PureDWTS Season 24, Week 6 – Power Rankings

Anyone else missing Derek & Mark (and their choreography) something fierce right about now??? Because my god – if last night wasn’t an exercise in choreographic futility for some of our pros, then I don’t know what the hell it was. On top of that, the judges seemed eerily kind to just about everyone (except Nick, which we’ll get into later), which left me with this unpleasant sense of foreboding for most of the show – like I was waiting for something bad to happen, but I wasn’t sure what.  Basically, the same feeling I had while watching the first 20 minutes of last season’s Game of Thrones finale – but thankfully, when it all played out, I felt less like Margaery & more like Cersei, because something that Heidi & I had be predicting would happen eventually, happened: Heather got outsted in a “shocking” (but not really, if you actually think about it) elimination. We had been saying she was the most likely candidate for the token “shock” elim this season, but I don’t think we were anticipating it happening this early on – I myself had her making it to at least week 7, I think. But when you take into account the turd of a routine her pro foist upon her last week, and the fact that most of the general viewing audience couldn’t really get past her basically being a professional dancer herself, she followed the basic formula for getting “Sabrina’d”: the minute a skilled dancer dips below a certain score threshold, they get sent home because they Just. Aren’t. Getting. The. Votes. If you want to see a breakdown of just how few votes Heather was getting (or rather, just how much better than Heather everyone else was doing), go reread Heidi’s Dancing By the Numbers. I wish I could say I was disappointed by a good dancer getting sent home before some less-skilled ones, but I made no secret of it that I never really found myself enjoying Heather’s performances – and it was a combination of lack of connection to the audience on her part, and just plain subpar choreography from Maks on the other. Add in the fact that Maks managed to find TWO ways to proverbially spit in Alan’s face last night, and I’m left saying “Toodles, Heather & Maks – don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya!” Not gonna lie, though: part of me would love to see Alan as a pro next season, and have Maks left out in the cold – karma could be such a perfect bitch 😎

Which brings me to a few notes on demographics.  I think I warned everyone a month ago that Chris, Erika, Heather, & Normani were the four most likely to struggle with fanbase issues this season – three of them are now gone. You Harmonizers still feeling so confident about Normani’s voting fanbase? I saw quite a few folks wringing hands after it was announced that everyone on the girls’ team was in jeopardy, and many of them seemed convinced that Nancy was the one headed home.  You guys do realize that she aligns almost perfectly with the main viewing demographic of the show, right? A middle-aged Olympian with an inspiring backstory? Please help me understand why you thought a C-list-at-best, 30-something professional dancer from a 2-years-defunct teen tv show that was being given highly mediocre choreo by her partner was somehow going to outlast that Olympian, who so far has thrived and been given solid routines by her partner? It’s important to remember that sometimes, this show is about everything EXCEPT the dancing – in this case, the fact that Heather was already a great dancer didn’t matter to a lot of folks. If anything, it seemed to turn them off. They seemed to prefer Nancy’s journey to Heather’s already-professional polish. I also think Nancy has come off far more relatable and down-to-earth than Heather ever did on the show – and trust me when I say that can make a bigger difference than a few points, sometimes.

As for the rest of the show – Nick was an ok guest judge; seemed excited to be there and tried to give insightful critiques, but I think he came across a tad disingenuous at times. He also seemed like a bit of a yes-man, and had been fed a list of instructions on what to say and to whom (“Make sure you mention that Normani could win this whole thing! And don’t go easy on Nick V.!”) But I was pleased to see he gave Rashad a “10” when the other judges were whipping out 9’s – seemed to make up for Carrie Ann’s uncalled-for “7” last week. Opener seemed bland, like it was an afterthought – “Crap, what are we gonna do for the opener this week??? IDK, just…line everyone up or something…” Can’t say I missed Julianne too much – guess the Move Beyond tour didn’t leave any time for the “Ballroom is soooo different than what Heather does!” apology tour this week…and now Heather’s gone. Wuh wuh wuhhhhh.

