PureDWTS Season 24, Week 5 – Power Rankings

Well, thank god that’s over – yes, kids, I actually hate Disney week. Sue me. The first time they did it (in season 18), it was cool; but each successive season got progressively less…magical, and more…of a chore to watch. I find that, out of all the theme weeks, it’s the one most likely to force the songs to fit the wrong dances, and to get so caught up in production value that the dance becomes a bit of an afterthought, and the costumes/sets/animations/etc. dominate. Much like my general opinion of Disney these days – just overwrought with commercialization. And I kinda felt that commercial aspect last night more than previous Disney nights – some of the dances felt more like advertisements for upcoming Disney movies, or promotion for lesser-known musicians. I guess when Disney owns ABC, this is to be expected – if it don’t make dollas, it don’t make sense, kids. But I did like the intro, because it was something different – and say what you will about Alfonso, but he has ALWAYS been there for the show when they need him, whether it’s filling in for Tom when his dad died, actually giving insightful critiques as a guest judge, or just being supportive and being in the audience week after week.  I feel like he really gets a bum rap sometimes, as well as the unfair label of being the biggest male ringer the show has ever had – but that’s a discussion for another place…

And now we move onto the “stay woke” segment of the rankings – because there was some serious manipulation going on last night, and you didn’t exactly have to be a rocket scientist to see it. There was gross underscoring, gross overscoring, vague criticism not really rooted in anything substantial, vague praise not really rooted in anything substantial, and strategic placement of people in jeopardy and in safety. The funny thing is, you can really tell that there’s new EP’s at the helm – Conrad & Rob were both a lot stealthier with this kinda stuff; with Joe & Ashley, it’s amateur hour. They’re the B-squad puppeteers that were thrust into lead roles as Muppets, but we can totally see their hands up the asses of some of the contestants.  If you haven’t yet read Heidi’s post about manipulation, you totally should – it’s eye-opening. So what do I make of all of it? I think David, Rashad, & Simone are probably running away with the bulk of the votes, Heather & Normani may not be getting as many as TPTB had anticipated they would, I don’t think they’ve decided what to do about Nancy yet, and Bonner & Nick are pretty disposable to them at this point. Will their machinations work? Not to the degree they’re hoping, I don’t think. Time will tell, and I get the impression that the viewers may be wisening up to the funny business – I know a lot of the readers here have.

So Erika left us…and I’m left without a ton to say other than “oh well…it is what it is.” Her elimination has been the LEAST disappointing one to me so far this season, mostly because I tended to forget her week after week – that kind of thing tends to happen when you basically do the same dance each week, with just a few tweaks. I enjoyed her Viennese waltz last night, and was glad we FINALLY got to see a different side of her (and she even showed vulnerability!) – but it was unfortunately too little, too late. Really hoping we don’t get another “look at how rich & sexy I am!” dance at the finale. Interesting to note: her exit left us with perfectly even numbers of men & women left for the girl groups vs. boy bands team dance next week.  Coincidental or intentional? You decide.

1.) Simone & Sasha – FINALLY – these two start operating at their full potential, and not a moment too soon. Simone’s strongest dance by far – she seemed invested, at ease, and seemed to be emoting properly.  And Sasha finally took a risk that I was hoping he’d take, and started adding in the gymnastic stuff that is sure to make Simone shine – it was one major complaint I had about Val last season, that he seemed to actively avoid having Laurie do anything remotely gymnastic, except for one forward flip in her freestyle. Loved how Sasha adapted typically solo gymnastic moves into partnered lifts and other tricks. But seriously? Two nines? No way in hell Normani was that much better than Simone, and Simone was probably the most deserving of a perfect 40 of anything we’ve seen so far this season. Couple that with the fact that Simone seems to be getting the least amount of camera time and seems to be getting little love from the judges so far this season, and it gives one pause – why are they trying so hard to keep Simone down??? And my only thought is that they think they’re maybe going to lose credibility if a gymnast wins two seasons in a row – which makes no sense when you pair it with the fact that they seem to be gunning for back-to-back wins for Val.  Simone got a bit of the bad package treatment last night, too, but she also got the pimp spot. Feels a bit exploitative to me – keep Simone down with a less-than-flattering package and low-balled scores, but hey – give her the pimp spot so you can capitalize on her popularity with viewers tuning in to see her. It’s all so – weird.  And nonsensical. And it detracts from my overall enjoyment of the show…but my one hope is that enough folks are seeing through this nonsense that they’re just voting that much harder.

