PureDWTS Season 25, Week 1 – Power Rankings

So we end the season premiere of DWTS’ 25th season (and my 17th season blogging!) and I’m left feeling possibly the most vague and uncertain I’ve ever felt about a season before – about the only thing I feel fairly confident in saying is that Lindsey & Jordan will likely be the last two standing, as I’ve already expressed. But the rest of them? None of them suck terribly, per se, but not many of them really sparkle, either…at least not yet. I think we’ll get a clearer picture of where the audience’s heads are at next week, after eliminations 1 & 2, and after the celebs have had a few more dances and another week to let everything marinate.

I had to chuckle a bit when Tom announced that only (1) judge would be critiquing each couple – I think I may have said out loud “Yeah, good luck with that!”, as we all know that the judges just LOVE hearing themselves talk.  And sure enough, whichever two judges didn’t get to give a full critique to a specific couple gave a quick one before throwing up their scoring paddle – Carrie Ann in particular looked like she was about to implode if she didn’t get to offer her opinion of a dance. Why they did this, I’m not sure – could have just been a time-saving measure, could have been an attempt to appease an audience that seems to grow increasingly bored of the judges’ pious soap-boxing – but I’m glad they did it, because probably 80% of what the judges say anymore seems like scripted filler. Less talky.  More dance-y.  Me likey 🙂

Wish I could say I was as pleased with the scoring, which on the whole seemed to error on the conservative side, and wasn’t always what I would consider congruent with the quality of dance we were seeing. There may be an agenda in play – particularly with regards to our married couple(s) and possibly Jordan – but like so many other things, I don’t think it will become fully clear until we’ve gotten a few weeks under our belts and can identify some patterns. The score distribution is pretty dense, though – seems like a good chunk ended up in the 17-19 point range. And having scores bunched up so closely can often lead to some unexpected eliminations…

…other observations? I thought Erin looked stunning last night – for once, her dress was on-point. The whole “married couple vs. married couple!” schtick has already worn thin and has reached the point of beating a dead horse…and we’re only in week 1! Unfortunately, I don’t see it ending until one of them goes home – and that could be awhile. Opener was cute and fun, but not really all that different from the past few seasons’ openers we’ve seen – not sure there’s a whole lot else they can do to keep things fresh.

Just a reminder for those of you that have been here before, and a crash course for those that haven’t: the power rankings are NOT just a ranking of who danced the best, or who is the most popular, or who has the most fans, etc.  It’s a comprehensive ranking, where I try to take into account scores, memorability, popularity, running order, technique, etc. – basically anything and everything that could affect whether a couple stays or goes.  Top of the list are the couples I think are the LEAST likely to get eliminated; bottom of the list are the ones I think are most in danger of getting eliminated. So please – don’t be “that guy/girl” that shows up in the comments and starts in with “Your rankings are wrong, [insert couple here] scored better than [insert another couple here], so they should be higher in your rankings!” It’s not all about the scores, folks – we appreciate nuance around here 🙂 Shall we begin?

1.) Lindsey & Mark – Great way to end the show, and I love Lindsey’s energy – she just seems really good-natured and down-to-earth, and like she’s going to really embrace the experience of being on the show; part of me thinks she’s almost a hybrid of Kellie Pickler & Paige Van Zant. She does have some great musicality, and I think Mark’s slightly-quirky choreographic style suits her style of movement well – she has this sort of “boppy” quality to her movement that plays well with the kind of steps Mark seems to gravitate towards.  But that movement quality is also my concern moving forward in the competition – she moves well, but she has somewhat of a distinct style to her steps; I could see this becoming a point of contention with the judges (particularly Len) further down the line when they really start to hone in on technique, especially since I think Mark sees the value in sometimes sacrificing technique in favor of creative vision (see he & Chelsea’s jive from season 12). I still see her as one of the last two standing on finale night, but no idea whether she or Jordan comes out on top.

