Although we can't rank them, the producers lost bigger than even Kate Gosselin last night, as their cash cow (and ratings engine) sang her swan song — not literally, thankfully. But her long-awaited elimination frees up the rankings, at least a bit.
7. Niecy & Louis Oh, how we wish they weren't at the bottom of the rankings. But they are: Niecy puts on great performances, but the judges don't like her footwork and, when she and Louis aren't pulling America's heartstrings, they're pointing out (again) that Niecy isn't skinny. Got it, thanks! But if she doesn't work on her footwork, she'll be at the bottom of the heap next week. Maybe she should start telling her kids how much she loves them? Hey, it worked for Kate.
6. Chad & Cheryl The two of them had best be rehearsing something sexy as we speak, because that's about the only time Chad connects with audiences or judges. If he's not steaming up our screens, his stilted dancing is just too obvious to even the casual observer. At least Niecy looks like she's having fun; Chad only seems to enjoy himself when he's putting the moves on viewers and Cheryl alike.
5. Pam & Damian How is America not enjoying Pam's performances? It's not as if she's the only person to lose a step here and there on a Quickstep, and the further along in the process she gets, the more hard-working and pleasant she becomes. Even the judges don't understand why Pam's been in the bottom two twice so far this season — but every time she is, people seem to wake up and realize she needs to stay another week.
4. Erin & Maks Why do the judges hate her? She, like Jake, is an ABC property, but she seemingly gets scored more harshly than anyone else. And, unlike Jake, she's got rhythm, high kicks, great facial expressions and difficult routines... yet the judges rarely score her near the top. Do gentlemen (and Inabas) not really prefer blondes?
3. Jake & Chelsie Get his mug off our screens and his feet off the dance floor! Just because the man danced (briefly) in his tighty-whities doesn't mean he kept it up when his pants are on. He gets high marks for energy (did we mention Erin's kicks?) and yet never loses points when he — now weekly — flubs his footwork. Somehow, the judges just love him.
2. Evan & Anna Even when Evan finally points his toes, the pair still don't get their desired 10s from the judges, though it's fair to say that both Evan and the choreography are consistently improving. It's as though the judges are teasing them that they might win, even when they've already decided to be all about Nicole, all the way to the bitter end.
1. Nicole & Derek With Kate headed back to her children that all of America knows she really, really loves, Nicole can finally breathe a sigh of relief that Kate's fans won't keep Nicole's hands from the coveted mirror ball trophy. If she can keep the nerves at bay, Nicole can probably stay on top.