1.) Simone & Sasha – I might have audibly groaned while watching this samba, because man – they seemed to really screw these two over with the song.  The samba beat felt pretty…flaccid. Hard to keep a hold on, and I don’t know that Simone ever really got into the pocket and felt the beat entirely. I also wasn’t a fan of the boots they had her wearing, which seemed to keep her feet from really connecting to the floor and turning with ease – seemed like she was bouncing too much through her upper body instead of her core, too.  Sasha did the best he could with the choreo, and there was a lot of content, but I don’t think the song did either of them any favors.  I was fully expecting the judges to go in for the kill with their critiques and scores, so you can imagine my surprise when they were relatively kind and generous with her – as much as I like Simone, that was NOT a 35-worthy samba, and that should have been my first indicator that they were up to something last night.  They seemed to be trying to preserve the ladies, and knock out 2-3 of the guys – which makes me think the guys are faring better in the voting than the gals, which is NOT what TPTB want; however, I think they’re trying to shape a final 3 of Simone-Rashad-Normani at this point…whether they’re successful remains to be seen.  But I think as of right now, Simone is probably faring the best of the female contestants, and given that they seem to be giving the ladies a bit of a boost, she seems to be in a good position to continue.

2.) Rashad & Emma – Was a great comeback week for Shad – even though I didn’t think his tango was a whole lot better than his foxtrot (which I still maintain was not NEARLY as bad as the judges made it sound).  Kinda makes me think they’re starting to get down to business and think about who they want in the final three, as I mentioned above – because Shad was the only guy last night that didn’t get ragged by the judges either in score or critique. Part of me wonders if they really were hoping for a Simone-Heather-Normani finale, but after determining that Heather was a goner, they had to switch strategy. Anywho – nice, clean, on-time tango from Shad, with a ton of content to please Len; gotta hand it to Emma, who basically does the exact opposite of Val and gives Len exactly what he wants. Loved the bit at the beginning with the troupe guys – he blends in well, because his movement quality is so polished. Not a whole lot else to add, because I was pleased with his score and how he was treated – I just hope the judges don’t decide to have another “make an example of Shad” week like last week.

3.) David & Lindsay – Right now, I would say that David is probably the biggest threat to a Simone-Rashad-Normani finale – and that’s scaring the bejeesus out of TPTB, because I think he’s posing the biggest threat to Normani. And that’s probably why Grandpa got the bad edit this week – he’s too popular, and they need to knock him down a few pegs. Which is why they kinda went in hard on this Argentine tango as well – like Shad’s foxtrot, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the judges were making it sound: he stayed on-time, he did the steps, and did reasonably well with the lifts. Sure, he wobbled slightly – but he didn’t drop Lindsay, so I don’t really see a point in scolding him for “almost dropping Lindsay”.  If we’re going to start penalizing contestants for things they ALMOST do, we’ve got big problems. Then Carrie Ann chimes in with another cop-out, “crap, I need to make some sort of complaint to validate this score” critique, claiming that David “isn’t himself”.  Since when did this twit become the arbiter of everyone “being themselves” and “connecting with the dance”? Half the time I don’t think she’s even self-aware enough to realize where she is. But I was proud of David for basically deflecting the comment gracefully, and probably using his response to his advantage – the giggling you heard from Carrie Ann as a result was less “OMG he’s so funny & cute!” and likely more “Oh sh*t, that backfired majorly!” Really hoping Lindsay sits him down and makes him see the writing on the wall where the judges are concerned – because I don’t want their bullsh*t snuffing out his light.  He’s a joy to watch 🙂

