The early departure of Paulina & Alec was a real shock. I’d pegged them to last at least several more weeks. Their elimination — and some unexpected gymnastics by Heather Mills — caused a bit of an upheaval in the Power Rankings.
10. Shandi Finnessey & Brian Fortuna
Standing alongside Paulina & Alec in the Bottom Two gave Shandi & Brian more than enough reason to be nervous. To paraphrase Carrie Ann Inaba, there’s been nothing special about the couple’s performances. They’ll be dancing the energetic Jive next week, which should give them plenty of opportunities to work in some show-stopping moves.
9. Leeza Gibbons & Tony Dovolani
Leeza got a pass this week because it was her birthday. As nice as she seems, she just doesn’t have the dancing chops to warrant a long-term spot in the lineup.
8. Billy Ray Cyrus & Karina Smirnoff
Billy Ray made some real improvements after his disastrous Cha Cha Cha, but I’m not sure that his ceiling’s as high as those of his competitors. If he can’t do something absolutely dazzling in the next few weeks, then I doubt he’s ever going to be able to.
7. Clyde Drexler & Elena Grinenko
Like Billy Ray, Clyde showed some real improvement with his Quickstep. But also like Billy Ray, Clyde’s best dancing probably won’t be as good as Apolo’s, Joey’s, or Ian’s best dancing. Not that there’s any shame in that.
6. John Ratzenberger & Edyta Sliwinska
Fans seem to like John, and Edyta definitely knows how to choreograph for the older gentlemen. But, like the two guys who precede him on this list (Drexler and Cyrus), there may be limits to what he can do. If he lasts past the top six, it will likely be at the expense of a more talented dancer.
5. Heather Mills & Jonathan Roberts
Heather’s marvelous back walkover totally upset the applecart. She’s dancing to win, and showing she’s capable of doing it. Her limitations may become more apparent as her competitors continue to improve, but that won’t happen for several more weeks.
4. Apolo Anton Ohno & Julianne Hough
They’re so cute and nice that I really want Anton & Julianne to do well. I don’t know if they’re good enough to win it all, but they’ve got plenty of time to prove me wrong. Bonus points to Apolo for ditching the headbandana this week; too bad his soul patch looks like a fixture.
3. Ian Ziering & Cheryl Burke
At the end of this week’s Performance Show, there was a contained fury in Cheryl’s eyes as she and her partner were announced as "middle of the pack" competitors. That should scare the sequins off of the other couples. Cheryl’s going to take advantage of Ian’s work ethic and do whatever it takes to get them to the top of the leaderboard.
2. Joey Fatone & Kym Johnson
Joey & Kym have been fun to watch during their first two performances. We’ll see if he has the range to pull-off the more serious dances, like the Tango and Paso Doble, but Joey’s the man to beat for the moment.
1. Laila Ali & Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Laila has been the most pleasant surprise of the season thus far. She’s feminine and graceful, and boy can she move. As Canadian 80s icons Loverboy once said, "Everyone’s watchin’ to see what you will do." And I predict everyone will be keepin’ their eyes on Laila until the finale. I also predict that someone will have to dance to a crappy Loverboy song at some point between now and then. (Sadly, that prediction is probably a safer bet than any of my preseason guesses.)