PureDWTS Season 25, Week 5 – Power Rankings

I’ve said it before, but here it goes again: I actually usually hate Disney night, and it’s not because I “hate Disney” or “had an upsetting childhood” (Twitter sure is full of recreational psychologists these days) – it’s because, like many a theme week, it tends to force the pros to shoehorn their choreo to fit songs that aren’t all appropriate for the dance they’ve been assigned, and the end result is usually…painful to behold, and a detriment to the celeb partner’s scores. However, I will say this: maybe my personal bar was set pretty low, but I actually found myself enjoying last night’s show, on the whole. Most of the pros (with the exception of maybe three) seemed to bring their A-game and actually churn out some respectable and entertaining dances, that still managed to stay true to the Disney movie they were assigned; granted, there were still some eyebrow-raising scoring issues and the general ick of Chmerlachey in its death throes, trying wayyyy too hard to stay on our radar, but all in all, I found the show enjoyable…even with having to watch it on a dodgy live stream on my iPad due to Monday Night Football.  For the first time in PureDWTS history, Heidi’s Titans were playing my Colts on MNF – so we both were on the live stream struggle bus, but thankfully, our server issues here at Pure seem to have been fixed by our latest update, so we hope more of you will stick around to chat with us now 🙂

Another issue I’ve found myself having with Disney night in more recent seasons? Just how commercial it has become – I know that Disney night on DWTS has always served as a bit of free promo for its latest ventures, but it seems like they’re being less and less subtle about it; it also seems like there’s always one couple that gets saddled with the “new movie promo dance” and has to contend with a film that isn’t popular yet, and they are probably contractually obligated to portray certain aspects of the movie within the routine, which only serves to limit them further.  It was Jodie & Keo with Zootopia in season 22; it was David & Lindsay and Cars 3 last season; and this season, it was Nikki & Artem that had to do the promo dance this time, with Coco. Gotta plug those new films, Disney – it’s all about those Benjamins. Anymore, Disney seems to embody a sort of greed that just makes my blood boil – look deep enough and you’ll find many a story of how they’ve screwed people over for the sake of the almighty dollar. If you want an eye-opener, Google Adriana Caselotti – she was the voice of Snow White, and an opera singer that probably could have been the next Maria Callas…if Disney hadn’t contractually screwed her out of a career doing anything other than voicing Snow White. Or don’t, if you want to retain the “magic” of Disney – it’s just hard for me to feel childlike wonder when I see such a big corporate entity shitting on the lil guy, again and again.

Can’t say that too many of us (save for the legions of PLL fans that like to brag about how big they are, and the ones who like to creep my Twitter and pounce whenever I say anything remotely not glowing about Sasha) were all that shocked to see Sasha go – and I think we’re in fairly uniform agreement that most of the fault for her elim lies with Gleb and his absurdly bland choreography, rather than anything Sasha herself did wrong. Really and truly, Gleb had multiple advantages coming into the competition with Sasha – she came from a fanbase that typically serves its stars well on DWTS, she had a backstory that viewers could connect to (her weight struggles), and she actually had at least some dance background.  There is NO REASON why she shouldn’t have made it to at least week 6 based on that alone, especially given that there are still some duds left (Nick in terms of skill, and Vanessa in terms of partnerships that are uncomfortable to watch) that should have been gone before she was; all Gleb really had to do was give her decent and memorable choreography – and he failed her, in that respect. Part of me thinks Sasha saw it coming, to a certain degree, judging from her facial expressions as they stood on the stage. I applaud her for accepting her elimination with poise – she may have been upset, but she remained gracious and calm.  But this is becoming a bit of a disturbing pattern for Gleb, who for the 3rd season in a row has served some very mediocre choreography – I know Strictly fans keep telling me how “awesome” his choreo was on that show, but at this point, something’s gotta give; he either needs to adapt to this show or get out. With Mark & Artem being the only male pros that I think are really putting in the work with their choreo (and the bulk of the female pros being very smart about their choreo), we need more male pros serving their partners well…it’s shit or get off the pot time, Gleb.

