PureDWTS Season 24, Week 9 – Power Rankings

In season 12, it was Ralph.  In season 18, it was Charlie. In season 20, it was Nastia. In season 22, it was Wanya…and in season 24, it was Simone. Following the precedent they set back in 2011, the show has managed to screw a worthy contestant out of a spot in the spring finale for four consecutive seasons now – and more often than not, it seems to happen in order to lend a hand to one of the Chmerkovskiy brothers.  It’s getting BEYOND predictable, to the point of the spring season almost following a template: let things happen organically for the first few weeks, then determine who needs to make the finale (must take mandatory Chmerkovskiy quota into account) and be sure to start neutralizing any threats (read: other good dancers that might prevent a Chmerkovskiy from making it into the finale) by having the judges underscore, nitpick, and generally demean said threats until the generally gullible cross-section of the voting audience (the “sheeple”) actually start to believe that contestant really isn’t any good after all and ceases voting for them. And because of this template, I have ZERO sympathy for the judges – practice your shocked faces all you want, but what happened last night was a direct result of all the meddling you’ve done.  The blood is on your hands, and I better not hear implications of “The audience has to vote! You guys sent Simone home!” next week – you don’t get to pull the puppet strings all season long and manipulate the viewers, and then blame Simone’s elim on them.

But I’m guessing that’s inevitably going to be part of the narrative next week, as they seem to be gunning for a 3rd MBT for Prince Joffrey Val – the “we’ve sent two of the best dancers home – don’t let it happen again!” strategy seems to imply that viewers should vote for the best dancer left, which if you believe the judges’ scores and critiques, is Normani (I don’t agree). If the audience is more woke than I give them credit for, it may more broadly imply “vote for one of the good dancers”, which would mean Normani & Rashad, and imply that voters should not be voting for David.  I’ve gotten several questions about how things are going to shake out next week, and I’m not 100% sure (like just about everything else this season), but I feel fairly confident in stating that they will likely lowball the sh*t out of David – as Heidi has stated multiple times before, the judges like to be RIGHT, and a season of gushing about pro dancer Normani only to have halfway-decent dancer David take the MBT makes them look…dumb. I think David is going to get the Noah/Alek treatment relative to the other two – scores several points lower on his two night 1 dances, to the point where votes won’t be enough to bridge the gap between him and Rashad/Normani.  As for the other two – who knows. The fact that they seemed a bit more lukewarm on Normani last night makes me think they’ve already accomplished what they really wanted – ensure Val makes the finale, to continue the narrative of Val being the “star of the show” and hopefully gain some younger viewers from Normani’s fanbase – and they won’t care quite so much about what happens from here on out.  The other part of me thinks they’re saying “Go big or go home!!!” and will continue the OTT gushing in an attempt to secure MBT #3 for Val. There’s just so much funny business going on that I just cannot state with certainty what exactly TPTB are trying to accomplish.  However, if you’re trying to be strategic with your vote (and some of you have expressed a desire to do just that), I would recommend tossing them to Rashad – and I’m not just saying that as a Shad fan 🙂 As I mentioned above, I think they’re going to score David such that it’s going to be a huge uphill battle to catch up to Shad & Normani, and I think there’s at least a decent chance that Normani is going to continue to get pimped right up until the MBT is handed out – so if you’re looking to really stick it to TPTB, I think Shad’s your best bet.

As for poor Simone – I think the thing that made me the saddest about the whole thing is that she almost seemed relieved to be heading home.  That speaks volumes – the fact that she had a meltdown in practice about doing the best she can and it not being good enough for the judges tells me that this show had long since stopped being fun for her.  This show BROKE her, to the point where not continuing seemed like a better bet than continuing on in the competition. So I guess if that’s what she really wanted at the end of the day – I’m happy for her, and glad she could go out on a high note. Other random thoughts? SO. MUCH. FILLER. LAST. NIGHT. If we cut out the two guest performances and cut back on mic time for random people (i.e. Normani’s grandma), I’m willing to bet we could have shaved a half hour or more off the running time. And I feel like every pro, current or former, that isn’t tied up with the DWTS tour is now trying to pull a Derek & Julianne and start their own tour…and each kinda feels like a less fully-realized version of MOVE. Yeah, it was kinda cool seeing Cheryl doing something really different for her – but it felt more like contemporary by numbers, than a truly creative, connected performance.

