PureDWTS Season 25, Week 9 – Power Rankings

I’m already seeing this finale labeled the “feel-good finale”, or “season 17, the sequel” because of the generally amiable vibe among both the celebs and pros that are left, and the fact that this is the first Chmerkovskiy-free finale we’ve had in two years. Admittedly, I’m eager to see a finale that isn’t tainted by the need to promote a member of the Fam as the “star of the show”, and without a crystal-clear front-runner – I think any of three remaining contestants could walk off with the MBT, and about the only thing I feel 100% confident asserting is that Drew will NOT win the MBT. But man – I am HYPE for these freestyles, guys.  With the choreographic prowess of the remaining pros, we’ve got the potential for some showstoppers.

Judges were back to being on their bullsh*t last night – particularly Carrie Ann, who had a wishy-washy, patronizing, nonsensical critique for just about everyone – the only one in whose favor it seemed to work was Victoria, who was headed home anyway.  Len was similarly skewed, getting particularly cranky about “hip-hop” content and various other petty complaints. My guess is that they were told to create the impression that it was a horse race, and to nitpick everyone except Victoria.  Thankfully, Bruno seemed to play good judge again, and usually threw in a conciliatory score that was a point higher than what Carrie Ann or Len gave.

So Victoria left us – and I felt bad, because she seemed like a genuinely nice girl, and I don’t think she saw this coming.  Part of me thinks the judges being overly-kind to her over the course of the season may have actually convinced her that she had a legitimate shot at the MBT – hell, from the way they gushed (pretty predictably, if you ask me) over both of her just-okay routines last night, you would have thought she was the front-runner for the win.  I’m guessing Val is probably also partially to blame for her inflated expectations, and in the same token, he was also beginning to get detrimental in terms of choreography – since when is it allowed to basically do a second trio as one of your individual dances??? And in that trio, have the other two people doing most of the dancing, while the celeb primarily stays stationary? Had Amy & Derek pulled the same stunt on their season, fans would have absolutely shat themselves in anger. And I’ve still gotta raise an eyebrow at the fact that they ended up doing contemporary, while the press release listed waltz as their dance.  Say what you will about Victoria saying she had contemporary since last Monday – there’s been enough instances of Val’s partners conveniently getting their styles changed that it gives me pause, and it’s entirely possible that the song was originally intended for a waltz and someone just couldn’t make it work.

1.) Jordan & Lindsay – I think the tides just might have shifted in Jordan’s favor this week – with Lindsey & Mark having an off-week, Jordan continuing to slay, and Lindsay fighting through pain to perform and finish this journey with Jordan, I’m getting the impression that we might see a shift in preference from Lindsey to Jordan as the one to beat for the MBT. From what I’ve seen, Jordan mentioning that Lindsay “is the only pro left that’s never won” last week has been far more impactful than I thought – I’m seeing more and more fans gravitating towards these two now, and are rooting for Lindsay to win her first (and well-deserved, IMO) MBT. I’m totally fine with this 🙂 I’ll admit, it’s nice to see the female pros in general getting more love these days – and it’s particularly nice to see typically “underdog” female pros like Lindsay, Witney, and Emma getting love for the hard work they’ve been putting in for YEARS.  And because I know how hard Lindsay works and how smart she is, I’m going to venture a guess that it was not her choice to do Argentine tango to that song last night – and I thought it was a pretty cheap shot by the judges for them to take Jordan & Lindsay to task for it, rather than critiquing the quality of the dance. For what its worth, I was actually kind of tickled that someone took the unexpected route of going with a more tender, heartfelt Argentine tango – the steps were still there, and they were executed well; literally the only things that changed were the music and the overall tone of the performance. I liked it – sue me 🙂 I think their remake of Paige’s jive was the dance of the night, though – not only did it blow the original out of the water, but I think it ranked up there with some showcase jives I’ve seen Riccardo & Yulia do.  Jordan is just so damn good at the technique, the musicality, and the showmanship – he’s a triple threat, and it’s delivering some incredible dances. I think he’s surpassed Corbin in the running for “best male celeb on DWTS (with previous dance experience)”, and is inching towards Alfonso, little by little. Headed into the finale, I think he’s got the best momentum to win this thing – fingers crossed Lindsay’s got some tricks up her sleeve for their freestyle.

