PureDWTS Season 23, Week 9 – Power Rankings

As we head into what promises to be a very historic and contentious election day, I think we witnessed something relatively historic and contentious last night on DWTS: I think we might have just seen Derek bid farewell to the show, once and for all.  Because history does repeat itself: Marilu got Nastia’d.  Got the same “bad edit” treatment that they gave Nastia a year and a half ago, which resulted in her elimination from a season that on paper, she probably could have easily won, had there not been an agenda at work. And Derek was uncharacteristically vocal about how unhappy he was with the edit they were given – so was his partner.  If there are still any concern trolls lurking here that want to comment on the “tension” or “awkwardness” or “frustration” in Marilu & Derek’s package last week, do yourselves a favor and go read the two posts I just linked to first. Then go watch season 1 of UNReal on Hulu Plus. Let it sink in.  Start to question things.  Because I’m starting to think the line between reality and script is getting dangerously blurry for some of you…

…for what it’s worth, though, I thought Marilu went out on a high note.  I think her samba was the most relaxed and in-the-zone we’ve seen her since “Most Memorable Year” week.  I think she & Derek should be really proud of how they did – and both of them can leave with their heads held high.  I think Marilu left with a bit fewer stars in her eyes about DWTS (but with a much more grounded view), and I think Derek finally got the push he needed to leave a relationship that he has outgrown and has become toxic for him (the one he has with DWTS, NOT the one he has from Marilu – I’ve noticed the Marilu detractors are big fans of deliberately misinterpreting and twisting my words).  Onto bigger and better things for both of them. And I thought Mark did a spectacular Frankie Valli vocal.  🙂

As for those that remain – I found myself rolling my eyes and yawning more than usual last night, and the bulk of the eye-rolls and yawns involved the Jana & Laurie love-fest that we were subjected to.  Make no mistake – there was an agenda behind those perfect scores.  It all but guaranteed both would make the finals, although I’m having some pretty serious doubts about Jana – this is how many times we’ve seen her as one of the last two standing up there at the end of the night? Heidi would have to remind me, but the last time we saw consecutive repeat appearances of a couple in the last two standing was Apolo & Karina during all-stars, I believe  – and they were eliminated just shy of the finale.  With last night’s theme appearing to be “history repeating itself”, I don’t think it’s entirely out of the realm of possibility that Jana could be in some pretty deep sh*t, votes-wise.  Since all that was handed out last night was 9’s & 10’s, I’m going to venture a guess that the margins are actually going to end up being rather small – meaning it’s pretty much going to be up to the fans who advances to the finals and who doesn’t.  And there could be some surprises.

1.) Laurie & Val – So I guess last night was the night to bring the “golden girl” back to the forefront and reestablish her as the “front-runner” this season – as well as buy her sudden bestie, Jana, a ticket to the finals.  And while I actually came through last week lightweight impressed by the turnaround Laurie did with her Viennese waltz that actually felt fluid and emotionally-invested, her Argentine tango actually felt like a step back – because we were back to the posing again, folks.  Everything felt so staccato – kick, turn, wrap, dip, jump, lift, land. Yes, Argentine tango is going to be more staccato than Viennese waltz, but there is still a fluidity to it; you’re going to move across the floor in an amalgamation of steps, rather than each one individually punctuated.  The lifts were nice, but I expected them to be, given her background; also just generally over the “OMG, LAURIE’S SO YOUNG AND NAIVE AND TANGO IS GOING TO BE SUCH A STRUGGLE FOR HER TO RELATE TO!!!” nonsense, and I have been for weeks now.  Part of me thinks they’re actually kinda painting her to be dumber than she actually is – I never got the impression watching her during the Olympics that she was this wet-behind-the-ears, totally-new-to-the-world kid; I don’t think you become an Olympic medalist without having some degree of sophistication and worldliness.  So it actually kinda seems insulting to Laurie that they portray her as being so…green. But anyway – interesting observation about some Laurie fans: they are SO CERTAIN that Laurie is going to win, but they seem desperate to shoot down anyone that dares to think James can win it.  If y’all are so secure in your girl…why do you care what the rest of us think? 😉

