PureDWTS Season 29, Week 10 – Power Rankings

I apologize for the atrocious lateness of these rankings – while I’ve been working remote at my 9-5 since mid-March, I actually had to go into my office this week for what’s called an “action workout”; for those not familiar with lean production practices, it’s basically utilizing employees as a sort of think tank to solve in-house problems. The problem being addressed: how we’re going to free up 25K sq feet of space for a new production line in our roughly 75K sq foot building. The upside? I am now going to be working remote permanently, owing to the fact that they need to annex quite a bit of office space on site 😉 The downside? A week’s worth of long, contentious discussions, me pretending to know how to work in CAD, countless Powerpoint presentations, and one very sh*tty cardboard and styrofoam 3D model 😛 But it was totally worth it for the knowledge that I won’t have a morning commute, I won’t have to get all dressed up every morning, I will have a lot more flexibility in my schedule, and when I scream into the void in frustration, nobody will complain (except maybe the dog and the cat) 🙂 Has anyone else’s employer had a peculiar change of heart about remote work since the pandemic hit? A colleague asked my boss back in January (before anyone was really taking COVID seriously) if she could work a few days per week from home, and he said (with a straight face) “No, we need you here, it’s impossible for your job to be done remotely!!!” Fast forward to March 16, when we all got pulled into a conference room and were told that any of us that had the means to do so should start working from home immediately due to COVID, but we should be cleared to return to the office by June; June comes and goes, and in July we’re told that we won’t be coming back to the office before October (at the earliest).  Then 2 weeks ago, suddenly the discussion turned to “So, how would you feel about working from home permanently? You’re cool with it? AWESOME! When can you come clean out your desk??? The subcontractors will be here Monday to start planning out the remodel!” Amazing how it took a pandemic to make my very old-fashioned employer see that working remote can be beneficial to both employer and employee.

So as many of us probably saw coming, we lost Skai and Johnny in an unceremonious double elim – I partially blame the judges, who I felt low-balled their redemption dances and likely contributed to their tumble into the bottom; but at the end of the day, I don’t think very many votes total are being cast, and those that are being cast are not being cast thoughtfully or strategically, and that likely had more to do with it than anything else. Both Heidi and I tried to explain to you last week why the “you can cast up to 10 votes per couple per voting method!” arrangement can actually end up hurting your favorites if you’re tossing votes to multiple couples, but as we’ve often said, we the “internet voters” are the minority in the grand scheme of things, and all those Boomers voting by phone likely haven’t stopped to consider the mathematics of their DWTS votes (and for some of them, their Presidential votes as well) and are tossing them out like candy and lowering the power of each vote overall.  Or a good chunk of them are racist and homophobic, as we somehow managed to lose the only two black women and the only openly-gay contestant this season in one fell swoop. This is me giving some major side-eye to the voters, cause it’s not a good look on paper. It’s likely a combination of the two issues, and part of the reason why I feel like this show might be beyond help – when there just aren’t many viewers left that care enough to vote, things get wonky, and when things get wonky, more viewers leave, and there’s even fewer that care enough to vote, etc. etc. etc. You get the idea – things are likely to just get more broken as this show drags on. If nothing else, I’m especially glad that we finally got Johnny on the show, after a good 10 years of him being on cast wish lists – and I’m so glad he got to share his unconventional journey with our first black female pro 🙂 And Skai ended up being an inspiration – never talking back to the judges, always taking her critiques calmly (and sometimes better than contestants 15+ years her senior), and using her platform for good. I wish them both the best in the future 🙂

