PureDWTS Season 25, Week 4 – Power Rankings

Sometimes, I hate being right ☹ I was really starting to think that my “Derek as a shield for Nick” theory was just me being paranoid and trying to find an explanation for the judges being irrational (note: they’re just irrational) and constantly giving Derek a hard time, but it was a bit like watching a slow-motion car wreck as they announced the couples in jeopardy last night – it was like watching my theory unfold and realizing I was maybe not as crazy as I thought I might be.  I’ve gotten poo-poohed by some that insist that Derek “wasn’t that great” (suit yourself, but he was definitely better than Nick, and often cleaner than both T.O. and Drew – all of whom are still in the competition) or that it was “just a coincidence” that they both received the same score each week until last night (when TPTB already knew Derek was a goner) – but if you sit down and actually think about it, it is rather odd that the two of them managed to get the same score FOUR TIMES IN A ROW, especially given that Nick is arguably considered to be the worst dancer left this season.  And if Nick is struggling with votes & scores, remember – he only has to beat one person to stick around…and if that person has the same number of points that Nick does, but maybe doesn’t have as big a fanbase…Nick & Peta survive another week as half of quite possibly the most annoying gambit TPTB have thrust upon us in DWTS history: Chmerlachey ☹

And while we’re on the topic of Chmerlachey – anyone else think that their efforts to make the two married couples “happen” have really kind of blown up in their face? 😛 I got the impression that they were hoping to have viewers really glom onto the two pairs and send them through to the finals – but at this point, Vanessa & Maks seem like they’re just barely tolerating one another after last week’s drama, Nick seems completely checked out and ready to go home, and Peta just seems like she’s trying to avoid getting hit by any crossfire and is quietly trying to blend into the background. The only one who seems like they’re (sort of) having fun is Vanessa, and even her smile is starting to look a bit brittle. The PenaVega’s may have been low-key annoying – but at least both were decent dancers and seemed to be having fun. Chmerlachey X 2…is just a dumpster fire. On the flipside, I don’t think TPTB anticipated Frankie managing to both connect with viewers as well as he has while also turning out to be a pretty good dancer; and to a lesser degree, I don’t think they quite know what to do with Terrell, as he’s actually turning out to be rather interesting to watch and perhaps not as much of a lightning rod for controversy as TPTB might have hoped. Drew also seems to be turning into a halfway-decent dancer on top of being popular, and Sasha the ABC darling, bless her heart, is about as exciting as watching paint dry.  With next week being the midpoint of the season, I think we may start to see a narrative shift, depending on where the votes are falling.

Hated losing Derek, because I did genuinely enjoy him – he seemed like he was down-to-earth and grateful for the opportunity, and I did love the choreography that Sharna was giving him. Loved their dance last night – was a refreshing approach to a very touching story, having them dancing in such a celebratory manner, to an upbeat song.  The styling of the choreo reminded me a bit of the styling of Alfonso’s Carlton jazz; I thought the costumes were adorable.  And for once, I managed to avoid tears during most memorable year week…that is, until the camera panned to Derek’s daughter crying after his dance.  Then the damn dust in my house kicked up, and things got rough. I need to change my furnace filter…

