Over the course of tonight’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance, you can see guest judge Jesse Tyler Ferguson grow increasingly nervous after each routine, terrified that he will have to eliminate two of these eight amazing dancers. This episode delivers on nearly every level, with contestants dancing out of their styles and consistently succeeding, building to one of the season’s easiest eliminations as two dancers go out on a high note. The only misstep comes in the opening group number, choreographed by newcomer Peter Chu. He doesn’t play to this group’s strengths, and the dancers struggle to find the rhythm of the piece. Cyrus in particular sticks out in a smaller group, and he’s just not able to keep up with the other men with regard to speed, extension, and flexibility. The immaturity that has plagued this season is most apparent during this number, and the sloppiness of the dance combined with the youth of the dancers gives it a high-school auditorium feel.
In seasons past, the dancers would normally be performing two routines along with solos at this point in the competition, but due to the new format, each dancer only performs one routine with an All Star and a solo. After the weak opening, Tiffany’s solid but standard contemporary solo keeps the episode in juvenile territory, but the episode gets a huge burst of momentum when Witney hits the stage with tWitch for a Luther Brown hip-hop number. The SYTYCD Canada choreographer is a welcome new addition to this show’s stable of dancers, and he gives Witney a routine that forces her to show a hard attitude without giving up her sexiness. She absolutely nails it, strutting across that stage and matching every bit of her partner’s charisma. Ferguson is most impressed by what she’s capable of in her diaper pants, and the judges affectionately copy Luther’s “waiting for the bus” choreography as the two leave the stage. Witney ends up in the bottom two at the end of the episode, but is saved on the strength of this number, because she’s pretty evenly matched with the eliminated Lindsay when it comes to solo ballroom skills.
The storyline of Lindsay versus Witney has been building to the moment when the two of them would both be in the bottom two, waiting to find out which best friend stays and which one goes; there’s an inevitability to it all that helps take away some of the sting when Lindsay is sent home. Lindsay has the weakest dance of the night, a Sonya Tayeh jazz routine with Alex Wong that is technically great, but dead in the chemistry department. Lindsay is overshadowed by her partner in the number, and Sonya gives Alex all the impressive ballet tricks while Lindsay moves in and out of his orbit. Jesse Tyler Ferguson calls Lindsay “ding dong ’dorable,” but the judges want something more passionate than that. And in terms of Lindsay’s story, there’s little inspiring about the dancer who grew up in a dancing family with a dance studio winning this competition. (Not to say those contestants who win don’t deserve it, but it has less gravitas than someone like Joshua winning.)
Will’s solo is in the same vein as Tiffany’s, with lots of pirouettes and reaching, and it’s a strong effort considering it’s his first time dancing alone in the competition. Will ends up in the bottom two with Cole, who performs a haunting Sonya contemporary routine right after Will’s solo. Cole is paired with season two’s Allison, who is playing a desperate woman going after a soulless, sadistic man. The routine has shades of Mia Michaels’ “Gravity” routine, especially with Cole’s costuming, but Cole’s performance of Sonya’s choreography has the seductive quality that his interpretation of Mia’s dance lacked. Allison gets some amazing height in this routine, and Cole is a strong foundation for her. Sonya gives him some great Hok-like movement in the middle of the number as he lurches toward Allison, showing Cole’s skill at performing precise movement without being rigid. This routine, combined with a solo that starts at a slow burn before building to an intense string of crowd-pleasing tricks, guarantees Cole a spot in the top six, but Will leaves the show with his strongest dance yet.
Paired with season three’s Lauren for a Christopher Scott hip-hop routine, Will contains his bubbly personality to play a guy with “problems” who is consoled by the little voice in his head that tells him to dance his problems away to Wye Oak. Luther’s number is this week’s hard hip-hop while Christopher delivers the feel-good cute side of the style, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less entertaining. The unison in this routine is flawless, and the two have great chemistry despite not really partnering much in the dance. It’s a lot like Lindsay and Jakob’s Broadway routine last week, and the intense precision required has Will replacing his breeziness with something more focused and contained. The best thing about this episode is that nearly all the routines except for Lindsay’s are definitive dances for those contestants, and Will has never danced with more strength or passion on this series.
