PureDWTS Season 29, Week 9 – Power Rankings

Soooo…I can’t be the only one who went “Whoomp…there it is!” when they heard about Gleb’s divorce over the weekend 😛 It would not shock me to see Chrishell & Gleb getting papped together at some point in the near future, and I’m wondering if that’s part of the reason the show kept them around so long this season – perhaps the fleeting hope that they might get the chance to go public with a showmance? Who knows. Gleb’s divorce clearly wasn’t the biggest news this weekend, but I got a chuckle nonetheless 😉

So the face-offs went about like they have every other season: each face-off seemed to have one couple that went for technique while the other went for performance. And like most other seasons, the judges seemed to reward their points to the couple that needed them more (with the exception of whichever couple they were trying to oust – in this case, Nelly & Daniella). Also found it interesting that they seemed to make the celeb’s face-off costumes to match their first dances – not sure if this was done as a cost-saving measure or a time-saving one (or both), but I don’t know that we’ve seen anything like that before. Just curious.

In a move I don’t think most of us saw coming quite this soon, we lost AJ and Cheryl – a couple that many of us had predicted would win this season in our preseason poll. I think they were unfortunately just a sacrificial lamb – Nelly seemed to be the intended target for elimination this week, but when it became clear that he wasn’t going anywhere (and dancers that belong in the finale were falling into the bottom 2), the judges had to pivot; AJ just happened to have a bad day at the office when his Viennese waltz went off the rails, so I think he was the only logical choice. I’ll admit that I found myself a skosh disappointed with AJ this season – maybe my expectations were too high, maybe he just didn’t get the right choreo, maybe he got screwed with song and dance assignments, who knows. But I guess I just thought he would be someone who easily bested Nick Carter’s often-erratic performances, and instead I think he ended up only slightly better than Nick when you netted out all of his dances.

 

1.) Nev & Jenna – Anyone else just find it kinda funny that this is the second season in a row where Jenna has had to do an Elton John-themed jive? Last year, it was Karamo’s to “I’m Still Standing”, which fell flat with the judges; this year’s went off quite a bit better, though I did find it curious that the judges did seem to nitpick it a bit. I don’t necessarily think it was unfounded nitpicking, though – on the whole, it felt a bit soft to me. Like some of his other dances, it felt like Nev was making things a bit too flowy, instead of punctuating firmly with pointed toes and more deliberate leg action. The retraction of the leg in jive should be like that weird hand gesture Trump used to make when he said “You’re fired!” on The Apprentice – a decisive forward and back motion, and the total opposite of what he’s doing in reaction to the election *eye roll*. And as usual, it just felt a bit empty – again, I go back to Nev dancing like he’s a paid professional, rather than someone learning and enjoying the experience (like Justina). At the end of the day, though, I’m beginning to think he’s going to win this season – a quick trip to Facebook seems to indicate that the Boomers just LOVE him, and he has yet to land in the bottom 2. It also feels like they may be inching towards a Nev & Kaitlyn final 2, with the narrative being “OMG 2 contestants that gave up on their dreams of being professional dancers are given a second chance!!!” which just feels dreadfully boring to me. It feels like we’re either going to end up with win #2 for Jenna (who I don’t hate, but I do get very annoyed with her husband – who will likely try to insert himself into the winning narrative) and a guy who has more or less tried to conceal the extent of his dance training, or a first win for Artem with a contestant that is basically just a repeat of last season’s winner (who I was never really jazzed about to begin with).

2.) Kaitlyn & Artem – It feels like Kaitlyn finally hit a stride after two weeks of decent-but-meh dances – this was actually a really nice Argentine tango, and she was making some gorgeous lines with her legs. It also felt like she was hitting her moves with more impact – I agreed with Derek there.  Where we used to see more wishy-washy, blurred transitions between moves, we now see more confident, punctuated steps. The whole thing was very clean and lovely to watch, though I will say that Artem’s choreo felt a tad safe. Kaitlyn could have probably handled at least one dynamite lift and a few flairier moves, and I think if he wants a hope and a prayer of besting Jenna’s choreo for Nev in the finals, Artem’s gonna have to get out of his comfort zone a bit. What he choreographs is great, for basic choreo – but to really get to the next level, it’s going to take creativity.  Only one other note: I AM SO SICK OF ‘TOXIC”. Can we please find something else from the oeuvre of Britney to use next time we want an edgy tango song? “H0ld it Against Me”? “Womanizer”? “Me Against the Music”? Anything…please.

