PureDWTS Season 25, Week 2, Night 2 – Power Rankings

So the bar was set pretty low for the show on night #2 of this week, given that night #1 was, for the most part, a snoozefest. Did Latin Night rise to the occasion? Yes…and no.  Ehhh, sorta…I guess. If nothing else, the energy level seemed higher, though there was still some really, REALLY screwy scoring (sorry to anyone who danced in the first  half of the show – y’all were gonna get hosed, regardless), and the music department still seems to be saddling some couples with some absolutely garbage songs that have an impossibly long intro for a dance that’s already been severely truncated. Bruno seemed to be relishing the opportunity to continue his stint as “good judge” this week, to Carrie Ann & Len’s “bad judge” roles; Erin, who looked stunning on premiere night, looked more like the lead singer in a Florence + The Machine cover band last night in a dress that still has me scratching my head.

Sad to see Debbie go, but can’t really say it was entirely unexpected – I had her in my 4-couple “lost in the shuffle” club after ballroom night, while Terrell, who had an atrocious rehearsal package that I thought for sure would do him in, actually had enough support (from Cheryl’s fans, I guess) to stick around. Better to be a jerk and memorable (or at least paired with a popular pro whose fans can float you) than be polite and forgettable, I guess. I have a feeling Debbie was probably not long for this competition, though – she just looked progressively more exhausted with each dance she did, and something was probably gonna have to give by week 4, at the latest. Alan had an admirable first outing as a pro, as well, and probably earned himself a pro spot next year (side note: it feels totally weird saying “next year” instead of “next season”, when referring to DWTS…gonna take some getting used to.)

NOTE: If you’re looking for the power rankings from Monday night, go here.

1.) Frankie & Witney – Judging from the comments on Heidi’s post, this is probably gonna piss a few people off – but I actually agree that Frankie had the dance of the night, and I’m totally okay with 9 he got.  Allow me to explain 🙂 Though last night was better than Monday night’s show, it was still relatively tame – even the strongest routines (namely Jordan & Lindsay’s) were lacking a bit for me in terms of emotional connection: Jordan just makes everything look so easy, like he’s not even sweatin’ it; Lindsay just makes everything look so fun and goofy, as if she’s saying “Eh, I could screw this up completely, and be totally ok with it – ain’t no thing!” Frankie isn’t quite as at ease with his dancing as those two are, so he has a certain intensity about him on the floor – like he’s really, really invested in what he’s doing, and is really excited about it, and he’s REALLY hoping he does it well.  THAT is what loved about his dance – Frankie was all-in, and reminded me of that “I have no idea what I’m doing” dog meme where it’s clear he’s out of his element, but he’s so stinking cute doing it and he’s just trying so hard that you don’t care. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of a lot of Hinch’s dances, where you could tell he was really trying, but he was genuinely shocked upon being told he actually did it well and people enjoyed it. There was just something so pure and endearing about Frankie going out there and giving it his best shot, and actually giving a pretty respectable performance. And remember – if Hinch’s placement on his season and David & Rashad’s placement last season is any indicator, viewers seem to love them some guys with zero dance experience that end up being really good, but really humble. And I love me some people who seem genuinely grateful for the experience of doing DWTS (Nancy Kerrigan comes to mind), so to hear Frankie gushing about how much fun he’s having just kind of solidified his position as the highlight of the evening for me.  As for the “9” – I get the feeling that Bruno went a bit off-script with that one, because the looks on Carrie Ann & Len’s faces seemed genuinely shocked and “WTF ARE YOU DOING???!”; but honestly, I derived so much joy from watching Frankie do his thing, I probably would have given it a “9” as well – we always talk about how this show “isn’t all about who the best dancer is”, so I’m not gonna sit here and mince words about “well Lindsay’s choreo was more difficult” or “Jordan’s technique was cleaner”; at the end of the night, I was the most entertained and felt the most satisfied across the board with Frankie’s performance, so I’m ok with it. Plus, I think it’s important to keep in mind that, once again, TPTB are probably trying not to make it seem as though this is only a two-horse race between Jordan and Lindsey – and throwing a curveball like Frankie as the high-scorer is definitely something that keeps viewers on their toes.