2.) Jordan & Lindsay – Probably the most technically flawless performance of the evening, and likely only suffered in terms of memorability because they were the last couple in the first half of the show – and they were also the ones that popped the cork on strong performances this evening after a ho-hum first half. Also sucks that they got handed a more stoic dance like tango in week one, when other couples are having fun with cha-cha and salsa, or getting whimsical with foxtrot. But MAN – Jordan handled this tango like a pro.  His musicality is impeccable, and I feel like he really GETS the technique of ballroom – his frame looked fantastic, and he was doing the most beautiful little extensions with his arms and hands. So smooth, so confident – I was getting serious Alfonso vibes.  I’m just eager for him to get a more upbeat dance, because the only area I think Lindsey got the best of him in last night was showmanship – which he probably couldn’t have done much about, since he had more of a stone-faced dance while she had a fun one. Thought he was far underscored at 22 points, but I do wonder if they’re pulling a bit of an Alfonso where Jordan’s concern, and are trying to start him off low and keep underscoring him for awhile so it doesn’t appear as though he’s running away with the whole thing.

3.) Victoria & Val – As I said on Twitter – what Victoria lacked in technique, she made up for in sheer joy. I loved her expression the whole time – something like “I can’t feel my legs, but what the hell – I’m gonna have fun with this!” She reminds me a lot of Bethany Mota, both in terms of appearance and just general demeanor. I think she has the right attitude about DWTS – she’s just here to give it her best shot and enjoy the ride.  Which is good, because seeing how limited she is in her leg action is probably going to be problematic as the competition advances – Val is going to have to get creative, a la Derek with Amy, to work around it. And I will applaud him for already getting a bit creative with her cha-cha – I saw that he threw in a little prancing section, which worked well with Victoria’s natural gait, and saw that he tried to stick with on-the-spot actions, rather than moving about the floor a whole lot.  Hide your partner’s flaws, while showcasing their strengths – I think that’s the biggest lesson a pro can gather from dancing with a partner that has limitations, be they physical or just skill-related.  And I think Val may very well end up learning more from working with Victoria than he would working with another able-bodied partner with dance experience 🙂

4.) Vanessa & Maks – Vanessa’s got more natural skill than I expected – technique wasn’t bad, and she actually seemed really comfortable out on the floor, and like she was having fun.  She’s definitely better than Nick, and I find her to be more personable, too – but I just cannot shake the feeling that it’s gonna be Nick that gets pimped a bit more, and makes it further than his wife. And I think part of the blame is likely to land on Maks, because his choreography anymore is just…bland. It was a cute cha-cha, but not a particularly memorable one…and his choreography the past two seasons does not give me hope for anything show-stopping. I myself am actually sick to death already of the “married couple” gambit they are shoving down our throats (and I know I’m not alone), but I can’t decide yet if it’s going to be a boon for the Lachey’s, or a curse – I think TPTB are rapidly reaching the point of oversaturation with the whole schtick, and run the risk of viewers rebelling against it if they aren’t careful. I think for now, the exposure is beneficial – but that could change as the weeks wear on.

5.) Nikki & Artem – Part of me thinks that those who got dealt ballroom in week 1 – particularly the two couples that got tango – had a bit tougher row to hoe (Catherine, are you lurking? 😉 ) than those that got cha-cha or salsa. And Nikki unfortunately had to deal with comparisons to Jordan, who absolutely KILLED his tango – so in the grand scheme of things, I actually thought she did pretty well, and only suffered by comparison to Jordan. I’m thinking they wanted to give her a “tough” dance so they could remind us all that she’s a wrestler – and really, she wasn’t bad.  She stayed on time, she was moving confidently – she just has issues with looking down 😛 I’m hoping she gets a more fun, sexy dance next week so she can let loose and show off her personality a bit more – because she actually does seem to have some natural skill, and could be one to watch.  She just needs the right vehicle to do it 🙂 Score was probably about right, in the grand scheme of things – but I don’t think she’s within a two-point striking distance of Jordan, realistically, and he should have been scored higher…at least a 24.