All that said, I feel like I should probably address the elephant in the room (and its one I’ve been addressing more and more in recent seasons): do I think DWTS is going to get cancelled? As I said last year around this time, I think it deserves to be cancelled, with how sloppy it has become – and doubly this year, with Tom’s ousting and Tyra’s installation as host. But also repeating what I’ve said in previous seasons, in order to cancel DWTS, ABC needs something else to put in its place – and it has to be something that can hold its own against Monday night programming on rival networks (namely The Voice on NBC). Given that the situation in Hollywood seems to be fluid during the pandemic, I’m not sure how many folks are out there pitching dynamite new reality show ideas that ABC might be interested in; but given that DWTS has been in its death throes for a few seasons now, my guess is that it’s not a ton, as they haven’t been able to find anything to replace it yet. Another possibility? Shuffling the schedule around – as I said last year, it would not surprise me in the slightest if they opted to move American Idol to a Monday night slot – it’s still hitting in the 7-8 million ratings range on the arguably more-competitive Sunday night slot, compared to DWTS’ 6ish million; I know ABC has already announced a February 2021 premiere date for Idol, but it’s not out of character for them to call an audible and reschedule that if they come up with a better plan. I know that neither DWTS nor Idol are cheap shows to produce, so maybe ABC opts to put all their eggs in one basket and chuck the other show. Maybe this pandemic drags on and neither one seems feasible. It’s damn near impossible to say, given the fluid nature of the pandemic…all I do know is that Tyra has been a detriment to this show on the whole. Just obnoxious, and determined to be the center of attention. Do they have the power to oust her? Who knows, given that she has that pesky executive producer title tied to her name, which could complicate things. I’m just glad to get a bit of a break from her shenanigans, if this show does come back next year.

For the final power rankings of the season, I’m doing it like I usually do – in reverse, ranking from who I think will come in 4th place to who I think will win.

4th place: Justina & Sasha

This is who I’m rooting for to win it all, but if I’m being realistic, it’s not likely to happen. Justina’s the only one left that has been in the bottom and survived it; the pattern this season seems to dictate that if it happens to you once, it is likely to happen to you again and again until you get flushed out. Which sucks, because aside from what I would consider just a few choreographic missteps by Sasha, these two are up there with Nev & Jenna in terms of consistency, and Justina has always been the best showman on this season.  No matter what dance got thrown her way, Justina put in 110% – even if a dance wasn’t my favorite, I still enjoyed it because Justina sold it so well. So when it came to a “redemption dance”, I almost felt like it should have been renamed “a dance that y’all kinda screwed me over on in terms of song and dance assignment the first time around” in Justina’s case, because I don’t know that she had any dances that were really and truly bad. Initially, I was like “Really? Her tango? Why not her Charleston, which got a bad song and bad choreo from Sasha?” before realizing “Oh shit – they know Sasha sucks at choreographing Charleston too.” They being the TPTB, of course – so I ended up thankful that she ended up with tango as her redemption dance, because she did kinda get screwed over by the song they gave her the first time around, which had a bunch of weird tempo changes.  So you can imagine my exasperation when I realized they simply gave her a DIFFERENT song with ridiculous tempo changes for her redemption dance – “Le Tango De Roxanne” is not nearly consistent enough for an effective tango rhythm. They made the most of it, but it irked me nonetheless. Thought it was a definite improvement, and that Derek had the right idea giving them a “10” for it – thought the other two judges were being dinguses in whipping out the “9” paddle. But at least Justina got to bounce back with her contemporary – I thought it was cute, quirky, well-executed, and very Justina. I especially love how Justina does each move so FULLY – she’s not afraid to take up space on the stage and really move her body to its fullest extent. These two will be getting all my votes come Monday night, but I’m mentally preparing myself for her to end up in 4th place.  But I’m happy we got her on this season, as she’s been a real bright spot 🙂

