PureDWTS Season 23, Week 1 – Power Rankings

Well, that was all going so well and I honestly thought last night was going to go off without a hitch until some asshats decided to infiltrate the audience and turn it into their own personal platform for protesting Lochte. I don’t really care if you love Lochte or hate him – last night was not the night, the studio was not the place, the manner in which they protested was not acceptable. After that, it was as if all the air got sucked out of the ballroom, and everyone just wanted to go home.  It took the mickey out of Ryan’s performance, diminished the enthusiasm for Laurie’s (a bit), and if Twitter was any indicator, the viewers were more interested in talking about what happened with the protesters than who did well/who their favorites were.  *sigh* Guess there’s gonna be a bit of a need for more thorough screening of audience members and more beefed-up security, from now on…

Moving on from that, I’m left with some very mixed feelings about tonight’s show – there were some that did much better than I thought (namely Ryan, Rick, Terra, Rob, & Hinch), some that didn’t do quite as well as I would have hoped (Marilu, Amber, & Babyface), and some that just kinda left me scratching my head (namely Jake).  Part of me feels like the energy of the show was brought down a tad not just because of the protesters, but just the fact that the ballroom dances we were given seemed a bit…languid.  Not sure if it was a pacing problem or what, but it seemed like there just weren’t enough high-energy dances to break up the more flowing ones. Or maybe the ones that were supposed to be “high-energy” just…weren’t.  I dunno…just a weird pacing problem tonight.

Just as a reminder for the regulars and an FYI for the newbs, the power rankings are a rank of who I think is least likely to most likely to get voted off next week – those at the top of the list are safest, with decreasing estimates of safety as you go further down the list, with the couple at the bottom being my prediction for who goes home next week. It takes into account not only their score, but also how likeable they were, how memorable they were, how likely (or unlikely) the fans are to throw them votes, how big their voting fanbase is, etc. So if you’re here to say “Well so-and-so got a higher score than such-and-such, you should have them higher!” – you’re outta your element, Donnie. Let’s proceed…

1.) James & Sharna – Still toying over whether to refer to him as “James” or “Hinch” here (I’m so used to the latter), but he stole the show for me tonight – and yes, I’m totally biased 😛 But I honestly think he & Sharna were the only male celeb/female pro couple that had the whole package: they were likeable, they danced well, they had content, and minimal technique issues.  Saw a few minute timing issues where it looked like James may have been rushing a bit, but I don’t think he ever went fully off-time, which is good.  And my god – his frame & posture were HEAVENLY. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a ballroom frame on a male celeb look that good in week 1 before – and a good chunk of them continue to struggle with it all season long. If he’s already nailed it in week 1 – he’s one to watch, for sure.  Running order position wasn’t the greatest, but if there was one good thing (and even then, I cringe labeling it as “good”) that came out of dancing in the first half of the show last night, it was that your performance wasn’t overshadowed by the drama with the protesters. I expect we’ll probably see him in the back half of the show next week…solid effort for week 1.

2.) Laurie & Val – I was honestly convinced that Laurie would be the top of this list tonight before the show even began – and had the outburst with the protesters not occurred, she probably would be.  But that energy shift after it all went down makes me think that she may not have been as memorable as she would have been otherwise – to no fault of her own, but it is what it is. From the looks of social media, everyone seemed to be pretty hung-up on the Lochte incident while Laurie was dancing – I sincerely doubt she’s in any danger of going home, but she just was a bit less memorable by being unfortunate enough to follow the outburst.  Overall, a great cha-cha – she stayed on-time, she sold it, it was high-energy.  But I do have one complaint, and it does give me pause: everything felt very PUNCHY, as if she was doing moves on the beam or during a floor exercise.  Just punctuated just a bit too much, to the point that it seemed to interrupt the flow of the dance a bit.  Can Val fix it? Time will tell.  If not, I think she’s probably going to fall somewhere between bland, robotic Aly and energetic, open-to-whatever Shawn on the spectrum of gymnasts on DWTS  – better than the former, but perhaps not quite as “game” as the latter.