2.) James & Jenna (Sharna) – First off, I tip my hat to James, whose show of loyalty to his real partner gives me hope that there are still a number of us that have not succumbed to Jenna-stanning madness.  He made clear in no uncertain terms that, while he appreciates Jenna’s help, it’s Sharna he wants to dance with at the end of the day.  And I know I’m not alone when I say that I cannot wait to get Sharna back on the floor with him, because this week Jenna’s energy just seemed totally mismatched with James’, and the performance suffered for it.  While she (sort of) managed to reign in her energy last week to give a good performance, I just felt like she outdanced James completely this week – and maybe it’s the stress of not dancing with his actual partner and having to build a working relationship with Jenna, or maybe it’s the fact that he was handed his first non-ballroom/Latin dance of the competition (to maybe my least favorite song from The Wiz), but I think last night we were reminded that James is NOT actually a dancer, and came into this show with no experience. Which could be a good thing – I think some were starting to get hung up on Julianne’s idiotic “best male dancer ever on the show” and “you look like you could be one of our pros” comments, and were starting to give James the ringer treatment. While I was impressed with the overall performance quality of his jazz, I think it showed that he isn’t 100% comfortable with the bigger movements and extensions characteristic of jazz – which is ok, because again..HE’S NOT A DANCER. But I did find it rather impressive that he was able to get back on-time so quickly after getting just a skosh ahead of the rest of the group – so he is learning and growing. That could have very easily turned more into a Wanya mistake (the slip in his jive last season that resulted in him never really getting back on time), but he reigned it in – although he’s still at the bottom of the leaderboard.  The bright side, though: I saw an inordinate number of Marilu & Derek fans on Twitter last night pledging to give their votes to James & Sharna from here on out. Which is smart, because at this point, I think James is the only one that stands a chance of stealing the MBT from Laurie (and the machinations of TPTB) – and I actually think his odds are pretty good.

3.) Calvin & Lindsay – Another relatively quiet night for Calvin – to no fault of his own, I just think he may have gotten a tad lost-in-the-shuffle again among the Laurie & Jana worship, the talk about Sharna’s injury, Marilu & Derek’s exit, etc.  But man, his waltz was gorgeous – still love that we have a big guy with long limbs that isn’t afraid to really extend them and take up some space out on the floor.  Also thought Lindsay had the costume of the night, with that fur-trimmed, rhinestone-encrusted gown…that skirt was DREAMY as she was moving.  Thought Calvin might have gotten a bit shuffly-footed on some of the more compact movements, like when he was spinning Lindsay, but overall, still a nice waltz, and I preferred it to Jana’s.  Just worried that Calvin’s more quiet, laid-back nature may be making him fade into the woodwork at this point – hope that’s not the case, and people are still remembering to vote for him…cause he does deserve to be in the finale.

4.) Jana & Gleb – I just shake my head anymore, anytime these two hit the screen. Gleb has been a one-trick pony this season, with nearly every routine feeling like a flail-y and trick-laden remix of a previous routine; and when Jana’s not being overly-emotional, everything she says or does just feels completely phony to me. Sorry not sorry – when someone asked me on Twitter last night if Jana reminded me of a contestant from a previous season, the one name that came to mind was Janel; I just felt like everything she did had an ulterior motive, and we never really saw the “real” Janel.  And that’s the impression I’ve gotten of Jana – she wants everybody to like her and think she’s the cool, laid-back girl-next-door, but in reality, she’s…up to something else. And her waltz just felt like a very overwrought, disingenuous performance to me – I liked the song, but I quickly tired of Jana’s angsty faces and Gleb’s excessive dipping/flinging choreography.  The fact that the judges (and a good chunk of the audience) bought it hook, line, and sinker as a genuinely emotional performance makes me think there’s little hope for this show anymore, if they’re all so easily-sold on a sad song, some whipping of arms and legs, and a few angsty facial expressions.  Jana’s chin & shoulders also seemed sky-high to me, and she needed to drop it while in frame; she’s also still throwing away arm lines in a way that James, Calvin, & Laurie nipped in the bud weeks ago. She is definitely not up-to-snuff with what we’re seeing from those 3, and if she does make the finale (and she might, given that she got a very, very padded score), I think she may run the risk of sticking out like a sore thumb next to the other three, who all have quite a bit more polish than she does.  I do still think there’s an outside chance that she might not make the finals, just given the suspicious repeat appearances in jeopardy she’s had…

