After being spot-on in our prediction of Martina Navratilova being the first “Dancing with the Stars” contestant out this season, we are now to a week that is far more difficult to predict than any before it. There are no stars remaining who are truly bad by any means, but there are seemingly two groups: the good dancers (in this case, all of those before Donald Driver), and the great dancers (Donald up to this week’s #1).
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11. Gavin DeGraw and Karina Smirnoff (last week: #11) – Usually, we have faith that the act on the bottom will recover from the near-elimination with a thrilling dance. For Gavin, the problem is that there are so many strong dancers, and he does not have the star power of Gladys or the fanbase of Maks.
10. Gladys Knight and Tristan MacManus (last week: #7) – After a strong first week, Gladys went back to earth this week with a routine that lacked the technique needed to stay in this competition long. Does Gavin have more of an athletic upside than Gladys at this point? Yes, but Gladys is a legend and that will probably carry her for at least another week.
9. Melissa Gilbert and Maksim Chmerkovskiy (last week: #10) – Someday, we hope that Melissa will be scored in a way that is not about the judges’ disdain for Maks — but even despite some unfair criticism, she is far from the strongest dancer this season. Having a popular prop helps, but it may only keep her safe for a few weeks.
8. Jack Wagner and Anna Trebunskaya (last week: #9) – Jack’s not a bad dancer at all — unfortunately, he does has a problem in that his voting audience skews older than most of the other contestants (and this is on a season of people who were mostly famous over ten years ago).
7. Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd (last week: #5) – How does Donald get a bit lost in the shuffle here? Despite having great scores this past week, he needs to make an even bigger mark with his personality to draw more viewers than just football fans. (This is what helped Hines Ward — who as a player is despised outside of Pittsburgh — win.)
6. Roshon Fegan and Chelsie Hightower (last week: #8) – The problem with Roshon is that with a fanbase as small as his, one bad performance could send him home. What he has going for him, though, is the capability to not give a bad performance. Talent-wise, he may be among the best in this whole competition.
5. Maria Menounos and Derek Hough (last week: #6) – Despite a broken rib, Maria came out and still delivered on a fantastic quickstep. While we don’t think Maria is as good as Katherine or as energetic as Sherri, having a great pro — in addition to a throng of celebrity supporters — could help Maria for a while.
4. Jaleel White and Kym Johnson (last week: #1) – We’re convinced that Jaleel will have a long life in this competition, but this has been a rough week for him. It’s still to be seen if a tabloid scandal hurts his fanbase, and (as his last dance showed) he needs to find a way to be intense despite having such a relaxed vibe.
3. William Levy and Cheryl Burke (last week: #3) – Personally, we don’t completely get the William Levy hype or the judges overscoring his routines. However, he clearly has not only a large support base, but enough talent to justify getting votes based solely on his good looks.
2. Sherri Shepherd and Val Chmerkovskiy (last week: #4) – More so than even two good performances in a row, Sherri may be having more fun than anyone else in the competition. As Kyle Massey showed, having fun is really one of the best ways to get voters following you outside of your core base.
1. Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas (last week: #3) – She is still going to have to work through being someone that not every “Dancing” fan knows, but there’s no questioning that she is the best dancer in the competition two weeks in. Her casino-themed jive may be among our top five ever featured on this show.