PureDWTS Season 26, Week 3 – Power Rankings

In light of the fact that I’m now writing my last power rankings of the season (I think…admittedly, I haven’t been paying close attention to the schedule) and it’s only week 3, safe to say this abbreviated season has been very, very weird. I generally find myself (and the fans that follow me on Twitter) not as invested as I would be on a full 10-week season, and I think I really and truly don’t have any investment in one couple winning over another.  All the pros left have never won before – so we will have a new pro champion, regardless; and that’s really enough for me, since I think their respective celebs have all had very satisfying, fulfilling journeys on the show this season. I’m actually finding myself more and more pumped to get started on DWTS Junior – more on that in the coming weeks 😉

So this week, Grandpa was back as a judge, and while I don’t think he was necessarily as helpful as Shad when it came to judging, I’m glad he was there to be the “nice” judge, and occasionally throw an optimistic bone to the couples that maybe didn’t do so hot (as evidenced by his tendency to dissent on the ballroom battles – bless him). I’ve heard a few people throwing shade in Grandpa & Shad’s direction, claiming that they “weren’t qualified” to judge, and at this point I have to ask “Have you guys actually been watching the show? And comprehending what’s been going on?” Nearly none of the guest judges are “qualified” in the same sense that the Three Stooges are – and for that, I’m glad.  I don’t need another Len getting grumpy about content, or another Carrie Ann incoherently babbling about non-existent lifts, or another Bruno flamboyantly gushing about whatever it is he gushes about – anymore, it’s kind of nice to have someone on the panel that can look at a dance from a non-technical perspective and say “Y’know what? That may not have been technically perfect, but I enjoyed it!” And really, the extra points dump from a 4th judge only makes the margins closer, so it basically gives more power to the viewer vote.  So if you’re bitching & moaning about unqualified judges at this point – you’re out of your element, Donnie.

We also got some pseudo-quasi mentoring from returning celebs Meryl, Nastia, & Von – and in the case of the latter, I’m thinking this was probably all thrown together fairly last-minute, as Von couldn’t even be present to actually mentor his couples in person, and did his mentoring via Skype.  Have to wonder if they had another returning celeb lined up, and they had to cancel at the last minute, necessitating the scramble for another and Von maybe just happened to be (semi)available. The bumpers we got from these returning celebs ranged from rather marginal (Von) to “Ok, but was that the best choreo you could give her?” (Meryl) and “Actually pretty decent, but man was the camera work terrible!” (Nastia), and seemed like a bit of an afterthought overall. I have a love-hate relationship with the random ways they try to bring back former contestants, as it’s usually pretty flimsy, but in the same token, I do love seeing (some) alums of the show back in the ballroom.

Not a whole lot else to add – seems like the writing is on the wall with this one.  Shall we?

3rd place: Tonya & Sasha

Honestly, I’m just thrilled to bits that these two made the finals. Like Emma’s face upon being announced as the winner of season 24, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of gifs of Tonya’s face after being told she made the finals. Just a profound sense of shock and joy, as if her face said “They like me.  They really like me!” Thought the rumba was a risky choice for their “MVP” dance, but Tonya actually had some nice extensions and hip action.  Thought there was maybe one clipped leg line, and the weird “walk away” bit at the end, but overall, it was a very respectable dance (with better technique than probably 80% of the celebs we see attempt it) and it felt very genuine & heartfelt. One thing I really respect about Tonya, with regards to her dancing, is that even if she’s not feeling super confident about doing a dance, she still sells it well – and she did just that in her cha-cha battle, even though her rehearsal package indicated that she really had no clue what she was doing. I went back and forth between putting her in 3rd or 2nd place – and a part of me still thinks it could end up being an Adam/Tonya final 2.  But given that they seemed to give Josh a bit of a cushion in points this week, and I’m hearing quite a bit of “Well we got Tonya to the finals, hooray!” talk, I’m wondering if Tonya may become a bit of an afterthought when it comes to casting votes for the win – I’m getting the feeling this may be a bit of a repeat of Bill Engvall, where the voters seemed to lost a bit of interest once Bill was safely in the finals. Since a good portion of people didn’t even think she’d last through the first week, I’m wondering if her place in the finals is a gift unto itself, and her voters may turn their attention to Adam or Josh (particularly the latter, as I’m still hearing quite a bit of “let’s get Sharna her MBT!” talk). I’d be thrilled to be proven wrong, and have her actually get to 2nd place 🙂 But really, in the grand scheme of things, I think Tonya is already a winner – I just wanted her to have a fulfilling journey on this show, and she’s done just that, thanks in part to Sasha. I’m hoping this opens some doors for her – now that we’ve seen the kinder, gentler Tonya, perhaps we see start to see more of her in the media.

