PureDWTS Season 28, Week 10: Power Rankings – Who Will Win?

Before the show each week, I start to compile a list of talking points in my head that I can include in the intro to the week’s power rankings. General, all-encompassing thoughts that seem to summarize what is going on on the show at any given time. Headed into Monday night’s show, my thoughts were something along the lines of “Y’know, aside from you-know-who and maybe Ray being included this season, this has actually been a really great cast and the funny business has been kept to a minimum. Glad that we’re headed into the finale with the right group of people!” Well, strike that – the judges managed to ruin that sentiment in one unceremonious swoop last night, when they opted to eliminate possibly the best and most consistent dancer this season (who had never been in the bottom two before) in favor of saving someone who was in the bottom two for the third time (and is consistently overscored). Do I even need to mention that James likely only fell into the bottom two owing to personal tragedy striking over the weekend, which likely affected his performances? His bottom two appearance was a fluke, and he had a record of solid performances over the span of this season that should have made him the easy choice for saving – and yet the judges discarded him without batting an eye.  This is unfortunately exactly what I worried would happen with the judges’ save in my power rankings last week – the judges using it to REPEATEDLY contradict the viewer vote. I’ve seen several theories from folks trying to make sense of why James was eliminated over Ally, and I guess I’ll just address them in list form:

“Maybe James asked to be eliminated so he could go home to be with his family!”

We’ve had contestants that have dropped out for all sorts of reasons over the years – injuries (i.e. Misty May-Treanor, Dorothy Hamill), illnesses (i.e. Tamar Braxton, Kim Zolciak), even interpersonal issues (Sara Evans left season 3 because she was getting divorced). If James wanted to go home, he could have very easily just announced that he was withdrawing, and I don’t think anyone would have begrudged him for it. Why go through the whole song and dance of rigging an elimination, and making the judges look absolutely insane??? And why have James beg for votes after getting his second score? Both he and Emma looked genuinely shocked and devastated when they were eliminated, so I tend to think this was NOT pre-planned. He seemed to be enjoying the experience of DWTS too much to just withdraw.

“Did James maybe pose too much of a threat to Hannah winning, so they got rid of him?”

I would say he was probably the most likely to play spoiler to a Hannah win, but why would they put so much emphasis on Hannah winning??? Sure, she’s ABC family, but I don’t think they had to make a bunch of wacky promises to get her to sign onto the cast (she seemed pretty willing to do the show), and she’s arguably at the END of her ABC shelf life (Bachelor & Bachelorette stints are already over, the possibility of a Tyler C. reconciliation is dead and buried, Bachelor in Paradise won’t air until next fall – IF they would even cast her)…so I don’t really see an advantage for ABC propping her up for the win. It would have actually made more sense to me to ensure James won, as it would uphold the narrative that the new system works to make sure dancers that are both good and popular with the audience win (and we don’t get another Bones).

“Did the judges maybe think James needed to go be with his family?”

If so, they had no business projecting that onto James – PERIODT. Ask James if he wants to go home; don’t assume he wants to go home because of what he’s going through, or assume that it’s the “right thing to do” given the circumstances. Bitch please – give the poor man agency over his own life, and don’t be so arrogant so as to assume you know what’s best for him.

Are they trying to make sure that Ally wins?

If so, it’s a fool’s errand – she’s been in the bottom two THREE times now; do they judges think she’s somehow gonna miraculously rally the votes to take home the MBT next week??? ‘Cause I sure don’t. If the viewers weren’t voting for her by now, they’re not gonna vote for her next week – especially now that she’s got the stink of being the one that the judges eliminated James for hanging over her head. Not her fault, but I’ll admit that I’m probably not going to be throwing any votes her way – she should have been gone by now. Additionally – WHAT DOES THE SHOW GAIN FROM ALLY WINNING? Are they trying to change the narrative to “screw the viewer votes, the judges know best!” Because that’s the only outcome I see from the unlikely event that Ally somehow manages to win. She’s part of a defunct girl group, she’s not got any huge projects in the pipeline…is she the tour celeb??? One of the celebs on this new, ill-conceived DWTS vacay??? Who knows. Bottom line: I don’t see any great benefit to the show or the network in the highly unlikely event Ally wins.