2.) Lindsey & Mark – I had a bit of a hard time with these two last night – for reasons I couldn’t quite put my finger on, Lindsey just didn’t seem as engaged in her two dances last night as she has been in previous weeks; and maybe I wasn’t as wowed by Mark’s choreography this week as I have in previous weeks.  I actually found her contemporary to be disappointingly formulaic – it seemed like the type of garden-variety flailing we’ve come to expect from pros that aren’t cross-trained in it (read: the Chmerkovskiys), and not the more unique, envelope-pushing style we’re familiar with from Mark. Additionally, Lindsey didn’t seem 100% confident executing it – there were a few moments where she seemed to be a bit off-balance, and the look on her face seemed like she was really having to concentrate on doing the steps, rather than just living & breathing through them like she has with other dances.  Just a very odd dance for me – not bad, but not really 100% satisfying, either.  I had high hopes for Mark to really reinvent Meryl & Maks’ tango, too – but unfortunately, what we got didn’t seem a whole lot different than the original, and I almost feel like they were less than enthused to be performing it, too.  Lindsey seemed a bit off again, as if she was having to force herself to remember the steps, and there were a few spots where her footwork and rhythm seemed a tad iffy – not at all what we’ve come to expect from her so far this season. And here’s what really struck me as odd: both Lindsey & Mark felt compelled to mention on separate occasions that Lindsey “had no formal dance training” prior to the show. I get that they were probably trying to shake off some of the ringer talk that followed after Val pointing the finger at Lindsey & Jordan a few weeks back, but it just struck me as uncharacteristically defensive – like Rumer “They’ve all had dance lessons and I haven’t!!!” Willis-level defensive. At this point, I don’t really see a point in vehemently defending one’s level of dance experience – ringers are not guaranteed anything, whether it’s an MBT or nothing. In that respect, I think Jordan & Lindsay have taken the high road – they just don’t even bother indulging the ringer talk, and just focus on delivering the best performances they can. I still think Lindsey & Jordan are going to be the last two standing, but I’m not so sure Lindsey’s going to walk away with the MBT anymore – will be interesting to see how things shake out next week.

3.) Frankie & Witney – As I think many of us have been saying for awhile now, if there’s anyone that might play spoiler to a Lindsey & Jordan final two, it’s this guy – and after last night, I think it’s a legitimate possibility, depending on how he fares in his redemption and freestyle dances.  If Jordan’s main strength is his technique, and Lindsey’s main strength is having Mark’s choreography – then I think Frankie’s strength is being the most relatable and down-to-earth.  He’s got definite underdog appeal – while Jordan & Lindsey may be struggling with ringer accusations, I don’t think Frankie has anything in his repertoire that even remotely resembles “previous dance experience” – and it’s adorable, because the fact that he’s become pretty damn good is just a testament to his hard work and enthusiasm this season. His salsa was actually my favorite dance of the “pro’s pick” round – I was tickled at how well he stayed in-step with the troupe guys (he could teach Drew a thing or two about swag), and I only saw one section where he went off-time.  Thought he really sold the routine well, more than anything, and seemed to just be having the time of his life up there. The iconic paso maybe didn’t go quite as well, but I still have to give him major props for really trying – that was a tough dance to give them to recreate, and I think Frankie gave it an impressive amount of effort.  Anyone with the cojones to attempt the knee walks gets kudos in my book 🙂 At the end of the day, I’m curious to see how he fares in the finale – at this point, I think he could possibly bump Lindsey to 3rd, but I’m also afraid that he himself could get bumped to 4th by Drew…aside from Jordan most likely being one of the final two, I’m not super sure about anything at this point.

4.) Drew & Emma – Looking at the judges comments and scores from last night, I daresay their mission seemed to be to ensure that Drew didn’t finish any better than 4th place – although with only two points separating him from Frankie, I’m a tad concerned that it’s a margin he can easily beat, given his fanbase. But for the sake of optimism, I’m going to guess (hope?) that he still only manages to eke out 4th place 🙂 I don’t have anything against Drew, really – I just think he’s not as good as the three other contestants that are left, and his main strengths this season have been personality and fanbase, as opposed to actual dance skill.  I this became particularly evident during his kilted tango – most of the technique was fairly problematic, along with the tone of the song and the performance not really fitting with the aggressive tone of the tango; plus I just found the kilt itself rather distracting and out-of-place, and I thought the flashing move at the end was in rather poor taste. It all felt rather schtick-y, as if Drew & Emma realized they weren’t going to be able to compete based on skill, so they decided to go full-bore with the shenanigans to make up for it. It may have worked earlier in the season, when there was still low-hanging fruit that needed to go first…but I think the jig is up, now. As for their iconic dance – I actually think Drew did a pretty respectable job, and seemed to stay on-time and in-step with Emma & the troupe pretty nicely.  I wasn’t particularly wild about the theme or the song of the original, and I wasn’t really all that wild about it this time, but it was still a pleasant performance, and I was entertained. Doubt it’s going to be anything that really stands out in viewers’ minds, though, so I don’t know that they’re going to get much of a boost in votes for being memorable.

So what are your thoughts headed into the finals? How do you predict the remaining couples will fare, and how do you think they will place?