PureDWTS Season 27, Week 3 – Power Rankings

Welp…so much for the agenda-free season. Judges’ scores and critiques were a bit of a mess Monday night, as some okay dances were hyped and overscored while some very good dances were nitpicked and underscored. To what end? I think there’s certain individuals that are getting oodles of votes and possibly running away with the competition, and the judges have no qualms pointing out the faults in their dances and docking points as they see fit, and “leveling the playing field”, so to speak; others seem to be struggling to connect and resonate with the audience, so I think they’re the ones the judges are reluctant to really score and critique realistically, lest the individual get eliminated “before their time”.

File under the category of “bad ideas that should be scrapped and never mentioned again”: that damn camera on the celebs they had inset over their rehearsal package, so we could voyeuristically enjoy watching the celebs reliving the traumas they had picked for their “most memorable year” packages. Things like this are what I like to refer to as “grief porn” – exploiting the contestants emotionally for a dramatic edit, a la poor Laurie’s grief over her grandma’s death.  It’s gross, it’s sneaky, and it’s a cheap stunt. Just when I think TPTB have hit rock bottom with their tactics, they find a sub-basement. 🙁

So, we lost Nancy this week, a development that both Heidi and I saw coming – and I’m a tad disappointed, because I feel like Nancy was actually a really cool person and was not a bad dancer at all.  But it brings me to my next point: why do the female celebs seem to be dropping like flies, while the male celebrities are doing just fine? We’ve lost three ladies so far – and all of the guys are still standing. Some seem to want to blame the show, claiming that “female celebs, especially ringers, get treated so poorly – none of them will ever win again and it’s not fair, WAHHHHH!” but I go back to this point I made in my preseason “Why Hayley Didn’t Get a Pro Spot This Season” post: the male pros, as a whole, are not serving their celebs well. Since the departure of Derek (and to a lesser degree, Mark), we’ve been left with a crop of male pros that just don’t seem to know how to  harness the talent of their female celebs – or cultivate some talent in celebs that have not danced before. It’s not that people dislike the female celebs or have a specific type of disdain for female ringers; it’s that the male pros just don’t know how to present their partners in a way that makes viewers care.  It’s possible to win with a female ringer or a female non-ringer – just ask Derek; it’s also possible to lose with a female ringer (Val’s done it a few times) or lose with a female non-ringer (basically every male pro at some point) if you don’t present them properly. It took TPTB doing some heavy-duty interfering to ensure the Chmerkovskiy boys each got their first MBT (and both brothers had ringers to begin with!), since Derek & Sharna turning amputee non-ringers into contenders during those respective seasons posted too grave a threat to Maks & Val’s trophies. Then you look at Emma, who has become an expert at turning turd partners into gold; and Lindsay, who seems to build such a successful working relationship with all of her partners anymore that she’s become a finale mainstay; or even Witney, who has blossomed as a choreographer these past few seasons and is developing a knack for pulling surprising stuff out of partners that didn’t seem like anything to sneeze at on the surface. Really and truly, the current lineup of female pros has paid their dues and really proven that they’ve got the juice to make their partners succeed; the current male pros (with the exception of Brandon, and to a lesser degree, Alan) seem to just be coasting, and hoping for ringers season after season so they can get a free pass to the finale (except that sometimes that doesn’t even happen – hello, season 24). The male pros are holding out for their window of opportunity to open; the female ones aren’t waiting for it to open – they’re grabbing a sledgehammer and making their own damn window. The three male pros we’ve lost this season suffered from a failure to make their partners stand out – even if their partner was demographically screwed regardless, there are ways to at least make them memorable…and that’s where the failure lies. So if you’re whining about not ever getting a female winner again, don’t whine at us – go whine at the male pros letting them down.

1.) DeMarcus & Lindsay – Note that for the second time in three weeks, DeMarcus closed the show – you only reserve the last spot for your heavy-hitters, and he’s been there twice now.  That, along with the judges’ tendency to nitpick him and underscore him without batting an eye, should be enough to tell you that DeMarcus is likely raking in the votes. And why wouldn’t he? He’s coming across as a charming, hard-working family man who is still in great shape and can sell a dance; he’s also from a really well-known team playing a very popular sport.  Plus he’s got Lindsay, who seems to be aging like a fine wine with her choreo and continues to deliver better and better stuff with each progressive season. The fact that this Argentine tango got a 26, while Juan Pablo’s decent-but-definitely-not-the-best-samba-ever-on-this-show samba got a perfect score? ABSURD. That opening with DeMarcus EFFORTLESSLY hoisting Lindsay above him, before flipping her into two rotations (with an insane amount of height) before catching her? Goosebumps. He kept up well with the footwork and the partnering, and then delighted us again with that star lift sequence in the middle.  My god, Lindsay can now claim the title of both Charleston AND Argentine tango queen on this show – I thought that cartwheel lift in Calvin’s tango couldn’t be beat; then she gave us this lift. I loved DeMarcus’ story, too – it was nice to see a grown man that isn’t afraid to show emotion about how much his family means to him 🙂 I think the only thing that was a bit odd to me was the music selection – I can’t hear “Lux Aeterna” without thinking of Requiem for a Dream, quite possibly one of the most depressing movies I’ve ever watched.  Good, but depressing. But I think DeMarcus is still the one to beat, and who knows – maybe all this weird underscoring and nitpicking will end up creating an “arc” of sorts that allows him to peak at the right time to win this thing 😉