2.) Lindsey & Mark – Lindsey delivers yet another fun, carefree dance – and with her signature quirky, I’m-not-trying-too-hard-to-be-sexy spin on it, it was a nice respite from the over-the-top sexy tone of Vanessa’s salsa. I’ve said it before, but Lindsey’s style of movement (and just her general personality, really) really suits Mark’s style of choreography well – but once again, my only nitpick is that there’s just something just a little bit off about the way Lindsey moves. And it’s really hard to put my finger on, because it’s kind of a vague “hoppiness” or something – I’m probably the only one that it currently bothers, but I could see it being a bit of an issue in a smoother dance with more rigid rules, like rumba or tango. Not a whole lot else to add – great dance, enjoyable, bouncy quality to her movement could be an issue at some point.  Good choreo from Mark, but maybe not my favorite that he’s ever done – waiting for him to pull that out later 🙂

3.) Jordan & Lindsay – If I find myself a tad irked by Lindsey’s bounciness, I find myself a bit flustered by how unflappable Jordan seems 😛 Two rather strange complaints about two stellar frontrunners, I know, but last night, I didn’t find myself super-satisfied by either one in the same way I was with Frankie’s performance. Jordan delivers yet again – strongest samba of the night, and the only one of the four we saw where I felt like the celeb really “got” the characteristic samba beat and milked it for all it was worth.  Really, his musicality was exquisite. He also seemed to actually get the bounce action of the samba as well, which most celebs don’t even attempt.  Technically, it was near flawless (strange bitching by Len about footwear notwithstanding) – but part of me wishes that Jordan would, I don’t know, pretend like this was all a bit more challenging for him? I’m just tired of hearing bitching from fans about how he’s “cocky” because he never seems to sweat any of the dances; he’s “fake” because he’s articulate and complementary of his partner (and I believe he has a genuine respect for her – hence the gushing); and he’s “unrelatable” because he’s had a very successful career path. I guess I should really be irritated with the viewers, more than anything, but I find I’m never really all that shocked about some of the ridiculous stuff that comes out of fans’ mouths anymore – I just kinda wish Jordan would have ONE WEEK where he would struggle a bit with the dance, and could show the audience a bit more vulnerability. Because if who wins comes down to who the audience relates to better – I think Lindsey has him beat.  Then again, after the response Frankie got last night, I’m wondering if another non-ringer is going to end up with the trophy instead this season…

4.) Vanessa & Maks – If TPTB are trying to make it look like Jordan & Lindsey are NOT running away with the MBT already – man, they sure are trying to make it seem like Vanessa IS. Let me say this: Vanessa is pretty good. Better than I thought she’d be.  But given the pretty simplistic choreography she’s gotten from Maks so far, I can’t really put her in the same tier as Jordan & Lindsey in terms of being a contender. She’s handled what he’s given her well, but I don’t think he’s thrown anything too difficult at her yet. This salsa was good, but I wouldn’t say it was great – seemed like quite a bit of time-wasting at the beginning (again), and not a ton of stuff in-hold – was also devoid of any super-complex or impressive tricks or lifts.  Lindsey was doing a lot more intricate footwork in her salsa, while this stuck with more basic moves. The costume was probably the biggest offense – a shapeless crop top and a pair of pants that looked like they were made of Hefty trash bags on the bottom. Was it a salsa? Yes. Was I entertained by it? Somewhat.  Is it proof she’s a contender? I’m not sold yet. But I think TPTB have decided that, between Nick & Vanessa, Vanessa is the one that’s going to be worth propping up – so we’ll probably see her stick around for awhile.

