PureDWTS Season 29, Week 5 – Power Rankings

Soooo…I can’t be the only one who wonders what the Russian pros (minus Artem, he’s an angel) did to piss off the hair department this week, right? 😛 What in the name of Party City Clearance Bin was on Gleb & Val’s heads??? I think the conclusion Mama Spence and I came to was some unholy abomination born of Mandy Patinkin in The Princess Bride, the owner of the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders, and this man looking for love in an 80’s dating service video:


Alan only got off marginally better than the other two, with what looks to be a discount version of Vicki Lawrence’s wig from Mama’s Family:

I don’t know if Tyrant is becoming more tolerable, or if everything else in this year is such a flaming dumpster fire by comparison and I’m just getting used to her particular brand of annoyance, but I found her MILDLY less annoying this week. MILDLY. But I will say I found it super-duper sketch when she brought up the whole elimination gaffe from last week again, and it makes me wonder if there’s more to it than simply being a control room “whoops”. Sis seemed awfully defensive about it, and eager to “set the record straight” – to which I say “Sure, Jan.” And so far, everyone that has fallen into the bottom two and been saved has ended up in the bottom two again and gotten flushed out the following week. But this week, Monica manages to avoid it altogether, owing to some awfully generous scoring for what I would consider a fairly weak tango? Just makes my brain itch. I don’t know to what end strings are being pulled, but it just adds to the stench of this season for me.

Well, in the aforementioned unexpected twist, Monica managed to stay completely safe this week, and it was Vernon and Jesse who took a tumble into the “Danger Zone” (seriously – of all the songs they could have resurrected for 80’s week, why not this one???).  Jesse was ultimately flushed out in a unanimous vote by the judges, and while I feel like he had plateaued (and even backslid) in the past two weeks, I am still a skosh disappointed that we lost him, because I do feel like he was trying; I feel like the one thing that gave Vernon a leg up over him, though, is that Vernon seems to take criticism from the judges and let it fuel him, while Jesse only seemed drained by it. Maybe it was for the best that he left sooner rather than later, as the weekly criticism seemed to be taking its toll on Jesse; but it still irks me that he and Sharna got screwed with music at least half the time, and I feel like that did play a major role in some of their dances being a bit lackluster. Their song this week had some really strange tempo changes that even Mama Spence noticed (and she will be the first to tell you she lacks all rhythm), so I’m inclined to cut them a bit of a break for some of their more awkward routines.

Given that it was a theme week, we of course had some songs that weren’t ideal for the dance that was being done to them, and most of the pros had to sacrifice a bit of content in favor of upholding the “spirit” of 80’s week…so I’m being a bit more lenient on filler/time wasters this week. I also have beaucoup gifs this week, so bear with me 😉

1/2.) TIE: Kaitlyn & Artem and Johnny & Britt – Okay, this week Kaitlyn sold me on her versatility – and perhaps more importantly, Artem sold me on his choreo.  As I was watching the dance, it gave me some “Derek Hough Calculated Risk(TM)” choreo vibes – a dance that may be a little bit of a rule-bender, but is so entertaining that it’s worth it. While time-wasting normally just annoys me in a dance, I thought the intro was actually pretty cute and still quite dynamic, and the break-dancing bit at the end was just a fun way to end things. It was definitely different that what we’ve seen from her the past three weeks, and I think at this point, I could probably get behind a Kaitlyn win – still wouldn’t be terribly excited by it, but it could be nice to see Artem rewarded for his perseverance. I loved their song, and couldn’t help but think of the big dance scene from Umbrella Academy. As for Johnny – I feel like this contemporary was right in his wheelhouse, and it was just lovely to watch. I was pleasantly surprised with how well he handled the lifts – I guess I had him pegged as a solo act without a ton of upper body strength, but he was skillfully throwing Britt around as if he’d been doing it for years. There might have been one or two extensions that I thought he shorted a bit, but given that he’s 36 and been retired from skating for 7 years now, I think I maybe had inflated expectations of what he’s still physically capable of. Loved the two hands coming together at the end – a very simple but powerful end to the routine. The fact that the judges seemed inclined to nitpick his dance makes me wonder if he’s running away with the votes – I would say he’s probably the one contestant left that’s got broad-spectrum appeal, owing to his Olympic and sportscasting career. Unrelated: does Britt remind anyone else of Snitchery from TiK ToK and YouTube?

