PureDWTS Season 23, Week 7 – Power Rankings

Whenever I fill in on the live blog for Heidi, and also simultaneously tweet and take notes for the power rankings, I always worry that I’m gonna just end up repeating the same stuff over and over, and run out of things to say – but oddly enough, live blogging AND tweeting AND taking notes actually helped me work through week 2 of the Topamax brain fog this week, so I feel a lot more lucid now and I’m finding it a lot easier to form coherent thoughts.  Silver linings 🙂

There seemed to be a rather interesting line drawn between some of the pros tonight – that line separating the pros who tend to do a lot of “messing about” and time-wasting, and pros who are savvy enough to stay true a theme while still managing to waste very little time getting down to business and making sure their celeb is dancing for the bulk of their time on-stage. And that line did not go unnoticed by the judges – particularly Len, who seemed to be trying to get the train back on the tracks after they went a bit off the rails with some funky scoring in his absence. He not-so-subtly shaded more than one pro for “messin’ about” while praising others for getting down to business.  What I found a tad unnerving, though, was the way some of the pros seemed to get mouthy back at him, and dismissed some pretty valid points he was making with the usual “Len, you’re old and tired” cliches that have been done to death, but still get a chuckle out of the audience.  Actually found myself really bothered by the jet lag comment from Val, and the fact that Julianne backed it up – Len definitely wasn’t talking out of his ass, and they just kind of poo-poohed it away.  Not cool, and I would love to see someone call Julianne out for being a drama queen and hyperbolizer and have Len back them up on the air, and see how she likes it.

On the whole, I think those who ended up with “novelty” or “extra” dances (i.e. Charleston, jitterbug) probably were scored relatively a bit easier than those who got stuck with one of the core ballroom or Latin dances this week, as it seemed like it was easier to parlay the novelty dances to fit the eras theme than it was to make the stricter Latin & ballroom ones without sacrificing content.  And I think that’s something that probably needs to be spelled out for the pros as they begin choreographing the dances, and the judges probably need to spell it out at the beginning of shows like this – maybe explain what they’re looking for in terms of attention paid to the theme vs. amount of syllabus steps, explain whether lifts are allowed, etc. – because there did seem to be some confusion, not only among the pros, but the judges themselves.  Or that could just be them making things up as they go along, who knows 😛 Mo going home = seemed like the right time.  Like Amber, I just did not get the impression that it was fun for her anymore, and her relationship with Artem seemed pretty…strained. But next week’s elim will likely hurt, because if it is who I think it is – this person is still having a lot of fun and will not want to leave 🙁

1.) Calvin & Lindsay – Once again, these two won the evening for me – I think Lindsay was the pro that did the best job this week of meshing the era they were assigned with the dance style they were given without wasting a bunch of time or sacrificing content.  And while I’m seeing a lot of noses in the air about Calvin “not having enough jive content” (sometimes I wonder how my eyes haven’t gotten stuck from rolling them so hard), there was plenty from what I could see, and I was actually quite impressed with how Calvin handled it, even with his bum ankle – his feet looked better than most able-footed men we’ve seen attempt the jive, and I loved how level he kept his top line – something even Laurie struggled with last night.  Scores seemed about right – had he ended up with a novelty dance like the jitterbug, there probably would have been some tens thrown in there, but I think the fact that he ended up with one of the core Latin dances meant the judges probably judged him a bit more strictly. But still – strongest dance of the night for me, and I was thoroughly entertained.  He deserves a spot in the finale, regardless of what some armchair dance critics seem to think.

2.) James & Sharna – Just a quick aside, based on some of what I’m seeing said here at Pure and elsewhere online: is there a reason why a sizeable chunk of Calvin fans seem to want to pin the blame for Calvin’s underscoring on James??? It was as if all of a sudden, 24 hours after last week’s show, some of you had suddenly decided it was all James’ fault that Calvin hadn’t been getting the scores he deserves…which makes zero sense. Would just LOVE to hear the logic on this one 🙂 Because for the record – I think James & Calvin deserve to be the last two standing, and judging by the bromancing I saw from them last night, I doubt there’s any bad blood between the two. But I digress. Adorable dance, and done very well despite Sharna’s late-breaking injury that likely required some very last-minute changes in the choreography. Got a bit of a bone to pick with Len here – he complained about “lack of jitterbug” steps, but in my experience, jitterbug is a dance that’s actually pretty open-ended, and tends to borrow a lot from jive, Lindy, and other types of swing…there’s not exactly a strict jitterbug syllabus to pick steps from. There’s some definite overlap, so I’m a tad annoyed at the implication that it wasn’t a jitterbug – but then again, like Carrie Ann’s wishy-washy complaint about the lifts, I think they were looking for something to nitpick about, so I’m just gonna shake my head and move on. Hope Sharna’s knee heals up quick – would hate for it to hold them back in the coming weeks.

