The transformative power of friendship

Jenna and Jojo await their scores
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pink ladies
"Dancing with the Stars" Review

It was Grease week on last night’s Dancing with the Stars, and when it comes to only learning about Jojo’s Siwa’s parts and nothing else, I can hear you imploring: Tell me about it, stud. With pleasure, and thanks for the compliment.

This is a momentous week for Jojo and her partner Jenna. Earning the first perfect ten of the season, this performance is for the books, if those books are the three-part unauthorized Jojo Siwa biography Jessalyn’s Girl I am writing in the hopes that I can star as Jojo and Emma Stone can play my mom Jessalyn in its eventual film adaptation.

The duo perform the foxtrot to Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee (Reprise), a song from Grease in which 29-year-old high school cheerleader Sandy (Jojo) grapples with her virginity in a dried-out bed of the Cal-Sag River. Partway through the song, Sandy asks to be corrupted by Frenchie (Jenna), another agéd high schooler/beauty school dropout, so that men with busted cars can start taking her seriously.

Jojo and Jenna, in their pre-dance interview, emphasize the thematic similarities between the song and their lives. Jojo tells Jenna, “Week one, I came here in full pants, a full hoodie, a full jean jacket. I don’t know if you know this or not, but I was very self-conscious about myself. The one thing I preach but don’t practice is confidence. [Ed. note: Jojo’s Ted Talk she gave as a small child is indeed all about ignoring the haters in favor of authenticity.] Since coming here you’ve brought me out of my little shell and I feel like I got my little Frenchie makeover. You gave me the confidence and the courage to be more okay with myself.”

As a piano tinkles, the camera pans to Jojo cradling her knees in a glimmering, if not conservative, pink dress atop a totally rockin’ jalopy emblazoned with Guy Fieri-style fire decals. “Look at me/ There has to be something more than what they see…” Olivia Newton-John’s vocals intone, as we see Jojo in more direct lighting. She’s got a Sandy wig on; I gasp.

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Jenna, in a black skirt and a Pink Ladies jacket, busts onto the scene and takes her ward by the hand. “Wholesome and pure/ Oh so scared and unsure/A poor man’s Sandra Dee,” ONJ whines. Jenna and Jojo’s foxtrot communicates burgeoning trust and lasting friendship: first Jenna takes the lead, then Jojo, then Jenna, then Jojo again. Could Jojo be coming out of her shell, trying new interpretations of dance and ponytail art, under the tutelage of big sis figure Jenna? Looks like it.

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“Goodbye to Sandra Dee!” Jenna rips the scarf off Jojo’s neck, but in a supportive way. The crowd goes wild. I rip a gold necklace off my own body in a moment of catharsis. It will be quite expensive to fix.

Host Tyra Banks — who, at 47 years old is closer to high school age than most of the original Grease actors were during filming — busts onto the stage in a Rydell High uniform.

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The judges go wilder than Vince Fontaine watching a bunch of teens hand jive in a gymnasium. This weird guy named Bruno stands up and starts screaming like he’s goddamn Roberto Benigni at the 1999 Oscars. “I am still shivering,” he says. “And I’ll tell you why. That was the most exquisite interpretation of the importance and power of friendship.” Derek Hough says something, but I’m still thinking about the importance and power of friendship.

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Perfect 10s all around, for a combined score of 40. Can’t get much better than that. But my own personal ranking system is a bit more complicated and much more profound: I rank them one full pants, one full hoodie, and one full jean jacket.