4.) Normani & Val – I just have to laugh anymore when a Harmonzier slithers in here and starts throwing a tantrum about how “Normani got the high score and did the best, she should be at the top of your list!” To which I say “Who are you really trying to convince of that – me or yourselves?” Because I honestly don’t believe for a moment that she’s getting the most votes this season, or even enough to ensure her safety week-to-week without a lot of assistance from the judges & PTB. Two points off from a perfect score for a dance that wasn’t even a salsa??? Riiiiiight. At best, that was a jazz with some extra arm-wrapping steps – I can’t even recall seeing a whole lot in the way of basic steps. Oh, and there was another high-kick, guys!!!! 😛 And the fact that Val chose to lock horns with Len about choreography during the critique? That felt about like Steph Curry trying to school Michael Jordan on passing & lay-up technique. Len has been around since before the syllabus was even created, Val – it’s probably best not to arrogantly try to cram it up his ass as an excuse for why you yourself are incapable of choreographing an actual salsa as opposed to a freestyle jazz. And it just further illustrates that both Chmerkovskiys have a problem with diarrhea of the mouth – they simply can’t hold it in, and have to retaliate…usually to the detriment of their partner. Shut up, take your lumps, and then go pout about it off-camera, ya stooge. In other news, I legit didn’t know that the words to “When I Grow Up” are “I wanna have groupies” and not “I wanna have boobies” until last night. I think my interpretation makes more sense, though 😉

5.) Nancy & Artem – I really love when Nancy & I are on the same page 🙂 LOVED that she said basically the same thing that I did about “Free Your Mind” – that it’s been totally overused on this show, and people usually (unfavorably) compare any new dances done to it to Mel B’s paso in season 5 (which, like many dances from the early seasons, doesn’t really stand the test of time, but viewers still seem to wax nostalgic about it). So I can totally understand Nancy’s frustration – they were kinda setting her up for potential failure. But while I wasn’t wild about Artem’s choice to use that cage at the beginning, I understand why he did it – likely to just set them apart from any previous routines. For the first half of the routine, Nancy seemed to get a bit stuck in her own head, and didn’t seem at ease – but once she hit the section of dancing side-by-side with the troupe guys and working that skirt, it was game-on and she was in the zone.  Loved the synchronization. If I could give her one bit of advice, it’d be “breathe!” – seemed like she plastered on the same tight-lipped glare the whole time, and it seemed to keep her looking stiff and outta breath. Not her best dance, but certainly not her worst – but I worry now that TPTB have decided that Normani & Simone are their two picks for the finale, so we might start to see Nancy get picked at a bit more.  I’m hoping that the main voting demographic sticks behind her, though, and neutralizes any potential threats.

6.) Nick & Peta – Well, if last night’s sudden about-face from the judges was any indicator, they may have overscored Nick last week and put themselves in a bit of a pickle. So they were right back to dragging him and nitpicking a dance that wasn’t all that bad – sure, it was cheesy, but it was also fun, and Nick managed to stay on-time the entire time and looked to be making a conscious effort to move big and actually move his legs.  Once again, I felt as though he was underscored – I go back to my rule of “only whip out 7’s if there’s major issues with staying on time”, and I did not notice any points where he was off-time. It just gets annoying at times like these, when the judges are basically trying to gaslight the viewers into doubting their own opinions – saw quite a few folks on Twitter saying things to the extent of “Hmmmm, I didn’t think Nick was that bad…but I don’t know a whole lot about dance, so I guess maybe the judges are right!” And it’s irritating because really – Nick has actually been pretty fun to watch this season.  I love his self-deprecating sense of humor, and the fact that he’s not afraid to call out scheisty behavior and the fact that all of the women are ringers, while none of the men have any dance experience whatsoever. Not a whole lot else to add, other than that I think they were angling for a Nick & Bonner bottom 2 next week…and part of me wonders if there’s a surprise double-elim looming, so they can maybe kill 2 birds with one stone…

7.) Bonner & Sharna – The fact that they seemed unusually kind to Bonner for a dance that was ok-at-best makes me think that he’s probably next on the chopping block, votes-wise. Lotta contemporary-esque time wasting at the beginning of that rumba – I would normally chastise a pro for this, but with regards to Sharna, I think she just sees the writing on the wall as far as Bonner’s concerned: he’s not a dancer, he’s probably not going to get any better with the time he has left, and it’s probably not worth it to force him to crash and burn doing heavy-duty content at this point.  Probably better to get scolded for not enough rumba content than risk humiliating Bonner by including steps he just cannot do. Not a whole lot in the way of hip action, but I will say that Bonner at least looked somewhat confident doing the moves he was given – I believed the storyline of the dance. Not much else to say, other than I think his journey on the show has just run its course.