1.) Jordan & Lindsay – Jordan just continues to surprise me with his skill set. Can I just say how nice it was to see a decently-performed contemporary, done by someone who actually seemed to understand the quality of movement the dance needed? Especially after watching Nick flop and flail like an electrocuted fish? 😛 Watching Jordan’s dance was like putting in cooling eye drops after your eyes have been irritated. Just a sense of “ahhhhh, that’s nice”. Also pleasantly surprising? Jordan is not by any means a big or very muscle-y guy (although he does seem to be in excellent shape), and he was still handling those lifts and tricks quite well. Makes me eager to see him Argentine tango, and eager to see what kind of fun stuff Lindsay can throw his way since she now has a partner that can handle just about anything 🙂 Now, I’ve been seeing a lot of complaints from fans who seem to think that Jordan is “fake”, because he seems “so rehearsed” in the way he talks.  Now as someone who has been accused of the same – coming across as inorganic or rehearsed because of the way I speak – I have to defend this kid.  Story time: growing up, my dad would get really irritated with us as kids whenever we would stutter, say “um”, “uh”, or “like, you know”, or just generally fumble over our words – so from a very young age, as a praise-seeking kid looking to not piss my dad off, I very quickly learned to eliminate filler words like that from my everyday speech; in order to do that, I think I started really thinking ahead about what I might say in certain situations, so that I would have a very articulate, confident-sounding response crafted ahead of time and wouldn’t have to strain to not use fillers or just sound stupid. Add to that the fact that I started reading very early, was writing short stories by the time I was ten, and was on the speech team in high school – I am just not a person you will hear using “um”, “uh”, or “like” as filler when I speak.  And I think Jordan is very much the same way, possibly as a result of his Disney training – I noticed Corbin was the same way, as were Roshon and Chelsea; they just train these kids at a young age to be very articulate. Can it come across as “fake” to someone that is used to people fumbling a bit more over their words? Sure. Does it necessarily mean that person IS fake? Definitely not. Ok, so maybe the way I came to be so articulate is really just a maladaptive strategy to seek approval from my dad, but my thoughts and my words are still my own, and I always thought of it as a way to make it more convenient for the person that’s listening to me talk – I don’t want them to have to do a ton of extra work trying to parse out filler words. Probably way too long of an explanation for why I don’t think Jordan’s fake, but I felt like it had to be said 😛

2.) Lindsey & Mark – Just a LOVELY dance. Lovely dance. The concept was creative and cute, but it still had a lot of respectable content (minor gripe and docked point from Len notwithstanding). You could tell the dance meant a lot to Lindsey, and I think Mark did a great job of expressing that – the last shot of her with the silhouette of her dad just was really, really visually impactful. The whole thing reminded me vaguely of Mark’s Up Viennese waltz he choreographed for Sadie – not identical, but shades of the same. So I’ve seen a lot of complaints about Lindsey’s “8” from Len (and Victoria’s “9” from Len), and I feel as though I have to say this to put things in perspective: I STILL SEE LINDSEY AND JORDAN AS THE LAST TWO STANDING, WITHOUT QUESTION. I think many of us share the same sentiment, which is the problem: TPTB are trying to make this look like a real horse race, and not like Lindsey & Jordan have been the last two standing all along. How do they accomplish this? By doing some of the little nitpicking and point docking we’ve seen them do with Jordan and Lindsey from week to week.  I don’t think Len’s nitpick and point dock was anything more than that – just him following orders to make things a bit interesting, and him trying to find some sort of empirical excuse to do it.  Does it suck? Sure. But is it all that unexpected? Not really, given what we’ve seen in previous seasons.  He’s nitpicked content in Lindsey’s dances, and content and shoes (WTF) in Jordan’s. I think it’s just an attempt to level the playing field – so I guess in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t bother me a whole lot. But if it becomes too much of a pattern, best believe I will say something…

3.) Victoria & Val – Much ado about that score – I’ve gotten a lot of tweets asking if I thought Victoria deserved the score she got. The short answer? Hell no – the level of difficulty and cleanliness of execution were not nearly up-to-snuff with other people who got 9’s (namely, Lindsey). The long answer? From a technical standpoint, no, but in the grand scheme of things, the judges do tend to get swept up in the emotion of some of the routines, and it’s not entirely unexpected that they tend to cut some slack on technique during MMY week. So was it right? Ehh…probably not, but it wasn’t unexpected, and I don’t know how much longer they’re going to be able to overlook shortcomings on her part. It was a nice dance, and I liked how they conveyed her story – and for what it’s worth, I actually find myself really appreciating what Victoria does with her upper-body – she was making some nice lines and extensions with her arms, and I thought her frame looked decent. There was some definite wobbly-ness, though, and I noticed it most on the ronde; at some point, the judges are going to have to get real and point some of this stuff out. The judges have had their moments of realness with every contestant we’ve had with a disability – they called Nyle out for going off-time; Amy got called out for not pointing her toes; Noah got called out for being “stiff”.  Could any of them help it? Not really, but it got pointed out nonetheless. Since I don’t see Victoria winning this season, I think a lot of her struggles with footwork are eventually going to become something the judges simply can’t ignore – I just think it’s a bit early-on for them to be doing it, when you look historically at how they scored other contestants that have had disabilities.

