PureDWTS Season 29, Week 8 – Power Rankings

Generally, it was a pretty “meh” week. I don’t feel like anyone had any huge breakthroughs or astounding performances, and everyone was more or less in a holding pattern from the previous week. Or all the days are running together due to the pandemic, and the sense of impending doom I’m getting from the election is just dulling my senses. Both are equally plausible at this point.

As it usually happens at least once per season, Carrie Ann appointed herself the “critical” judge this week, and seemed to nitpick just about everyone, and Kaitlyn doubly. I feel like she pulls this shit right after she gets called out for giving generally dumb or just unhelpful feedback – in this case, it was her “I wasn’t feeling it” comment in response to Kaitlyn’s paso doble last week, which prompted both Artem and Val to speak up in the media about her lack of helpful feedback. It’s like she gets defensive to the point of having to prove that she’s a serious, tough dance judge with credentials, and ends up just looking petty because of the way she just reeeeeaches for stuff to pick at. It’s a not a good look, but it’s not like we haven’t know for YEARS that Carrie Ann was the least legitimate of the judges. And it did seem like Derek was trying to soften the blow after Carrie Ann went on her rampages – more often than not, he gave reassuring compliments, and was scoring a point or two higher than both Bruno & Carrie Ann. Caught a weird moment immediately after the bottom 2 were called – Derek and Bruno seemed to be gesturing towards one another as if to say “Well what do you think?” before glancing over at Carrie Ann, who seemed engrossed in a bunch of papers she was writing on and ignored them completely. WTF was she doing, filing a tax return??? The scores had long since been logged, not sure what was so important that she felt she needed to write it down before the elim…

Now with Chrishell gone, I don’t think there’s any truly crummy dancers left – which leaves us in an interesting position. One could probably argue that Nelly’s the weakest, but he’s still improving and he also appears to be quite popular, as he has yet to fall into the bottom two despite some harsh scores. On the flip side, both Johnny and Skai have been trending upward with scores in recent weeks, but both have been in the bottom 2 at least once. Then you’ve got Kaitlyn and AJ, who are good but seem to vacillate in a bit in terms of quality; and there’s Justina & Nev, who are consistent but not always super memorable to watch. Add to the mix the fact that we still don’t know how many couples are headed to the finale (I think five is a good number, as it’s the top 1/3 of contestants this season, but who knows), and I can’t really state with confidence who will be there and who won’t. I’d say this made me excited, but anymore, I’m struggling to feel passionate about this show – I’m afraid a lot of the magic died for me with Tom’s departure. Add Tyrant trying to fake cry about Jeannie for attention and I’m damn near changing the channel…ugh.

So we obviously bid farewell to Jeannie – which sucks, because she really was one of the most fun contestants to watch this season, and I loved how she vibed with Brandon.  But I’ve come to learn that one’s health is nothing to trifle with, so I’m glad she caught her ailment at such a crucial point and will likely make a full recovery. If I’m being honest, I had already predicted her as one half of the double elim in last week’s rankings, so I can’t say I’m terribly surprised…although the cause of her elimination is something I definitely wouldn’t have predicted. At the very least, Brandon made it further this season than he ever has before. Then we (finally) shook the dead weight of Chrishell & Gleb loose, which I felt was long overdue. The fact that Gleb had the audacity to pull out the damn bed as a prop FOR A VIENNESE WALTZ had my blood boiling, as did the fact that he once again managed to include the minimum possible number of steps needed to be considered a Viennese waltz and somehow got he and his partner another tongue bath for it. Then there was the suspicious convenience of Carrie Ann NOT calling them out for a lift (after specifically nitpicking Kaitlyn for something similar earlier in the night), and I was downright incredulous by the end of their critique and scoring. Seriously, I wanted to smack all three judges (Derek included) for their gushing.  Why did Chrishell get diplomatic immunity for most of the season??? That’s the real question.  And I think I finally figured out what it was about Chrishell that grated on my nerves: she’s a perpetual victim. I think the only week she didn’t play that card was 80s week, when her package dealt with her being an NKOTB fan. The rest of the time it was “I grew up poor!”, “I got divorced!”, “I had to freeze my eggs!”, “I’m sooooo busy as a real estate agent!” I think of all the other contestants this season, and while everyone had a week or two that was sad, for the most part, their packages all netted out to be generally pretty upbeat and positive. Chrishell’s seemed to be a laundry list of trauma and ways in which her life is hard. I don’t claim to know exactly how her divorce went down, or whose fault it was (as a kid of divorce, I’ve found its usually both spouses’ fault, to some degree), but after seeing her on this season of DWTS, I do think she’s a bit of a bullshit artist and is likely fibbing a bit when she gives the “I was completely blindsided!” line with regards to her divorce. And Gleb…well, y’all know how I feel about him. Let’s just say I wasn’t exactly broken up about it when the judges opted to save Skai & Alan over Chrishell & Gleb 😉