3rd place: Nelly & Daniella

So I can’t be the only one that was going “Since when are the judges in love with Nelly’s dancing???” during Monday night’s show. After a whole season of begrudgingly handing him 7’s and 8’s, the judges suddenly hopped on the Nelly train and were handing him 9’s and 10’s like candy this past week. Part of me thought “Well maybe he’s getting so many votes they’re just like ‘Well if we can’t beat him, we’ll just join him!'”…but then Mama Spence pointed out to me that Nelly is performing at the AMA’s tomorrow night (on ABC) and was tapped to play Chuck Berry in an upcoming Buddy Holly biopic just this week. There’s also a certain amount of buzz surrounding the 20th anniversary of his album Country Grammar going diamond, and my guess is that the judges’ sudden love for Nelly is a combination of just giving up and wanting to appear “right”, and the other half is their being told by the folks upstairs to promote someone whose success they likely have a vested interest in. Like the shameless promotion of William Levy in season 14 and the dubious promotion of some of the celebs signed up for the DWTS tour over other, more capable contestants, this shouldn’t really surprise anyone – this has been in the ABC/Disney playbook for YEARS. Is it right? Not really, but this show has been moving the goal posts of “right” for at least the past 10 years, and at the end of the day, I doubt this season is going to substantially change the lives of its contestants for better or worse. I mean, look at Bones – sure, he’s probably the sh*ttiest winner this show has ever seen, but is really doing all that much better right now than he was 2 years ago? Nah. I guess I’m just not as bothered by Nelly sticking around as some others are, because he has at least improved (I don’t think Bones ever really did) and seems to be having a great time. I think his redemption paso was a slight improvement over the original – his arms seem a bit less awkward, so I tend to think Daniella probably drilled arm styling with him at length after his original, which I recall describing as “karate-like”. Speaking of Daniella, she stole the show a bit for me – paso may be the man’s dance, but it sure was hard to keep an eye on Nelly with Daniella acting as the most dynamic and eye-catching cape ever. In the end, I still think he played it a bit too cool, and would have liked a bit more aggression and attack from him. As for his jive – which may as well have been called “the jive that launched a dozen thinkpieces”, judging from the number of hot takes I saw about it on the internet – I think TPTB may have gone in with the intent to screw him over, thinking he’d fail miserably at it.  What I don’t think they took into account was the fact that Daniella clearly has some teaching chops, and the fact that Nelly does seem to thrive in dances where he can groove a bit.  Let me be clear: this was by no means a 30-worthy jive. That’s a distinction I believe should be held by a select few jives we’ve seen (Jordan & Lindsay’s “Proud Mary” jive being the epitome) and at best, I think Nelly’s was deserving of a 26. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by how well he handled it – though it was at times too soft and definitely not 100% on top of the beat, he looked like he was having a blast, and was really feeling the music.  It seemed like some middle ground between Kel’s Halloween jive last season, and Jacoby’s duet jive back in season 16 – Kel’s precision-without-being-perfect, and Jacoby’s over-the-top enthusiasm. On the whole, I enjoyed it 🙂 So where does that leave Nelly for the finale? My guess is the judges let the chips fall where they may – for the most part – but I could see them deducting a point or two here or there for small errors in order to ensure Kaitlyn & Nev remain in the lead. But I’ve enjoyed Nelly this season, and I’m glad the world got to see how awesome Daniella is 🙂