“Ally was clearly the better dancer, so it makes sense that James got eliminated!”

Delusion, thy name is Harmonizers. It could be argued that Ally’s a better all-around dancer than Lauren, possibly a better showman than Hannah, and perhaps a better technician than Kel – I even said last week that I think Ally’s probably the second-best dancer this season. But James had Ally beat on ALL FRONTS, and he was the only one I thought for sure that the judges would ditch Ally for. Sis’ two dances last night were okay-to-decent – but they weren’t James-level polished, and when you take into account the fact that James (even in his off-weeks) consistently was by and large better than everyone else this season, the decision to keep him should have been a no-brainer. Ally’s a great girl and a good dancer – but she ain’t the best. Overscored, sure. It’s not even subjective at this point – James was the better dancer, period.

Was this all just for drama?

Who knows – maybe. With the unmentionable one gone, did they somehow need to stir up drama in another way? If so, this was a dangerous (and possibly counter-intuitive) game to play – I feel James would have been someone that people specifically tuned in to watch in the finale, and now that he’s gone, I could see ratings taking a tumble. Are people talking about what happened Monday night? Sure.  But will it translate to viewers? Doubtful.

All conspiracy theories aside, I’m honestly gutted for James – both for the tragedy he’s currently enduring on the home front, as well as his magical journey on DWTS coming to an abrupt and unexpected end. I was really looking forward to seeing a freestyle from him & Emma! I think he’s right up there with Hinch and Shad as one of the best male celebs without dance experience that we’ve had on the show – hell, he might be THE best male celeb without dance experience that we’ve had on the show. He’s also a class act that hasn’t said one bitter word since his elim (though I would not shame him if he did), and has been nothing but gracious and supportive of the remaining finalists.  To Ally’s credit, she also tearfully begged James to take her spot in the finals – she saw the writing on the wall (that James was the better dancer with the better track record) and also felt terrible that he got eliminated in a week where he had already endured so much sorrow. So to make my stance clear: what happened sucked, but I don’t blame anyone but the judges – it was their low-balling and just mind-boggling decision-making that caused James’ elimination, NOT Ally. So sending her (or any of the other remaining contestants) bad energy or abuse? Not a good look – I would hope our readers here are smarter and more emotionally intelligent than that 😉

4th place: Ally & Sasha

It is what it is – I just don’t see Ally getting the votes to do any better than 4th place next week, after three-peat appearances in the bottom two despite some hefty overscoring from the judges. For real – she could get 60/60 on her two dances on Monday, and I still don’t see her doing better than 4th place.  This is the problem you end up with when you repeatedly save someone that viewers clearly aren’t voting for: a high-scoring (but overscored) finalist that can’t get past lesser dancers with lower scores, and there’s not really anything you can realistically do about it without upsetting the apple cart. Her two dances this week were good but not great (and certainly not perfect); she was better out-of-hold than in-hold in her Viennese waltz, which is a problem when you consider that at least 75% of that dance should be done in-hold. She also seemed to be doing something shuffle-y with her feet – it was hard to see the characteristic “back-side-together, back-side-cross” footwork characteristic of the Viennese waltz. As for her Charleston…oof.  That was one dance that was simply trying wayyyy too hard…and got pretty sloppy as a result, so I was gobsmacked when the judges started raving about how “in sync” and “clean” it was. Sasha should have probably sat Lindsay down and picked her brain to help him choreograph a good Charleston, cause she’s the only one on this show that seems to be able to consistently deliver really solid ones (Jordan & Lindsay’s 2nd Charleston is my gold standard for a good meat-and-potatoes Charleston that isn’t trying too hard). Sasha could have probably replaced half of the more flashy tricks and lifts with basic steps and ended up with a much more technically sound routine. But all things considered, Ally has had a nice journey this season – she has showed improvement, and aside from all the bottom 2 appearances, she’s been a pleasant, unproblematic contestant this season. I wish her the best in the future.

