PureDWTS Season 24, Week 4 – Power Rankings

So many things…so many interesting things to talk about this week 😉 As expected on pretty much every “most memorable year” night, tears were shed, and those who went with more of an emotional story stood out, while those who went the fun route tended to fade into the woodwork. I found the running order a bit interesting – two back-to-back rumbas to start off with; and source wasn’t 100% sure, but apparently after Sunday’s camera blocking, Rashad tentatively had the pimp spot, but there appeared to be some question as to when Normani would go, as Fifth Harmony apparently had some scheduling conflict (I’m guessing they couldn’t stay the whole time, since we didn’t see them again after they sang with Normani). Guess they switched the game up – although I actually think Rashad’s dance ended up being more impactful by NOT going last, as they seemed to give him a bit more time than they did Bonner; but not too much time, because like Mr. T & Simone, Rashad did not get a post-score interview with Erin. You notice a bit of a disturbing pattern here? 🙁

Of those who DID get an interview with Erin, three of the five male pros seemed to get diarrhea of the mouth, and ended up completely hogging the mic from their partners – Val kinda got patronizing, Maks was glibly trying to cast next season already, and Gleb…was busy babbling something about being sexy, so we barely heard from their ladies. Therefore, I tip my hat to the two remaining male pros for keeping the focus on their partners by remaining quiescent. Much ado about lifts, Carrie Ann – wonder what made you decide to enlighten us all with the definition, and then proceed to anxiously justify every lift you called out last night? *takes a sip of tea* Don’t worry, boo boo, that lift post is still coming 😉 I also think we continued to witness the narrative change last night – seems like we might be seeing Rashad & Simone (and their engaged partners, Emma & Sasha) take center stage now, with Normani, David, & Nancy all in the hunt for that third spot in the finals. Will TPTB let it ride? Time will tell.

Was very sad to see Mr. T go – was chatting with Deep Throat the other day, and they remarked that T was very much loved by everyone in the cast and crew: he was always making a point to say hello to everyone, and make sure they were doing well and having a good day. T was just genuinely GOOD PEOPLE, and I did enjoy seeing him on the show. But I do think he was beginning to get flustered with himself, and was probably ready to go – he had fun and tried hard, but I doubt he was going to improve much more if he had remained in the competition. Oh well – I look forward to a fun returning dance from him at the finale 🙂

1.) Rashad & Emma – The clear winner of the night – I’m not sure I could have asked any more of Rashad than what he delivered, which was near-flawless: not only was the emotion completely there in his dance, but man, the dancing itself? That man was extending, and pointing his feet, and lifting Emma with near-expert precision. Shad is up there with Alfonso & James in terms of having an uncanny amount of natural skill, in my book. I’ve of course seen scoffing from some fans about how it was “unfair” that Rashad got contemporary, and that’s the only reason he scored as high as he did – guys, get your heads out of your asses. Some couples getting contemporary/jazz while others get saddled with stricter dances has been the nature of the beast on this show for a good 4 years now (hell, David skated by with jazz last week, while Shad got chewed out for a samba that wasn’t all that bad); not Shad’s fault, and I still maintain that it was one of the better contemporary routines we’ve seen on this show, both in performance and content. Just because there’s fewer rules, does not mean it’s easier to do a good dance – because we’ve seen some pretty craptastic contemporary on this show. And I think Shad’s story really resonated with people – I myself can relate to the whole “absentee father” experience, and know what it’s like to try to rebuild a relationship after years of neglect; I think his story kinda hit Julianne hard, because I can’t recall seeing her legitimately bawl at the judges’ table before. It was Twitter official last week, but I’ll make it Pure official this week: he’s my pick to win this season. Now I just hope TPTB can resist the urge to tinker, like they did last season – because seriously, last season should have been James’. This is non-negotiable with me 🙂

2.) Simone & Sasha – Simone comes in a close second for “winner of the night” for me – I think we’re FINALLY starting to see her as Simone, the person, instead of “Simone, the gold medal-winning Olympic gymnast”. And this is something I don’t think a lot of people understood (and got irrationally upset about) in a blog Sharna wrote last week where she was asked to comment on each of this season’s contestants – it seemed to me that Sharna was actually advocating a bit for Simone, saying that we needed to be able to see Simone as a woman, not just a wholesome, innocent Olympic gymnast that so many people were trying to pigeonhole her into being. And that it’s going to be important for Simone to find her sensuality as a woman, and not feel trapped into being the same innocent girl the rest of her life.  But anyway – I think last night was a step in the right direction for the viewers to see Simone as more than just the Olympic gymnast.  We saw a vulnerability we hadn’t seen yet, and I do feel like she’s starting to get more comfortable moving her body out on the floor – she’s stretching wider and moving bigger. I would caution her to watch her turns, though – seems like she hasn’t quite mastered spotting yet; and I’d advise Sasha to try and have her work on continuity/fluidity – she seems to be a bit pose-y, still, instead of one move flowing effortlessly into another.  But I think we’re finally seeing Simone rise to the top, and show us what she’s capable of 🙂

