PureDWTS Season 25, Week 3 – Power Rankings

And that, my friends, is an example of how trying to shoehorn certain dances to fit a theme ends up yielding some pretty awkward, inorganic-looking dances. Overall, I would consider this the weakest of the three instances where the show used this theme – the other being in season 12 (halfway decent) and season 15 (chaotic, but okay). It felt like they were reeeealllly stretching to find songs/dances that fit well with the celebs’ (alleged) guilty pleasures, this time around.  And while we’re on the topic – I actually hate the phrase “guilty pleasure”, because really, if it brings you pleasure (and it’s not a detriment to anyone else’s well-being), why should you feel guilty about it? Lord knows society puts enough pressure on people these days to fit into certain norms; this just seems to be another way to shame people into feeling bad about what makes them happy. You love you some pumpkin spice lattes? Drink ‘em up, champ. Do you love doing the Carlton dance at weddings? That’s not unusual, bud. Does watching Superbad make you giggle uncontrollably, no matter how many times you’ve seen it? Well you’re in good company, cause it does me too, and I’m not sorry. Really and truly, unless someone’s “pleasure” involves pedophilia, misogyny, racism, homophobia, animal cruelty, or any other activity that has the potential to hurt someone else in a non-consensual manner, they shouldn’t have to feel ashamed by it in anyway.  Shame the real villains – not the folks staying in their lane and trying to do the things that bring them joy, however small it might be.

Ok, now that I’m off my soapbox, down to the business at hand: so with no elim last night, what does that mean for next week’s elim? Basically, a huge points dump from two dances means the margins are going to get even closer, and with 5 couples clustered in the 39-41 point range at the bottom, it really is going to come down to fanbase – who is getting the votes and who isn’t.  And honestly – I think it could be any one of four different couples, and I’m not at all confident picking which one. I get the feeling it likely won’t be a double elim, as some have been speculating – given that next week is “most memorable year” week, which is typically pretty emotional and usually doesn’t have an elim, I think it’s only going to be a single one, and they’ll likely save the double for later in the season (I’m guessing team dance week, or week 8 or 9, when they can use it as a tool to narrow down their ideal finale). So in light of me feeling so uncertain about next week’s eliminees, I’m putting the four couples I think it will come down to in my “danger zone” – which means that I think it could ostensibly be any one of the four headed home.

Other odds & ends? Opener felt a bit strange & forced to me – it almost seemed like they were saying swimming and science were “guilty pleasures”.  Where was Maks? Dunno, other than the fact that nobody seemed to tell the crew what was up – very hush-hush, and by writing it off as a “personal issue”, it seemed like the show was trying to sweep it under the rug and hope nobody noticed…which of course, left it wide open for fans to speculate on, and People to spin something a bit less flattering. My only opinion on the matter is that we’re not getting the full story, we probably won’t ever get the full story, and that gushing Instagram posts don’t necessarily mean all is right in the world. The invisible hand of TPTB is likely at work here…

1.) Lindsey & Mark – Remember last week when I mentioned Lindsey’s bouncy movement quality? Well here’s one instance where it really paid the dividends – this jive was fantastic. Probably the closest to technically-correct we’ve seen from a female contestant since Nicole – Lindsey seemed to really understand the technique behind it, and went at it full-bore. Also, brilliant choreography from Mark, getting creative with the pajama theme and the choreography on the bed. Anyone else find Erin asking her about her “dance experience” after they got their scores interesting? Part of me really thinks TPTB are paying close attention to fan perception on social media this season…because there was more than one instance last night where someone on the show made a comment that seemed like it directly addressed something I had seen multiple fans complain about on either Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Seemed like bringing up Lindsey’s previous dance experience (or lack thereof) was a bit of a sly measure to try and rid her of the “ringer” title I’ve seen applied to her, particularly on Facebook – I don’t personally think she is (she might be a low-level ringer based more on her experience as a musician, but that’s about it), but I guess my question is this: are they going to do the same for Jordan? Try to convince the audience he’s not a ringer? Because after last night, I’m convinced that TPTB are still gunning for a Lindsey/Jordan final 2 – but the ringer talk seems a lot stronger surrounding Jordan than it does with Lindsey.