3rd: Lauren & Gleb

Honestly, I think Lauren’s spot in the finals should have gone to James – and had the judges scored James fairly on Monday night, it would probably have been Lauren in the bottom two with Ally and Lauren probably would have been sent packing.  She’s the weakest dancer left, with a pro that doesn’t really seem to care about the quality of choreography he gives her. She’s doing the best she can – I just don’t think she’s getting adequate support and tutelage from Gleb 🙁 Seeing her in the finale pains me for two reasons, then – the fact that it should have been James in it and not her, and a pro that does pretty much whatever the heck he wants (judges be damned!) and puts in the bare minimum effort gets a free pass to the finale. Her two dances on Monday were decent but didn’t really wow me – paso was maybe a slightly improvement on her first one, but I still saw a few movements in hold that looked awkward, and Gleb’s choreo was as uninspired as ever and made unnecessarily heavy use of extra dancers. It was overscored relative to other couples (particularly James) and is unlikely to be a dance I really remember. Ditto for her Viennese waltz – just ok for me, not terribly memorable except for Gleb’s oddly-printed suited (what was that supposed to be – technicolor cow print?). On that note, though, one thing I did like: Lauren’s two costumes this week.  I loved her black paso costume with the thigh-high stockings, and the pink confection they had her in for her waltz was giving me Tammy Wynette/Patsy Cline/Grand Ol’ Opry vibes. So I know that there has been some concern about Lauren winning the whole thing, owing to her ties to Bones and his promotion of her on his radio show; and while I feel less confident about my hunches this season than I ever have before when watching this show (I mean, the judges sent home the best dancer this season without batting an eye – I daresay that’s something none of us saw coming!), I tend to think that Lauren isn’t gonna win this whole thing. Here’s why: she’s already fallen into the bottom two once before, and the judges seem to score her more realistically than, say, Ally. Everyone left with the exception of Hannah has fallen into the bottom 2 at some point – and I tend to think that’s because there’s so few votes being cast total (so every vote is important), so if the judges lowball someone relative to everyone else, the odds are good that they’re going to topple into the bottom 2.  I’m also not banking on Gleb pulling anything super-duper amazing out of his hat for the finale, choreo-wise (unless he opts to hire an outside choreographer – to my knowledge, the only time he’s done that was for Kenzie & Sage’s freestyle on Juniors…which was still underwhelming). All this considered, even if Bones manages to rally his lemmings to power vote for Lauren (I doubt they’re going to be as invested in her as they were in him), I just don’t see her doing much better than third, MAYBE an outside chance of 2nd place. And just to clarify (since I’ve apparently been reduced to explaining nuance to some less-emotionally-intelligent folks on Twitter these days) – I don’t hate Lauren. I just think she’s the weakest dancer left, probably owing to a less-than-competent pro. She seems like a laid back girl that has just been enjoying the journey, which I appreciate; I just think she would have done better with basically any other male pro they could’ve given her. It is what it is…