2nd place: Kaitlyn & Artem

I don’t want to overplay my point – Kaitlyn’s dancing bores me, as I’m just tired of conventionally-attractive white girls with some previous dance experience getting all the way to the finale without doing anything particularly unique or groundbreaking; but if she ends up winning this season, I think it may be time to just call it quits, because it would just be a repeat of last season’s win. And this is coming from someone that would love to see Artem get reparations for the shenanigans of last season! But when I think back to all of Kaitlyn’s dances as a whole this season, I don’t know that any of them really stand out to me as something special – no, they weren’t bad, but I don’t remember them, either. Just like I couldn’t really recall many of Hannah’s dances at the end of last season, and I just balked at the poor quality of most Bones’ dances when he won the season before that. The last winner I feel actually deserved their MBT was Adam during the mini-season, and I honestly wonder if he still would have won if the season had been a full 10 weeks long (and someone had gotten Mirai a PR person that knew when to tell her to STFU). I fully admit this show has generally lost the plot completely in the past two (maybe 2.5) years, so a Kaitlyn win wouldn’t really be surprising; but I don’t know that it would really be a step in the right direction, either. I feel like both Nev and Justina have been more consistent, and Nelly has often been a better showman than Kaitlyn. And showmanship is what I found lacking in her redemption paso – Derek may have done some slick rebranding of Kaitlyn’s low energy in it as being “just more cool and laid-back!”, but I saw the same struggles she had in her first paso: just a vague sense of disengagement and lack of attack. Maybe paso just isn’t her cup of tea, who knows – but if you wonder what a woman should look like in a Paso, just look at Daniella. Even when doing the simplest steps, she just seems completely locked in and committed to it. I also found this to be the 2nd hokey paso costume wardrobe stuck Kaitlyn in, but I digress. I could have sworn Kaitlyn had already done contemporary (likely because several of her dances in a row earlier in the season were contemporary-flavored), but I guess this was a slightly different take on it – the song was a bit more upbeat, but I thought the steps were a tad generic and overall nothing super memorable.  Artem looked good, though. At the end of the day, I think Kaitlyn has done decently well this season, but her journey hasn’t been particularly special or unique. I think she’ll end up in the final two, but I don’t think she’s got the juice to win it all.  If she does, I guess I just hope she doesn’t pull a Hannah and “accidentally” rap racial slurs while singing along on Instagram live.

Winner: Nev & Jenna

The impression I got from watching the judges this week is that Nev is their pick to win – and I guess I understand why: he’s probably the most skilled and the most consistent of the bunch, and Jenna has been serving some serious choreo this season.  Say what you will about Jenna (personally, my only real issue with her is that she’s hitched her wagon to a mediocre man that likely doesn’t deserve her and she seems to have changed her entire life to be with him), but the girl is a talented choreographer, just like our other cross-trained Utah girls (Witney & Lindsay). Their contemporary in particular was (IMO) some of the best choreo we’ve seen all season – legit contemporary that wasn’t using overwrought emotion in lieu of real steps, solid execution, and the little quirks thrown in that are a reflection of the choreographer. As for his redemption dance – like Justina, I don’t know that Nev had any truly “bad” or even “weak” dances to chose from; however, I tend to find picking a week 1 dance as redemption dance to be shady and a bit of a cop-out, as just about everyone isn’t 100% awesome in their first dance due to premiere jitters. That said, it was a nice foxtrot in week 1, and a nice foxtrot in week 10 – not sure there was a vast improvement from week 1 to week 10, though if I remember correctly, the judges’ only real complaint in week 1 was his butt sticking out too far. I’m guessing he fixed it, because I don’t recall thinking it was sticking out like a sore thumb this go-round.  So given the way the judges lavished praise on Nev this week, and the Boomers on Facebook that think Nev is just the greatest thing since sliced bread, I feel fairly confident saying he’ll win, or at the very least end up as one of the last two standing. I guess at this point, I’d be OKAY with Nev winning; however, he just doesn’t really excite me at all…and there’s still the apparent deceptiveness about his dance background. Part of me wonders if positioning Nev for the win is somehow meant to make up for the gaffe they made with James last season, which is one of the more obvious ways in which this show has failed for me in recent years.

So that’s that, then…another season come and gone. Thought I might not have enjoyed it as much as I had hoped, as always, I’ve enjoyed writing about it and talking to you guys about it – so from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU for letting me babble at you week after week 🙂 Some of you may or may not have noticed that I’m back on Twitter with a new handle – @SeeCourtTweets.  Fun fact: apparently if you deactivate your Twitter account and don’t reactivate it within a certain amount of time, it’s just gone and you have to start over. Lesson learned 🙂 I can’t guarantee I’m going to be as active on it as I once was, but once I get set up on Wattpad or another service where I can start sharing my original fiction, I’ll post updates on my Twitter account.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season, and we’ll see you in 2021! 🙂