2.) Rashad & Emma – I guess at this point, I should be entertaining the notion that Shad is getting the “Nyle” treatment: praised in even-numbered weeks, and given a hard time in the odd-numbered ones. It fits so far – and if it holds, he’ll end up winning 😉 Kidding – well, half-kidding. Most grossly underscored dance of the night, in my opinion – no, it wasn’t as good as his contemporary last week (but that’s going to be hard to top), but given that they were handled yet another crappy song (that Emma was struggling to find a foxtrot beat for on Shad’s IG story last week), I thought they slayed it – it was still a proper foxtrot (even if it was done to a song that really had no foxtrot beat to be found), and Shad was giving me life with how he was holding up his frame and still managing to fill the pauses in the phrasing of the music with rises & stretches through his spine & neck (in pro ballroom, “rising” is the description of the motion the ballroom couples do when they’re boxed-in and waiting for another couple to get out of the way – you never want to just be standing still, so you just kinda stretch up and prepare to move). It really looked polished, the whole thing – which is why I was absolutely gobsmacked that Carrie Ann had the gall to give it a 7. Uncalled for, and here comes my tinfoil hat theory for why she did it: I think she had seriously been planning on calling them for a lift (that swinging move where Shad was holding Emma by one arm and one leg, and the other arm and leg were extended towards the floor).  Deep Throat had mentioned to me on Sunday that Shad’s foxtrot “looked really good, but there’s a move that will probably get called as a lift” – apparently Emma’s foot came off the floor both during camera blocking and during dress rehearsal, so I’m sure Carrie Ann saw it on the monitor in her trailer as she was getting ready. However, by the time the show rolled around, Shad & Emma had worked it out and he held her extra low – that foot stayed on the floor, much to the chagrin of the inane Lift Police. Which could also explain why Carrie Ann seemed kinda flustered when giving her critique, and gave some sort of vague, bullsh*t complaint about Shad “not connecting to the dance” – and really, all of the judges had this weird, apologetic tone to their critiques, anyway; like they knew they were about to screw Shad over and felt lightweight bad about it. Again, I go back to my theory that TPTB aren’t afraid to kinda screw over the top vote-getters, because they know (or they think they know) that it won’t hurt them – which is why they also did Shad a major disservice by announcing early in the show that he was safe.  It may seem innocuous enough to those of us well-versed in how voting works, but for the legions of not-so-bright voters that don’t really pay close attention? They assumed Shad was safe for NEXT week, so they didn’t bother voting. *banging head on desk* So help me god, if Shad ends up in jeopardy over this, I’m gonna lose it – because that was absolutely intentional on the part of TPTB.  They were banking on enough folks falsely assuming Shad was safe that it might diminish his overall vote total – which infuriates me, because it tells me that they’re trying to engineer it so he doesn’t win. If you really want to take a closer look at how thoroughly he got screwed, you can also look at running order – Shad was still winded from the opening number and then had to go right into his foxtrot, but hey…they still got the boon of all the viewers tuning in at the top of the hour, seeing a good dance, and hopefully staying tuned in instead of switching over to The Voice. He got exploited. But the voice in the back of my head still says “Hey, Court – do you think they’d be trying so hard to knock him down a few pegs if he was doing poorly in the votes??? NO!” So I stand by my theory that Simone, Rashad, and David are killing it in the votes – and TPTB are trying to level the playing field by going in harder on them.