1.) Johnny & Britt – At this point, Johnny’s trajectory is reminding me a lot of Kel’s last season: started off okay, fell into the bottom 2 early on, then had a steady growth arc up to and during the finale. Will he win? I have no idea, but I do think the judges want him in the finale, so he’ll likely be there (barring a relapse in lackadaisical voting from fans). I can’t say I found the song ideal for a foxtrot, but I think he and Britt made it work as best they could – he’s still extending beautifully, and generally moving well across the floor.  I actually loved the highwater pants and sleeveless vest, but the fact that Derek seemed to chide them for it (despite knowing full well that the couples don’t even have control over the costuming now) irked me. Sometimes, I think giving the couples almost no control over anything relating to their dances serves as built-in fodder for the judges to critique…

2.) Nev & Jenna – Yes, Nev did well again – and I’m just kind of bored of him at this point. Maybe it’s the fact that everything in his packages is all easy-peasy, no struggles; maybe it’s the fact that he doesn’t really have ups and downs with his dances, who knows. But I’m just not terribly excited with his dancing anymore. I honestly don’t have much more written in my notes about his dance except “it was nice” and “what crawled up Carrie Ann’s ass???” so I guess she probably had some petty complaint about his dance, too. But from what I hear, the Boomers just seem to be eating Nev, his dancing, and his denial of his dance experience right up, so he’s probably on-track to make it to the finale.

3.) Kaitlyn & Artem – An improvement over last week, for sure – a lot more energy, and Kaitlyn seemed to understand the jive rhythm better than paso rhythm and had more fun with it.  I think the big struggle she had last week was that the song wasn’t ideal for paso, and I don’t know that she was really enjoying herself  – that being said, I think Carrie Ann could have verbalized a better critique than “I wasn’t feeling it.” I don’t disagree with her (I wasn’t really feeling it either), but that critique isn’t really helpful because it puts the onus on Kaitlyn & Artem to try and figure out where Carrie Ann’s head is at (which isn’t their responsibility) instead of Carrie Ann verbalizing what about the dance made her not feel it and what they can do improve. All that being said – I worry that these two may have poked the bear when they complained about her shit critique last week, because I felt like Carrie Ann was out for blood on their jive critique. She honed in on that assisted backflip real quick, and seemed to bait Kaitlyn with the whole “Can you do a back tuck on your own?” question. Granted, she has called out basically the same lift in the past (JR & Karina’s first jive comes to mind), so I think Artem should have probably known a bit better than to include it; still, the whole critique seemed bizarrely (and unnecessarily) confrontational, and Carrie Ann’s a Capricorn – and they can hold a grudge better than anyone else. I’m still not convinced that Carrie Ann doesn’t harbor a bit of bad blood towards Artem over their failed engagement all those years ago…so while I agree with Kaitlyn & Artem that Carrie Ann’s critiques suck and are petty, I kind wish they’d just let it go, because I don’t think Carrie Ann’s capable of doing so and is likely to just keep penalizing them…

4.) Justina & Sasha – Finally, SOMEONE UNDERSTANDS SAMBA RHYTHM!!! Justina was really in the pocket on this one, and was committing to the weight transfers that give samba its characteristic timing and hip action. Also loved that Sasha seemed to stick to probably 85% hardcore samba content, with minimal salsa cheating. She probably could have closed her thighs a bit more, but honestly – probably the strongest technical samba we’ve seen this season.

5.) AJ & Cheryl – Not really an ideal song for a rumba, and with a theme better suited to contemporary. I applaud AJ for talking about his struggles with addiction and path to sobriety, but the end result was more contumba than rumba, and I didn’t see a whole lot in the way of hip action. Good performance quality, not really there on the technique. Not his best, not his worst – and once again, Carrie Ann must’ve made some petty comment, because my notes say “Carrie Ann showing her ass again”.