3.) Marilu & Derek – First off, I love that Marilu visibly fangirled over the fact that she got Derek as a partner – it was part of what tipped us off that she was Derek’s partner this season, due to the fact that she seemed to be following every one of Derek’s old partners on Twitter, as well as Derek himself. I think she’s really gonna learn a lot from him, and really appreciate the experience.  Secondly, I love that she has been a HUGE fan of the show for a long time – to echo what Tom said, celebs who have been fans of the show for a long time before actually doing the show themselves tend to do really well (Alfonso & Donald come to mind).  They get how the show works, and they know how to use it to their advantage.  Third, Marilu’s energy and the physical shape she’s in is INSANE. That too is gonna serve her well on the show.  I think the only thing that was really holding her back tonight was the fact that she was just so damn excited to do the show – and I can’t blame her for that! It just seemed like the combination of nerves and just general excitement may have thrown her a bit off her game – seemed like she may have gotten a bit off-time and been moving a tad small.  But I think those are things that are easily fixed with her work ethic, and her nerves will likely die down significantly next week and let her really focus.  But really – a solid effort for a week 1 jive!

4.) Jana & Gleb – I’ll admit, I was skeptical about Jana – had a lot of fans on Twitter telling me she’d be “a natural” and would give Laurie, Marilu, etc. a run for their money.  She was better than I thought last night, no doubt – there is a good deal of natural talent there.  But I feel like Gleb may done her a bit of a disservice with that choreography – yes, the routine was hot, but it also struck me as a tad flaily and probably could have used some more basic Viennese waltz figures and a lot less stop-and-go.  He’s not to Val levels of stop-and-go time-wasting – yet – but I think he’ll definitely have to tweak his choreography in the coming weeks to strike a balance between basic figures and more crowd-pleasing steps.  But other than that – Jana looked good!

5.) Rob & Witney – Are we gonna call him Rob? Or Vanilla? Or Ice? 🙂 In all honesty, my expectations for this couple were set very low – after hearing how limited their rehearsal time was and how Rob had never watched the show before, I was ready for a train wreck last night.  But I think he actually surprised me more than anyone else last night – and pleasantly! Witney may have hit the jackpot, cause it seems like Rob retained most of his dance skills from his Vanilla Ice days – he’s still got rhythm, can remember choreography, and can put on a good show. Granted, this seemed more like a hip-hop with just a smattering of cha-cha than a full-blooded cha-cha, but given the song they were given and the limited time they had, I can’t begrudge Witney too much for going this route THIS WEEK – but it’s not something they can do all season long whenever they hit a snag. However, had she opted to go for more of a traditional cha-cha, I’m actually pretty confident that Ice could have handled it – there’s some skill there. Interested to see how he does with ballroom – oddly enough, Ice seems pretty invested and willing to work hard to do well, and could end up giving Hinch a run for his money in the work ethic department.

6.) Calvin & Lindsay – Calvin did about as well as I thought – what impressed me more was his attitude.  The guy just seems like a calm, hard worker that’s grateful for the opportunity to dance, which I like.  Maybe not the strongest cha-cha we saw last night, but he stayed on-time for the most part (although he looked like he was dangerously close to getting off-time, at a couple points), looked like he was having fun, and seemed to work well with Lindsay.  Like most of the guys last night, he was a tad stiff at times, and could probably use some work to really loosen up.  But I daresay he’s making his sister eat her words, cause he actually can dance 🙂

7.) Babyface & Allison – This one kinda ran hot-and-cold for me – Babyface would do a step and I’d think “Damn, he’s good! He could be a contender!” and then he’d do another one and I’d kinda go “Dear god, WTF was that???” And that latter exclamation could be due to Allison’s choreography – it seems to have improved SLIGHTLY – but all in all, I still think she’s having issues with composition, balancing light & shade, and not repeating the same steps too much. I notice she has tendency to overuse the opening-out movement in foxtrot/Viennese waltz.  So choreography could be a struggle for her again this season – just seemed like that foxtrot had some peculiar rhythm changes that kinda threw things off.  As for Babyface’s actual skill level – the dude’s got definite rhythm and seems capable of remembering choreography.  My only concern is that he seemed to be moving a tad small – maybe out of nerves? I hope Allison is able to bring him out of his shell a bit more so he moves bigger and with more impact.

8.) Terra & Sasha – Terra was another really pleasant surprise for me last night – I LOVED her energy! And she does seem to have a good deal of experience as a performer and really selling the dance – she also seems like she can remember choreography, and she and Sasha seem to work reasonably well together. I guess my only concern here is her ability to actually do the steps effectively – obviously, her stature is going to pose some challenges.  I would have liked her to pick her knees up a bit more in her jive last night, but I’m honestly unsure if that’s possible for her to do and still stay on-time.  And that could be something the judges struggle with, too: how much can/should they really crack down on a little person who is simply unable to do some of the steps due to her stature? I know they struggled with how much they could/should really penalize Nyle for mistakes due to his deafness, and that was a disability you couldn’t see – Terra’s is very much visible.  Just something to contemplate.

