PureDWTS Season 28, Week 3: Power Rankings

Well I obviously didn’t get to watch the show in real time (had a 3-hour delay in Montrose on my way back from sis’ wedding Monday night, and did a mad dash through the Dallas airport to make my connection back to Indy), and due to 500+ emails I had from 1 week away from the office, I didn’t even get to watch the show until Wednesday evening – and then I was dealing with a freshly cortisone’d wrist on Thursday evening, so typing up the power rankings wasn’t really in the cards until the weekend.  Forgive me? 🙂 I promise the week 4 rankings will be done in a far more timely fashion…

…so I’d say week was generally an improvement over week 2, and I’d credit that to the judges (Len in particular) taking a much softer tack than they have the first two weeks of the season.  At times, judging from what the three of them were saying, it was almost as if they had read my rankings last week…right down to some of the word usage (more on that later). Anywho, it seemed like just about everyone (even Lamar!) had fun this week, which made for a much easier-to-digest show – however, I feel like the show’s still stuck in a bit of an identity crisis. Soooo, do we have a troupe or nah? ‘Cause there seemed to be quite a few extra dancers this week (more than we ever had in the troupe) getting pretty regularly utilized, and a few of them even were former troupe members (I definitely saw Morgan and Vlad in the mix…did I miss anyone else?) Oh, and the fact that these extra dancers brought about more “mucking about” in most of the routines they were in makes me question just how strictly the whole “content, content, content” edict is being emphasized and enforced. Sure, it was Movie Night, which tends to give a bit more leeway for extraneous stuff…but are we focusing on content, or focusing on production value? Do we have a troupe or not have a troupe? Show’s still a bit wishy-washy on what it wants to be, methinks…

…and then there was the whole matter of Ray’s withdrawal from the competition.  Sure, we already saw it coming before Monday night, but still…*sigh* they (controversially) saved Ray over Mary last week, only for Ray to withdraw anyway this week. No, there’s nothing technically illegal/against the rules about it, but like Tamar dipping out of season 21 the day after Alexa (who reeeeeally wanted to be there) got eliminated, it was just a bit of a d*ck move. Seems to me like Ray’s foot problems were not a recent thing, and I highly doubt they only just started giving him a lot of trouble in week 3.  Sure, one could probably argue that Ray would have probably ended up in the bottom 2 again this week (assuming he had actually danced), and probably wouldn’t have been saved over anyone except Lamar (and maybe a certain other marginal male celeb), but still…as much as I love Shad and getting to see glimpses of his progress in his dancing pursuits post-DWTS, I would have much rather seen a third week of Mary over two mediocre weeks of Ray and a week 3 dance performed by the champ from 4 seasons ago.

1.) James & Emma – As much as I think many of us would like to see a female celeb winning this season, I’d say right now, James could play spoiler to that outcome…’cause he and Emma are managing to check all the boxes right now, while some of the women are still struggling with certain aspects of the competition.  As far as the guys go, I think James was the only one so far that has actually nailed Latin hip action – and in the rumba, no less, where the slow pace makes a lack of hip action painfully obvious. Like Shad and Hinch before him, I am just getting the impression that James is either a) a natural, b) an extraordinarily hard worker, or c) a combination of both, because he just really seems to understand musicality, timing, technique, showmanship…the whole shebang.  I will say that the only wonky thing I saw this week were his feet, which seemed to get a tad pigeon-toed a few times, possibly as a result of taking steps that were a tad too wide; but beyond that, this was the rumba of the night for me – of the four contestants who did it, I think he got the closest to correct technique without overdoing it (see Ally). Did anyone else catch him fanboying over Michael Malitowski on his and Emma’s IG stories? You can really tell he’s enjoying the experience fully, and has a lot of respect for the pros.  My only concern at this point is that he’s peaked too early and the judges are nitpicking – Len’s claim that the dance was “too passionate” was the exact type of bullsh*t critique that he used to give Jordan and Rashad when they were too consistently good. Where someone like Hannah, Kel, or even Ally could be set up for a “they improved every week and peaked at the right time!” story arc, I worry that James may get stuck with the “Well he was good from the beginning, so his journey wasn’t as interesting!” arc.

