PureDWTS Season 24, Week 10 – Power Rankings

Dare I say I’m actually walking away from last night’s show cautiously optimistic about the outcome of this season, despite being thoroughly disgusted by the manipulations we endured all season long? πŸ™‚ I think the narrative shift we saw beginning last week came to full fruition this week – the judges were decidedly less “gushy” about one couple that they had gushed about all season, while becoming unusually gushy about a couple they had given a pretty hard time all season – and the third couple? Well, they just critiqued that one kindly, somewhat coming to accept that they were there, despite not being as good as the other two, and just made sure to score them low enough that they weren’t too much of a threat to the other two. I do have to wonder if the rumors about Rashad doing the tour this summer are true, and that it was a bit of a last-minute decision, hence the judges’ sudden fondness for him in the past two weeks – Rashad has been good all season, but the judges just now starting to notice it? It gives me pause. As for Normani &Β  Val – I also wonder if they either promised Val he’d make it to the finals, or it was written into Normani’s contract as a condition for her doing the show; but then again, part of me wonders if TPTB were at first trying to angle for a back-to-back win for Val, but gave up after seeing that Normani didn’t have the voting clout to make it happen…or that Val wasn’t doing the tour after all. But the sudden about-face they did with regards to both Rashad & Normani? Just makes me go…hmmm…

…as predicted, though, they kinda kept David at arm’s length, and took the tack of “Well he’s here, we may as well try and justify his presence to the viewers who are pissed about Simone, even though David had nothing to do with her elimination!” Less predictable was the narrative they took with Normani, though, which read something like “You’ve just been sooooo perfect all season, that when you do make a mistake now, it is just blatantly obvious to us!” As for Rashad, they seemed to have retrograde amnesia, and completely forget about Shad’s bad feet from a few weeks back or Shad “not connecting to the dance” or whatever.Β  But I’m totally okay with this, as Shad & Emma have been on the receiving end of so much unfounded nitpicking as the season has unfolded that it’s about damn time they got some love. Also totally okay with Shad getting Erin interviews after both dances, while Normani didn’t talk to Erin at all last night, after being granted beaucoup screen time all season long – we don’t need to hear Val’s self-important soapboxing, or hear from Normani’s grandma, or from Fifth Harmony, etc. I’m guessing those two were feeling the pain of suddenly not being the favored couple, as there were a few instances where the cameras panned to the couples and Normani & Val were noticeably subdued while Rashad, Emma, Lindsay, & David were smiling/clapping/actually looking happy to be there. I feel a tiny bit sorry for them (but only a tiny bit!) because this is the exact type of hammer dropping after being gushed over all season that tends to leave couples feeling pretty salty – but in Val’s case, he could use some serious humbling, so this is a good exercise in humility for him. My only worry is about the barrage of vitriol the winner is likely to get from DWM cronies/Harmonizers should the winner tonight not be Normani & Val…

Not a whole lot else to add – I imagine tonight’s show will just draaaaaaag on, with all the filler and faux suspense and whatnot.Β  Some of you have expressed interest in me doing a power ranking of the Dirty Dancing movie on Wednesday on ABC, like I did for Hairspray Live! – would you guys actually read it if I did it? If there’s enough interest, I SUPPOSE I could forego my Wednesday night Handmaid’s Tale and Fargo viewing to suffer through the most awkward romantic lead in recent history…for you guys, of course πŸ˜›

3rd place: David & Lindsay

Y’know, people can say what they will about David – “he doesn’t deserve to be there”, “he’s not as good as some of the people that went home before him”, “he hasn’t improved”…whatever. But if the viewers are anything like me, and just adore how hard he tries and how humbled and grateful he is for the experience, then I can completely understand how he made the finals – the guy just exudes joy. His close bond with Lindsay is just an added bonus – like Rashad & Emma and Nancy & Artem, I think these two just work really, really well together. I don’t know that they’re going to be able to pull out better than 3rd place (although I think there’s an off-chance they could take 2nd, if the Harmonizers are all bark and no bite like I think they might be), but I honestly don’t think David minds one bit – the fact that he even made it this far seems to be a prize to him, and he’s perfectly fine regardless of how they place. I think that was kind of the overall tone of their freestyle, too – they just went out and had fun being themselves, without worrying about trying to do really difficult steps or anything wild and revolutionary. And David looked like he was having a blast – rocking his baseball uniform, poking fun at himself, and grooving to 90s hip-hop. Lindsay threw in nice little bits of their cha-cha, quickstep, and salsa, and some cute tricks using baseball bats.Β  In the end, it felt like a sequel to their week 1 quickstep, which made nice bookends to this season for them πŸ™‚ I think their Viennese waltz was probably the weakest dance of the evening, not because it was inherently bad, but because it just didn’t feel as special as their first and I think David got a bit stuck in his head and wasn’t quite on his game on some of the turns and footwork. I generally don’t put much weight on the redemption dance, anyway, because it’s seldom a vast improvement upon the original dance, so it is what it is. At the end of the day, I’m just glad to see these two having fun, and I’m proud of Lindsay for once again taking a partner with an iffy skill set all the way to the finals – I honestly hope these two keep in touch after the show wraps, they seem like they’ve found lifelong friends in one another πŸ™‚

