Wit. Lindsay somehow managed to preserve the stage presence Carlos has (which we really haven’t seen full force since week 2), while somehow correcting a lot of the quirks he seems to have – his arms didn’t seem so wonky this week, and she seemed to get him to keep his shoulders down more often (though I did still see them sneaking up when they were in promenade position). Definitely a fun routine, and good choreography – but I think it was overscored, relative to Bindi and Alexa, especially since I still feel like Carlos’ technique is flawed.  I’m wondering if the score had more to do with a) the fact that it was just a really fun, energetic routine to a good song, or b) Carlos is not getting the votes and they needed to give him a boost. Are they really dead set on convincing us that the married couple is worth keeping? It just bugs, considering that they chose to do this in a week where there’s only going to be one elimination…and Paula’s really in the basement.  Is Carlos REALLY suffering that badly that he needs that much of a cushion from Paula? Kinda makes you wonder if they purposely stuck him with Lindsay (instead of Allison, who I’ve been told he was pretty vocal about wanting in the switch) – because they knew she could give him a boost.

5.) Tamar & Louis (Val) – Was Tamar sick this week? When she was talking in the red room after getting her scores, she sounded really hoarse – which makes me wonder if she was just not feeling 100% tonight. Anywho – I feel for Tamar a bit, because she got saddled with one of the tougher dances to contend with during switch week.  Samba  is tough enough when you’re with your regular partner, but when you’ve gotta do it with a new partner (that you happen to tower over by a few inches) and he’s not holding back on the choreography, you’ve got a tough row to hoe. Unfortunately, Tamar seemed to get a tad unsteady on her feet from time to time, which probably could have been fixed easily had Louis gotten her to close her thighs more on each pass. I also agree with Maks (and the other judges, who’ve said the same thing about her in previous weeks) that Tamar seemed to come alive when she was dancing by herself…but she shuts down a bit when she’s dancing with a partner.  Saw a little bit of the weird tango eyes in this one, too.  I think Tamar will be fine next week, but I do wonder if she has some walls up that are really preventing her from connecting to any partner.

6.) Andy & Sharna (Allison) – Just watching Andy dance with someone other than Allison makes me wish that he had gotten someone other than Allison as his partner this season 🙁 I think we’ve all seen shades of his potential throughout the weeks, but that potential seems to be getting bogged down and lost in the shuffle with Allison’s overcomplicated choreography. With Sharna, the choreography got cleaned up and clarified, and he was able to actually focus and do it well – saw a few little quirks with feet and frame here and there, but overall, it was the best dance we’ve seen him do…great musicality, great stage presence, and he was able to actually keep up with the choreography. And oddly enough – Sharna seemed to be more at ease and having more fun this week than I’ve seen her do the last few weeks with Nick.  Not sure if it’s the pressure of having this season’s “chosen one” or just Nick’s own intensity rubbing off on her, but I feel like Sharna’s been a little more intense herself this season. Was nice to see her cut loose and enjoy herself this week.  Still feel like Andy could be in danger in the coming weeks – but I think Sharna may have bought him an extra week of safety.

7.) Alek & Emma (Lindsay) – You all probably already know how I felt about this one 🙂 So I’ll try to keep the swooning to a minimum, but I make no promises. If there was one thing that Emma succeeded in, it was getting Alek to actually smile and connect with her (in a major way) during the dance – one thing that has kinda left me wanting with he & Lindsay so far is that they have more of a brother/sister chemistry, which tends to make dances like the tango and paso seem a bit…tepid. Ummm…no worries about that with Emma 😉 This rumba was HOT. Loved the “manhandling”, the face touching, and really – just the way he LOOKED at Emma.  Those were MOMENTS, and they’re the same ones I’ve been praising in Bindi & Nick’s routines the past few weeks. Sure, he didn’t have a whole lot in the way of hip action, but Maks was right when he said that Alek is sturdy (he was there at every moment for Emma), and he’s got some gorgeous lines (that lunge was great!). I think this was underscored by AT LEAST 3 points – I would have given it at least straight 8’s.  Not sure why they felt the need to lowball so much – is Alek just running away with votes, and potentially stealing Carlos’ thunder?

8.) Hayes & Allison (Emma) – Poor Hayes – someone had to end up with the weak pro, and I guess he drew the short straw.  I’m wondering if he’s slaying in the votes, anyway, and so they didn’t have any qualms sticking him with the weak link and putting Carlos with Lindsay – even though, by my count, he should have gotten Lindsay and Carlos should have gotten Allison. Once again, Allison just seemed to load up this dance with every step she could think of EXCEPT the basic Viennese waltz step – and then she very quickly ran out of things to do, and so she just repeated some flaily arms and way too quick shadow position steps.  Poor Hayes kept up as best he could – and I think he actually did a decent job – but the choreography was just so chaotic and jumpy that I could barely recognize this as a Viennese waltz. Random, rhetorical question: if so many folks are using outside choreographers behind the scenes, why isn’t Allison??? She’s arguably the one that needs it most, since she has so little ballroom & Latin experience.  Somebody, for the love of god, get Wendy Johnson on the phone and tell her to start whipping up some routines, and then lock Allison in a studio with Shirley Ballas for 3 days straight and don’t let her come out until she’s at least as competent as Lacey. Thankfully, I think Hayes has enough votes (and enough of a bubble, no matter how small) to keep him safe through next week’s elim. But I’ll be glad to see him back with Emma…

9.) Paula & Mark (Louis) – God bless Mark – I think he managed to ensure that both he & Paula had a great time this week, even if she’s still not able to do much.  I actually thought it was really smart of him to do single-time jive – why haven’t more pros done this in the past with older contestants that clearly can’t keep up with full-speed jive. But I was actually pleased with how well she was able to do some basic jive moves as that low speed – I saw swivels, some sliding doors, and basic in-place. Sure, there wasn’t much in the way of kicks and flicks, but I think Mark went for what he knew Paula could carry off successfully, and then didn’t worry about the rest. I think the most important aspect of this performance was just that these two had fun…and they did 🙂 I think Paula’s pretty much toast next week, but I think she’ll be ok with that – she’s just not got a whole lot left she can do, and I think our little buttercup would melt under the pressure of multiple dances in a week.

So those are my thoughts…what are yours?