2.) Hannah & Alan – First of all, I’d just like to point out that I referred to Hannah’s dancing as “cheerleaderish” in both week 1 and week 2, and the word suddenly entered Carrie Ann’s vernacular this week when she was critiquing Hannah’s rumba.  And it’s a good word to use, because like a cheerleader, Hannah’s dancing is pretty and pleasant, but not terribly impactful or unique, so as not to stand out in a line of other cheerleaders doing the same routine. I really want to root for Hannah, but so far, she hasn’t been able to shake the same cheerleader-y blandness that seemed to plague Melissa Rycroft and Alexis Ren: all three decent dancers, all three unable to really get me excited about their dancing. Like most of the girls with cheerleading backgrounds on this show, Hannah seems to have the right dance vocabulary to speak ballroom/Latin…but she’s doing it with jazz/ballet accent. Rumba completely lacked all hip action, and the permasmile was out in full force again.  She had the timing right, and she didn’t forget any steps…but it never really screamed “rumba!” to me, since the technique wasn’t there. Pleasant performance, but not a terribly memorable one – and that’s the real struggle I personally have with her thus far: I like her, but she’s often not the first (or even second) name that comes to mind when I’m reviewing the standout performances in my head. Thankfully, she still seems pretty popular, and I doubt that T-Swift sharing their Viennese waltz to her IG story hurt them.  I just hope Hannah can shake the cheerleader tendencies and give me a vulnerable and/or exciting dance in the coming weeks…

3.) Kate & Pasha – Looking at Kate’s dancing and looking at Hannah’s, I sometimes wonder if certain people might benefit from heading into DWTS with a clean slate of no formal dance experience, rather than coming in with training in a different style whose technique ends up being hard to shake.  I don’t get the impression Kate has much formal dance training – just general showmanship (as well as somewhat of a music background), which helps her sell the dance without affecting her ability to still learn it. This was another hit for Pasha, choreo-wise – this had plenty of basics as well as some of the whimsical, entertaining stuff we used to see from Derek. This time last year, I honestly thought Brandon was the heir apparent to the male pro choreo throne after Derek & Mark’s departure; but now, I’m thinking it’s actually Pasha – he’s just hit a really nice stride these past two weeks, helping Kate to go from “Meh, she’ll last maybe 3 weeks” status to “Ummm…she could actually be a contender!” status. And all of their routines are just so CLEAN – they may not be particularly complex, but there are no stutters, no missteps, just solid execution.  Looks like Kate’s steps were a little on the wide side at times, but other than that, she seemed to handle this quickstep pretty easily; just wish they had put her in a blonde wig to evoke Dolly, as opposed to just styling her own auburn hair, which was giving me more Lucille Ball or Vicki Lawrence vibes than Dolly ones. Really loving Kate & Pasha right now…and they’re giving me serious dark horse vibes 🙂

4.) Lauren & Gleb – To everyone that has tweeted me with “But Gleb was SO AWESOME on Strictly!” – sooooo,  where is that Gleb, exactly? ‘Cause I ain’t seen him on this show…just some cocky schmuck that seems to go for flash-and-trash choreo over solid basics and seems to be squandering the talent of an otherwise-promising celeb partner.  And I about choked on the irony in some of the interactions these two had this week – highlights include Lauren telling Gleb he “wishes he was Richard Gere” (oof…but where’s the lie?) and Gleb claiming he used “every tool in the studio to help keep [Lauren’s] frame” (except his talent as a teacher, apparently). Frame continued to be an issue this week, as I kept seeing Lauren’s creeping up near her ears from time to time – turns also need work, as they seemed pretty wobbly.  Aside from that, I think Lauren did the best she could with what she was given, but Gleb seemed to rely more on “muckin’ about” and leaning into the prostitute/john storyline than actually doing tango steps…and throwing in far more dips than necessary.  However, Lauren’s mentioning of being “a Christian, country girl” after her dance just drives the point home for me that she’s not likely going anywhere anytime soon – she’s catnip to older, conservative-leaning viewers. The question is: will the judges really start to crack down on Gleb’s lack of content…or will they continue to hem and haw and give them generous scores for routines without much in the way of basic steps?