Only having to learn one routine is what will probably take Cyrus to the finale, and it’s unlikely that he would hold up as well if he had to take on more choreography. After being challenged by Travis Wall last week, Cyrus is back to running a lot in his Mandy Moore jazz number with last season’s champion Melanie, occasionally picking up his partner whenever he’s not punching Fosse fists. The routine is reminiscent of Tyce’s Broadway routine for Cyrus earlier in the season, which featured similarly simplistic choreography. The judges continue to praise his personality, but unlike last week, this routine didn’t push Cyrus at all, and his safety at the end of the episode feels unearned after a lackluster solo. Cyrus is very good at what he does, but his solo is insubstantial compared to someone like Chehon.
Chehon is this week’s big success story, and having his adopted mom in the audience is just the thing he needs to break out of his shell and show some personality. His solo has everything we’ve come to expect from him with dizzying pirouettes and high-flying acrobatics, but there’s a passion to his performance that wasn’t there before. He has tears in his eyes at the end of the solo, and the judges give him the evening’s only solo standing ovation. That momentum carries through to Chehon’s Argentine tango with Anya, a quietly smoldering number in which Chehon finally develops chemistry with his partner. It earns him his second standing ovation of the night, with Mary putting Chehon on the Hot Tamale Train while Jesse gives him a ride on the Hot Jalapeño Bus. Nigel appreciates the breadth and strength Chehon brings to his performance, qualities that come from his classical training and are also present in this season’s other ballet dancer: the unstoppable Eliana.
This show has started to go overboard with all the “dreaded quickstep” business, but it’s all intended to build the tension for when Eliana and season six’s Ryan take to the floor and deliver the best quickstep this show has ever had. It’s hard to understand why they even have quickstep on this show until it’s performed successfully, and Jonathan Roberts shows just how fun this style can be with his choreography. Eliana is overflowing with personality, but even the most charming performers have fallen prey to the quickstep. Not here, though, and Eliana earns her spot in the finale (hell, as the female champion) with the exactness of her footwork and incredible athleticism in this routine. The waterfall trick is a gasp-inducing moment, and is a reminder of how nice it is to have big men like Ryan on this show who are capable of those kinds of lifts.
The final routine of the night is a Mandy Moore contemporary routine for Tiffany and season five’s Ade, and Mandy decides to whip out her not-so-secret weapon for success: Celine Dion. She basically rehashes her previous Celine dances for “The Power Of Love,” but those are probably her strongest works so it’s better she poach from those rather than “Boogie Shoes.” Celine Dion sings the word “reach” in this song, so Mandy makes sure there’s a whole lot of reaching in the choreography. Tiffany has been steadily growing throughout the season, meeting each new challenge the judges throw her way, so when she gets the chance to dance in her own style with a powerhouse like Ade, she does spectacular work. All the female dancers moving on to the top six have proven adept chameleons, and at this point in the competition, the women have the men beat when it comes to technique. The guys still have the upper hand in terms of personality, but the combo of Cyrus and Cole is hard to beat.
The thing that brings this episode to another level of excellence is Ferguson, this series’ No. 1 super-fan and apparently a good-luck charm. He cares so much about these dancers and he’s on the panel because he wants to be, not out of any kind of professional obligation. His constant stream of one-liners is much appreciated after the deadpan guests of the last two weeks, and watching him come unhinged as the pressure of the elimination increases is absolutely hilarious. He’s not afraid to be a total goofball, as evidenced by his dorky attempt to copy Cyrus’ moves after his solo, but he’s dead serious by the end of the episode, shiftily looking around as he claps for the eliminated dancers. Instead of doing guest judges next season, this show should just make Jesse Tyler Ferguson a permanent third judge.
- Cat is looking flawless with her hair down and lacy black dress this week. She also tries to get down after the first hip-hop routine, and it’s pretty embarrassing.
- So “ratchet” is what Sammi does on Jersey Shore when she gets mad at people?
- Allison is serving me Brittany Murphy in Girl, Interrupted at the start of her routine.
- Cole’s solo is the only one that made the “so you think you can dance” at the end not awkward.
- “Do all 18-year-old Mormon girls dance like this?”
- “How you did what you did in those diaper pants, I’ll never know.”
- “I’m shaking and I need a cocktail.”
- “Lord have Murphy!”
- “To quote One Direction, ‘You don’t know you’re beautiful.’” Cue screaming girls in the studio audience, groans from television audience.