PureDWTS Season 24, Week 7 – Power Rankings

Y’know, if I felt so inclined, I’m thinking I could probably set up some phony-baloney psychic hotline and bilk people out of hundreds of dollars an hour, because predicting this season and its manipulation has gotten SO EASY that I could probably convince some of the less-bright viewers that I’m the second coming of Miss Cleo.  Who da fathah of de bebe? 😛

But in all seriousness – my god, was last night a shitshow. The powers that be didn’t even seem to be trying to hide their hand – from the moment they started mentioning the immunity and perfect scores, you just knew they were setting it up to serve Normani on a silver platter. Poor Simone & Shad, who both had fantastic nights and were every bit (if not more) as deserving as Normani, never even stood a chance of coming near that immunity. But the fact that TPTB went out of their way to keep Normani safe does give me hope – because it seems to point to her not being able to stay safe on her own. Think about it: for the past three weeks, she’s either gotten perfect or near-perfect scores, regardless of the actual quality (or content) of her dances – and this started happening after all of our low-hanging fruit (Chris, Charo, & Mr. T) was gone.  The judges turned on the gushing, and Normani has had a decent points cushion ever since. She has never really been in a position of imminent danger of getting sent home, by virtue of her scores (and the relative underscoring of others). But now that we’re getting down to the wire, and all that’s left are people who can hang in terms of votes – it’s going to take more and more drastic measures in order to keep Normani safe.  And during a precarious week with a *gasp!* double elim, what better way to ensure her safety than granting her immunity to this week’s elim? Just food for thought – it’s entirely possible that Normani could have been one of the two headed home when you added up last week’s scores and votes. But if they handed her immunity, the next person up on the roster would have gotten sent home in her place – and I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume that the most likely person she would have bumped is Nancy, who probably has more support in the main viewing demographic than Normani does. So for those of you trying to make sense of this week’s elim – I honestly think that’s a valid theory of what may have happened.  Nancy could have been the sacrificial lamb because someone else had to stay. Or hell – Normani could have actually had the lowest combined total of scores and votes, but got saved by the immunity. Don’t think it’s possible that such an awesome and “popular” contestant could have gotten sent home? How quickly some are likely to forget Heather. Just a warning: don’t assume Normani is raking in votes because she’s been sticking around. She has yet to really have her fanbase tested on this show…

…as for our two eliminees, I think Nick & Nancy both did an extremely respectable job this season, and will be missed. As I’ve said before, I found myself liking Nick & his self-deprecating sense of humor way more than I thought I would, and he was actually a pretty decent dancer, too – but I think he was understandably beginning to tire of being berated week after week for dances that weren’t really all that bad, and I think Peta is just tired, period, and needs a nap. I could not have asked for more from Nancy & Artem – she was really finding her footing and starting to take shape as a contender, and I just LOVED seeing how grateful she was for the experience; and Artem absolutely blossomed this season as a pro – it was nice to see him so supportive and connected with his partner (after a chain of iffy partnerships), and his choreo took a turn for the better. As I said before, I think they may simply have been the victim of the machinations to keep Normani around, and I do believe Nancy actually had more support within the main viewing demo of the show than Normani did; I think Nancy & Artem may just have been at a bit of a disadvantage by quietly improving week after week, rather than swinging wildly from high-highs to low-lows like some other couples did.  Their journey may not have been dramatic, but it certainly was memorable and fun to watch 🙂

And now we move on to the elephant in the room: Bonner. Saw a lot of questions of “Who the hell is voting for Bonner????” floating around, and I’ll admit, it baffled me initially, too.  But once I got to thinking about it, it started to make more sense – I’m not sure that people are so much voting for Bonner as they are Sharna.  And this, kids, could be a bit of an unforeseen side of effect of multiple seasons of screwing Sharna out of a win – more and more fans seem to be adopting the “it’s [insert pro here]’s turn to win!!!!” philosophy, and I still see quite a bit of talk from fans who thought last season should have been Hinch & Sharna’s (hell, I’m one of them). It’s possible Sharna’s still experiencing a ground swell from last season, that’s carrying she & Bonner further than expected; they also had a comparatively decent week last week, with a pretty kind score and a rumba that wasn’t altogether terrible (along with being part of a really, really fun team dance). And to reiterate a point Heidi brought up to me earlier – when you’ve got the same 2-3 people getting the lion’s share of the votes each week (likely Rashad, Simone, & David), the situation at the bottom of the leader board can vacillate from week to week. If the same 3 couples are getting the most votes week after week, and the rest of the couples are each getting roughly the same fraction of votes as one another each week, then actual rankings can vary quite a bit based on their dances.  Bonner happened to have a relatively “up” week last week, while Nick got dragged and Nancy slipped a bit. Those little fluctuations, no matter how small, have the potential to shake things up quite a bit if those further down the leaderboard are all fighting for the same fraction of votes.