2.) Jordan & Lindsay – *sigh* It sucks that an otherwise stellar dance was somewhat overshadowed by Len complaining about a lack of content, and every Jordan detractor on Twitter latching onto that for dear life and parroting it to anyone who dare praise the dance. Lots of armchair Charleston experts out there these days. So here’s some perspective: like many other couples, I feel like Jordan & Lindsay were stuck with shoehorning a specific dance into a song that it didn’t really fit into – that’s the first problem.  I re-listened to the song they were assigned, and there were maybe 5 bars total that were actually suited to Charleston – the rest of it had some strange tempo shifts and accents that weren’t really conducive to Charleston (which, by the way, really doesn’t have a lot of steps outside of the basic – there is a lot of overlap with Lindy & quickstep, which Lindsay did include, and I feel like I’ve mentioned this before). On top of that, Lindsay was tasked with fitting in the superhero theme, which only further limited their choreography – so for Len to whip out a 7 paddle (the same score he gave Nick’s feeble jazz, and Terrell’s decent-but-nowhere-near-Jordan’s-level salsa) is just obscene. An “8” would have been acceptable, if for no other reason that to acknowledge that Jordan was one of the superior dancers last night, content or not. But hey, Len’s already proven that he loves splitting hairs where Jordan is concerned – last week, he was complaining about shoes – so I guess I’m not shocked.  Just annoyed. All that aside, I loved seeing both Jordan AND Lindsay show off their gymnastic skills in the beginning, and I love how much height Jordan gets on his leaps & jumps.  Just GORGEOUS to watch.  Hoping we get to see a more vulnerable side of him for “most memorable year” week, so the viewers maybe see him more as a human than the ringer-robot Twitter seems to think he is.

3.) Frankie & Witney – Saw a mixed bag of comments on Twitter about this samba – saw complaints about lack of technique, and time wasting, but it seemed like most everyone could agree that it was a very FUN routine…and I agree 🙂 I will say that the song likely dictated the quality of movement a bit – “It’s Gonna Be Me” is a tad slow and not a perfect samba rhythm, so I’m going to partially blame some less-than-stellar technique from Frankie on that; because really, I did see him at least trying to achieve (and sometimes flirting with) the correct hip & knee action, but the song was just too slow to really nail it and still stay on-time. But really, like last week, the major appeal for me in this routine wasn’t the technique – it was just how charismatic and joyful Frankie was performing the routine. I’ve seen fans comparing him to Grandpa last season – he’s the guy that’s maybe not the best dancer, but he’s just so damn fun to watch that you don’t care.  I feel like that’s an apt comparison, but at the same time, I actually feel like Frankie could end up being a decent dancer – the potential is there. And if nothing else – it’s nice seeing Witney invested in a partnership again 🙂

4.) Drew & Emma – Given the atrocity that happened in Las Vegas, it looks like Drew’s Argentine tango may have gotten edited quite a bit for content – I notice that the Tommy Shelby-inspired holster he wore during camera blocking was gone, and it looks like a potential “crime scene”, complete with dead body and evidence flags, got scrapped too – and rightfully so, as it would have been in poor taste. But here’s what getting my goat: “Red Right Hand” is the theme song from Peaky Blinders, which has NOTHING to do with forensics (it’s set in 1920’s Birmingham, England) and is more like The Sopranos or Sons of Anarchy than it is CSI or Law & Order. So why are they trying to pass it off like it’s the theme to CSI or something??? My guess is that it was a song they maybe cleared for a scrapped TV night, and just were like “Here! Use this song!” when it came time to find a song to represent Drew’s guilty pleasure. Mildly annoying, as it just feels a bit low-budget and slapdash. But anyway – aside from a few wobbly-looking spins, Drew actually did a really nice job with this Argentine tango.  It looks like he’s finally starting to figure out how to be comfortable with his height when he dances, and isn’t looking so gangly – and his footwork seemed cleaner, too.  Not perfect, but a definite improvement – which is why I think anyone still holding onto hope that Drew is an early out probably need to start getting used to the idea of him sticking around for awhile. He’s got demographics on his side, AND he’s actually turning out to be a decent dancer.