6/7.) TIE: Nelly & Daniella and Skai & Alan – And it’s here that my heart breaks a bit, because my gut’s telling me that both of them don’t make it through to week 10. The judges proved this week that they aren’t afraid to drop the hammer on Nelly, and the fans proved that they may not be voting as hard for Skai as some initially thought (I wondered in the first few weeks of the season if she was struggling with votes, given that she was one of the last called safe more than one week in a row). Nelly had a bit of a regression this week, as he got saddled with a dance that didn’t allow him to do his signature grooving, although I do credit him for showing a bit more vulnerability on the floor and sharing the story about his sister’s death.  As a side note and a PSA, African Americans often have a harder time finding bone marrow donors than other ethnic groups, so the demand for potential donors is high – I highly recommend checking out BeTheMatch.org and requesting a swab kit to join the bone marrow registry.  It’s free, painless, and could save a life! Back to Nelly’s rumba – it seems like Nelly had the general idea of what hip action should look like, but never really committed fully to the transfer of weight that gives it the authentic look. And I would say Daniella did most of the heavy lifting in this dance, though rumba is traditionally the “woman’s dance”, so I don’t know that I can fault Nelly too much there. As for Skai, I feel like this dance was another trend in the right direction for her – she looked a lot more confident this week, and seemed to be having more fun. Not sure I loved the song as a salsa, but generally the routine was fun.  The fact that at least two of the judges mentioned the rough exits from lifts has me a little worried, though, as that seemed like a rather minute thing to harp on – so I’m a bit concerned that they go in hard on Skai next week and she tumbles into the bottom again.  And when it comes to Nelly or Skai going home, I think it’s going to largely come down to how dirty the judges want to get. Do they resort to 5’s and 6’s for Nelly, in an effort to flush him out? Because I think that’s what it would take in order to get past the votes he’s getting, which appear to be pretty substantial. Or do they nitpick Skai just enough that she slides into the bottom 2 again, likely with a more consistent dancer? Will be interesting to see how the judges play this one next week.

Thoughts on the relay dances:

If memory serves, it’s been a hot minute since they’ve done the relay dances – the last one I remember clearly was season 16’s, when Kellie, Zendaya, Jacoby, and Aly did a cha-cha one to “Treasure” and Jacoby did his signature schtick of jumping over Kellie & Derek to start his portion of the relay and then slid under Aly & Mark to finish it.  And do I vaguely remember a season 17 samba relay to “No Scrubs”? 🙂 Ahhh, simpler times.  Seems like they ditched the relay dance for the face-off dances not long after that, as it seems like the face-offs allowed them to build in an immunity function that seemed to strategically help some contestants (Normani comes to mind). But I digress.  Part of what I loved about earlier relay dances were the fun transitions between couples, which seemed to get largely ignored this time around – likely due to COVID precautions, but it still lead to some pretty awkward shifts between couples that were potentially distracting. Just didn’t feel as magical or fun this time around.

Cha-Cha relay (Nev, Chrishell, & Nelly): This one was the least exciting for me to watch, likely because 1) I don’t really like cha-cha, and 2) only one of the three actually seemed proficient at it. Nev was clearly the strongest, but like most of his other performances these days, it seemed hollow – painted on smile, dead-behind-the-eyes gaze, no real indication that he was having fun. Nelly, on the other hand, seemed to me to be having the most fun out on the floor – he gets a very specific grin on his face when he’s in a groove, and I saw it in his cha-cha relay.  Also loved that he and Daniella started apart, then met up in the middle of the floor – don’t know that anyone else did that. But he’s still doing more of a leisurely groove through his steps, rather than a more intentional placement, soooo…meh.  Chrishell was a dumpster fire that didn’t do much of anything (except look awkward), so I probably would have only given her a 1. Maybe a 2 for Nelly, 3 for Nev.

Viennese waltz relay (Justina & Johnny): Probably the most evenly-matched and fun to watch of the three relays, though this was really more of a duet, owing to Jeannie’s withdrawal. Both handled their steps well; however, I found Justina to be cleaner and Johnny a bit messier.  On the other hand, I found Justina to be a tad timid and small in her steps, while Johnny seemed to move bigger and more dramatically. Enjoyed watching both, but I found Johnny to be a bit more compelling.  I agree with the 2 for Justina and the 3 for Johnny.

Samba relay (AJ, Kaitlyn, & Skai): I will say that all three did improve over their first samba attempts, but I still don’t think anyone nailed it. I think Skai came the closest to actually hitting the rhythm – she seemed to be planting her feet and more firmly transferring her weight this time around, and was definitely looking more confident than she did in her disastrous week 2 attempt.  I think AJ gave the best performance, though I thought it was 90% salsa cheating and had very little in terms of hardcore samba steps. Kaitlyn did marginally better than before, but was still looking a bit too soft and timid for my taste. I probably would have given all three of them 2’s, and thought the 3 for Kaitlyn was a bit generous.