The question is simple enough: Should jumps (difficulty, success, failure) in a program affect component scores?
I have heard various explanations about why program component scores SEEM TO be associated with technical scores. Perhaps the most compelling is that skating skills can be closely linked to both the component scores and technical scores, therefore creating an illusion that judges give component scores to match technical scores. Indeed, the SS and TR components are inherently linked to jumps and this theory could work. However, there are also skaters with very mediocre skating skills who appear to be rewarded with high SS scores because they can jump, which is sort of a separate discussion.
I am interested in how P/E, CH, and IN scores appear to be assessed, as their definitions and criteria do not appear to be inherently closely tied with skating skills or jumps. The definitions can be found in the ISU document here, which have not been revised or clarified as far as I know since the start of IJS 10 years ago.
At the recent Liberty summer competition, I was struck by the beauty of Wesley Campbell's free skate (to Ave Maria). (You can see a fan video here.) His component scores are: PE=6.58, CH=6.58, IN=6.67.
In comparison, the component scores for Max Aaron are: PE=6.50, CH=6.42, IN=6.25. (Video here)
The difference between Aaron and Campbell in component scores is small. The difference in quality, if we are purely talking about performance, choroegraphy, and interpretation of music, is massive. (Yes, I am aware that such "massive difference" is my perception and subjective.)
So, I wonder. Imagine for a moment, if Campbell and Aaron's jump contents had been essentially the same, would their PE, CH, IN scores be as close as they are now? If no, why not? If yes ... uh ... really? Another way of posing this question is, theoretically, if Campbell had a couple of triple Axels or perhaps a quad along with all the same choreography and performance, would he be getting 6's for components?
This is not intended as criticism to specific skaters. I'm comparing these two skaters because I just saw them recently live in competition, and the contrast happened to be very sharp.
Another extreme example is Jonathan Cassar. I can't speak for anyone else, but in my opinion he is the best among US men in terms of PE, CH, IN. His interpretation is not merely waving arms, or moving the skates/legs, or make a hand gesture to coincide with the music. With modern dance training, he can express rich and deep emotions and meaning, never cheap, never superficial, never literal, in a way that is pretty much unmatched. He interprets the music's theme, not just the rhythm or phrasing. His performance often conveys an intelligent humanism that is rarely seen in competitive figure skating. A best example is the free program to the soundtrack of Schindler's List.
So I looked up his component scores. For this program, at 2010 US Nationals, his PE=6.82, CH=6.79, IN=6.96. At 2011 US Nationals, his PE=7.00, CH=6.96, IN=7.18. His jump repertoire has been fairly stable: all 5 triples, no triple Axel. His component scores are usually around 7 from US judges, which is generous compared with his 2010 Finlandia Trophy (he skated the same FS) component scores: PE=6.50, CH=6.50, IN=6.70. In the same competition, Gachinski (who won the FS) got 7 to 7.10 for these 3 components.
One could argue that Cassar would never have gotten 6.50-7.18 in component scores if he wasn't so good, given his limited jump difficulty. But, if what would it matter if PE, CH, and IN are theoretically unrelated and unaffected by jumps? I wonder, if he had a reliably triple Axel, would his PE, CH, and IN scores remain around 7 at US Nationals where Abbott and Lysacek routinely get 8-9?
Perhaps this is a nonissue. Perhaps my opinion that Cambpell's Ave Maria FS and Cassar's Schindler's List FS deserve 7.5 to 9 in PE, CH, and/or IN is mistaken or invalid. After all, aren't these things subjective? But, if so, how should these component scores be marked? Is the phenomenon I describe above consistent with the current judging criteria? I just don't see it.