4.) Drew & Emma – I’m beginning to think that Drew & Emma may be the couple that’s best at “playing the game”, so to speak – because they seem to have a real knack for doing things that stand out each week, even though Drew is not the strongest dancer this season. Including Jonathan in their jive? Probably the most brilliant move of the week, given that the two of them are such demographic darlings – and really, Jonathan did a pretty respectable job. Also thought Drew kept up nicely, stayed on-time, and picked up his knees well. And really, he’s still a good showman – Frankie may be the dark horse candidate right now, but I could see Drew pulling ahead as the season wears on.  Dude has some natural skill.  Was glad they went with something more upbeat, in the sea of slower, more somber dances we saw last night – just another way they’re standing out, in a positive way 🙂

5.) Frankie & Witney – THEY GOT BRYAN CRANSTON!!! Loved seeing him speak on Frankie’s behalf, especially since some diehard Cranston fans were trying to tell me on Twitter that Frankie “defied” or “betrayed” Bryan by doing DWTS.  Yeeeeah bro, I could see there was a ton of bad blood there 😛 I appreciated the simplicity of Frankie’s story, just coming to terms with his medical problems and memory loss.  It wasn’t a “feel sorry for me!” story, it was a “hey, I’m good, I’m happy, and I accept this” story. I don’t know that the song was well-suited to quickstep – it had more of a tango feel to it – but I think Frankie & Witney made the best of it, and it was an enjoyable dance nonetheless. Maybe a little bit off on some of the runs, and body contact could have been better, but all in all – another solid dance from Frankie.  And I find myself very curious as to what this couple in particular comes up with for Disney week 🙂

6.) Vanessa & Maks – Ehhhhh. Sorry, but watching these two anymore just has become a chore, because it just seemed painfully obvious to me last night that they really, really don’t like each other. Granted, not much was shown of them interacting, but my guess is that was probably intentional on the part of production – they seemed to be in full damage-control mode last night, what with Maks “expressing his feelings for the first time” after Vanessa’s emotional dance. Not buying it, bruh. The one thing I did buy, though, was Nick in tears talking about his son – I believed that far more than I did his wishy-washy dance about marrying Vanessa, so it was all just a bit weird for me. The dance itself was a non-event – typical lazy Maks choreography, with just a few basic steps, and a lot of time wasting just walking back and forth and posing. Non-existent hip action from Vanessa, yet the judges gush. *shrug* I’m not buying that Vanessa is truly a contender this season, as long as she’s stuck with Maks – but who knows what agenda they’re going to push in the coming weeks, perhaps in a last-ditch attempt to get people invested in the married couples. I think she’s in better shape than Nick right now, in terms of safety – but as the numbers dwindle, that could absolutely change.

7.) Terrell & Cheryl – Terrell had a breakthrough this week – not only did we get to see a softer, more vulnerable side of him, but man – who knew he would be so good at the ballroom dances??? I admittedly thought his strength would lie more with the Latin dances, just due to his flamboyant nature, but I actually preferred his control and confidence in this Viennese waltz – his frame actually looked nice, his feet weren’t terrible, and he seemed to be in control and on-time. He picked a good week to surprise us with both a new dance and opening up about his feelings – I think he’s only bound to gain voters with what we saw from him last night.  I’ve had a few people ask if I think he’s in danger of getting eliminated anytime soon – and after last night, I’m thinking he could actually be safe for awhile.  Cheryl’s fans seem to be loyal, plus I could see Terrell picking up some fans…so I think he’s sticking around for the foreseeable future. Which I’m actually ok with, because he got a lot more interesting after last night 🙂