3.) Nev & Jenna – They’re in 3rd place in my rankings, and Nev’s also in 3rd place behind Gleb and Val for “worst wig of the week” (WWOW).  WHO WORE THEIR HAIR LIKE THIS IN THE 80s??? I got far more of a Carol Brady vibe than an A-ha one, so the wig was just a big “WTF” for me. As for the dance itself – Nev handled it well, but like his rumba last week, I just found something to be lacking. I can’t really put my finger on it – is it the fact that Nev is doing well every week, so it’s just becoming stale? Could be – I said I wanted something different from Kaitlyn after a few weeks of the same stuff, and she delivered – but all of Nev’s dances are starting to feel the same to me. His frame did seem a bit loosey-goosey at times, so I wonder if it’s Nev’s contemporary background that is causing things to be a bit too flowy. Also got REALLY annoyed by the camera shutter sounds at the beginning of their dance (and as for the whole Glamor Shots theme – that was more of a 90s thing), and I thought the music seemed too fast – just made things feel kind of panicky. Now I know a number of people have been complaining about Nev “being deceptive” about his dance background, and I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought – it seemed more like a “just failed to mention it” thing than a “being deceptive” thing to me…until this week.  He more or less lied about it this week – made it seem like he hasn’t had dance lessons since he was a kid, when it was actually well-documented that he majored in it for a time in college (though it doesn’t look like he actually got his degree in it). So yeah – he hit Danicanotadancer level to me this week.  Still doubt he’ll win this season, but he may very well make the finale…blah.

4.) Jeannie & Brandon – Before I get into this – did anyone think Carrie Ann’s critique seemed like a paraphrased rehashing of my power rankings for them last week? 😛 We’ve often wondered if the judges (and contestants) periodically browse Pure, because from time to time it seriously sounds like they parrot things we’ve said. Last season, the word “cheerleader-ish” coincidentally entered Carrie Ann’s vernacular when critiquing Hannah’s dancing a week after I used the same word to describe Hannah’s movement style. But I digress – another fun, fluffy routine from Jeannie and Brandon, and what I would consider the strongest jazz routine we saw last night. Brandon was once again smart to lean into Jeannie’s ability to do lifts (likely owing to her diminutive size and general fearlessness), and was also smart to keep things basic and well-executed, because Jeannie can sell pretty much anything out on the floor with her personality. I felt validated that Derek pointed out that the routine was “simple, but clean”, because it’s what I like to refer to as the “Shirley Ballas Rule”: simple choreo done well will always trump complex choreo done sloppily. I was entertained from the first wink 😉

5.) Justina & Sasha – I think I’ve made no secret of it that I would love for Justina to win this season, but last night solidified for me that there may be one big obstacle standing between her and the MBT: Sasha’s choreo. Unfortunately, Sasha seems to be one of a few pros that doesn’t do as well choreographing outside of traditional Latin and ballroom, and like Justina’s Charleston two weeks ago, I feel like this was another dud.  “Maniac” is such a dramatic song, that it practically demands dramatic, eye-catching choreo that really moves big and makes the most of the music. And this…just wasn’t all that exciting 🙁 It’s no fault of Justina’s – like Jeannie, she can sell any steps you send her way, but what Sasha was sending just seemed feeble. Lots of small, on-the-spot movements, when sweeping, floor-utilizing ones would have been more impactful. I will say that I felt the lift Sasha included this week was much more choreographically relevant and well-executed than the one last week, and I applaud Justina for going for the famous water drop – the silhouette she gave us (and held, after being doused) was lovely. But at the end of it, I was left thinking “Oof – Sasha, that was seriously the best you could do?” Makes me worry about her possibly getting shut out of the finale simply due to mediocre choreo…

6.) AJ & Cheryl – After the fanfare of last week, I was expecting another AJ tongue bath from the judges this week – but I was pleasantly surprised to see them pointing out some legitimate issues he needs to work on. First and foremost, he’s gotta roooooollll those shoulders down and back – he felt pretty hunchy at times during his waltz. There also seemed to be some sort of issue with the one-footed floor spin Cheryl did – not sure if he just wasn’t moving quick enough, or got tangled in her skirt, but thankfully half of it was out of frame because something wasn’t quite working there.  And generally, I found the routine to be pretty bland – I will cut some minor slack due to the fact that standard slow waltz seems to be a dance that just gets thrown out periodically to fit a certain song (and most pros don’t really know how to choreograph a truly exciting one), but once again, AJ is getting a bit lost in the shuffle for me at the end of the night. It was a nice (but not perfect) waltz, and I will probably forget it by next week. And unfortunately for AJ, with Jesse now gone, he no longer has fodder for his podcast…womp womp. Just not convinced anymore that AJ has to juice to go all the way this season…

7.) Skai & Alan – This was cute, but I wasn’t wowed. Once again, it felt like Skai was looking at Alan more than she was the audience, and I feel like the Back to the Future theme has about been done to death on DWTS anymore. She generally does the steps right, but it doesn’t feel like she’s as comfortable with them as, say, Justina or Jeannie; and she’s definitely more wobbly on the lifts than Jeannie. Sorry, not much else to add – cute, decent, not really memorable. But I do find it interesting that she was scored a bit more normally this week, and didn’t fall into the bottom two…so is she gaining traction, or are TPTB just letting the chips fall where they may?