1.) Rashad & Emma – Finally, in the penultimate week of the season, Shad rightfully gets the pimp spot 🙂 Strongest of the night for me, aside from Simone – two strong, consistent dances with very little in the way of mistakes.  His hips and arms in the rumba were just DREAMY – was rolling through his hips really nicely, and extending his arms fully.  It seemed like he had built on the initial good hip action we saw in his samba, and it became fully-realized in his rumba.  I’m also glad that Julianne brought up the bit about him really “being there” for Emma every step of the way, which is something I don’t think gets appreciated enough in male celebs doing the rumba – the rumba is the woman’s dance, and the man is really meant to just be a frame for her…and Shad did just that, while still showing he had chops of his own. I think it’s easy for a lot of viewers to write off the male celebs with “well his female pro was doing all the work!” – actually, the male celebs are kinda doing exactly what they’re supposed to when they’re just “being there” for their pro in the rumba. The woman’s gonna do more of the actual moving, and it’s the man’s job to stay grounded and provide balance/frame/etc. I also feel vindicated that Shad’s shoe size was brought up – remember last week when I mentioned my ex’s size 13 boat feet, and how hard it was to be a dancer with big feet? Shad wears a 14, so he has even more of a struggle. I thought their quickstep was adorable – sure, it took awhile to get started, but considering that most of Normani’s dances have taken at least 8 bars to really get going, I didn’t see a point in singling out Shad; at least he was actually dancing, and not sitting on a bench/posing/doing anything that isn’t really dancing. I’ll agree with Len that there were one or two fleeting moment where Shad’s frame & feet maybe looked a tad iffy (but my god, Len, don’t lose sleep over his damn feet!!!), but overall, he was right in the pocket, and I thought it was a nice, upbeat finish to the night (Len’s comments about it being “too much positivity” not withstanding).  Also loved that Shad’s package gave us a glimpse into just how much he’s had to overcome to get where he is today – I had no idea he’d had a learning disability, in addition to his weight issues and his father’s alcoholism. I’m hoping that resonated with viewers – and if it did, I think Shad has a genuine shot at the MBT.  He’s got a one point lead over Normani – which, while it isn’t much, it’s still a little bit of a leg up over her. I’ll take it 😉

2.) Normani & Val – High kicks for everybody!!! I think I counted at least 5 last night, between Normani’s two dances – guess Val had to make up for lost time for the few weeks he didn’t throw any in 😛 Anywho, so much for those twelve bars in hold on their Viennese waltz – there might have been twelve bars in PARTIAL hold (but not full, ballroom frame), and once again, the dance took forever to get started, and then what we did get seemed a bit…rough. The reverse turns looked pretty stiff, and Normani did seem to lose her balance a couple times when transitioning from forward to reverse turns.  I liked the black-and-white-with-the-red-dress-popping-out effect, but overall I doubt this is a dance that’s going to stick out in my mind in seasons to come.  It was alright. I found it hilarious that Len honestly thought he was “nitpicking” Normani because “it’s the semifinals” – meanwhile, Simone & Shad have been getting nitpicked to death over vague minutiae for weeks now, and Normani legitimately lost her balance and Len apologizes for “nitpicking”.  Riiiiiiight. As for the “jazz” – looked more like a Lindy with some high kicks to me. Their foxtrot was more of a jazz than this jazz was a jazz 😛 Anymore, I think Val just says “screw you, I do what I want” with pretty much every dance – and figures out how to justify it later on.  Or ends up not having to justify it at all, as the judges turn a blind eye to it. Which is fine – but if the show is gunning for another Emmy nomination, I can tell you who it won’t come from. The dance was pleasant enough, but like her Viennese waltz – not one I’m likely to remember for seasons to come, or even until next week. Do I think they’re going to continue getting a tongue bath next week? Probably, because I think TPTB are gunning for a Rashad/Normani final two. But beyond that, I can’t decide if they want her to win or not – the fact that they actually seemed to call out her mistakes this week seems to indicate they might not be so keen on her winning this, and just wanted to ensure she makes the finals. But this whole season has been funky, so I don’t even know if I can trust my gut anymore…

3.) David & Lindsay – Heidi & I have both said at various points during the season that David was likely a voting powerhouse – not the most skilled dancer, but somebody that had a devoted fanbase behind them, and the fact that he was able to best an Olympic gold medal gymnast (who who normally be hard to beat, if not for outside machinations) kinda proves that he IS getting the votes…for a recap of just what he needed to do to get past Simone, go reread Heidi’s numbers. That being said – I think next week is going to be an uphill battle for him, because I fully expect TPTB to try and keep him firmly in 3rd place, in no striking distance of Normani & Rashad. However, they may have screwed themselves a bit this week, as I think he is within striking distance of at least Normani, given the power of his fanbase. Lindsay gave him two great dances last night – I thought his foxtrot was very “David” and was light, fun, and appropriate for him; and I think his tango may have technically been his best dance yet, it was so cleanly-executed. Loved the finishing move to his tango with the sharp turn – I don’t know that we’ve ever seen something quite like that before. Of course, Petty Labelle herself, Carrie Ann, just had to call out a lift (I may have to whip out that lift policing post that I’ve had sitting in the dash for awhile after the season’s over), which makes me wonder if the judges fear that David may run away with this whole thing if they don’t knock him down a few pegs every now and then. And unfortunately, as I’ve already mentioned, I don’t think what he does next week matters much, because they’re probably going to ensure he gets 3rd place no matter what – thankfully, David’s such a great guy, I don’t think he even cares how he places at this point – dude was genuinely, adorably shocked that he made the finals. That’s not to say I would mind David winning – as long as Shad got second place 🙂

So as this season draws to a close – what are your thoughts for how things go down in the finals? Who are your votes going to?