Other than the obvious stuff? Mandy was an ok judge, but seemed to be just another “yes” woman and was following instructions from the control booth on how to score; I did kinda like how she seemed to frequently give a point more than the other judges, though, especially for those dances were the judges were being particularly nitpicky/stingy. I thought the opener was kinda lazy, though – was Mandy too busy getting debriefed on the responses she was to be giving each of the couples as a judge to choreograph something more interesting? Seemed like everyone got caught up a bit in some time-wasting in their dances, just by virtue of the theme, so I guess I’m giving everyone a bit of a free pass this week. The dance-offs were kind of a non-event, and seemed to be very much predetermined, down to who would win each one. Is it too much to ask to let things unfold at least a little bit organically on this show???

1.) Rashad & Emma – Strongest of the night, when you look at both his individual dance and his dance-off. I think he and Emma did the best job of embodying their genre – horror – and had the most fleshed-out and interesting storyline. And they still manage to put a lot of actual dancing in – while some got caught-up in the theme and wasted a bunch of time, I think these two had a nice balance of conveying the theme while still dancing. Thought Shad had some great shaping through his torso, and seemed confident and in control the whole time.  There were a few instances of iffy feet, but considering that this man is not a trained dancer, I don’t think it’s something to harp on too badly – looking at YOU, judges. It has really gotten out-of-hand this season, the disparity in judging – you simply cannot judge a trained dancer the same way you do someone that has never had a formal lesson in their life. And that’s what makes me mad about the judges nitpicking Shad & David, in particular – they act as if these men have been trained every bit as much as Normani or Heather, which is ludicrous. Sorry, but Emma & Lindsay have worked FAR harder and accomplished far more with far less help with their partners this season, than Val has with Normani. And it’s high time that these ladies start seeing some love for that – which is why I was so happy to see so many people jumping on the Shad train last night and throwing him votes. I think at this point, he’s probably in the best position heading into the quarterfinals, with a good balance of dance skills and audience support. Still my pick to win.

2.) Simone & Sasha – If any dance last night was worthy of a perfect score, it was this one – more content than any other dance, Simone slayed all of it, and she looked like she was having fun doing it.  This is what I’ve been wanting from her this whole season – to just let go, have fun, and kill her dances without any hangups.  Also loved that Sasha kinda reverted back to his Disney week choreography, where he wasn’t afraid to pepper in some more gymnastic-y tricks and moves. So glad we got a patented Sasha cartwheel – haven’t seen one of those since season 20 😉 And I disagree with whatever judge tried to claim Simone “was on autopilot” (was probably Carrie Ann – she’s the most off-base these days) – this was one dance she actually seemed totally present in, and seemed to be actively dancing instead of just going through the motions. And of course – she gets underscored, because Normani. I don’t think some people realize just how pervasive the underscoring of others (and overscoring Normani) has become on this show. Is it any wonder that the only two perfect scores this season have been awarded to women with an extensive dance background? And both just happened to be paired with Chmerkovskiy brothers? And that anyone else even coming close to a perfect score have gotten vague, unfounded criticism in order to justify a lower score? It’s tiresome, and I worry that it’s starting to wear on Simone in particular – part of me worries that she’s getting to the point where it’s not all that fun anymore, because even when she shows up and puts on a helluva show, she gets nitpicked. But at this point, I think Rashad & Simone are a lock for the finale – and depending on how things shake out (or get manipulated) the third spot might go to one of two people…

3.) Normani & Val – Anyone else think that Val only has one Argentine tango routine in his repertoire, and basically just adjusts the set and costuming each time? Cause I do – this felt exactly like his Argentine tango with Ginger, which felt like his multiple Argentine tangos with Rumer, which felt like his Argentine tango with Janel, which felt like his Argentine tango with Meryl. There is little to no variation with each one, and I find myself wholly bored.  Sure, Normani handled it well – she’s probably the most trained dancer left, now that Heather’s gone.  I EXPECT her to do well, even with this supposed injury they spent her whole package hyping. At this point, unless someone’s actually got a fractured bone, I don’t really care if they’re “hurt” – because pretty much everyone’s hurting at this point.  Comes with the territory – and I’m willing to bet there are at least 2-3 other people that are injured this season, that we’re not hearing about. What makes Normani so damn special? She’s Val’s partner, and he must be coddled at all times or his head explodes? Seriously, what a waste of immunity – I want to see this girl actually have to fight for her spot on this show, maybe then I’ll think she’s something special. Until then, I’m convinced she’s just someone that’s getting deliberately overscored because she needs help with votes – and the minute they stop helping her, she’s gonna crash and burn.