5.) Terra & Sasha – I think Terra’s Charleston was my favorite dance of the individual round last night, and also my favorite dance she’s done this season.  Once again, I have to commend Sasha on the work he’s done – it can’t be easy to adapt every dance to fit Terra’s abilities, given her stature, and still have it be a good example of a given dance style.  I also commend him on his own performance last night, because he had to find a way to make his steps smaller to fit Terra’s energy, while still “moving big” enough to give a good performance.  It’s a delicate balance, and I think he handled it well.  I also tip my hat to Terra, who I think hit her performance peak last night – I felt like the Charleston was the culmination of all the potential we saw in her week 1 jive, but with the additional polish of having more experience out on the floor.  Loved the facial expressions, loved how she still managed to “move big” despite her stature, love how she managed to have a ton of fun while she was at it.  Also loved the costume – the corset top to her flapper dress was gorgeous.  No complaints whatsoever about her dance.  But unfortunately, the impression I’ve gotten is that she is just not one of the “chosen ones” for the finals, as much as I think she deserves to be there.  I just look at all the times they’ve put Jana in jeopardy to try and ramp up votes, and I’ve only seen Terra there once.  I would love to be proven wrong, because I think Terra & Sasha have danced circles around Jana & Gleb technique-wise, choreography-wise, and performance-wise…but given that the judges just jumped on the Jana love train this week, I’m bracing for the worst.  But man, did Terra impress the hell outta me this season – she will forever have props from me 🙂

Thoughts on the duets:

James & Calvin, paso doble: My favorite duet of the three, because I thought these two had the best chemistry – this really should have been called a paso bro-ble, because I was dying watching the package of these two adorable nuggets trying not to giggle at each other as they mean-mugged each other on the floor.  To any remaining Calvin fans who want to try and pit these two against one another (and you know who you are) – do as Adele Nazeem does and LET IT GO. During the actual performance, I was actually struck once again by how in-sync they were – especially during the cape solo, which I have always considered a risky move because it’s notoriously difficult to achieve synchronization when you’re whipping around a cape. It also looked like Hinch very narrowly avoided a trip, courtesy of a carelessly-discarded cape, so I’m glad they were able to make it all work.  Overall, loved the vibe and the theme – felt very Denzel & Chris Pratt in Magnificent Seven.

Marilu & Terra, jazz: I have to commend Marilu on this one – because like Sasha, she kinda had a tough row to hoe (Catherine, I’m insulting Marilu…better come out and threaten to shut us down, a la Trump) in that she had to make her moves a bit smaller, so as not to mismatch Terra.  And that’s likely kinda hard to do when you’re as long-limbed as Marilu.  But I thought she did well, and I thought both she & Terra did a great job of selling this one – it was a show-stopper.  Thought it was kinda cool how they combined elements of Charleston, hustle, and more of a Broadway-type jazz. I probably could have done without the bit with Terra up top and Marilu’s legs under the skirt, and there did seem to be an unusually large number of extra dancers, but overall, I was entertained.

Laurie & Jana, contemporary: This is what I like to call a token “contemporary by numbers”: flail, dip, cover your mouth, flex your feet, repeat till end. Wow, a dance in a giant birdcage to a Sia song – never seen that before, very original of Gleb & Val to include it (strong sarcasm there, if you didn’t pick up on it). Like most things Jana, this just felt very contrived – I was not feeling the “strong emotional connection” the judges were bullsh*tting about, and I thought it all felt pretty fake…just like Val’s add-in at the end about the dance “being for all the people out there that have dealt with bullying” (pretty rich, coming from him). Easily the weakest of the three duets, choreographically – I guess the girls danced it well, but it wasn’t overly impressive content.

So what are your thoughts, and who do you think will make the finals? To our readers in the US – good luck voting, I hope whatever the outcome of the election is, that we can all work towards what’s best for the country.  Also, a “Happy Birthday!” shoutout to Mama Spence, who is 58 years young today – I gotta cut outta work early to go stand in line with that doodle-head to vote 😛