8.) Nick & Peta – Someone posed this question to me on Twitter, and now I’m going to pose it to you here: is Nick possibly the worst boy band member ever to do DWTS? Because when I think back to Drew, and Joey Fat One, and Nick C., and Wanya, and James M./Carlos…all of the names I just mentioned may have had their weak dances, but on the whole, they all ended up being pretty decent dancers.  Joey McIntyre may not have been fantastic, but he was also on the first season of the show, which almost seems like it was another show entirely, with how its changed over the years. Nick L. just seems…painfully awkward, by comparison.  And that’s really saying something, considering he’s now been handed the two most open-ended dances there are, in back-to-back weeks, and has managed to make both look like a struggle. I’m not quite sure what Peta was thinking with the choreo for his contemporary last night – if I had to guess, her strategy was “waste a decent amount of time walking towards him, have him do some lunging/jumping/push-up-like moves he might do at the gym, throw in some general angsty flailing, and hope that nobody notices how awkward my partner truly is” – but Nick just looked rather squatty to me any time he was trying to extend, and watching Peta trying do some of the choreo next to him just made it that much more apparent. I also wasn’t really sold on the whole “my most memorable year was the year I married Vanessa” story – Nick just strikes me as a dude that isn’t terribly mushy, so the story felt a bit forced. Unfortunately, I think his 2nd week in jeopardy has probably bought him a ticket through next week – but after that, I think all bets are off; not sure if they’re trying to keep Chmerlachey intact until the late stages of the competition or what, but I’m not seeing too many fans that are buying the whole thing…so I think there could be backlash if TPTB continue to push Nick in particular onto viewers. Will be interesting if Nick is still given a safety net next week…

9.) Nikki & Artem – Here’s what I think Nikki’s big problem has been thus far this season (besides getting kinda crappy music, crappy dances, and crappy running order positions): she’s had some definite walls up, and she herself even seemed to admit that last night. Deep Throat has mentioned that Nikki “seems to get really nervous on camera, and lock up” and it can sometimes get misinterpreted as being standoffish or cold.  And I think last night, we actually saw her relax a bit and let those walls down – that contemporary was a bit of a milestone for her, as it is the first dance she has done where I went “Ok, NOW she’s finally showing us what she’s capable of!” Nikki’s a true athlete, and it was good to see her showing off her strength – liked the part with the silks, but also liked that they didn’t dwell too much on them and just make the dance an aerial act; also loved how she was leaping jumping into lifts and tricks with abandon, and pulled them off well.  I think my only complaint is that I HATE that stupid song – my sister refers to it as the “small boat” song (due to the first line) and groans and says “Oh god, not that stupid ‘small boat’ song again!” anytime she hears it on the radio. So here’s my struggle: I think next week’s elim is basically going to come down to which fanbase is voting harder: the Bella Army or the PLL fans.  Both fanbases love to tell everyone how big and important they are (and both love to try and use YouTube views as an indicator of popularity…much to Heidi & I’s chagrin), but who is actually picking up the phone and getting online to put in work? I’m giving a slight edge to Nikki this week, for actually shaking things up with her dance, but who knows.

10.) Sasha & Gleb – I said this last night on Twitter (and manage to send some PLL fans into fits of apoplexy as a result), and I’ll repeat it here: Sasha’s dances are never bad.  In fact, they’re usually at least halfway decent.  The problem is that they are completely unremarkable, in the grand scheme of each week – and I think we’re getting to a point where the low-hanging fruit is dwindling, and being decent-but-unmemorable is a liability.  Under any other circumstances, I probably would have Nikki here – but Nikki actually seemed to have a breakthrough last night, while Sasha…did another rather bland dance that didn’t really stand out.  I tend to blame Gleb more than Sasha for this – his choreography has been a total snooze this season, and I’m left not really remembering anything impactful from his routines; the only thing that’s stuck with me has been “Huh, Gleb sure does love him some dips.” Then again, I think Sasha also just picked a song and a theme that maybe didn’t resonate as much emotionally with the audience, either – “Over My Head” isn’t terribly sappy, and I’m still not 100% clear on whether her theme had more to do with PLL or her engagement or what. In a week full of tears over adoptions, the dearly departed, miracle babies, and beating medical odds, I’m not sure a dance about new chapters in one’s life are really going to stick out in people’s minds.  I have no issues with Sasha – she seems like she’s really down-to-earth and genuine – but I’m just left not really remembering her at the end of every show. Will the PLL save her? Or are Nikki’s Bella Army more numerous?

So did the right person go home? Who’s next on the chopping block?