5.) Vanessa & Alan (Maks) – Not buying that Alan was actually choreographing this, let alone that Maks was not there all week – I tend to believe that Alan taking Maks’ place was more of a last-minute decision, and Alan was really just trying to make the best of what (shitty) choreography Maks had already completed. Beware misleading editing, y’all. Because really – this felt like a quintessential Maks routine, what with the awkward transitions, reliance upon more traditional ballroom steps (since he doesn’t really know jazz) and the troupe, and the absurd amount of time-wasting at the beginning.  Had Alan actually done the choreo, I think we actually would have ended up with something much closer to actual jazz, since Alan is at least semi-cross-trained. Sure, Vanessa handled what she was given well – but it all felt a bit Barbie-ish, with her just kind of posing and prancing about doing pretty simplistic choreography. And Alan didn’t really join in until midway through the dance! The irony of this routine being kind of a dud is that it’s quite possibly the most open-ended, open-to-interpretation dance style you can get, next to the freestyle – and like last season, Maks blew it. Oh well – Vanessa still seems like one of the favored contestants, and there’s enough people doing worse than her than I don’t think she’s in danger of heading home…yet. And I would actually like to see her dancing with Alan some more, while we’re at it…

6.) Victoria & Val – Here we have another example of someone on the show seemingly responding to social media criticism: Carrie Ann gave a rather rambling, not-quite-coherent, and slightly-defensive critique about Victoria & Val “using trickery, but fair trickery” to succeed this season – generally, it left me going “Huh?” and trying to figure out just who Carrie Ann was addressing in the strange proclamation. Just makes me wonder how closely TPTB are monitoring viewer perception this season, and are adjusting their approach accordingly. This actually wasn’t a bad quickstep, for Victoria – she seemed to move much more easily this week than last week, and I’m wondering if the faster dances might actually be easier for her, because she can just let momentum carry her instead of having to deliberately place her feet in the slower dances. Val did seem to get back on track with the content, although I did see broken hold (that probably should have at least been mentioned), and I thought the formation with the lockers and troupe members around he & Victoria could have been used to conceal some shoddy steps. Loved Tom’s comment about “not being an ass” to people that are different, but had to roll my eyes a bit when Val tried to jump in with the whole “celebrate each other’s differences!!!” comment – I think Tom very concisely and aptly summed up the sentiment, the audience applauded it, and then Val tried to steal the spotlight.  Just….sssshhhh.

7.) Nick & Peta – The second of last night’s cringe-y jazz routines – and I’m still floored that they’re going awfully easy on Nick for some pretty kindergarten-y choreography.  Anyone else notice the 3 C’s Len was listing off? I think one was commitment…can’t remember the other two.  Regardless, “content” was not one of the 3 C’s Len mentioned 😛 Really, it felt more like Peta was the star of this routine, and Nick only intermittently joined her in leading the dance. And he stuck out like a sore thumb during the sections they were doing synchronized moves with the troupe – a natural dancer, this man is not. At the end, I was just left with nothing really that stuck out – nothing terrible, nothing impressive, but just overall lukewarm.  But thanks to what I’m assuming are machinations on TPTB’s end, I don’t think Nick is in danger of heading home next week – he got the “in jeopardy” stimulus package last week, and he’s got enough people tied or close enough to him in score that he can beat in votes to stay safe.  Zzzzzzz.

