PureDWTS Season 23, Final Power Rankings – Who Will Win?

And so we wrap up another season of this show – and I’ll be honest: I’m pretty ready for it to be over.  On top of the general fatigue of writing each season, I’ve also been dealing with some medical issues (namely, trying to find a suitable form of prophylaxis for my migraines), additional stress at my 9-5 (the FDA just loves to make my job harder!), dating (something I haven’t done in quite awhile), the election and its fallout (just…ugh), and just a general uptick in the level of aggression and vitriol from some fans of the show…which is not quite as balanced-out by some awesome discussion with very intelligent, engaging fans of the show as it used to be.  I used to be able to say “Yeah, there’s assholes, but they’re far outnumbered by the number of really awesome people that I interact with as part of the show!” But at the rate the show is going, what with alienating core demographics with their manipulations and machinations in favor of pursuing more “desirable” demographics, they’re losing more and more of those really intelligent fans…and they’re gaining thin-skinned, entitled twatwaffles that label anything they don’t agree with as “bullying” and have a tendency to deliberately misinterpret things they either don’t like or aren’t quite smart enough to full comprehend.  The quality of discussion has really gone downhill…and I’m left in a similar position to how I was post-All-Stars: should I still be blogging this show? Or is it time to move on? It will be food for thought for me in the off-season, no doubt.

But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this season – most of this season’s cast (minus maybe one celeb and one pro – not necessarily paired together) has been awesome to watch, and I even found myself liking Rick, Vanilla, Terra and Ryan far more than I thought I would! For what it’s worth, they found themselves a pretty likeable crop of celebs this season – people I could really pull for.  And a wicked little part of me got a kick tonight out of seeing basically everyone taking the mickey out of Carrie Ann’s inane lift-policing on live TV tonight 😛 It’s actually extra-funny to me, considering that I now find myself blocked on Twitter by Carrie Ann for asking if the lift police were off-duty last week (and admittedly, it was one of my tamer tweets!). Also nice having Len back, although I’m not sure his presence made a ton of difference in critiques & scoring – it was maybe SLIGHTLY less off-the-wall than normal, and things do get a little gushy & hyperbolic in the finals, anyway.  Train’s performance was weird and basically sampled “Heart & Soul” the same way that Pitbull samples pretty much every song popular in the 80s: poorly. Also found myself scratching my head at the La-La-Land performance. Erin, honey, you need to brush up on your A Christmas Story references – Randy can’t put his arms DOWN in the snowsuit, not up.  Pssssh, next thing you know, she’ll be mispronouncing “fragile” – it’s “fra-gee-lay”.  Which, of course, means it’s from Italy 😉 Can you tell I’m a fan?

Perhaps most satisfying was FINALLY seeing Jana given the boot, even if we were forced to endure yet another whiny, pity-party rehearsal package where she & Gleb bemoaned the various crap hands they’ve been dealt this season, from her rib injury to his flu virus, before witnessing two pretty gimmicky dances that didn’t leave a lasting impression. Her tango looked like just about every other dance she and Gleb did this season – too rushed, too trick-laden, too time-waste-y, too dramatic, and too bereft of solid, basic steps or good use of the floor (that damn platform needs to go).  Gleb, honey, your body of work this season has got me very, very worried for the future of this show if you really and truly are supposed to be the “new Derek” – you’ve been a one-trick pony, and you’re gonna have to be a jack-of-all-trades if you want to fill D’s shoes.  I’ll just say that Jana’s freestyle felt like the dance equivalent of a pumpkin spice latte: something pretty cliched that the average basic bitch probably loved, but wasn’t refined enough to realize is actually utter crap. It was a garden-variety contemporary, complete with over-the-top, angsty expressions and wild, flailing gestures, and with a gimmicky prop thrown in with a questionable degree of success.  Those two wrapping each other up in that diaphonous piece of fabric kinda reminded me of playing that Halloween party game where you wrap your friends up in toilet paper to look like mummies – it made me laugh but I couldn’t take it seriously 😛 Kinda like some of the lifts, where Jana got so much of a running start that I thought for sure she was gonna go for a full-on star lift or even the famous Dirty Dancing lift…and then she went for something…not very dramatic.  ‘Twas weird.  But anyway – I think it may have clearly illustrated to viewers that Jana really didn’t belong in the finale in the first place, and was a bit out of her element…the other 3 finalists danced circles around her last night.  I tend to think both Marilu and Terra could have given us more entertaining finale dances than Jana did.  But I will applaud her for how complimentary she was to the other 3 finalists when she got eliminated – I think she even knew that she was a bit in over her head, making it to the finals.