3.) David & Lindsay – To those complaining last week about David getting “pimped” – you did notice the hammer dropping a bit for him this week, right? Probably the weakest dance we’ve seen from him so far, and it did not go unnoticed by the judges.  Some definite issues with excessive bounciness and a butt that was sticking wayyyyy far out there, but I appreciated that he was there for Lindsay every step of the way, and still seemed to be having fun. And dance skill level notwithstanding, where David (and really, Lindsay too) is going right is remaining down-to-Earth and normal, and someone fans can relate to – much like Nancy. David’s the goofy white uncle at your cousin’s wedding that wouldn’t know a box step from a do-si-do, but that ain’t gonna stop him from joining the younger kids on the dance floor when the DJ plays “Happy” by Pharrell.  I’m guessing it probably helped quite a bit that they showed his dance on the scoreboard at Wrigley during the rain delay of the Cubs-Dodgers game, not that I think he was really struggling with votes to begin with. I stand by what I’ve been saying the last few weeks – David isn’t likely to win this season, but I do think he’ll be a fan favorite that sticks around for quite awhile.

4.) Nancy & Artem – Was definitely happy to see a lot more folks hopping on the Nancy bandwagon last week – I truly think she’s the embodiment of what I love in a contestant on this show: just someone who is grateful for the experience, and willing to embrace it for better or worse. And to quote my dear friend Cher – she has turned Artem into an absolute GEM this season.  He’s giving us great choreography, he’s being respectful and letting his partner shine, and they seem to have a real synergy together. I’m told this is the same Artem from his glory days at Strictly. I kind of loved that Nancy eschewed the expected storyline for her most memorable year – the year of her “incident” with Tonya Harding – and instead focused on her heartbreaking struggles with fertility, and how her ambition has always been to be a mom. Loved that her dance seemed optimistic, despite stemming from something so sad; and I just ADORE how organic she is as a mover – nothing seems forced or wobbly, and she just breathes so nicely through every step.  I can’t imagine how someone could NOT love Nancy this season – and I do think she’s secretly Len’s favorite 🙂 – but I do have a bit of a growing concern: she seems to be getting relegated to relatively forgettable running order positions, and seems to be getting either elegant ballroom dances or fun, carefree Latin ones – I don’t want her to fade into the woodwork, so I hope they hand her a paso doble or tango soon.

5.) Bonner & Sharna – Sharna has my endless respect for how hard she works with all of her partners – so this is by no means a shade on her: I just don’t think Bonner’s really going to improve a whole lot more this season. It’s not a problem with Sharna’s teaching, but I think internally, Bonner is still pretty scared of moving full-out and with energy, and it’s really restricting both his dancing and overall performance quality. Sharna herself even admitted it in her ET blog this week – Bonner is BROKEN inside, and I can’t say I blame him; this is a man that really shouldn’t be able to walk right now, let alone dance. So part of me wonders if DWTS came along a bit too soon for Bonner – had he maybe gotten another year of rehab under his belt, he may have felt more confident learning to dance; but such is the nature of the beast with this show – he’s more relevant now than he would be a year from now. I thought this was an ok foxtrot – not terrible, but not really special, either. Seems like a lot of stop-and-go (no pun intended), which I think Sharna deliberately choreographs in order to give Bonner moments of rest to collect his thoughts and remember his steps. Thought the song was a bit of an odd choice, after such an emotional package, but it is what it is. I think right now, Sharna’s fanbase and the fact that Bonner’s a good ol’ country boy are what’s keeping him afloat in this competition – but once we shed Erika and possibly Nick, I think Bonner’s in trouble.  He’s probably the weakest dancer left, so unless there’s vast improvement…I’m not sure we’re going to see him last past week 7, tops.

6.) Normani & Val – As I mentioned before, I think the main reason they went first was because the other 3/4 of Fifth Harmony had to be somewhere and they needed to get them out earlier. And I’m not sure it really did these two any favors, as many of us seem to have forgotten their rumba by the time last night’s show wrapped – had they done a very impactful dance, like Simone or Rashad, I don’t think the running order would have hurt them much; but given that this was just an alright-rumba in the grand scheme of things, I’m not sure it really stood out last night. I found it interesting that the judges did point out that “now that you guys are not traveling, we want more from you”, as if to subtly acknowledge “Yeah, ok, we’ve been kinda lenient so far, but you guys don’t have an excuse now!” I never thought traveling was an excuse to begin with, but whatever. Not a whole lot in the way of basic rumba content here, and I noticed that Val seemed to avoid steps that would show off hip action (or lack thereof) – two rumba basics does not a rumba make. Blatant lift – and it seemed like neither one was trying to make an effort to keep Normani’s foot on the floor…did they think it wouldn’t get called? Probably. But did Carrie Ann honestly think this dance was 9-worthy, assuming she did deduct a point for the lift? I’d give it an 8, tops, and that’s without deducting a point for the lift. I will say that I actually enjoyed Normani’s package, though, as we FINALLY got to hear more about her background instead of the “we’re traveling and we’re tired” theme of the first 3 weeks of the season. I think it would be wise of them to continue showing us more about Normani, the person, as opposed to Normani, the member of Fifth Harmony. But I think she & Val are really going to have to step their game up – they’ve gotten a free pass for the first few weeks, but it’s time to put in work…especially with Simone, Rashad, and Nancy really improving week to week, and David being so popular.