4.) David & Lindsay – I think TPTB set out to screw these two with song & theme – they probably got handed the toughest combo of song, dance, and theme of anyone this week.  Funny thing is, Lindsay just seemed to nod, say “Challenge accepted!” and screwed them right back by churning out a pretty damn cool dance that David actually seemed to handle well. This was a Derek-worthy move, taking a tough song & theme and making it work for them – and Lindsay is continuing to prove that she’s one to watch, season after season. I actually love “Universal Mind Control”, but even I was having a hard time wrapping my brain around it as a salsa – but I think Lindsay was clever to have the dance start off kinda robotic, as it helped David stay on-time and get the feel of the dance, before breaking into the more heavy-duty salsa stuff. Also loved the staging and the use of the troupe – felt like an army of robots out there, and was visually very cool to see. Now as for his staying power – I think he’s definitely got the power to stay, because I’m still seeing a ton of buzz about Grandpa and I don’t think the Cubs fans are slowing down anytime soon. Even my mom’s boyfriend, who is absolutely NOT a DWTS fan, was asking the other night if I had saved the show on the DVR so he could watch David and then asked if there was some way he could “vote by email” for him 😛 People LOVE this guy, and they’re inclined to pick up a phone or computer and vote for him. Unless the ridiculous protection of Normani continues, I think he stands a chance of bumping her out of the finale – time will tell if they will continue shielding her (especially since her pro is NOT doing the tour this summer), or if they begin to let the chips fall where they may…in which case, I think we may see David edge her out.

5.) Bonner & Sharna – Lotta time wasting in this one, and not a ton of content – but again, I kinda go back to the same thing I said last week about it: I think Sharna sees the writing on the wall where Bonner is concerned, and probably doesn’t see much of a point in trying to force harder content on him when he is likely just going to fail miserably with it. Bonner has plateaued – hell, he plateaued weeks ago, I’m afraid.  But he seemed to stay on-time and come across fairly confident in his choreo, so I will give him props for that.  Thought Sharna used the troupe rather cleverly, as the pairs of guys and gals he was dancing with seemed to be backleading him a bit in the choreography to keep him on-time and in-step. I love that piece of music they were given, and the saloon set was giving me pleasant flashbacks of Amber’s freestyle, Wanya’s jive, and James & Calvin’s paso doble; my standards may be lower than others’, but I actually didn’t think the dance was half bad. Not great, but definitely not terrible, either. Then again, I don’t really have the same issues with Bonner that some others do – I don’t hate the guy, I don’t love him, either. He’s just there. But I don’t know that he’s going to have the juice next week to stick around, now that he’s up against three powerhouses (David, Simone, & Rashad) and somebody that’s consistently being shielded from elimination (Normani). But then again, I didn’t think he’d have the juice to get past Nancy, and he did…so who knows…

Thoughts on the dance-offs:

Simone vs. Nancy (cha-cha) – I may have been in the minority, but I actually preferred Nancy in this one – she was doing more basic steps, and seemed a lot more at ease and having fun with them.  Simone, on the other hand, seemed to be doing more choreography, and came across kinda robotic – I am still not convinced that she feels 100% comfortable performing week to week. But with the way they were focusing the camera way more on Simone than Nancy, poor Nancy didn’t stand a chance, I’m afraid. Court’s winner: Nancy

Rashad vs. David (jive) – Another one that was pretty obvious from the moment they announced their pick – and I’m beginning to realize that I’m just not a fan of jive when it’s for short, kinda impromptu dances like this.  I prefer a fully fleshed-out routine, and not snippets like this, because the couples seem to lose momentum too easily. Both men seemed to struggle a bit with timing issues, but I think Shad managed to stay on-time slightly better (even though he looked kinda rushed at times). David went off-time more, but I think he may have actually had slightly better-looking feet than Shad. Generally, though – Shad was more fun to watch and seemed more at ease. Court’s winner: Rashad

Nick vs. Bonner (rumba) – Admittedly, I came into this one with incredibly low expectations, and also wasn’t terribly invested because I was convinced both of them were headed home and this was just going through the motions. Thought going in that Nick may be slightly better (as he usually has been at least slightly better than Bonner consistently this season), but was actually pleasantly surprised to see Bonner kind of turning it out – that was probably the most confident and in-control I’ve seen him all season.  There were a few bobbles (namely that turn with Sharna that got a little wild), and not a whole lot in the way of basic steps, but his rumba seemed more cohesive than Nick’s.  Nick’s was ok – more basic content, but maybe not as confident and a little more wishy-washy in his movements.  Also seemed like he & Peta had their backs to the camera more often than not, which was strange. Court’s winner: Bonner

So now that I got that over with – what do you guys think?