3.) Laurie & Val – Here’s a little bit of a PSA for the Laurie fans out there that seem to get very, very butthurt whenever I compare her unfavorably to another contestant: when you’re a front-runner, YOU’RE GONNA GET COMPARED TO OTHER FRONT-RUNNERS. Sometimes in a positive light, sometimes in a not-so-positive light – and you don’t get to claim immunity from the bad simply because Laurie’s a 16-year-old girl.  Case in point? Laurie got called out last night for having a very bouncy frame in her quickstep (and yes, it was pretty damn bouncy).  In dances like quickstep and jive, the idea is have what I like to call “controlled chaos”: your legs are doing these explosive movements, but your upper body is to remain fairly still, and you should not see much vertical movement through your torso.  You should be absorbing the shock of your leg movements through your core, so that the top of your head & shoulders aren’t moving vertically more than an inch or two. Laurie didn’t do this.  Know who did? Calvin. Thus, it’s not exactly out-of-line to point out that one front-runner managed to accomplish this and another didn’t. It’s called compare and contrast – not “being a big ol’ meanie”. Ok then? 🙂 I will commend Laurie for selling the entertainment value of the routine, because it was fun to watch, but there were definite technique issues here, and aside from the bouncy frame, I still feel like her dancing is very “pose-y”. Val also wasted a colossal amount of time at the beginning with the whole putting on the corsage nonsense, and thought the dance would have been fine without two lifts in it.  Also thought they put wayyyy too much emphasis on Laurie not knowing anything about the 60’s or prom, and seemed to harp on that too much – I think it kinda made her look ignorant, even if she was just playing along and feigning cluelessness about it.  Just…why? Do we just have to drive the point home that Laurie is this young, naive, innocent thing with eyes completely new to the world? Guess I’m just not really understanding the need to paint her in this light – she seems like an intelligent young lady that is far more worldly than they’re giving her credit for.

4.) Jana & Gleb – The ONLY reason I have these two this high up is that I’m pretty sure TPTB have decided they want her in the finale with Laurie, James, & Calvin.  Why? Some of you on Twitter asked for my opinion, and I think the answer is threefold: one, of the remaining contestants once you take out the top 3, she’s probably the best one left that doesn’t have some sort of unique circumstance holding her back (I actually think Terra’s a better dancer, but is likely a lot more limited in the grand scheme of things) – granted, in terms of actual skill, it’s like Laurie, James, Calvin all in close succession, and then a looooooong pause…and then Jana, but she’s definitely better than Ryan, maybe slightly better than Marilu, and doesn’t have the limitations that Terra does.  Two – her name has been splashed all over the tabloids recently, and I think TPTB are hoping to draw some viewers in that way.  Three – with Derek likely saying a permanent “saynonara” to the show after this season, and Val just not really living up to the hype they’ve been hoping, methinks TPB might be trying to make Gleb “happen” as the new “top male pro”.  And what better way to try and make him “happen” then to ensure he makes the finale his first season back as a pro? As for their actual performance last night – again, I find myself just kinda shaking my head and going “Not really sure what the big deal is with Jana…” because I actually found what little actual samba she did to be pretty stiff.  Thought Gleb went the Val route and decided to pay more attention to the theme than the dance style, and threw in more disco and general raunch instead of samba – wish she would have closed her thighs more on some of the passes, and if it were me, I would have omitted the samba roll, as Jana barely seemed to move through her torso. Just a very, very mediocre outing, in the grand scheme of last night, but as I think I mentioned during the show last night – I would not be at all shocked if she was the one that ended up with immunity next Monday night, so I’m thinking she ends up safe when all’s said and done.

5.) Terra & Sasha – I think last night really kind of cracked the code on Terra for me: if she has a character she can  play, particularly a very feminine one, she’s golden.  And so last night, we fortunately got to see the return of Terra the competitor again, because I think she felt comfortable letting loose with a sophisticated character to play in her foxtrot.  Loved the fluffy, feathery pick dress (though I kinda wished the hem were a bit shorter, or maybe the dress had a slit, so we could see her leg extensions a bit better), and I thought she looked like she was having fun again.  Lightweight pissed at Sasha, though, for the way he was treating her during the team dance – really, dude? Talking in  Russian with Val? I don’t like it when my manicurist talks to her coworker in Vietnamese when I’m sitting right there, and we’re not even close. How the hell do you think Terra felt? You may have done it with good intentions, but here’s an idea: maybe just ASK Terra what steps she feels comfortable doing.  That way, she doesn’t feel like an outsider, on top of being the one that holds the team back. Not quite sure where Terra stands in the grand scheme of things right now, though – I think there are others in more danger than her, but I think she may have a hard time beating Jana to get that last spot in the finale.  I do think she deserves it more than Jana, as she’s been more consistent, but I worry that they think there’s more money to be made in putting Jana through…