7.) Heather & Alan (Maks) – I had to wonder to myself, while watching the weekly tongue bath from the judges last night, “Does it ever become physically painful to have to feign awe week after week at how well a professional dancer picks up a routine on DWTS???” Because seriously, it’s becoming physically painful for me to have to listen to it week after week – it is surprising to absolutely NO ONE with a brain that someone that has made a career as a professional dancer is doing so well on DWTS as a contestant. Sure, she did well with the cha-cha – BECAUSE SHE’S A PROFESSIONAL DANCER. It’s literally her job to pick up choreography quickly and perform it well. I will say that she does seem to have a bit of a problem with fluidity, though, and needs to avoid making every step so “pose-y”. Choreo was typical stop-and-go with time wasters, which makes me think Maks at least had a hand in it; however, I did kinda appreciate that it least tried to tell a story, even the story itself wasn’t all that compelling.  Sorry, but in a sea of stories of struggles with cancer, alcoholic fathers, drug-addled mothers, and life-threatening injuries, stories of getting married, having kids, and living happily ever after don’t really resonate. I mentioned this on Twitter last night, but I’ll say it again here for good measure: once Erika & Nick are gone, I think Heather could be in some serious trouble, vote-wise – because the general impression I’m getting is that viewers are just not connecting to her, and it makes her dance skills moot. The judges can try to prop her up all they want – but eventually, it’s going to reach a point where she just. Does. Not. Have. The. Votes. As for Maks – if Heather can last past week 7 (and I’m dubious about it), it would not surprise me in the slightest if he slithered back on into the partnership, patting Alan on the shoulder and saying “Thanks for basically getting Heather this far, I’ll take it from here!” and then taking all the credit for Heather making it as far as she did. But that’s a big “if” she makes it that far…

8.) Nick & Peta – Just as a preface, to hopefully put things in perspective: to my knowledge, every single Bachelor that has done DWTS has picked the year they met their fiancee on The Bachelor as their most memorable year. It’s almost expected that they do so, as it panders to their fanbase from that show. I would honestly be shocked if a Bachelor DIDN’T do at least one dance on their season dedicated to their fiancee. So for those rolling their eyes going “Gawd, why did he pick 2016 as his most memorable year???”, I kinda have to ask “Well what did you expect?” So with that being said, I actually kinda dug his rumba – I don’t think we’ve ever had a Bachelor actually kinda act out the The Bachelor on the dance floor with multiple ladies 😛 I give him props for dancing with 4 different ladies, too, as that is not as easy as one might think. Also liked that Peta seemed to simplify and tone down her often-frantic rumba choreography, and this had a lot of good, basic content – far more than Val gave Normani. It seems like the judges were finally turning a corner with Nick last night – finally saying “Hey man, you’re doing pretty good. Room for improvement, but good.” But my guess is that it might be too little, too late – after Erika leaves, I think he’s probably cannon fodder.  And they didn’t exactly do him any favors putting him in the running order position of doom…

9.) Erika & Gleb – It’s official: Erika’s a one-trick pony, and I partially blame Gleb. He seemed to confirm my rising suspicions last night that he has no intent of stopping with the “sexiness” act, in order to show another side of Erika. Erika seemed to get equally defensive (and probably the most fired-up we’ve seen her so far, which isn’t really a good sign) and appears to be just as set in her ways. Just a suggestion: it is still possible to stay true to yourself, while also showing another side of your personality – so if you’re saying “this is me, I’m not changing”, you’re either a) in denial, or b) truly one-dimensional. So yeah – after 4 weeks of basically the same dance, just repackaged slightly differently each time, I don’t really have much sympathy for these two, ’cause they’ve kinda dug their own grave at this point. Last night was just more of the same Erika Jayne fare – some simple choreo with backup dancers, not a whole lotta cha-cha, not a ton of energy. I don’t think her appearance in jeopardy last night bodes well for her, and she really needed a very emotionally-resonant dance to stand out last night and get votes – and she didn’t deliver.  I would honestly be shocked if she didn’t go home next week – she has been a total non-event this season, and I don’t think I’ve been able to locate anyone that has actually been voting for her. And it’s all a bit of a shame, because Erika does actually have dance skills – but neither she nor Gleb was able to find a way to really make them shine.

So what did you guys think of “most memorable year” night? Who stood out?