Runner-up: Josh & Sharna

Admittedly, I haven’t really bonded with this couple in the way other seem to have done this season – maybe it’s just the breakneck speed of this season that’s preventing me from really getting invested, but I just can’t seem to connect to Josh in the same way that I did with Donald, Shad, Jacoby, Calvin, etc. There’s nothing wrong with him – he seems like a nice guy, and a family man, and has some stage presence – he’s just the one contestant that I seemed to remember last when rattling off the contestants this season in my mind. Maybe blame it on Adam’s outgoing personality, Tonya’s backstory, Mirai…being Mirai, or Chris being unexpectedly charming, or Jennie stirring up controversy, but Josh just seems to blend in for me.  C’est la vie.  He’s in the finals now, and I think he’s got some good momentum coming off his contemporary MVP dance (in which I actually did see noticeable improvement in his extensions – good job listening to the judges’ critiques 🙂 ) and his win in the ballroom battle…which I still find a bit fishy.  If I had to guess, I wonder if that “fraction of a percentage point” in voting that Tom referred to at the beginning of the show was perhaps between Josh & Chris – and maybe the outcome of the battle was enough to shift the points in favor of one or the other. Who knows, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s not really all that important. I don’t know that Josh (or Tonya) have the juice to knock the MBT out of Adam’s hands, but I do think it will be pretty interesting to see who ends up in 2nd place.

Winner: Adam & Jenna

Now more than ever, I just can’t envision any scenario where Adam doesn’t come out the winner of this season.  Of the remaining couples, he & Jenna are just the whole package: they have the technique, they have the choreography, they have the showmanship, and they have the chemistry. Loved both of his dances last night – Jenna was really in her element when she choreographed that contemporary, and Adam’s movement style suited it perfectly.  I also dug his wings & eyeshadow 🙂 Adam’s personality is also a boon – where I often found Mirai coming off as rehearsed or disingenuous, I get the impression that with him, what you see is truly what you get; the way he is, is the way he’s always been, and will always be. I unfortunately don’t have a whole lot more to add here – they’ve been great all season, I doubt that will end next week.  But it’s been nice to see Jenna really stepping up to the plate as a pro, and proving that the female pros have got it all over the male ones in terms of choreographic skill these days – if Adam & Jenna pull off a win next Monday (and I’m pretty sure they will), I think the male pros really need to sit back and evaluate whether they need to bone up on their choreography.

Thoughts on the Ballroom Battles:

Jennie & Keo vs. Tonya & Sasha: This actually ended up much closer than I thought, with Jennie seeming to have the edge early on, but losing steam; and then Tonya having a slower start, and coming through in the clutch. Tonya may not have wiped the floor with Jennie (like I was hoping she would), but I think the fact that she seemed to sell the performance aspect better, and really seemed to hit a nice groove late in the battle (when the more difficult choreo seemed to kick in) is what got her the win over Jennie.

Adam & Jenna vs. Mirai & Alan: First of all, I was just a bit amused that a lot of the two couples’ choreography seemed nearly identical at certain times – like Jenna & Alan seemed to hear the same accents in the music’s phrasing and choreographed accordingly, with the same moves. That being said – I thought Adam’s technique was better, likely owing to that same lightness in his upper body I’ve mentioned the past two weeks; he really seemed to get the lift through his core and the spring in his legs much more easily than Mirai, who seemed heavier on her feet and wasn’t as sharp with her kicks and flicks. I ADORED that “drag queen split” Adam & Jenna did in perfect synch – got definite Alyssa Edwards vibes there 😎

Chris & Witney vs. Josh & Sharna: This one actually ended up the closest for me – I went in expecting Josh to just KILL this salsa battle, but he ended up more just kicking it in the shins, if you will…his moves were more impactful than Chris’, and he was more at ease, but I actually found Chris to be a bit cleaner than Josh, and Witney’s choreo a bit more content-heavy than Sharna’s. I figured it would come up pretty even, perhaps with a slight favor to Josh & Sharna, but even I thought it was a tad weird that David seemed to confidently say “Chris & Witney!” and held up their paddle, but then there was that funny business with the control room radioing Tom to tell him that David had actually written down “Josh & Sharna” and held up the wrong paddle.  Just very, very weird, and makes me wonder if that fraction of a percent difference that Tom was referring to in last week’s voting could have been between Chris & Josh.

Thoughts on the eliminated couples:

I think I covered my feelings about Jennie & her dancing pretty well last week – not much to add.  Still stiff, still sporting the same painted-on, pained smile this week.  I’ll give Keo points for at least still choreographing a halfway-decent Viennese waltz for her, powering her through her cha-cha battle, and somehow making that pink suit look good 😉 Chris was still giving me Hinch-lite vibes in his foxtrot, which reminded me a lot of Hinch’s Cirque du Soleil quickstep.  Loved that he never seemed to take himself too seriously, and really embraced the experience these past three weeks. He & Witney also seemed to gel well, and I tip my hat to Witney for continuing to improve her choreography. As for Mirai – I’m only partially shocked that she didn’t make the finals.  As I said last week, I wasn’t 100% sold on her making it, and I don’t think her “valley girl” affectation helped matters – even if she was saying something fairly neutral, I found myself rubbed the wrong way.  I was actually a bit surprised at how wishy-washy she looked at times in both her dances last night – the beginning section in her quickstep seemed to lack impact, and I noticed the same lack in sections of her jive.  Quoting a discussion I had with someone on Twitter last night – where Adam seemed to live & breathe his dances, Mirai felt more robotic, as if she was doing “dance by numbers” and was just going through the motions. By no means did she suck – she was actually pretty good, from a technical perspective – but she just seemed to lack that special something that Adam gave us.  Hope she’s not too disappointed and is a good sport about not making the finals.

So what are your thoughts on the finalists? Did the right couples make it? How do you feel about this season overall?