PureDWTS Season 21, Week 11 – Final Power Rankings!!! Who Will Win?

At the risk of sounding cliched – where has this season gone? Seems like only yesterday, I was catching flak from Keo fans for predicting that Chaka would be an early out, hoping & praying that Victor would last longer than a week, and was actually enjoying Tamar putting Val through the paces 🙂 It’s been a wild season with multiple curveballs thrown into it, and I’ll be honest – I’ll be glad to get my Monday nights back for a little while. But it’s been a fun ride 🙂

Last night…was a bit underwhelming for me, I’m afraid, save for maybe 2 dances. I think I’ve said this before, but I’m kinda over the “judges’ choice redo” dance – even if the couples don’t improve, I feel like they get lavished with praise, and the dance almost never feels 100% fresh, new, and exciting. On top of that, I feel like some couples get dances that there is really not a ton of room for improvement on (Bindi & Carlos), while others get to redo ones that they completely f’d up the first time around (Nick), and others get saddled redoing dances that so well-remembered for other reasons that their redo dance is bound to be a bit of a letdown (Alek, trying to best his rumba with Emma).  I feel like the only one that really benefited significantly from the redo was Nick – the rest either did slightly better or stayed about the same. I would have rather seen the couples either re-dance their favorite dance, or redo their favorite dance with new choreography and a new song.

Something else I’m a bit tired of as well? Hearing about how the freestyle is “the most important dance of the season” or how it is the “make it or break it” dance for the couples.  As I think Heidi has said before – the freestyle is not nearly as special as it once was, and hasn’t been nearly as important in affecting the outcome of the show in recent seasons as it has in the past.  Ever since season 15, when they started making the team dances a freestyle, and starting allowing the couples to use massive sets and lots of extra dancers in their regular dances, the actual freestyle in the finale has felt considerably less special – to the point where it can end up looking pretty similar to something the couple has already done (Nick), or is something that doesn’t even seem to fit a couple well, because they’re trying so hard to be “out-of-the-box” (Carlos). And sorry, but if America isn’t already voting for you BEFORE the freestyle round – I highly doubt they’re going to suddenly throw some votes your way because of it. You’re actually probably better off treating it as “just another dance” than trying to outdo yourself – because in all honesty, it’s likely not going to make much of a difference in whether you win or not, unless you completely f*ck it up.

As for Carlos – I doubt anyone was super shocked that the Toker 4 Jesus left us last night (credit to @sally_braden for that gem!), and I started getting an inkling that he was toast after the judges’ OTT gushing about that bizarre foxtrot of his, which felt stiff and awkward, on top of having a lack of…well, actual foxtrot in it. Lawd Jesus, somebody PLEASE reinstate Witney’s outside choreographer privileges, because these last few dances have just been painful to watch. I found their freestyle to be the weakest of the 4 we saw last night, simply because they seemed to throw in several elements that neither fit together cohesively nor really fit Carlos, just for the sake of doing something that had “never been done before”.  The bit with the lights on the hands at the beginning? Looked like they were directing ground traffic at an airport, and also – already been done before (Shawn & Derek’s bhangra in season 15). Including Paula, Hayes, & Alexa? Ok, it hadn’t been done, but did it really improve the routine? We only saw about 5 seconds of each one moving kinda awkwardly. The lift? He seemed to struggle with it, and it was the same one Alek did in his freestyle – only Alek did it better. The one credit I will give Carlos & Witney, though, is that the hip-hop steps they did seemed more impressive than the ones we saw in Nick’s freestyle. But more on that in a bit…

Gonna do the rankings in reverse order today, starting with 3rd place and working my way up to the winners:

3rd place: Alek & Lindsay

Still seeing a lot of naysaying about these two in the past 12 hours, and at this point, I just kinda roll my eyes – because if you don’t get why they’re in the finale, then you really don’t get this show, period. It’s not all about who the best dancer is (and it never has been), and the judges have a limited number of points they can hand out – so if someone is consistently sticking around despite low scores from the judges, then they’re clearly popular with viewers and they’re getting the votes.  I see no incentive for the show to be “rigged” for Alek to stick around – if anything, they’ve done everything in their power to try and get him out.  Behold the power of the viewer vote 🙂 Ok, rant over. His rumba went about like I thought it would – he did improve from the first one, but I didn’t think he was as emotionally connected to this one as he was his rumba with Emma (for obvious reasons), and the hip action didn’t really improve much.  *shrug* Can’t say I can really ask for a ton more out of Alek, considering that Nick conveniently never had to do rumba, and Carlos got to do a dance that was a really a rumba only in name (Magic Mike). It’s probably the hardest dance for the male celebs, and he’s the only male finalist that had to tackle it in its pure form. So I applaud him for even getting through it reasonably well 🙂 As for his freestyle – major props to Lindsay for coming up with an idea that has legitimately never been done on the show before.  And yes, the idea was hers, not Alan’s (the outside choreographer whose help she utilizes) – part of me wishes the whole Witney situation with the Emmy nomination would have never blown up, because now every time a pro (that’s not Derek) comes up with a great concept for a routine, some viewers just love to stick their noses in the air and dismiss it as “Well, they used an outside choreographer.” One, nothing wrong with using an outside choreographer; two, an outside choreographer is just that – a choreographer – and is not usually the ones coming up with the concept, costuming, sets, etc. for a dance.  Lindsay has made no secret of the fact that she enlists outside help with choreography – doesn’t mean she doesn’t have any bright ideas of her own.  I may just need to do a rant post on this after the dust settles on this season, because it’s getting a tad ridiculous – but anyway. I don’t think she could have come up with a more brilliant idea for a freestyle for Alek, and I thought it suited him perfectly – it hit on his strengths (lifts and more athletic jumping and climbing moves), he was connected with it, and it paid homage to some of his previous routines (loved the part where they all did the leg crossing move in-hold from his Argentine tango). And you know what? He did it all FLAWLESSLY and I enjoyed it.  Do I think he’ll win tonight? Hell no.  Do I think he’s got a decent shot at 2nd place? Possibly, especially if Nick was really in dire straits last week with votes – then again, Alek is also 3 points down from Nick, so he’s got a bit of a deficit to make up.  Will also be interesting to see how he scores tonight in the 24 dance challenge – if he doesn’t get a 30 and the other two do, I’d say he’s getting the Noah treatment and will likely end up in 3rd. If he does get a perfect score? They’re probably letting the chips fall where they may and Alek has such a leg up over Nick that no score in the challenge is likely to send Nick to 2nd.

Runner-up: Nick & Sharna

*sigh* I went into this season, like most folks, with very, very high hopes for these two – and now I have to wonder if those high hopes may have screwed Nick in the end, because I don’t feel like he’s been able to live up to them. Because of that, I almost feel like last night carried a tone of “Crap, we have to save Nick!” from production, as the judges just seemed to disingenuously GUSH over both of his dances, despite the fact that one was just ok-to-decent and the other was just kind of a retooling of a previous routine. His jive was a definite improvement over the previous one (which was pretty easy to improve upon, since he basically lost time in it and never got back on), but while watching it, I could help but think of his brother Aaron’s jive back in season 9, which he SLAYED, and Nick…just kind of kicked this jive in the shins.  Wish he would have picked his feet up more, and I’m a little disappointed that Sharna didn’t include a little bit more…well, jive. Seemed like the actual jive portions were small blurbs wedged in between sections of hip-hop/jazz. Nick also seemed to get a tad winded towards the end – the energy and commitment were there, but the technique and the stamina was not, unfortunately.  As for their freestyle – more than ever now, I would LOVE to know what their first choice was for a song that didn’t get cleared.  Admittedly, “Larger Than Life” is one of my LEAST favorite Backstreet Boys songs, but I think what disappointed me the most was that Sharna talked about this dance like it was this revolutionary, unique, never-before-seen freestyle…and I felt like it was just a more complicated retooling of their “Backstreet’s Back” jazz earlier in the season.  And I was kinda shocked at how simple some of the choreography was – although at one point, it actually looked like the background dancers were out of sync.  Costumes were cool, and the dancing wasn’t bad (although Nick looked like he was really struggling with those lifts), but overall – it just didn’t excite me, and that unfortunately seems to be the theme of this season for me with regards to Nick.  He’s not bad – but he’s not as great as I would have hoped. But I think if TPTB have their way, it will be Bindi & Nick as the last two standing tonight.

Winner: Bindi & Derek

Bindi’s dancing has been exemplary all season – and last night was no different, so I would rather talk about why I think Bindi is the ideal example of why I love this show 🙂 Bindi came into this show with no dance experience, and a rather small US fanbase – remember, it’s been 9 years since her father, who was well-known in the States, died, and it’s not like Bindi has had a huge, far-reaching following here since then.  And she has made viewers ADORE her. There will always be juggernauts with huge preexisting fanbases that come on this show – the Donny’s, the Kirstie’s, the Apolo’s – but I always find myself extra-fascinated by those who don’t come in with a large following, and manage to win over viewers to really create a fanbase from the show. On top of that, like Alek, Bindi has tackled pretty much everything they’ve thrown at her with grace and hard work – no meltdowns, no tantrums, no tears, and despite something so tragic happening to her at such a young age, she just seems so relentlessly optimistic and hopeful.  I look at Nick, who still seems to very much carry around the pain of his drug problems, his sister’s death, and his estrangement from his parents, and it just seems to make him so guarded and bitter at times – and I’m sure many of us would feel the same way.  But Bindi? Each heartbreak and set back just seems to renew her hope for better things to come – she is a light in the dark. And she’s a light that I think we all could use in times like these that we’re living in – a smile, a giggle, and a word of hope from this little Australian Mary Poppins could probably do us all a bit of good 🙂 So for that reason – the fact that she’s won most of us over with her hopefulness and gratitude for the experience – I think she’ll be the one hoisting that trophy tonight.

So ends the power rankings for this season 🙂 What did you guys think of last night? How do you think things will shake out tonight?