3.) David & Lindsay – After talking with Deep Throat, we kinda came to the conclusion that David may have been the victim of an overproduced dance last night – because apparently when he did it in dress rehearsal, his jive was quite a bit more energetic, and he appeared to be having a lot more fun. But it also didn’t have the band & the singer involved, and David had gotten used to rehearsing with a recorded track all week long.  Sure, that’s basically the case every week on the show, but the singer they had for David’s song was RIGHT THERE, rather than in the orchestra pit like they usually are.  On top of that, I felt like his dance was more of an opportunity for Disney to plug Cars 3 than to see David dance, so it had a bit of an overproduced, over-commercialized feel to it. It was very “Lights! Live Band! Bright costumes! CARS CARS CARS!!!” and he seemed to get a bit disoriented – I commend him from staying on-time, though, and he didn’t miss any moves – but seriously, a 28 was pretty asinine. For a dance that he managed to hit all his moves and stay on time, I would have given at least straight 8’s; I would only venture into “7” territory for serious timing issues.  But again, I go back to “who’s killing it in the votes, and who needs help?” And really, the impression I’ve gotten is that Grandpa has been probably getting the most votes each week so far – between his dance last week being shown on the scoreboard at Wrigley, and his family appearing every week, he’s really knocking it out of the park (pun intended) with the core demographic of the show.  I’m not at all worried about him next week, although I’m still pissed about his score – apparently Lindsay was understandably pretty miffed about their scores, too, and was overheard talking about it backstage. Chin up, girl – it ain’t you, it’s the politics 🙁

4.) Nancy & Artem – Nancy is a bit of a unicorn in the competition right now, I think – she’s someone that hasn’t yet posed a big threat to the partners of the Chmerkovskiy brothers, but she’s also pretty good, but maybe not slaying in the votes like Simone, Rashad, and David; she’s basically someone that I don’t think TPTB have figured out what to do with, which is actually beneficial for her at this point.  I feel like they’re letting her journey unfold *gasp!* organically, and without a whole lot of intervention & manipulation – which kind of makes me love her that much more 🙂 I thought her jazz was just lovely – and Maks could have taken some seriously beneficial notes from Artem on how to choreograph a proper jazz that highlights your partner’s strengths. Particularly impressive was how Artem manage to fill typically “empty” spaces in the routine – like walking down the steps, hopping down from the bridge, sitting on a bench – and actually give a dance-like quality to the movement.  Where Maks just had Heather walking or running – Artem had Nancy prancing, doing leg extensions, doing pique turns, etc. And Nancy handled it all with ease, and looked right at home doing it. Loved her blue dress and the red wig – thought she looked the most like the princess she was meant to portray, without looking silly. Probably the one score last night that I thought was appropriate. But the big question moving forward is “How are they gonna handle Nancy?” Are they going to continue to let the chips fall where they may with her? Are they going to start riding her like Simone, Shad, and David? Are they going to start pimping her like Normani & Heather? Probably not that one, but I am interested to see if she continues to get treated the same way as we make our way to the finals.

5.) Normani & Val – I think they gave these two the DWTS “stimulus package” – high scores, high praise, good running order, and a warning shot of jeopardy in order to stimulate their votes. And you don’t give a stimulus package to a business that’s doing well – so I’m inclined to think that Normani may not be getting the hoards of votes the Harmonizers like to claim they’re getting (and if there’s still any of you lurking – and we know you lurk – hoping  to continue arguing this point, do so here). This was a pretty good paso doble, but I wouldn’t say it was a 39/40 good – Normani looked a bit wobbly coming out of some of the turns, and it looks like she may have started moving a bit early, before the music started. And I still take issue with rewarding a routine that seemed to have so much wasted space; sure, the bow staff-fighting segment was cool and hearkened back to Mulan, but the whole time they were doing that, they weren’t doing paso doble. Say what you will about Shad’s 39-scoring contemporary last week, but he was doing contemporary the ENTIRE TIME. Had to chuckle a bit when I saw that Val threw in the ol’ high kick again – that definitely seems to be his choreographic “tic” this season. I’m sure they will probably get an uptick in votes this week, simply due to the faux jeopardy appearance, but I’m beginning to wonder if TPTB are going to be able to give them boosts like this for the remainder of the season…because I’m not convinced they can sustain themselves.