3.) Justina & Sasha – So Sasha might have the same problem as Artem heading into the finale – this was unfortunately another Sasha snoozefest, choreography-wise. Sometimes, he choreographs such fun stuff – the samba last week, for example.  And then other times, the stuff he comes up with just makes me go “That’s seriously the best you could do???” Justina’s 80s week jazz and this rumba fit under that latter category. I’m not sure if it’s because Sasha is a smaller guy (and his partners also tend to be small as a result), but every move just felt so TINY. Justina could have very well been doing perfect hip action, but it was also so minuscule that we could barely see anything. She also seemed to be clipping her arm and leg lines a bit, though I did notice a few fun flourishes in there to give it the Madonna feel. I think Justina was doing the best she could with what she had – she was still selling it; but Sasha just seemed to give her teeny-tiny choreo that just didn’t register on camera. Song was great, though – it’s what I would consider more of a deep cut in the Madonna catalog, but a hit nonetheless. Anyone remember the movie Vision Quest?

4.) Nelly & Daniella – Nelly still seems to be making strides to open up and embrace the experience of DWTS, so I have to give him credit for that – he seemed to be having fun with his jazz, and the fact that he rerecorded “California Love” to dance to seemed to indicate that he was passionate about his song choice, which I think helps. This dance seemed to be the most in his element, so he did seem more comfortable than he usually is. There were some missed steps, though, and after each one he seemed to retreat back into his shell a bit. Still a pretty fun performance, though, and I think the score was about right. At this point, I think everyone should start getting comfortable with the fact that Nelly is likely headed to the finale – and honestly, at this point, I think he deserves to be there. His journey has been one of the most interesting for me to watch.  He’s not someone that ANY of us had pegged for the finale, and yet he has been growing and improving each week.  He really has taken a similar path to Rob Kardashian in that respect – and like Rob on his season, Nelly is Mama Spence’s fave this season, and she faithfully votes for him each week. At this point, guys, I just want something different – and Nelly is that something different.

5.) Johnny & Britt – The thing I love most about these two also seems to be the thing that is likely hurting them in the votes department: the way they push boundaries.  I thought the Amy Winehouse getup that Johnny donned was brilliant, as was the quickstep he did while wearing it – so much content, and he handled it so well. But in a moment of extremely poor judgement (and possibly boredom), I decided to log onto Facebook and see what people were saying about it – and all I can say is “oof.” As I’ve come to expect during the Trump administration, many people are letting their homophobe flag fly as far as Johnny is concerned,  and those that aren’t seem to be clinging to whatever excuse they can for why Johnny deserves to go home: “He’s a professional dancer!” “He and Britt aren’t that good!” “He only went to the Olympics, he didn’t medal!” It’s exhausting (and not particularly insightful), and I guess I’m just hoping for the folks that are actually voting for him to panic vote next week – I think he deserves to be in the finale, and hopefully the judges do too and don’t pull any funny business like they did with the face-off points this week. Johnny fans, I guess my only advice is this: you’re probably going to have to start placing all your eggs in one basket where he’s concerned if you truly want him in the finale. Yeah, I know you like multiple couples, but if you’re casting 10 votes for 3-4 different couples next week, it diminishes the power of each vote (since everything is based on percentages) and also doesn’t really give Johnny much of a leg up on anyone else, which is what he needs in order to not be in the bottom 2.  This is the one thing I kind of hate about the new voting format – it allows too much blanket voting, which just serves to diminish the power of each vote and result in votes kind of canceling each other out. Will he end up in the bottom 2 again? Who knows.  He got a perfect score this week and still ended up there, so I think it’s possible; the question is, who are they willing to eliminate in order to keep Johnny? They saved Ally three damn times last season (the last time, sacrificing the most consistent and skilled dancer of the season in order to keep her), so I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that they save Johnny once more. I think the only contestant that they might save over Johnny is Nev, but I think he’s getting the votes. Kaitlyn maybe. Nelly? Hell no, but again – I think he’s getting the votes. Justina or Skai? I think they’d chuck either one to keep Johnny around. Christ, I feel like Chuck Todd and his electoral college map – just trying to make sense of unknowns in a time with nothing but unknowns.