6.) Nick & Peta – Nick isn’t a terrible dancer, per se – but man, Nick is AWKWARD. He was doing the steps, and he was trying…but I just found myself cringing – a lot – and going “Oof, you are definitely not a natural.” I can’t remember Drew being this awkward…or were the standards just a lot lower back then? I think a lot of the awkwardness stems from each step just feeling so deliberate on his part – like Nick has to very consciously think about each step and make his body execute it, and it doesn’t leave many spare brain cells for him to think about showmanship or express any sort of comfort with the steps. I think he may have some issues with memorizing choreography, for the simple reason that it takes up so much of his conscious thought process to do – I don’t know that he’s going to be a great showman. At least not right away.  Thought 18 was a bit generous relative to some other couples, but given that he’s part of the married couple gambit this season, I’m not surprised that he’s been scored a bit kinder.

7.) Derek & Sharna – I keep hearing people say “Basketball players have always done bad on this show!” (Sharna included) and I just can’t help but go “Did y’all forget about Rick Fox?” He made it all the way to 6th place, and he was actually halfway-decent.  But I digress.  Derek was actually the biggest pleasant surprise of the night for me – I was not expecting him to be very good, and he actually came out and gave us a pretty impressive salsa, with decent movement quality (judges’ comments notwithstanding) and a good amount of showmanship. I was afraid he was gonna be a bit timid and lackadaisical, a la Clyde Drexler, but he actually moved big, stayed on time, and seemed to be having a lot of fun – I appreciate that 🙂 Sure, there’s definite room for improvement, but that was a solid outing for week one.  Love that Derek’s mom is a big fan of the show – and that she actually pays attention, because she totally clocked that Len was gonna call him out on footwork. Will be fun to see her in the audience at some point 😛 Looking forward to what we see from these two – they might be the dark horse of the season.

8.) Drew & Emma – Hmmmm…for me, this one was kinda equal parts “grin” and “cringe” – on the “grin” side, Drew seems like a natural showman, and was having a ball out there; he was actually pretty good in the side-by-side sections, too, and has a good chemistry on the floor with Emma.  On the cringe side – oof, those FEET, and that frame. For as comfortable and light on his feet as he seemed dancing alone, Drew was pretty wooden and uncomfortable-looking while in frame…Emma’s got her work cut out for her there.  As for the feet – like T.O. (and all tall guys, really), it’s probably going to be a constant struggle that he never really gets perfect, so I guess he’s just gonna have to do the best he can. Truth be told, while the song choice was cute, I feel like they may have been a bit screwed by it, as the chorus seemed to move a bit fast and necessitate some frantic-looking transitions.  But overall, these two are fun to watch together, and I think they’ve got some staying power this season.

9.) Terrell & Cheryl – Terrell strikes me as a bit more comfortable and with better rhythm that a week 1 Calvin Johnson, but is maybe not quite as polished as a week 1 Rashad. Overall, not a terrible first outing for him – he looked like he was having fun, he seemed to stay on-time, and he didn’t seem to forget any steps.  Granted, his feet were atrocious (as are most tall guys’ feet), and the technique was pretty iffy at times, but at the very least, Cheryl’s got something to work with.  I go back and forth on whether or not I think he was underscored – scoring was kinda all over the place last night, but I think I probably would have given him at least two sixes, given that I think Nick was only marginally better than Terrell and got an 18.  Not quite sure what to make of Terrell as a person yet – I’ve heard murmurings (only from fans, not from anyone behind-the-scenes whose opinion I trust) that he has been a bit of a diva on-set, but I have a hard time believing that right off the bat, because seriously…TERRELL NEEDS THIS MONEY AND THIS EXPOSURE, and I can’t imagine he’d sh*t all over an opportunity he really, really needs, and has wanted for awhile. My bigger concern is him talking back to the judges – he looked like he was thisclose to giving Len a piece of his mind last night. My advice to T.O. is to just keep his head down, keep his mouth shut, stay in his lane, and listen to and obey everything Cheryl says – because that’s his best shot on this show.