So with half the season now over, where do things stand, in terms of the narrative? I still think Lindsey & Jordan will end up being the last two standing – I go back and forth on who I think will actually win, but I’m fairly confident it’s one of those two.  So assuming it’s going to be a 4-person finale again, that leaves 2 other spots to be filled – and if it were up to me, those two other spots would be filled by Frankie & Witney and Drew and Emma; both couples seem to be improving week to week, on top of being very likeable. I worry, though, that TPTB are going to do everything they can to squeeze at least one Chmerkovskiy into that finale (my money’s on Victoria & Val), at the expense of one of those two couples…and I worry that it might be Frankie & Witney. Then again, part of me wonders if Frankie might actually be the prime candidate for the winter tour celeb – he’s a good dancer, he’s likeable, he’s enthusiastic, and from what I can tell, his schedule is open.  I don’t think Lindsey is going to be available, due to her own tour schedule; Jordan seems like he’s blowing up big right now and probably has projects lined up as soon as DWTS is over; and Drew, while WILDLY popular and probably would be a huge draw with the main demo, seems like he’s all tied up with Property Brothers stuff, his book, and his upcoming nuptials. So Frankie’s a bit of a wild card for me right now, despite ending up in jeopardy last night – he could be there because he isn’t getting the votes, or he could be there to start generating buzz because he may be going on tour. I think Nikki is unfortunately expendable in the eyes of TPTB, so she and Artem are likely on their own in terms of fighting to stick around; I think we may have witnessed the swan song of Chmerlachey, and TPTB may let that gambit finally drop (and not a moment too soon) once one of them gets eliminated – hopefully next week.  The one couple I don’t really have a solid feel for? Terrell & Cheryl – I think they may have started out as an “expendable” pairing in the eyes of TPTB, but given Terrell’s breakthrough these past few weeks and the fact he’s actually turning out halfway decent (and isn’t being a complete bonehead), they may be starting to see him as an asset.

1.) Frankie & Witney – I will say it heartened me quite a bit to see how many fans on Twitter were upset at Frankie being in jeopardy, and were throwing votes his way as a result 🙂 For that reason (and by virtue of having a near-perfect score), I think he may actually be the safest of all this week – where Jordan seems to be having connection issues with some of the audience, and Lindsey seems to be getting shoved into the background in terms of running order and scores, Frankie seems like he’s front-and-center, and connecting with the audience in a major way.  And once again, I go back to Hinch’s success on season 23 and David/Rashad’s on season 24 as evidence that we may be witnessing a bit of a shift viewer attitude – it seems like many of them are appreciating contestants with zero dance experience that are unexpectedly good, as opposed to ringers that everyone expects to be good.  It’s more of an interesting story, I think. And really, Frankie is killing it right now – I was impressed to hell with his Argentine tango and how he sold it.  He was confident, he stayed on-time, and he played the character well – and I was actually pleased with how Witney (or Witney’s ghost choreographer, that some of you want to harp on) didn’t go the super-lifty route, and focused more on good, clean footwork and turns as opposed to a ton of high-octane lifts, drops, and tricks.  It reminded me a lot of Jennifer’s Argentine tango in season 11 – no real lifts, but a ton of content and still entertaining to watch. Really excited to see more from these two, who seem to be forging a very productive relationship on the floor 🙂

2.) Jordan & Lindsay – I’m going to compliment whoever did the choreography for this one – and it annoys me to no end that I have to even qualify that anymore, because some of you get your undies in such a bunch if I daresay “[insert pro here] did a great job on the choreo!” only to have five or six people jump on me and go “We don’t know that it was theirs!!! They could have used a ghost!!!” I’ve covered it pretty well in this post, but I daresay that even if a pro is using a ghost, they are still very much involved in fine-tuning the choreo and making sure it suits their celeb – so they don’t get to just rest on their laurels, contrary to what some of you might believe. Rant over. But yeah – the choreo here was pretty awesome, and it was just a TON of content – both foxtrot and that fun section during Lin Manuel’s rap that was a sort of stepping choreo.  And as always – Jordan slayed it, without breaking a sweat, and it was just a visual treat to behold. And once again, I saw complaints from some that it looked “too easy” for Jordan – so I guess pretend to struggle a bit more, brah? 😛 Sometimes, I think this kid just can’t win. Also saw a few well-intentioned-but-somewhat-off-the-mark accusations of cultural appropriation lobbed in Jordan & Lindsay’s direction – first off, did anyone really think they were NOT going to give Jordan the song he sang on from a recent Disney movie? I daresay it was far more appropriate for him to dance to it, than, say, Nick, Frankie, or Drew; and did you really think Disney was going to pass up the opportunity to basically get free press for Moana by telling wardrobe “Hey, don’t make the costumes look like those in the movie”? If you want to complain about cultural appropriation, I say take it directly to the source – Disney, whose been doing it for YEARS. As far as I’m concerned, Jordan & Lindsay were just doing what they were contractually obligated to do – and did a damn good dance while they were at it. Well-deserving of a 30, and probably my favorite of the night.