5.) Ally & Sasha – If Hannah suffered for not having ANY hip action, I think Ally may have had the opposite problem: she nailed the hip action, but I feel like she leaned a little too far into it that it started to look a little bizarre. Don’t get me wrong, I was extremely proud to see her finally getting credit for working so hard and making an improvement – I just don’t want the pendulum to swing too far in the opposite direction, where every movement gets exaggerated to the nth degree.  If Hannah was doing the least in her rumba, then Ally was doing the most – and I think James was the only one who managed get in the Goldilocks zone of hip action, this time around (Kel has his own set of problems…more on that later). But to Ally’s credit, she did seem to nail the emotions of the song, and I thought she paid tribute to Selena in a lovely way. LOVED the Selena hairpin! I thought Sasha relied a bit too heavily on the foot-trailing-on-the-floor-almost-lift, though, and I saw a few awkward arms. But overall, it’s good progress – one thing I do really like about Ally is that she does seem to take what the judges say to heart, and she works hard on it and comes back the next week much-improved. If she keeps up this momentum, I think she’s a (distant) possibility to be the dark horse for the finale. It would be an uphill battle, but I don’t think it’s impossible.

6.) Sailor & Val – This dance…was I breakthrough I was not expecting. If Sailor seemed flimsy and a bit lost in weeks 1 & 2, then she came back confident and self-assured in this tango…which actually had a good amount of content. Unlike Gleb (who spent the better part of Lauren’s tango just dicking around), and aside from the series of lifts with the non-troupe troupe at the beginning, Val made sure this dance got down to business really quickly…and Sailor seemed to handle it well. Frame looked a lot better this week, and we saw a better spectrum of emotion from her than the permasmile from weeks one and two. I can’t be the only one that did a hard eye-roll when Carrie Ann made up some on-the-spot bullsh*t about “lifts are legal if they aren’t with your partner!” Judging from the slightly confused, “Ohhh…right!” look on Val’s face, sis was making that up as she went along. Add that completely arbitary rule to the long and inconsistent history of Carrie Ann’s “lift policing”. But I digress: I still am not 100% sure that Sailor’s got the votes to stick around for the finale, but I think if she can maintain the momentum she has from this week, she ought to be around for awhile, at least.

7.) Karamo & Jenna – Poor Karamo.  The whole “What do I have to do to make Len like me?!” plea in his package? I’ve got your answer, ‘Mo: stop being black and gay, because I seriously think that’s the only thing that’s seriously holding you back in his eyes – Len’s pseudo-quasi non-apology to Karamo this week notwithstanding. This was the first week where I thought Karamo got truly low-balled: regardless of how many heel leads and sloppy feet I saw in this jive, he was still more than just 1 point better than Lindsay’s partner, and I thought he did at least as much as Lauren. To Karamo’s credit, I do feel like he’s getting (at least a little bit) better each week – and it seems like Jenna is toying with getting a bit more adventurous in her choreo: last week it was the “look ma, no frame!” step; this week it was the homage to “feelin’ like a little kid” side kicking move that Elton did in the “I’m Still Standing” video (which, just as a reminder, featured a young Bruno in some sort of black leotard/romper hybrid). On the whole, though, it was still on the safe side, and I’m kind of at a loss for what isn’t working in this partnership.  I think I (like just about everyone else) may have fallen victim to the assumption that Karamo would end up being another Adam Rippon, but in reality, he’s more of a Carson Kressley.  And I think Karamo may have fallen victim to the assumption that Jenna was some LGBTQ+ icon/gay dancer whisperer, and would be able to turn him into an Adam; but alas, whoever got Adam in season 26 was probably going to win, regardless, and Jenna may be one of those pros that only really shines when she’s got a partner with previous dance experience (not entirely unlike her dear ol’ hubby). On the upside, Karamo’s seemingly endless (and surprisingly A-list) connections could keep him in the game for awhile, regardless of how he’s dancing – clearing a Prince song? Facetiming with Taron Egerton? Karamo, keep dropping those names – I think if you can get Michelle Obama to pop by rehearsal or Jesse Tyler Ferguson to cheer for you in the audience, you’ve bought yourself some time, your dancing notwithstanding…