6.) Ryan & Cheryl – I don’t think this rumba was meant to be as comical as I found it to be 😛 Something about Ryan’s facial hair and the way the stage was lit was making it look like he had drawn on a beard with a Magic Marker, and I could not stop giggling like an idiot. And then there was the whole cheesy graphic of the asteroid in the background, and Ryan’s feeble attempt at sexy faces…I just couldn’t take it seriously.  Lots of snickering. Not a whole lot in the way of actual content or technique here, and I think Cheryl even kinda admitted it herself in the package when she said she was going to focus on the acting this week.  Just seemed more like a freestyle contemporary routine that was maybe a bit more sexual than usual, and while it wasn’t really all that rumba-y, I did find myself amused by it…like I do most of Ryan’s dances.  He tries, they aren’t great, but I leave feeling mildly entertained 🙂 Thing is, now that we’re headed into week 8, I don’t think “mildly entertained” is gonna cut it much longer, especially when you’ve got 3 powerhouses with finale spots pretty much on lock, and the rest of the couples clawing pretty hard for that 4th spot.  Ryan…is coasting.  And it’s probably gonna be time for him to say bye-bye soon.

7.) Marilu & Derek – Just a bad day at the office for Marilu, I’m afraid.  Not a great Charleston, but not a terrible one, either, and unfortunately, it got disproportionately nitpicked and underscored relative to other dances we saw last night.  Other than maybe going off-time once or twice,  I actually enjoyed it – was fun to watch and a good representation of Charleston.  But between that score and then the fall in the team dance and a relatively crappy score for that as well – damn, I just don’t know if Marilu’s gonna be able to pull off sticking around next week. It’s doubly crappy when you look at Ryan’s rumba, which I would argue had quite a bit less content but got the same score, and he also benefited from being on the winning team for the team dance.  Just not a whole lot to say, unfortunately – hope Derek’s fans pulled out all the stops, and some of Mo’s fans defected to Marilu’s camp enough to keep her around, but my gut’s telling me she’s got a tough row to hoe to stick around.

Thoughts on the team dances:

I feel like the knee-jerk reaction to the team dances last night has been “Team Future got totally screwed over with the music!!!” and very few people seem to want to talk about much beyond that – I’m guessing because many of them were so sure that Team Future was going to win, with the combined dance talents of Laurie, Marilu, Jana, & Terra, and the choreographic talents of Derek, that it’s hard to reconcile that they didn’t.  While I agree that they were indeed royally screwed by the music (possibly more than any other team in team dance history), I feel the need to point out that Team Past actually did a very respectable dance that holds up well on its own – independent with how well or not-well Team Future did.  I actually found Team Past’s dance to be rather refreshing – simpler and more pared-down than some of the flashier and more in-your-face team dances we’ve seen in recent years, since everything has become a freestyle; and they took Team Beyonce’s idea from last season of having everyone stay out on the floor together for the majority of the dance, rather than doing a bunch of solos, and they actually made it work for them.  I’ve rather missed seeing ballroom used in team dances, too – the last one that really sticks out in my head was team tango in season 14, which was gorgeous and dramatic.  Of course I’m also an Outlander fan, so I loved the little homages to the plot – if you watch the opening title sequence of the show, you can see the lantern inspiration at the beginning of the dance, and it looks like the ladies’ dresses were inspired by Claire’s dress from the party at Versailles in season 2. I give my co-MVP award to James & Calvin, for both just looking amazing out on the floor – both had that amazing posture, and I watched the dance again to see the moving in “perfect synchronization” that Julianne talked about.  It was definitely there, and I loved how at-ease and into the dance both of them seemed to be.  I may have seen Ryan go slightly off-time at a few moments, although I’m not sure if one of them was due to the problem Cheryl was talking about with her skirt.  As for Team Future – they did the best they could with what they  had.  The song seemed very, very postmodern, so it dictated a dance that was very, very postmodern – and part of me wonders if they gave it to the team with Derek and some strong dancers on it with the hopes that he would be able to churn out something very avant-garde and Emmy-worthy, but even Derek has his limitations.  As Heidi has said – if he’s not feeling the music, it’s an uphill battle for him to really churn out something great.  This seemed to have some very awkward rhythm changes, too, which left the dance feeling kind of…whiplash-y. I couldn’t even really tell you what anyone did, because I just could not get past thinking “Wow, this is reeeeeally weird.” Seemed like there might have been some synchronization issues – admittedly, I’m still getting over the brain fog phase of this topiramate, but Mama Spence swears she saw Terra and possibly Marilu go off-time.  Meh, ok. Overall, not the strongest season for team dances (and I feel like I’ve said this for several seasons now), but I appreciate Team Past daring to do something a bit different.