As I usually do for the finale power rankings, I’m gonna start with 3rd place and work my way up to the winner…

3rd place: Calvin & Lindsay

I think most of you know by now that, if I had it MY way, it would come down to Calvin & James in the final 2, because I do genuinely believe that they are the two contestants that have had the greatest amount of growth this season.  But as we all know, the likelihood of that happening at this point is pretty slim – I’d be THRILLED to be wrong, but I think 3rd place is as far as Calvin’s going to get.  Which I think is tremendous, given that the judges/PTB seemed to be trying at every turn to knock him down a few pegs – I think the word that best sums up Calvin’s journey this season is “perseverance”. His Viennese waltz was a great example – I actually found it flawless, and thought those 8’s and 9’s the judges threw out were utter nonsense. His frame was the best it has EVER looked, he was there for Lindsay every step of the way, they felt connected, his extensions were gorgeous, he had musicality – I could go on and on.  Could his feet use some work? Eh, maybe, but I kind of get to a point in the season where I get less hung up on things being technically perfect and focus more on things being perfect relative to a couple’s previous work.  And I think Calvin really delivered, so I would have given it at least a 77.  I’ve said enough about the lift policing, so I’ll just say I think there’s somewhere dark and cozy Carrie Ann can shove hers 😉 As for their freestyle – they tied Hinch & Sharna as my favorite dances of the night, and maybe even slightly edged out Hinch’s simply because I hate crying and Hinch’s made me tear up.  Lindsay really outdid herself with the choreo for Calvin’s freestyle – thought the use of the treadmill was genius without being too gimmicky, and loved the interaction and choreography she created for it.  Also love that they went for a fun, carefree, energetic vibe, rather than trying to get too serious – because I think their freestyle really summed Calvin up well: he knows how to work hard, but at the  end of the day, he’s ready to have fun with the people he cares about.  I also tip my hat to her quick-change costume (very cool) and Calvin once again rocking the lifts – he truly was the Lift King of season 23. The whole thing felt like a nice combo of their foxtrot, jazz, and Charleston, and I loved every second.  And of course, it got very dusty in my house after Calvin’s son came up to the skybox to say hi – you can tell that is one kid who just IDOLIZES his daddy.  Can you blame him? 🙂 Overall, Calvin’s been an absolute JOY to watch this season, even if he didn’t always get the love he deserved, and I think we’ve watched Lindsay continue to grow into one of the best choreographers on the show.  Who knows – maybe next season she’ll have the juice to go all the way 😉

Runner-up: Laurie & Val

I think the final two is gonna be close – and if I’m being honest, I think it could go either way.  Even though Laurie is headed into tonight with one point more than James, I think the struggle she may have in inching her way to the win is that she just didn’t have as much emotional weight to her freestyle as James – on top of her pro’s choreography being kinda subpar.  Her freestyle was cute and fun and energetic and very “Laurie” – but it wasn’t exactly one that stuck with me, emotionally, and the fact that it didn’t really have a storyline may make it less memorable than James’, I think.  I also think Val may have gotten a bit caught up with all of the “things” – seemed like there was just so much going on with the playground equipment, the extra dancers, the bench, the leaves, etc. that I felt a bit overstimulated at times…not really sure where to look.  While Lindsay managed to keep the focus on Calvin, even with all of the background stuff going on in their freestyle, I found myself looking all over the place in Laurie’s freestyle. Oddly enough, I actually thought the background dancers were moving bigger than Laurie at multiple moments, too, which made her look kinda tiny by comparison.  Was also just kinda floored that we only got one forward flip and a leap from her, in the way of gymnastics – if you’ve got a gold medal-winning Olympian gymnast and you haven’t yet highlighted her gymnastic skills this season, I would have thought the freestyle would have been the perfect time to do it…so it was kinda disappointing that we only got two gymnastic moves out of her, the entire season. Overall, while it was well-executed (but maybe not choreographically fantastic), I don’t know that it’s going to go down in DWTS history as one of the best or most memorable freestyles we’ve seen.  As for her redemption paso – I honestly don’t know that it was all that much better than her first attempt at paso, because I was still seeing some of the same issues: namely that she dances so “hard” that she actually lets her momentum get away from her.  There were a couple times where she turned so forcefully that she ended up smacking Val in the chest, or losing a bit of her balance.  Also looked like there may have been a couple points where she & Val were out-of-sync by one move, as if one of them was a bit too fast or too slow, but given Val’s penchant for choreography that doesn’t always make sense, who knows. I was glad that it didn’t get a perfect score, because I would not say that it was perfect – there were still issues there.  Laurie did well last night, on the whole – but I would not say she was great, or flawless, or the most memorable.  Is she still in the running for the MBT? Of course, and as I said before – it will be close.  But I don’t know that she’s got it locked down like some seem to think.  A lot of folks came into this season expecting her to do really well and to win – and I would argue that she’s done pretty good, but possibly not as well as folks were expecting her to, and the blame for that lies more with her pro than with Laurie herself.  Part of me thinks she may suffer as a result of the high expectations fans placed upon her at the beginning of the season.  Guess we’ll see how it all shakes out later tonight…