9.) Rick & Emma – Say what you will about Rick’s politics, but I actually thought he came across as an affable, nice guy last night that is just trying to learn how to dance while trying to help vets at the same time.  I actually love his rapport with Emma – reminds me a lot of the way she worked with Bill. And honestly, as messy as his dance was, he actually did pretty decent keeping up with the choreography (better than Jake did with his, I’d argue), and I actually enjoyed watching his dance.  I can’t say the same for Jake’s dance. But despite all the “Ooh, Rick’s gonna be the first one eliminated!” talk I’ve been hit with, I honestly don’t see him going out until at least week 3 – cause he fits right in with the main viewing demographic, which has always skewed conservative.

10.) Amber & Maks – I’ve been saying since she was a rumor that I love Amber – that didn’t change last night.  I thought she looked absolutely STUNNING and seemed to be excited for the experience.  I think nerves may have gotten the better of her a bit, though, as she seemed to be moving a bit small and a bit hesitantly, and I think her height might make balance an issue. Also found myself scratching my head a bit at some of Maks’ choreographic choices – there was one move that looked like they were heaving and about to vomit, which I wasn’t crazy about.  Also found myself raising an eyebrow at some of the stuff going on with the silhouette – neat idea on paper, but maybe be a bit mindful of what you’re doing…and how it might be misinterpreted as something…obscene 😛 Speaking of that, I’m still dismayed by how much shade I see thrown her way from females in particular, calling her “trashy”, “a whore”, etc.  I have to roll my eyes, because I only see her as a strong, confident businesswoman that ain’t afraid to be herself.  But that being said – votes do matter, and she is basically the polar opposite of the type that would usually fit into the main voting demographic. So while I’m hopeful that she’ll stick around for awhile, I’m also preparing myself for her to be a fairly early elim…

11.) Ryan & Cheryl – All the commotion aside, I actually found myself pleasantly surprised by Ryan’s foxtrot last night – he looked like he had really worked hard on it, and was really invested in the performance. He was doing something kinda odd with his right arm (kinda chicken wing-y?) but otherwise, his frame actually looked really nice.  There was something oddly charming about the whole dance, and he actually does seem to have a platonic chemistry with Cheryl. Here’s the only thing I struggle with: is the incident last night going to help him or hurt him in the votes department? I saw about a 50/50 split between people that were sympathetic to him, and people that seemed to think “This is what happens when you cast someone controversial, get him out sooner rather than later!” I still don’t see him going home next week, but beyond that, who knows…

12.) Maureen & Artem – Unfortunately, I’m not left with a whole lot to say about these two, as they kinda got lost in the shuffle for me – Maureen didn’t do terribly, per se, but she also didn’t knock her dance out of the park, and got kind of a crummy running order position. Seemed like nerves may have gotten the best of her, and she may have forgotten some choreography – what she did remember looked nice, but I think the confusion/stress may have showed on her face. What sucks is that I did not see a whole lot of chatter about this couple on social media – they’re just not getting talked about much at all, be it good or bad.  And that kinda scares me.

13.) Jake & Jenna – Not exactly the strongest first outing we’ve seen for a new pro, unfortunately, and there’s something about this couples that just BUGS. I don’t know if it’s a complete lack of chemistry, or differing levels of investment, but there just seemed to be a strange detachment between these two, both on and off the floor. As if they were barely acknowledging each other. Choreo-wise, I think Jenna may have gotten a tad ambitious – seemed like Jake was really struggling to keep up with her, and once he got off-time, he never seemed to get back on.  Granted, the song SUCKS – I hated it as Corbin & Karina’s jive 3 years ago, and I hated it even more last night.  Just too many tempo changes to be a good jive – but Karina found a way to make it sort-of work for her, while I think Jenna got played by the song. He may have 2 points on Rick, but unlike Rick, he doesn’t seem to appeal directly to the main voting demo of DWTS – so he could be in some trouble.  Half the people on my Twitter feed last night had no idea who he was – the other half seemed to be wondering why he seemed so unhappy to be there.  Yikes. Unless these two make some dramatic 180 next week, I think they could be doomed.

So those are my thoughts…what are yours?