2.) Tinashe & Brandon – Was so nice to see Tinashe doing a more vulnerable, “pretty” dance this week – and she once again handled it with aplomb.  I was actually impressed with the hip action she was giving us – there was definite room for improvement, but given that most contestants (male and female) never ever come close to giving the correct hip action in rumba, this was encouraging. Also appreciate that Brandon threw in plenty of rumba basics to please Len – he’s striking a nice balance between content and crowd-pleasing moves.  Now I’m just interested to see how she fares with a ballroom dance – I have no doubt she’ll handle that well, too, but it should be telling to see how she handles a dance where she’s more restricted by being in hold.

3.) Milo & Witney – There are two memos Milo seems to have missed, and I love him for it: the first is that he’s a tall guy and not supposed to be moving as well as he is, and the second is that he’s actually a really good dancer. He’s too precious when he’s getting his scores and is shocked that the judges liked it so much – that’s refreshing 🙂 There wasn’t anything to dislike about his jive – he stayed on-time, he actually had really nice technique, he kept his energy up the whole time, and he sold the hell out of the dance.  You know someone’s good when they’re dancing with the troupe and I don’t even realize that the troupe is there – that’s how I felt when Milo was dancing on the judges table while Gleb & Robert danced nearby. I disagree with whichever judge was griping about posture – jive is meant to be danced with a slightly bent over posture, and I saw just that with Milo.  To quote something I’ve heard Karina say during masterclasses “You don’t do jive standing up with your back super straight.  That’s not jive, that’s Riverdance!” Also liked that he didn’t try to go weepy with his MMY story – I think it would have felt a bit disingenuous coming from a kid his age that, for all intents and purposes, seems to have had a pretty awesome life (with an awesome mom 🙂 ).  I’ve had a few of you ask me what I think about him going in the “running order position of doom” two weeks in a row – and honestly, I’ve got nothing. No idea why he’s being put there, unless demographically, viewership in the 18-34 demo peaks somewhere in the first hour and they’re trying to capture those coveted viewers. Regardless, it doesn’t seem to be hurting Milo, so I’m not worried about it at the moment 🙂

4.) Evanna & Keo – Here’s your real dark horse, kids – she’s the one that’s quietly improving from week to week, rather than making a big splash like DeMarcus, Milo, & Tinashe. And we’ve seen how having a steady journey with room to grow can carry you pretty far in this competition – and how it can really pay the dividends once you reach the finals, and some viewers are trying to pick who had the most growth. Keo also appears to be having a steady journey of sorts, as he seems to be testing the waters with more inventive choreography – this is the extension of what we saw during Jodie’s season, before her journey got cut short by just the general competitiveness of that season (and the fact that they kept propping Ginger up, thereby allowing better dancers like Jodie & Wanya to get sent home prematurely). I would caution Keo that this Viennese waltz was borderline frantic with all the content he threw in, but given the nature of the music, I think it worked this time. Evanna kept up impressively well and seemed invested in the dance, and I’m sure Potterheads just ate it up. Only other gripe: the black costume against the black background.  Need contrast, wardrobe and/or lighting – I can’t appreciate what a celeb is doing when they’re literally blending into the background 😉

5.) Juan Pablo & Cheryl – I’m left just feeling really, really uncertain about these two – or really, just Juan Pablo, who is still reading very one-dimensional to me, personality-wise. I thought this week of all weeks would be the one that allowed him to really show us a different side and some vulnerability, but even when he was telling his story, I still just found myself not very invested…and then the dance after that story seemed like an incongruous head- scratcher. I know I’ve been referring to Juan Pablo as “mannequin-like”, but I think I’ve found a better analogy: he’s like a very lifelike robot that is trying his best to act like a real human – but he’s been programmed with this almost cartoonish, Latin lover personality, and it just…doesn’t work 😛 The dance was decent-to-good – I’ll give him that; he was selling it well (though there were a few points where the faces he was pulling were pretty ridiculous) and he was hitting all the beats and moves.  But this was NOT a 30-worthy samba – this was a 27, at best, and it sure as HELL wasn’t “the best samba in the history of DWTS” (from a technical standpoint, I’d say that goes to Jordan – honorable mention to Shad & Alfonso, who got screwed by song choice but at least flirted with correct technique; if you’re going off entertainment value, either Bill E. or Apolo).  I don’t think JP really got the bounce of it, and I would have liked more samba basics. So what would be the point of the judges giving such effusive praise for a dance that was really no better than at least 3 others we saw last night? My only guess is that JP ain’t getting as many votes as they think he should, and are trying to give him a boost.  To what end? Who knows.