8.) Nelly & Daniella – So, after a lackluster performance (and a rather tense response to the elimination) last week, it’s safe to say I had the bar set pretty low for these two this week – I even thought that getting stuck with samba may have been an intentional choice to ensure he was eliminated. Well something must have happened between he and Daniella between last week and this week (maybe a “come to Jesus” meeting?), because Nelly did a complete 180 this week – he gave us his best dance yet, and seemed like he was having the time of his life out on the floor. One could debate the amount of hardcore samba steps included in the dance, but given that this was a theme week, I’m willing to cut Daniella some slack – it was a fun routine and I enjoyed watching it, and Nelly seemed to actually have a decent grasp of the samba rhythm.  So I guess my question is this: has Nelly turned a corner, and is turning into this season’s dark horse? He has yet to land in the bottom two, and as I’ve said in previous weeks, he does have some natural skill and musicality; he also seems to be shedding the initial reluctance he had to let loose, and I would say that now makes him a stronger competitor than at least five other remaining couples. Will be interesting to see.  Also, did anyone else’s mind immediately think of the precious soul below when they heard DeBarge? 😉

9.) Chrishell & Gleb – Soooo…dare I hope that the judges are starting to see right through Gleb’s nonsense? 😛 Carrie Ann didn’t say Gleb’s name, but she did say “I needed more cha-cha” – because there was little to none here. Gleb seemed to lean into the usual time wasters (props, walking, posing, just being sleazy) while also peppering in quite a few NKOTB moves.  This was really more of a jazz, which just happened to have a few cha-cha moves thrown in. I have no idea what wardrobe was thinking with Gleb’s costume – were those Zanzibelt slacks? And a shirt that neither Crockett nor Tubbs would be caught dead in? Oof…once again, it hearkens back to those dating service videos from the 80s. Chrishell looked cute, but that was about it. Her getting excited about dancing to NKOTB in the package gave me serious Tom Cruise on Oprah’s couch vibes. So…yeah, that’s all I really have to say. She has yet to topple into the bottom two, but once she does – I’m hoping the judges see these two as expendable.

10.) Monica & Val – I don’t know what to make of these two this week.  Monica had already plateaued for me last week, but I would go so far as to say she actually backslid this week – her technique actually suffered during her tango, and it seemed like she was a bit too forward-weighted.  Also seemed stiffer and more awkward in some of the steps, and I don’t know that the choreo was particularly great, either. Overall, the whole thing was a non-event, because Monica is about as exciting to watch as paint drying, water boiling, grass growing, etc. And yet she not only got lavished with praise by the judges, but got her highest score of the season – and is now the second-highest scoring tango of the season??? Y’all know I’m not particularly fond of Kaitlyn, but it’s downright abominable to me that her fun, well-danced tango only ended up with one more point that Monica’s snoozefest. I’ve got no real explanation for this one.  Some seemed to think it was some sort of apology for the elimination gaffe last week – to which I say “So she was legitimately in the bottom 2 last week and they told her she was safe by mistake – so to make up for it this week, they deliberately shredded their credibility again to ensure her safety as a sort of ‘my bad’ apology?” It just doesn’t add up.  Do they want to keep Val around longer? Who knows, not entirely out of the realm of possibility – we’ve seen them tie themselves in all sorts of knots to keep him around in previous seasons. Is Monica working on some sort of hush-hush tv deal with ABC, so it would behoove the network to keep her around longer? Doubtful, but the possibility is never zero. Are they toying with the idea of a tour in the winter, and want her on board? Again – doubtful, but the possibility is never zero. I will say this, though: Monica is no fool, so when they called her safe last night, even she side-eyed them a bit – she has likely seen the pattern of people getting saved one week, only to be eliminated the next, so I’m sure she was skeptical to suddenly be legitimately safe again. Will they let her go next week if she tumbles into the bottom 2 again? Unless she falls into the bottom two with someone like Skai, Justina, Kaitlyn, Nev, or Johnny, I don’t see her getting sent packing, given what I saw from the judges this week. So I guess the question is this: is she going to be this season’s Ally?

11.) Vernon & Peta – Pains me to put these two here, but given the pattern we’ve seen of the bottom two thus far, I find it unlikely they’ll be able to dig themselves out next week. Just a bad day at the office for these two, I’m afraid – tango just did not seem like a dance that suited Vernon well, as he went off-time more than once and never seemed to get fully back in the groove, despite a fairly strong start. Posture got wonky, footwork was kind of a mess, and he seemed to be bending his knees too much. But Lord, does he try – I’ve never gotten the impression that Vernon is giving anything less than 110% effort each week. So it pains me to say put him here – but if it’s him and Monica in the bottom 2 next week, I think we all know who’s getting saved. At least he got the best wig this week – seemed like some combo of Slash/Prince/Jermaine Stewart. I dug it 😎

Thoughts on 80s week? Who had the worst hair? What do you make of Monica’s sudden safety?