8.) Lindsay – If weeks 1 and 2 “weren’t terrible!” for Lindsay and her partner in the grand scheme of things, I think week 3 was the week where I said “Ok, maybe they are, in fact, terrible.” I’m seriously baffled as to how this was somehow a full three points better than Lamar’s dance – is it because slightly fewer steps got forgotten? Because despite Lindsay’s best efforts, I don’t think her partner’s focus is in the right place (he seems more concerned with campaigning for votes and creating straw men about getting bad scores because “he’s a Christian”) and I doubt he’s going to improve much. I’d cut the guy a break if I thought he was making an honest effort – but really, I don’t get that impression anymore, and I don’t want anyone here whose heart isn’t in it. Lamar may be bad, but I do feel like he’s really trying and wants to get better; my impression of Lindsay’s partner is that he’d rather resort to underhanded strategies to stick around instead of actually just working hard at his dancing. He also strikes me as wanting to stick around just to prove a point, rather than out of a desire to keep dancing and improving.  In that respect, he’s not entirely unlike last season’s champ: Bones rode the “I’m from a town of 800 people, I’m not a dancer, and I have the busiest schedule!” gambit until the wheels fell off, and did not seem to make any vast improvement in his dancing from week 1 through the finale. If another Bones is what this show is trying to avoid – they need to start working on ways to send Lindsay’s partner packing, stat.

9.) Kel & Witney – I just don’t really know what to think about these two – they have a non-event dance in week 1,  a pretty solid one in week 2, and then we’re back to another non-event in week 3.  The major problem this week was the fact that his rumba was barely recognizable as such – maybe it was the costume or the lack of hip action, but if I had muted the TV, I probably wouldn’t have been able to tell this was a rumba.  And it was just generally boring, as well – I don’t have any other notes written except for “no hip action, felt more like a ballroom dance than a rumba, stiffer than James, weakest rumba of the night.” I’m not even sure I could put this dance in the same no-hip-action to too-much-hip-action scale that I did Hannah, James, and Ally’s rumbas, because this really didn’t seem like a rumba at all. The weirdest part? I think Kel is probably a decent dancer, but 2/3 dances we’ve seen him do so far have done nothing to illustrate it – they’ve just been non-events.  Where Lindsay’s partner and Lamar have had memorably bad dances, Kel’s have been okay-but-forgettable…which we know is a dangerous zone in which to be, if you want votes. The fact that he would have been in the bottom 2 if they had an actual elim is proof that he’s not resonating with voters; so what’s to be done? I think he needs a dynamite dance in week 4 to possibly avoid the bottom 2 altogether (and if his voters are scared enough from week 3, he might get enough of a boost in votes to do it), and if he can’t avoid the bottom 2, I think he better pray that either Lamar or Lindsay’s partner end up there with him – because those are the only two I think the judges would send packing over Kel.

10.) Lamar & Peta – Yes, Lamar is the weakest dancer left; but I do feel like he does improve incrementally each week, and I love that it looks like he’s finally starting to have fun and embrace the experience. Really, he didn’t miss any steps until the middle of his cha-cha; and for as simple as the choreo was, he did most of it on-time and correctly, and per the Shirley Ballas rule I mentioned last week, mistake-free and simple always trumps complex and messy. And really – it was fun to watch, moreso than some other couples we saw this week that were more technically correct but about as much fun as watching paint dry.  But here’s the kicker: I’m not sure Lamar is going to improve drastically if he sticks around, and as I’ve mentioned previously, I think it may end up being healthier for him mentally in the long run if he leaves sooner rather than later – the judges clearly aren’t letting up (seriously, can they give the poor guy just ONE 5?), and I think it still gets to him each week. I don’t think he’ll manage to avoid the bottom 2 come Monday, and regardless of who ends up with him there, I think the judges send him home. I guess I can just hope he goes out on a high note, and ultimately considers the show a positive experience on the whole 🙂

So…thoughts on Ray’s departure? Who SHOULD have gone home this week? And who is impressing you thus far?