5.) Victoria & Val – Sure was nice having a quiet, reserved Val for two dances.  When the Chmerkovskiy boys start talking back to the judges is when I start to have issues – particularly when it’s to Len, because both Maks and Val have made some pretty ageist comments to him over the years about it being “time to quit” or “forgetting his meds”, and it’s usually in response to a pretty valid critique Len has given them about their choreography (or lack thereof).  Yes, “times have changed” and the choreography these days is a bit different than when Len was competing; but at the same time, there is still a rumba syllabus, which means you’ve still got to use at least some rumba steps when choreographing a rumba. Len actually made a really good point about how the dance should be identifiable even if he can’t hear the music – even at the professional level, where the couples are doing predominantly open choreography and not syllabus steps, the quality of movement is still very characteristic of a rumba – and I didn’t see that in Victoria’s dance. Val choreographed a contemporary routine and basically tried to label it a modern rumba when it became obvious that it wasn’t going to pass muster with Len – and really, had he just replied to Len’s critique with “Yeah, I had to adjust the choreo to fit Victoria’s abilities”, I would have said “Ok, I respect that.” Derek had to do similar things when he was choreographing for Amy, and I’m pretty sure Sharna had a few instances where she had to bite the bullet from the judges for choreo she had to adjust for Noah. Mark took his lumps like an adult the other night for breaking hold – would have been nice if Val could have done the same with his rumba choreography. Victoria’s still a bright spot to watch, but I think last night was the first time we saw just how limited she could be – in light of her not being to feel her legs much, she can’t really bend & straighten her legs properly, and thus she can’t really achieve the correct hip action.  Is that going to get called out as the season wears on? I’m not sure yet, but at some point, I think the judges are going to have to get a bit real with her – there are at least (4) contenders right now (with maybe 2-3 couples that could improve with time), and most of them already have far better leg action. The whole “how do you do it???” schtick from the judges is going to wear thin, very soon, and they’re going to have to drop the hammer…

6.) Drew & Emma – Really, another unexpectedly decent dance from Drew – I was having visions of a total non-event rumba with stiff hips and not much moving, but he actually did a really respectable job.  Sure, there could have been more hip action, but that’s a complaint I have about most male celebs’ rumbas; overall, he kept up nicely and had a nice, sweet chemistry on the floor with Emma. My one complaint had to do with the funky camera angles we were seeing on the floor – not sure if there was a nip slip or something, but at one point the camera guy went funny.  Oh well – nothing else to add.  Keep up the good work 🙂

7.) Derek & Sharna – I’m still scratching my head as to what, if anything, Derek and/or Sharna did to get on the judges bad side and get nitpicked & underscored to death – because it happened again last night, despite Derek doing a pretty respectable paso doble.  Probably not my favorite of the three dances he’s done so far, but as far as I could tell, he stayed on-time (and actually had some pretty amazing musicality – makes me wonder if he either plays/played an instrument, or has some other musical training), didn’t miss any steps, and embodied the aggression of the dance. Sure, his hands could have been better – but man, the way the judges were harping on his hands (and some vague critique about artistry), you’d think he was out there just making obscene gestures instead of doing paso doble-esque movements. The poor dude is actually a pretty decent dancer, but somehow keeps ending up in the bottom with the likes of Nick and Terrell. Which brings me to about the only theory I have as to why he’s being low-balled: are they possibly using Derek as some kind of disposable shield for Nick? As I’ve mentioned before, I get the impression that TPTB have a vested interest in keeping Nick around – and one strategy to ensure that might be to use someone else to take the hit during an elim to keep Nick safe, and if I had to guess, Derek is someone that probably can’t get past Nick in votes, when you take into account 98 Degrees fans and Peta’s fanbase (then again, after Nick’s appearance in jeopardy last night, all bets are kinda off). If they’re close (or tied) in score, and Derek just can’t get past Nick in votes…Derek goes, Nick stays. Not exactly the most foolproof strategy (especially since Nick has been a bit of a dud, personality-wise), but it’s the only one I’ve got right now to explain why Derek is getting consistently low-balled.  I’m interested to see if this scoring pattern still holds next week…

8.) Sasha & Gleb – Sasha finally started really MOVING during her samba, and most importantly, for the first time I actually believed that she was enjoying herself in the process 🙂 Not sure she ever got truly in-the-pocket of the samba beat like Jordan did, but there was some nice effort there, and she was moving through her hips surprisingly well. I’m just glad we got to see a bit more of a vulnerable side to her in rehearsal – up until last night, I think she was just a bit of a “stock character” on this season, if you will, as we didn’t have a whole lot of backstory from her and she had been part of the “woodwork squad” I mentioned in the night 1 rankings.  So I’m glad she spoke out about her PCOS (I have several friends that have struggled with it, and it can be debilitating) and let us see a more human side – I think she may have gained a few voters as a result.  Now if she and Gleb can just maintain that momentum…