Thoughts on the team dance:

Team Girl Group may have gotten a point higher, but my god – I think even Stevie Wonder could agree that Team Boy Band actually won that round. Neither team will go down in the annals of DWTS history as the best or most technically-proficient team dance we’ve ever seen, but at the very least, I think Team Boy Band may be remembered as one of the most fun/joyous. It took me back to the Rocky Horror team dance in season 19 – by no means the most technically-perfect dance, but one where everyone involved seemed to be having a great time, which made it more enjoyable for me as a viewer to watch. I had heard from Deep Throat that the guys on Team Boy Band were “the most enthusiastic group of celebs I’ve ever seen about the team dance” – I think you could tell from the package, but those guys were THRILLED with their songs and concept, and were already choreographing themselves about a half hour into the first rehearsal; in fact, the entire chair section was basically the four guys just tossing out ideas, and the female pros letting them run with it. The rest of the choreography fit their respective skill sets well, and the female pros wisely adopted a “no male celeb left behind” philosophy that made sure the guys could all actually do the routine and do it in sync and with polish. Was it super difficult or impressive? No, but as we’ve said time and again about the team dance – you’re better off doing simple choreography that can be done cleanly than complicated choreography that looks messy. And when in doubt – sell the showmanship above all else. Which is where Team Girl Group fell woefully short, in addition to their pros laying quite possibly the most gigantic egg ever with the choreography. Seriously, probably the most stacked group of celebs, skill-wise, ever to comprise a team for the team dance – Derek and Mark would have had a heyday with them, and possibly choreographed something Emmy-worthy, with all talent in one spot.  But instead, we were punished with witnessing the greatest waste of time AND talent in the history of DWTS, and sorry not sorry, that choreography REEKED of Chmerkovskiy.  I saw a lot of questions on Twitter to the tune of “Why did Artem & Sasha not speak up and veto that crappy choreography???” and my answer is this: after witnessing Val’s self-important argument about choreography with Len after he & Normani’s salsa last night, and Maks’ self-important soap-boxing after Heather’s craptastic jazz last week, do you really think those two would be talked down so easily from their self-appointed pedestals? Also saw ridiculous complaints about how “sexist” the team dances were – umm, duh, you’ll kinda have that when you pit guys against girls; but the funny thing to me was all the complaints about the guys “being rewarded for taking off their shirts, while the women actually danced”.  I nearly choked on my Unicorn Frappuccino with that one, since the women spent 1/3 of their dance brushing their hair, admiring each other’s nails, and generally gratifying every sexist stereotype about what girls do at sleepovers (minus the topless pillow fights that frat boys seem to think we have). But to that point – the women seemed to spend a shocking amount of time in that routine not doing a whole lot of dancing, which further drives the point home for me that the choreography was a Chmerkovskiy endeavor: they LOVE wasting time not doing actual dance steps. The rest of the routine seemed to be wasted doing steps that were far below the skill level of any of the ladies, and weren’t particularly in-sync or well-coordinated, either. I can’t even recall much in the way of specific moments, because it was all so…unmemorable. And then the lights conveniently going out towards the end? A suspicious part of me wonders if the Muppets in the control room realized what a turd the routine was, and cut the lights to conceal a particularly craptastic moment in the dance and hopefully illicit some sympathy votes. Hell, I’d do it, if I was in that position – that dance needed all the help it could get. There were no winners in that dance – I’d give Nancy an honorable mention for showing she can hang with the younger girls, though, even if the choreography wasn’t sufficient enough to really highlight it; but nobody really seemed like they were having a good time during that dance, which made it a drag to watch (in addition to the mediocre choreography).  I’m giving MVP of the guys team to Rashad, for just hitting every step and really living the dance – and doing some sinful things to a chair. Honorable mention to David for embracing his dad bod and still having a ball performing the dance 🙂

So what are your thoughts on the team dances? Heather’s elimination? What’s coming in the remaining weeks?