WINNER: James & Sharna

While the freestyle in general isn’t nearly as special as it used to be, nor does it carry as much weight as it did in older seasons, I think the win this season may actually come down to who had the more memorable freestyle – and in this case, I think James edges out Laurie.  Some of you can say what you will about contemporary freestyles, but I wouldn’t even categorize this as a “contemporary freestyle” – there were contemporary-inspired steps in it, but there was also quite a bit of fusion with paso, Viennese waltz, & tango.  And rather than being angsty and flaily, like Jana’s contemporary freestyle, this had a story to it – it started with confusion, worked through conflict, and ended with hope – and it told James’ story of the incredible journey he’s made after his accident.  Someone on Twitter last night (I’m guessing either a Laurie or Calvin fan) actually had the gall to tweet me and say “James talks about his accident wayyyy too much, don’t you think?” And it took everything I had in me not to tweet back and tell them to go to hell, because I don’t think people really & truly realize how miraculous his journey has been.  I think Indy natives get it, because we were the ones keeping vigil back in May of 2015 when James had his accident – I think we were all just bracing ourselves for the worst, because Indycar fans have lost so many drivers over the years to tragic circumstances that we aren’t used to hearing that these drivers are gonna pull through these insane accidents they have.  And James’ surgeon even said it himself – the kind of accident James had is NOT the kind you survive, let alone walk away from and go on to compete in a dance show a year and a half later.  James is lucky as hell to be breathing – let alone walking or dancing, or excelling at either one, so if you’re tired of hearing about his accident, do us all a favor an change the damn channel, or just STFU, because clearly this dance was very personal to him.  Also worth pointing out? Those wild scars James sports on his stomach as a result, so I was actually kind of glad that he did his dance open-shirted – you could see the scars, and it made the whole thing more poignant. James also has a rather nice torso, but that’s neither here nor there 😉 I also thought his redemption dance was quintessentially James, and aside from that one stumble (which I actually think may have been Sharna’s fault, but James being the affably self-deprecating Canadian that he is, assumed responsibility), this was as close to flawless as any of the redemption dances last night – which is why I think it’s a crock that he somehow ended up with a point less than Laurie, who seemed to struggle more on the whole.  Also loved the foxtrot theme/choreo that Sharna gave him – I saw shades of Derek choreography there, and the very Broadway-feel his foxtrots seem to have. In the end, I think the fact that James came into this competition with no dance experience whatsoever may actually help him – in much the same way that a lot of people were EXPECTING Laurie to be great from the get-go, nobody was expecting much of James…hell, most of the viewing audience came into this season not knowing who he was.  So this may be a case of “under-promise and over-deliver” – he may have wowed folks because nobody saw him coming.  He’s also been likeable as hell, which nobody anticipated, and that could also help.  I’m getting very Bindi-esque vibes from James, which I’m gonna interpret as a good sign 😉

So those are my final thoughts on this season…what are yours? If you haven’t seen yet, we have posted the 24-hour fusion dances here, and Heidi’s numbers post is coming up in the early afternoon.