6.) Bobby & Sharna – Ok, so after reaching peak annoyance with Bobby last week – now I’m (sort of) back on the Bobby bandwagon, because I think he had a real breakthrough on Monday.  He shed the “I’m so excited to be here that I can’t control my body!” act, and what we saw was a humble, grateful guy that really put his heart into the dance we saw and let that do the talking instead of going rogue with dance moves.  He definitely reigned in some of his movements – I saw no dangerous flailing arms – and I think it really helped to sell the dance. Sharna was back in fine form as well – loved the set-up of the routine, and some of the clever choreo with the book and the bed. I think Bobby probably re-endeared himself to quite a few viewers, as his dance and John’s were the two I saw the most talk about with regards to the routines that really “had heart”. He might be safe for awhile now, unless he reverts back to rogue Bobby again.

7.) Alexis & Alan – Alexis worries me. Such a pretty dancer, but running a serious risk of getting lost in the shuffle – and after this week, I think she’s got the same problem Tinashe was having last week: all of her dances are getting a certain degree of sameness to them.  That contemporary, while very nice to watch, looked pretty close to the Argentine tango she did last week, in terms of lifts, costuming, even choreography. I appreciated the vulnerability of her story about her mom, though, so I do think that probably saved her this week.  But the troubling thing I’m seeing is too many people saying things like “Well Alexis is obviously safe because she’s a good dancer and getting good scores, so I threw my votes to so-and-so this week!” GUYS – this is the exact sort of behavior that leads to “shocking” eliminations. Remember: Sabrina managed to get eliminated from All-Stars with only 1/2 a point off a perfect score, because people assumed she was safe and NOBODY WAS VOTING FOR HER. Please believe me when I tell you that she is “shocking elim” bait to the max, and if you like her, I suggest you put all your eggs in one basket from here on out – cause I think she needs it.

8.) Mary Lou & Sasha – Mary Lou isn’t a bad dancer – but at this point, I think she’s the weakest female celeb left, and that puts her in a bit of a perilous position, given my dissertation on how the male pros as a whole aren’t doing their celebs any favors. She danced first this week, which always carries with it a bit of a stigma of being underscored and/or forgotten by the end of the show.  Additionally, I don’t think her MMY story was as relatable or poignant as some of the other contestants, and the dance itself, while pleasant, isn’t one that really sticks out in my head.  I will say that I find that Mary Lou seems to struggle with transitions – she’s good with long sections of choreography, but when it comes to getting into and out of hold, or into/out of a lift or trick, there’s a bit of a stutter, and it takes her a second or two to get back on track.  I think she’s probably fine this coming week, but once John and/or Joe is gone – look out.

9.) Joe & Jenna – Oof. Last week it was the weird snapping, this week it was Joe doing the same awkward flailing movement with his arms over and over again…punctuated with periods of him shuffling from place to place, and then standing in place with his hands behind his back.  I don’t have the same visceral dislike of Joe’s personality that many seem to have, but at this point – I completely tune out during both his package and dance, because I just know it’s going to be painful to behold. Not a whole lot else to add – the dance was weird, Joe still isn’t doing much, and I  don’t think his MMY was anything particularly touching or poignant. The look of existential misery in Jenna’s eyes seems to get a bit bigger each week…and now she’s gotta deal with (2) non-dancers and try to make a semi-cohesive trio out of them.  Serious dumpster fire potential, methinks.  Can’t decide whether I’m horrified or thrilled to watch it.

10.) John & Emma – It pains me to put these two here, because they’re one of the couples I wasn’t not expecting to enjoy all that much…but have really grown to be one of my favorites this season. John can actually dance, y’all – I did not see that coming. Sure, he’s not got the extreme athleticism of DeMarcus, or Milo’s youthful exuberance, or Bobby’s underdog appeal, or Juan Pablo’s…whatever, but he’s got heart and he’s got rhythm, and there’s a sincerity about his dancing that is really lovely to watch. And that’s why I think I saw so many people on Twitter and here at Pure talking about his dance – it was so heartfelt, and while he may not have been doing hardcore choreo, he was there every step of the way for Emma (even on those twisting, pretzel-y turn sequences) and had a nice gait moving down the floor. I think the judges nitpicked and low-balled this one a bit – I would have given it a point or two more, as I thought he was at least as good as Nancy; the nitpicking gives me some hope that John is actually getting a decent number of votes, and I think his story resonated with a lot of people.  I would have probably called him safe for week 4, except that the announcement that Jordan would be dancing with Joe likely acted as a siren song for the Bachelor nation to vote even harder for their guys. I would love to be proven wrong on this one, as I MUCH prefer John to Joe; but I’ve got the sinking feeling Joe’s still got some mileage left in him…