2nd place: Normani & Val

I think I’ve finally come up with an analogy for Val that kinda illustrates what I think his problem is as a choreographer – stick with me, it’s a bit lengthy.Β  As many of you know, I just got back from visiting my sister in Denver over the weekend. Denver has become kind of a “foodie” city, with all manner of cuisines and cool, unique places to dine, and whenever I’m in town we try to hit up as many different restaurants as possible. On Friday night, we went to a restaurant that I think was Val in food form – the dishes were for the most part traditional (i.e. chicken & waffles, poutine, foie gras, etc.), but they all had some sort of twist ingredient in them that didn’t always jibe well with the rest of the dish. For example, we started with a tempura eggplant appetizer – and for reasons none of us could really discern, they had coated the eggplant in local honey before deep-frying it. It didn’t enhance the dish (in fact, it was kind of weird & disruptive), it just seemed like something they did just because they could and they thought it would be cutting edge & cool. The dishes literally seemed to scream “Look at how unique and boundary-breaking we are because we have this one unexpected ingredient!” but had little regard for the overall taste & appearance of the dish. And that’s what I tend to notice in Val’s choreography – he tends to add something unexpected in an attempt to appear like a trailblazer, but the unexpected “something” often just comes across as odd or actually out-of-place in the dance – like all the goddamn high kicks he threw into nearly every dance this season πŸ˜› Or the many dips he threw into Normani’s redemption quickstep last night – I just found myself saying “Y tho?” On top of that, I don’t know that he could have picked a LESS appropriate costume for her quickstep – the body suit just seemed to draw attention to the lack of body contact and some iffy feet, while a pouffier skirt could have actually concealed both a bit better. It wasn’t a bad quickstep, per se – and I will give him a bit of credit for not horsing around so much before getting into hold – but it wasn’t really memorable or super-cohesive, either. Moral of the story? Just because you CAN put honey on tempura eggplant, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. As for the freestyle – ehhhhh. Again, not terrible, but not great – and in the grand scheme of things, probably not very memorable, either. The song was pretty, but the dance just kinda felt like a retooled Viennese waltz with some contemporary flailing thrown in – and the kids seemed like a bit of an afterthought, as if Normani & Val both knew they would need something to help them stand out against David & Rashad’s much punchier freestyles…but the kids had a relatively small role in it, so it didn’t help much, and even came across a bit pretentious to me…as did the light on Val’s chest and the flower. Gag. And generally, anymore, the minute I see diaphanous white fabric costumes in a freestyle, I kinda check out – it’s just all been done far, far too much, and it doesn’t really impress me. At the end of the night, I’m left wondering if Val just kinda phoned it in on both dances, or if he genuinely thought they were both super-impressive and a good display of Normani’s skills…not sure what to think, but I think the best they can hope for at this point is 2nd, and there’s still an off-shot that they could end up in 3rd, if David is getting as many votes as I think he might be. Once again, Val is handed a partner with a TON of talent – and in the end, he just doesn’t have the skill set to really harness it. Will he ever learn??? Likely not, if he continues to get coddled by the producers and judges. But if this season ends like I think it will…maybe the coddling is losing its power over the viewers…

WINNERS: Rashad & Emma

The winners of the night, hands down, and the one couple I feel has really made the most of their partnership this season. Yes, there have been several great partnerships this season – but I think these two really worked hard and took it to the next level: he came in as a currently-unsigned NFL player with a questionable fanbase and no previous dance experience; she came in as the perpetually-screwed female pro that had endured multiple seasons of hopeless partners and early-outs, as well as seasons where she got shunned completely from a pro spot. Rashad wasn’t coming off a prestigious win like David or Simone; Emma wasn’t a female pro staple like Peta or Sharna and hadn’t just come off multiple finale-runs like Lindsay.Β  These two had to REALLY hustle – and it paid off, because I don’t think they could have looked any better last night πŸ™‚ Both of their dances were the strongest of their respective rounds.Β  Somehow, they actually managed to improve upon their Viennese waltz, which I thought was damn near perfect the first time around – I loved that they managed to tie it into the storyline of the first dance, and MY GOD, Shad was doing some absolutely gorgeous heel turns (with those “bad feet” of his, y’know?) and did a flourish with his arm at one point that left me hissing “niiiiiiiiiceeee” out of clenched teeth because it was just so damn perfect. Was also impressed by how well Rashad was managing the hand passes on those complex turn sequences – he did it again in their freestyle, just with a much higher speed. I also thought that Viennese waltz was some of the best choreography we’ve seen out of Emma – just brilliant stuff, and I think we’re witnessing Emma’s renaissance as a pro…or “Emmasaince”, if you will πŸ˜‰ And it really means a lot for fans that have been there since her first adorable (but technically trying) season with Bill – up until now, she’s only been able to show us how cleverly she can hide her partners shortcomings with her choreography; but now, she’s showing us how she can also help a skilled partner really shine with brilliant choreography. The freestyle? Adorable, fun, high-energy, on-point, and very Shad-appropriate – he seemed invested and connected to the song & choreo, therefore he was able to perform well.Β  Again, super-impressed by how comfortably he was handling the high-speed arm passes and turns, and also appreciated how well he stayed in-sync with the backup dancers. Choreographically, I appreciated how Emma was able to hearken back a bit to the good ol’ days of freestyles, when the couples usually tried to sum up their season by picking out sequences of various dances they had done throughout the season, peppering in a few lifts, and then injecting some personality into the rest of the choreography to wrap things up with a nice, neat little bow. Judging from the responses from the judges on both dances – I’m cautiously optimistic that these two are gonna pull out the win tonight πŸ™‚ I love that a guy with no dance experience (beset on all sides by heavy-duty female ringers!) has managed to come this far on his own merits – and with a female pro that has had to really bite the bullet for several seasons and is finally being given a chance to shine πŸ™‚ And while up against manipulation that didn’t benefit them, no less! Tears may be shed in my house tonight, y’all, if these two win…

So how do you guys think things are gonna shake out tonight? Who did you vote for? And what performances are you looking forward to tonight? πŸ™‚