6.) Heather & Alan (Maks) – If you would like a visual catalog of every Chmerkovskiy choreographic trope, look no further than this “jazz” – because it has a little bit of everything: lots of time spent walking from spot to spot, a superfluous prop (guess they’re trying to get their money’s worth out of the fountain from Ginger’s “Belle” number), repetition (Look! More pretzel arms!), overrated-ness (that lift that Maks “just made up” looks awfully similar to many we’ve already seen on the show), and a lot of steps that aren’t part of the dance style being performed.  The last part in particular just makes me chuckle & shake my head – Maks gets the most open-ended and flexible dance during probably the most flexible and open-ended week, rule-wise…and he basically choreographs an out-of-hold foxtrot with a lot of posing.  It would be pretty funny if it weren’t kind of pathetic, really. Part of me thinks he should have just turned choreographic duties over to his partner, who excitedly said “I can do jazz!!!” before realizing her mistake and trying to play it off like “Oh, well, I mean, I’m not GREAT at jazz, and I don’t want to set myself up for failure…” Keep trying, #HeatherNotAProfessionalDancer. I don’t know what the hell Maks was talking about up in the skybox, but it seemed like he was making some excuse about the song having too much talking and it making it hard to choreograph to it – to which I say, “Errr, weren’t Nastia & Derek in almost the exact same boat in season 20? And they still managed to churn this out?” But Heather still got the patented Julianne Hough apology act, so there’s that, and she still ended up with a 34 – which is better than 3 other couples did. But I did find it interesting that Len & Carrie Ann did seem to call out the lack of content on this one – and seemed to put Maks on notice. Hope he’s ready to step up his game next week, since they’re going to be doing at least two dances per week from here on out…who am I kidding? He’s going to continue to coast, and grossly under-utilize his partner’s skill set 😛 Pass the popcorn, please…

7.) Bonner & Sharna – Now that Erika’s gone, I guess someone has to take up the mantle of the “non-event dancer” – and I unfortunately think Bonner’s the most likely candidate. Let me be clear: Bonner isn’t a bad dancer, per se; he’s just not a terribly exciting or memorable dancer. While he is improving, he is still pretty stiff and gets that “deer in the headlights” look in his eyes from time to time, and tends to look to Sharna to remember what to do.  He was better this week than last week, and their dance was fun – but I would say he’s easily the weakest dancer left. I still think he’s got some appeal in the eyes of the female, conservative viewing audience, though, so I’d say he’s probably got the juice to outlast Nick and possibly even Heather. Childish tantrums from the Tumblr universe notwithstanding, I could see him lasting through at least next week. Sorry…not much else to add, other than “God, I miss having Hinch on the show.”

8.) Nick & Peta – Anyone else think that Nick sans facial hair looks kinda like the odd love child of Tristan MacManus & Benji Schwimmer? Just me? I didn’t even recognize Nick in the opener, and was only able to tell it was him by the Pinocchio costume. He did pretty well this week – Peta gave him cute choreography and he kept up decently well, with no major mistakes being made; I liked the cane bit, and I appreciated that they only did a few bars of cane work before ditching them to do more side-by-side stuff (interestingly enough, that was my main gripe with Charlie & Sharna’s Mary Poppins jazz 3 years ago).  But in the grand scheme of last night, Nick was maybe marginally better than Bonner, still not terribly memorable, and in the “running order spot of doom” for the second week in a row. Add to that the fact that he ended up in jeopardy AGAIN last night – and he’s the only person left that’s been in jeopardy twice so far this season – and I’m thinking Nick may have run out of steam.  Which I have to partially blame on the judges, who seemed to go in pretty hard on him the first 2-3 weeks before finally warming to him – and I don’t think a cushy overscore of 34 is going to be enough to save him this time.  The rest of the cannon fodder is gone, and I think he & Bonner (with an outside chance of Heather) are next on the chopping block. But overall, I found myself kinda liking the guy – as much as his name had been maligned prior to the season starting, I thought I would hate him; but now I just think he’s been playing a character on The Bachelor, and who we see on DWTS is closer to the real thing. I don’t think we’ve heard more than 3 words out of Peta the entire season, and she still looked wiped out, so I think she’s probably not going to be too disappointed to bow out this early.

So ends Disney week – how did you guys feel about everything?