3.) Lindsey & Mark – I’m not quite sure why they keep shoving Lindsey in head-scratching running order positions, and really low-balling her in score – part of me wonders if she’s just absolutely running away with the votes, and it’s all just an attempt to keep up the illusion that this season is a horse race and “anyone’s game”.  Because what she and Mark have done so far this season has been nothing short of brilliant – I believe we’re witnessing the golden age of Mark Ballas, where he’s fully-realized in his choreography and just checking all the boxes in terms of creativity, content, theme, and execution. He’s always been creative, but in past seasons, I think he’s often struggled with balancing creativity with content and execution – season 12 Mark is a good example; I think season 25 Mark understands that you don’t always have to go way far out of the box to make an impact – this was just a no-frills foxtrot in its purest form, with a few fun little flourishes thrown in to make it Disney; and it was PERFECT. And not to give all the credit to Mark – Lindsey has been an absolute gem so far, just embracing the experience fully and handling everything Mark has thrown at her with aplomb. How this dance only ended up with a 28 and not a perfect 30, I’ll never know – again, I go back to “Is Lindsey just killing it in the votes? Or are other couples in need of some help?” But really – if Jordan got a 30, I feel this should have, too. Hoping we see these two starting to get the scores they deserve soon, although I don’t think the scores are really what matter to them – and I think that might ultimately be the attitude that helps them win this.

4.) Victoria & Val – Hmmmm…not quite sure what to make of their performance last night, and the subsequent scores it got. First of all, I was confused by why Val had asked for their assigned dance to be changed from a Charleston to a jazz – I thought this song was far more Charleston appropriate than the one Jordan & Lindsay got handed a few weeks back, and I saw them doing Charleston steps…and so did Len. And the Charleston steps Victoria was doing seemed to be fine, sooo…why ask for the switch? Was he afraid of getting called out for lack of content? Or was he just really having a hard time with the choreo and wanted more flexibility? I’m not sure.  The dance was cute, and wasn’t bad – but it really felt like Victoria was remaining pretty stationary for most of it, and I thought her footwork was pretty noticeably shoddy. Definitely not what I would consider worthy of three 9’s, especially when you take into account that Lindsey’s near-perfect foxtrot got only 1 point higher. My guess is that TPTB has laid their cards out and decided that Victoria is their best bet for getting a Chmerkovskiy into the finale, and so they’re putting all of their eggs in one basket with her – hence, the boost. Or who knows, she could be struggling with votes, and this an attempt to keep her afloat in the competition a bit longer. I’m just not quite sure what to make of these two at this point – and I think Val may have actually screwed himself a bit in the long run, because he burned through probably the most open-ended dance Victoria could have done; I probably would have kept jazz in my back pocket until further along in the competition, when the risk of elimination for Victoria was higher and a sure-thing dance was needed to keep her in.

5.) Drew & Emma – Along with Terrell, I really think Drew is representing the “tall guys” of the world well this season – he’s managing to correct a lot of the pitfalls some of the taller men usually fall into (dropping frame/getting squatty to make it easier for their female partner to reach them; generally not being in good control of their limbs) and seems to be improving each week.  I actually really loved this Viennese waltz – I love the Muppets, I love “Rainbow Connection”, and I loved the costumes and choreography. Not only is Drew becoming more and more polished each week, but we’re seeing an extension of the “Emmasaince” of last season – Emma’s really shining in her choreography again this season, and proving herself to be one to watch.  I think Drew and Frankie are currently dueling for the title of “dark horse” – but really, I think they both might end up taking it, because both are just doing really well and embracing the experience.

