Well, that's disappointing. I had a bad feeling about this episode when I saw world-renowned dancer Katie Holmes and High School Musical director Kenny Ortega on the judging panel (only one of those descriptions is incorrect), and surely enough, they love everything. Unfortunately, most of the routines are average to flat-out horrible, so the double-Ks became insufferable by the end of the episode. Katie Holmes… my God, Debbie Reynolds was a better judge than Katie Holmes. After the dreadful hip-hop number that closes the evening, Katie genuinely struggles to not say anything bad, forcing out each positive comment like a constipated mouth-turd. Does she even know any words that aren’t synonymous with "love," "beautiful," or "great"? When Katie’s only comment after a tepid cha-cha is about how pretty the dancers look in their clothes, even Mary starts to look a little frustrated.
Kenny spends most of his time praising the choreographers and All-Stars (including one mystery All-Star named Ashley), but when it comes to critiquing the actual contestants, he just talks about their previous triumphs in the series instead of doing the thing he is actually there to do—critique. The Ks are failures because they were asked to be on this show to sway America’s opinions with their dance knowledge, not to gush about how much they love the show. Yes, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Neil Patrick and Megan Mullally talked about how much they appreciate the program, but they didn’t let that love get in the way of serious judgment.
This week, the dancers have four paired routines, one with an All-Star and one with each contestant, as well as a solo preceded by an interview with Cat, and maybe it's the large amount of work, but the results end up coming up short.
Easily the weakest of the bunch, Tadd is at a much lower skill level than his fellow contestants, and while he’s been able to pick up other styles fairly well up to this point, the heavy workload this episode shows the cracks in his technique. Pairing him with season four winner Joshua for Lil’ C’s number is a bad move, as Joshua demolishes Tadd in the routine, hitting each move with power and control that makes it hard to watch Tadd as the routine progresses. I’m not a dancer, and part of why I love seeing the All-Stars on this show is because they show us what the dance is supposed to look like if the contestant were a little more seasoned. Then again, the All-Stars only have to learn one routine while the contestants learn four.
Tadd is out of his style for Mark Ballas’ cha-cha and Ray Leeper’s jazz routine with Sasha and Melanie, respectively, and while he’s able to whip out the old Tadd magic (six-pack) for the jazz number, he completely fumbles the cha-cha. Somewhere in the middle of rehearsals, Tadd realized that he had three other dances that will get him more votes, so he completely stopped trying for that cha-cha. It’s forced and completely unsexy, and the music does nothing to make the steps easier for him. (I love “Raindrops,” but it is the wrong song for Latin ballroom.)
Chuck Maldonado’s hip-hop routine is where Tadd completely loses me: a dreadful stepping routine about coal miners set to Outkast’s “B.O.B.” I don’t know about other people, but the appeal of stepping for me is the same as tapping: the added percussive sound that the choreography creates. There’s none of that in this number, but there are a lot of unnecessary props and a crazy-fast song that Marko and Tadd aren’t able to keep up with. This was a painful routine to watch, and it was shameful that the judges praised it because it was man/man and the last routine of the finale. When a dance is this bad, they’re not fooling anyone with their act. The dancers aren’t synced to the beat or each other, and the result is one of the sloppiest numbers of the season.
Marko is spectacular at what he does. He’s also generally spectacular at what he doesn’t do, although he has some big missteps this episode. His disco number with Melanie at the start of the episode is a messy routine with some particularly rough lifts, and Dorianna Sanchez’s music choice doesn’t fit the choreography. The couple has difficulty finding the groove in the music, especially going in and out of the lifts. We haven’t had a disco this season because the men can’t handle the lifts, and Dorianna looks worried about next season after the judges’ critiques.
Marko’s contemporary number with season seven winner Lauren shows why he’s made it so far: It's an emotional, exquisitely danced routine about two lovers in a crumbling relationship. Yes, it’s a story we’ve seen plenty of times before, but both dancers bring a passion and artistry that translates into strong chemistry on stage. On the other end of the acting spectrum, Marko’s Spencer Liff Broadway number has him doing comedy as a waiter caught in the thrall of Sasha’s dominative debutante, and he does a remarkable job in one of the night’s best numbers. Both he and Sasha take on their characters completely, which makes me even more disappointed that Nigel says he didn't care for the acting, especially after he praised Melanie’s horrible hip-hop last week. The acting is solid, the dancing is tight, and Spencer Liff continues to be a better Broadway choreographer than Tyce.
It was neck-and-neck between Sasha and Melanie for me until Melanie’s hip-hop last week, which revealed that the lovable ingénue doesn’t quite have her main competitor’s versatility. Melanie has beautiful strength and control in her dancing, but she’s become a little one-note as the season has progressed, failing to show the kind of wild unpredictability that Sasha brings each week. After her disappointing disco with Marko, Melanie dances a Stacey Tookey contemporary with Robert, and while she has fantastic technique, the routine is more of the same from Melanie. We’ve seen Melanie play this part so many times, dance this dance so many times, that it just gets boring after a while.
Melanie’s appearance gives me a very Robyn vibe, and her jazz number with Tadd is the kind of sexy that I think Melanie can do well. She’s not a warrior princess like Sasha; she’s Sandy from Grease. She’s adorable most of the time, but give her a pair of leather pants and some Aqua Net and she’s able to tap into the animal inside. It’s not Sasha’s powerful tigress; more like a horny bunny rabbit.
It's Sasha Fierce all the way, baby. Yes, she had that horrible cha-cha, but partnering is essential to ballroom, and she had a weak partner. It’s very possible that Sasha caught the same bug as Tadd, deciding to put less focus on the cha-cha and on to her more crowd-pleasing numbers. Her first number is a Sonya Tayeh jazz with the increasingly statuesque All-Star Mark, and it’s a great start to the night for her: an “ode to Sasha” that is edgy, athletic, and fierce. Christian Siriano gave that word a bad rap, but it’s a better word for Sasha than “beast.” The quality of her movement, specifically her lines, is phenomenal, and Sasha has been able to meet the level of her All-Star each week without fail.
The ’50s housewife Stacey Tookey number that Sasha and Melanie dance couldn’t be more different from their earlier Sonya Tayeh Jazz routine, and it gives Sasha a chance to show her more delicate side while Melanie just shows us more standard Melanie. Both women dance it wonderfully, but I can’t deny that my eye drifts to Sasha.
It all ends tomorrow, and I am firmly Team Sasha. I wish the producers had picked a stronger crop of judges and choreographers for such an integral episode, because this is not how the finale should go.
- Cat Fashion: A sleek pencil skirt and beaded bustier are thrown off by an up-do that is almost there, but lacks the clean look of the rest of the ensemble.
- Katie Holmes’ Care Bear voice is horrible.
- “Human mirror balls.” Uh oh.
- Whacking is really similar to disco, it just has fewer lifts.
- “Swag sandwich.”
- “That was some tough work on your knees.”
- Nobody puts Cat in the corner!
- Throw some glasses on Marko and apparently no one knows who he is. Christina Applegate’s amnesia is contagious.
- “When I got shot…”
- If they were housewives in the 1950s, Sasha probably wouldn’t live in Melanie’s neighborhood. Just saying.
- A lot of cameramen getting in the shots this week. BAD CAMERAMEN, BAD!
- Donna will be covering tomorrow night, so I just wanted to say thanks for joining us in celebrating one of TV’s underrated gems. See you next year, when they will probably completely change the format so who know what we’ll be watching.