9.) Nick & Peta – Was shocked (and pleasantly surprised) to see these two winding up in jeopardy – for a little while there, I was starting to feel alone in my utter boredom with Nick.  Sorry, but after last night, this man does nothing for me, dance-wise or personality-wise. That was probably one of the most tepid Argentine tangos we’ve seen on the show – not sure if it was because Peta was trying to make him channel he & Vanessa’s first date, which he totally didn’t remember and just hemmed & hawed when asked about it; or because Nick just really seems like he doesn’t want to be there.  I’m at least partly convinced now that Nick only agreed to do the show because Vanessa really wanted to (and it was a package deal – I get the feeling DWTS wouldn’t have taken Vanessa if they couldn’t have Nick, too), and is just biding his time doing the bare minimum and hoping he gets eliminated soon. And to be fair – neither he nor Peta looked too disappointed to be standing up there in jeopardy last night, and almost seemed resigned to going home. One bright spot of their dance last night: Peta did a complete 180 from her dowdy Golden Girls-esque gown on Monday and opted to show us her snapback game was strong – I thought she looked fantastic in that pale pink two-piece costume, and I spent most of the dance watching her (since Nick was such a stiff non-event). But here’s the kicker: I think TPTB are still looking to milk the married couple storyline (and to a lesser degree, the “Drew Lachey’s big bro” storyline) for all they can, so I don’t think they’re inclined to let Nick go anytime soon – I think putting him in jeopardy was an effort to stimulate votes, and I would not be surprised to see the judges suddenly start gushing about “improved” he is, and start to lay the groundwork for a redemption arc. They’re already being pretty kind with his scores – he may be low on the leader board, but he always seems to have at least 1-2 other people tied with him or below him, which in turn helps shield him. I guess my big question is this: is it going to work, or are the viewers going to rebel a bit against the manipulation, like they did last season?

10.) Terrell & Cheryl – He may have dodged a bullet last night, but unless there’s a secret hoard of massive T.O. fans out there just voting their asses off, Cheryl’s fanbase can’t carry Terrell forever.  And while the internet fans are certainly the minority, I am not seeing a ton of warm fuzzies for dear ol’ Terrell – most people I talked to seemed pretty put-off by his package Monday night.  His Tuesday package was better, but in the same token, I think he came off arrogant – which is funny, because I saw nobody calling that out, but apparently Jordan is “soooo cocky”. I’d say this was a middle-of-the-road to decent samba – he stayed on-time and seemed to at least understand the beat, but he’s still got some feet issues to resolve, and needs to clean everything up. I hate to say this, though – I think he actually did better than Nikki 🙁 I’m hoping he gets a hardcore ballroom dance next week – something that Cheryl can’t sex up so much to cover his weaknesses.

11.) Nikki & Artem – Man, I really hate that I have to put them this low, and I’m honestly hoping I’m wrong and either Terrell or Nick goes home instead – but due to a combo of bad dance & music assignments, bad running order, and maybe just nerves, I think these two have unfortunately become the queen & king of the “fading into the woodwork” club, and were altogether unmemorable in the grand scheme of this week’s shows. They were alright in week 1 – neither great nor terrible; they were ok-but-unremarkable on Monday night; and last night they were mediocre at best. And I feel like Nikki has some natural skill, so it just sucks that they kinda got handed songs this week that were either totally boring (“Come Away With Me”) or not really appropriate for the dance style they were given, and with a looooong intro (“Despacito”). The thing that got my goat about “Despacito” in particular was that they gave them a version with a ridiculously long intro, that wasn’t conducive to doing samba steps; it left them to do this kind of odd hip rolling segment, and then we barely got any samba steps before the song ended. Nikki seemed a bit more tentative and unsure of herself this time around – understandable, considering samba is probably the trickiest of the five Latin dances, in terms of DWTS; but for the first time, she actually seemed timid to me…which isn’t good. There are certainly other people I’d rather see go home first (I’ve named them), and I think a lot of the circumstances leading to these two being so low on the totem pole were out of their control – but unless they’re getting a crap ton of votes, I’d say they’re goners come Monday.

So do you agree with who got sent home? Who do you think is on the chopping block next week?