The Danger Zone:

8.) Terrell & Cheryl – I think last night may have been a miniature breakthrough for these two, because that was the first routine that truly felt synergistic to me – like for the first time, they were effectively playing off one another’s energy. And that’s some momentum that could carry them in the future weeks, if they can keep it up (and if Terrell can avoid any more cringeworthy rehearsal packages). I actually really liked how they married salsa to breakdancing without it feeling clunky or forced – loved the little elements of it they incorporated in (especially the freeze Terrell did, and the spins on the floor at the end). Terrell may have gone off-time at one point, but it seemed like a relatively minor snafu in an otherwise pretty decent dance.  The only reason I have them in the “danger zone” is they are part of the club that scored close together, and I think there’s a *slight* chance they could get lost in the shuffle; but I’m inclined to think he’s probably safe based on Cheryl’s fan base, and the momentum of two decent dances in a row.

9.) Sasha & Gleb – The cringe in this jazz can be blamed more on Gleb actually thinking this was great choreography, rather than anything Sasha did wrong – this just felt like a slapstick number with a little bit of kindergarten choir choreography, rather than a fully fleshed-out jazz routine. Like Nick’s routine, everything was just so simple and unimpressive – Sasha could have definitely handled something more challenging, but once again I go back to the Russian pros being less likely to cross-train and therefore coming up empty-handed when it comes time to choreograph a jazz or contemporary routine.  Hell, the last jazz Gleb choreographed, the bulk of the steps were actually jive. If he’s choreographing these jazz routines himself, he needs to pony up and hire a ghost; if he is hiring a ghost, he needs to find a better one, because he’s getting cheated. This was unfortunately just a big snooze, and the judges weren’t afraid to call it out in both critique and score. Do I think Sasha’s in danger of getting eliminated? Potentially.  Do I think she actually will? I’m thinking probably not, because there may be just enough buzz from the recently-announced PLL spin-off that it might save her in votes. But Gleb has seriously got to pick up the pace – Sasha’s a nice girl and a decent dancer, but his choreography has been a total snooze so far.

10.) Nikki & Artem – I’m having such a hard time with this couple, because I see that there’s actually quite a bit of potential there – but I have to wonder if Nikki has a bit of a wall up, and isn’t fully embracing the experience. I think last night was a step in the right direction, doing a more overtly steamy routine (although the bit in the elevator with the security cam threw me – felt a bit more To Catch a Predator than Fifty Shades of Grey), and maybe it was a good idea to bring out John – although that, too, felt like a bit of a ploy to the fans on Facebook that are apparently complaining about Nikki & Artem being “inappropriate”…John’s ok with it, guys, so you should be too. I just find myself really frustrated watching these two, because I feel like they could be doing soooo much better – and I can’t really put my finger on what it is they need to do, or whether it’s just a serious of unfortunate circumstances (bad songs, boring dance styles, bad running order, etc.); and it smarts even more when I look at some other couples that just seem to be skating by *cough*NickAndPeta*cough* without much effort. Hope we get a breakthrough soon.

11.) Derek & Sharna – Remember how I theorized last week that the reason Derek was getting low-balled by the judges was so they could use him as a bit of shield for Nick if they both dropped into the bottom? Well look who ended up tied in score yet again, despite Derek being quite a bit better than Nick 🙁 I will say that I think this was probably his weakest dance so far, but was still far and away more of an effort than Nick made – Derek was moving, staying on time, and having fun…which he’s been doing every week so far, despite what the judges would have you believe.  And I had to emphatically roll my eyes when the judges acted like Derek finally had some “breakthrough” this week and was finally heeding their advice – you fools, literally NOTHING changed, except how you chose to critique him. He’s been doing this all along, and so far you’ve just given him a hard time. What didn’t change, though, was the score – which just further reinforced for me that they may be willing to throw him a bone in his critiques, but they aren’t feeling bold enough to score him higher than Nick yet. I will say that it probably did not bode well for Derek that he got saddled with the “running order position of doom”, and I’m hoping Derek & Sharna fans took last night’s lack of elim as a stay of execution and voted their fingers off…because I don’t by any means think these two deserve to go home, but given what we’ve seen from the judges thus far, he may be a bit of a sacrificial lamb.

So what are your thoughts on Guilty Pleasures week? Who do you think would have gone home if there had been an elim? And who do you think is in danger next week?