6.) Nikki & Artem – For being dealt a crap hand (the obligatory “promo dance” I mentioned above), I think these two did a very respectable job – I had to roll my eyes a bit at some I saw on Twitter scolding Nikki & Artem for “cultural appropriation”, only to have Nikki point out that she is, indeed, Mexican, and her father even had a mariachi band when she was growing up; and for what it’s worth, I feel like Artem was trying his best to have the dance pay respect to traditional mariachi-style dancing, despite not being terribly familiar with mariachi himself. I found this to be more cultural appreciation, as opposed to appropriation – and really, Nikki did seem like she was at least trying to have a good time out there. I actually really loved the stunt at the end where the men picked up all the women and spun them around in a circle – I see that in a lot of salsa group routines. I’ve seen complaints that they were overscored, but at the same time, I have to say “But they also kinda got screwed by getting the ‘promo ad dance’…”, so I’m not all that bent out of shape about it – I figure it was the least they could do to make up for screwing them over, yet again. As much as I like Nikki, I don’t think she’s posing any real threat to anyone by being overscored – I mentioned it above, but I get the feeling Nikki & Artem are unfortunately not a priority pairing for TPTB this season, so I don’t see any real pimping happening on their behalf; I think they’re letting the chips fall where they may with regards to Nikki & Artem.  Which sucks, because I actually think both are really working hard – I’m hoping their efforts can keep them in awhile longer.

7.) Terrell & Cheryl – Terrell has another pretty good week, and is proving himself to be surprisingly proficient at the ballroom dances – which is usually something the taller guys struggle with.  Terrell’s quickstep was quite a bit better than Nick’s, and overall it was a pleasant dance – maybe didn’t carry as much gravity as last week’s dance, but he still had fun and played it off well.  I couldn’t help but think of Cody & Witney’s samba to the same song back in season 18, and I think the song would have been better suited to samba than quickstep; but given that Terrell has already done samba, I can accept quickstep.  I’m starting to love the banter between he & Cheryl – I think he’s gotten to the point where he respects her as an authority, and she feels comfortable playfully calling him out on stuff. Normally, I would say his time is probably limited on the show – but I actually think at this point, based on how he seems to be gaining voters and is getting a decent buoy from Cheryl’s fans, he could last awhile – I think he outlasts both Vanessa & Nick, easy, and could possibly outlast Nikki as well. Will be interesting to see how the chips fall once we enter double-elim territory, though.

8.) Vanessa & Maks – Thank god they went with the seven dwarfs drivel for their rehearsal package, but it’s absolutely squirm-worthy to see how awkwardly these two interact on the regular now – wish I knew exactly what was said that ignited their big blow-up, because it seems to have caused some permanent damage to their partnership. Vanessa reminds me a lot of those friends we all have on Facebook that are one overly-enthusiastic status update away from having a complete meltdown – you can tell they’re simultaneously trying to convince both you AND themselves that everything is great, but neither party is really buying it. That was her babbling after they got their critiques – the effusive praise for the routine and Maks and Disney and basically anything else Vanessa could think of to try and distract us from the fact that she’s having a terrible time. Their dance was neither terrible nor good, and was generally pretty tepid and unremarkable – if it were one of the seven dwarfs, it would be Sleepy…because that’s how I felt watching it. Choreo was boring and garden-variety, Vanessa didn’t seem exceedingly comfortable doing it, nor did Maks seem very invested in the routine. And dancing in the running order position of doom? Ooh wee – I think she earned herself a spot in jeopardy next week, alongside hubby.  I don’t think any number of staged kisses for the camera is going to prevent that.

9.) Nick & Peta – I don’t know that I’ve seen a contestant look so disappointed at not getting eliminated since Chris Soules in season 20 😛 I already said it last week, but I just get the impression that Nick is totally over this show at this point, and is not really going out of his way to try hard and stick around.  Or, he is, but he’s just that bad of a dancer that it looks like he’s not trying.  I’ll give him credit this week – he did improve SLIGHTLY, and seemed to be having fun – but there were issues with going off-time, and his bounce being about one beat off of Peta’s, so their quickstep looked uneven; the judges seemed so lukewarm in their comments about the technique that they didn’t even bother mentioning the broken hold…probably would have seemed like overkill. Not much else to add here – I just think TPTB have given up on this pairing in particular, and the other half of Chmerlachey seems like they aren’t far behind. Nick won’t have jeopardy this week to protect him next week, and given that both he and Vanessa ended up with relatively ho-hum dances in less-than-desirable running order positions, I think next week is the week we have the *shocker!* Chmerlachey double jeopardy…with Nick headed home. Let me practice my faux scandalized face… 😛

So how are you left feeling after Disney night? Who do you think are the ones to watch for the remainder of the season?