6.) Skai & Alan – I was seriously impressed with how closely hair, wardrobe, and makeup managed to get Skai to looking like an “If”-era Janet. The 90s neutral makeup, the auburn curly wig, the tribal-ish jewelry – it all took me back. Still can’t do that crazy shuffling move with the arms Janet does in the “If” video, despite spending hours at the sorority house trying to learn it 😉 I think Skai made a valiant effort with her paso doble – she was doing the steps, and she was on time; it just all felt a bit hollow, and I saw the “deer in the headlights” look again. I think this was a dance that she really had to focus hard to pull off, and we lost a bit of the showmanship as a result. Here’s the unfortunate part, though: she and Johnny are the only two left who have been in the bottom 2, and the pattern seems to be that a couple that survives their appearance in the bottom 2 seems to get a surge in votes the following week; I’m staking my money on it that the judges (and viewers) do whatever they can to ensure Johnny doesn’t end up there next week.  Someone’s gotta be in the bottom 2, and my guess is that Skai ends up there again.  If they don’t manage to keep Johnny out of the bottom 2, I still think Johnny gets saved over her and Skai gets sent packing.  I think the only person that would get eliminated if they ended up in the bottom 2 with Skai is Nelly – and my gut tells me he likely won’t end up there without some serious low-balling from the judges. If next week is Skai’s last week in the competition, though, I’m glad she used her platform for good and mentioned BLM this week.

 

Thoughts on the face-offs:

Justina vs. Kaitlyn – cha-cha: Justina went for performance, while Kaitlyn went for technique.  Kaitlyn’s was cleaner, and Artem seemed to stick pretty strongly to syllabus steps; Justina was more fun to watch, though, and I think Sasha threw in a bit more “flare” and filler, if you will. Kaitlyn, though creating some lovely lines, was a bit boring to watch. It reminded me of watching Hannah in her initial cha-cha last season: nothing really technically wrong, but pretty bland, performance-wise. Probably the least exciting of the face-offs for me. I think the judges made the right call.

Nelly vs. Skai – salsa: Kind of obvious how this one went – Skai & Alan pulled out all the stops with choreo, giving us a salsa tour de force not entirely unlike the one Hannah & Alan gave us for their face-off against Lauren & Gleb last season; Nelly & Daniella went more for simple steps delivered with a ton of showmanship.  And I think this may have been the most carefree and fun I’ve ever seen Nelly out on the floor – it’s as if he shed the last of his inhibitions along with that vest 😛 I couldn’t take my eyes off he and Daniella, as they seemed to be having the time of their lives. I found Skai & Alan, while impressive, to be a bit chaotic at times – like they were doing too much, and lost a bit of showmanship as a result. I would have given the points to Nelly for performance-quality, but I understand why they went to Skai – I’m guessing she may be in danger, while Nelly has proven he’s got the votes.

AJ vs. Johnny – jive: I think Johnny won this one, hands down – he was the only one in the face-offs that I felt gave both technique and showmanship. His feet definitely improved from his first jive (which was still great), and the whole thing just felt effortless and fun. AJ seemed to take longer to get going – he really seemed to be laboring at the beginning, it wasn’t until about halfway through the face-off that he seemed to activate and started picking his feet up a bit more. I think they gave AJ the points because they thought he was in danger, but in doing so they really didn’t help much as he was still in the bottom 2; if they had given the points to Johnny, I can’t guarantee it would have kept him out of the bottom two, but if it had – I think Skai could have plummeted into the bottom again. This just seemed like a no-win situation, regardless of who got the points.

Thoughts headed into the semi-finals? Who makes it to the finale? Who falls short? And what funny business might we see?