10.) Barbara & Keo – I don’t care what anyone says – I love Barbara and I wanna be like her when I grow up 😛 I love the way she salivates over Keo – contrary to societal beliefs, women can be sexual beings that experience attraction, regardless of their age, race, or sexual identity. And really, I don’t get the impression that Keo is too upset by it – the minute he says it makes him uncomfortable, I’ll change my stance, but until then…drool on, Barbara. I think last night, Chong’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot” weed cha-cha may have gotten some serious competition as my favorite ridiculous dance on DWTS – because Barbara’s “Shake Your Moneymaker” salsa was the first routine that really left entertained last night.  Really and truly, I don’t think she was as bad as the score she was given – she was moving, she stayed (mostly) on time, and there was showmanship for DAYS. I saw one step where she slipped on one of those dollar bills (not her fault), and she got a bit bungled on the side-by-side stuff, but still – I was grinning at the end, while certain other couples that got better scores left me bored. I tossed a few votes their way, simply because I was so entertained.  I’m under no delusions that Barbara is gonna win this season, but at the very least, I think she deserves to stick around a little bit longer and keep us entertained.

11.) Frankie & Witney – I actually really love Frankie’s personality – he came across as really down-to-earth and genuine in his package, and seems like he really wants to be on this show and do his best.  But I go back to my original concern about Frankie: has he been out of the spotlight too long, and will he be able to get the viewers to care about him? I think he can, but I think he’s going to need to come out of his shell a bit more.  Foxtrot was pretty good – I think he got a bit nervous and stiff a few times, but overall, he stayed on-time, he was there for Witney, and he does seem to be starting to grasp the foundation of ballroom technique.  And Witney seems to really get along well with him – and genuinely connect with him, in a way I don’t think she has since she was paired with Alfonso. I’m thinking he needs to have a fun, high-energy dance next week to show everyone what he can do, because while this foxtrot was good, it was a tad sedate and maybe not super-memorable. Looking forward to seeing what else he can show us.

12.) Sasha & Gleb – I caught hell from multiple PLL fans for expressing concern about Sasha’s longevity on the show in the preliminary power rankings – had several people tweet me telling me “You’re underestimating Sasha!” And yet, last night, exactly what I predicted would happen, happened – Sasha gave a pretty forgettable performance, and I think she may be in genuine danger of elimination as a result. She already had a pretty lousy running order position – 2nd is the worst, but 3rd & 4th ain’t much better, either – and while she appeared to be doing the steps correctly and had some definite potential, she moved timidly…and small movers seem to fade into the woodwork and get forgotten pretty quickly on this show.  Sasha seems like a cool, chill girl – and like I said, I thought she looked like she had some good technique, but was just moving small.  But given that there’s 13 other couples this season, and at least 9 or 10 of them were more memorable than Sasha…I’m not sure what she did last night was enough.

13.) Debbie & Alan – *sigh* I feel a little bit sad putting these two this low, but unfortunately, two people have to go home next week, and I’m not sure what Debbie did this week is enough, in the grand scheme of things, to keep her safe. She got saddled with the running order position of death (2nd), and got stuck with a slower, less-memorable dance, wedged between two much more upbeat ones.  She wasn’t bad, but she wasn’t great, either – she’s unfortunately got the perfect storm of circumstances to get completely lost in the shuffle and eliminated. Which sucks, because I actually really liked her story, and saw shades of potential in her musicality and extension – but she does seem like she tires pretty easily, so I’m not sure this competition is going to suit her…especially as the weeks wear on and she has to do more dances.  Maybe bowing out early would be a blessing…?

So those are my thoughts after week 1 – what are yours? Who is your favorite? Who do you think are the ones to watch? Who do you think could be in trouble next week? SHARE 🙂