2nd: Kel & Witney

If there ever was an example of picking the right time to peak on this show, it’s Kel – as I’ve mentioned in previous weeks, he’s just been getting better and better as the weeks have worn on, just quietly and steadily improving and managing to stay out of any drama. Even Witney seems to be peaking at the right time – while many of us seemed worried about a lack of chemistry between the two earlier in the season (and some ho-hum choreo from Witney), it seems like they’ve hit a nice stride these past few weeks – it seemed to start with Kel’s quickstep, improve with his jive, and really hit a high note with his contemporary this week.  I think the appeal for me in that dance was largely in its sincerity – rather than being one of the frantic, overwrought contemporary routines we’ve become accustomed to on the show over the years, this felt more like a calm, wistful “I miss you” to Kel’s departed childhood friend. Loved that Witney seemed to be paying a bit of an homage to this routine she did seemingly forever ago on SYTYCD; this routine seemed to be as meaningful for her as it was for Kel. And Kel impressed the hell outta me with some of those lifts and extensions he was pulling off! Tango was a great improvement for him, too – much cleaner and more confident than the first go-round in week 1, and I liked that Witney seemed to go for more of an Argentine-flavored one than sticking strictly to standard tango steps. I’m kinda gutted that we saw so few Argentine tangos this season 🙁 So where does that leave Kel in the grand scheme of the finale? I’m thinking Witney is going to deliver probably the strongest freestyle, choreo-wise, of all the remaining pros; I also think his late-in-the-game peak is likely to serve him well with the judges, who seem to be valuing growth this season (at least that’s what I gathered from Carrie Ann’s bullshit explanation of why she picked Ally over James – she also focused on how traumatic the whole thing was for her…wow). I think he’s experienced a nice ground swell of votes with the fans, too, as he has yet to topple back into the bottom 2 since his rogue appearance there back in week 3. I would have zero qualms with him winning and would love to be pleasantly surprised if he can pull it off 🙂 However, I think he’s probably going to get bested by someone that has yet to fall into the bottom 2.  But man – he’s really had a nice journey this season, and should be proud of the progress he’s made! He’s the only finalist left that I feel strongly positive about, as opposed to my being indifferent or negative about the rest.

WINNER: Hannah & Alan

I’ll admit, Hannah hasn’t really lived up to the standards I had for her when the season started – ability-wise, I think we all expected her to be better than she has been; but personality-wise, I think we all kinda expected her to…I don’t know, be having more fun? Enjoying this experience more? I think that’s what’s made me feel more lukewarm about her than anything else: I don’t really feel like she’s been having fun this season, which I probably why her breakdown over Carrie Ann’s comments to her just rubbed me the wrong way. Now a significant number of you have tweeted me to defend her, either citing personal tragedy that she chose not to mention on the show or the fact that you think the powers that be were pressuring her into a showmance with Alan and have been punishing her for not cooperating or that she’s still healing from her Bachelorette heartbreak – I get it, everyone’s dealing with sh*t behind the scenes that we might not always see.  But her fixating on Carrie Ann’s really-not-so-bad critiques? Still just felt a tad frivolous to me, especially given that Carrie Ann seems to talk out of her ass on a fairly regular basis and we all just kind of shake our heads and mutter “Sure, Jan” whenever she gets on one. Had Hannah shown us more vulnerability during the season and chosen to share more of the things that were maybe contributing to her angst, I might have warmed up to her a bit more; but as it stands right now, I just feel “meh” about her and her dancing. Her dances this week were…decent; her rumba was a slight improvement on her previous one, although I thought her hip action was far better in the rehearsal package than during the actual performance; I liked the lifts in her contemporary number, but was overall not as moved by it as I was by Kel’s contemporary. I’m thinking Alan could be partially to blame, as it seems like he’s still trying to find his footing as a choreographer; the technique is there, but I don’t often find a lot of emotional connection to the routines we see from him. Anywho – owing to the Bachelor nation and the fact that Hannah’s been the only contestant that hasn’t fallen into the bottom 2 (and still been scored realistically – sometimes underscored), I think we’ll likely see her hoisting the trophy come Monday night. Which…is okay, I guess.  It’s better than another Bones winning, and she’s a better dancer than Lauren and more popular than Ally; I still prefer Kel, but I guess if he can’t win, then I’d rather have it be Hannah than either of the other two. Man, I hate that I’m so blase about this show at this point, but this season has just exhausted me with its shenanigans 🙁

So that’s my final hot take…do you agree? And do you think this is the last power ranking I’ll ever write, owing to the poor performance of the show this season contributing to its possible cancellation?