First of all, a thousand apologies for abandoning you all for two whole weeks, and a million thank yous to Todd and Donna for filling in as your SYTYCD guides while I was on various planes and boats in the Caribbean. After returning from vacation I had six hours of the show to catch up on before tonight’s episode, and going through the last couple of weeks, I felt myself starting to get worried. It seemed like this season had a dearth of breakout stars and far too much dead weight remaining considering how close we’re getting to the top 10. Thankfully, tonight’s episode took care of some much-needed trimming on the weak side of the remaining lineup, and last night’s episode helped throw some extra wattage behind a couple of rising stars.
Tonight’s elimination was surprisingly unexpected. What I mean by that is, before last night, if you had told me Karla and Vitolio were going home, my reaction would be, “duh” and “good.” But I’ll admit, after they were able to not only pull off a quickstep last night, but actually make it entertaining in the process, a part of me expected them to dodge the bottom three. But despite Vitolio’s awkward assurance that “the kiss of death” had become “the kiss of joy,” they still fell victim to the quickstep curse.
While their elimination was just slightly less expected than expected, it’s still appropriate. Although Karla turned in an interesting solo—probably because she’s had plenty of opportunities in the bottom three to perfect it, OHSNAP!—the judges are right that she hasn’t shown any sort of star quality, and her inability to come up with any interesting final words only reinforced that. And Vitolio—well, I’m glad he’s gone, just because now I won’t have to continue to puzzle over what it is about the guy that just rubs me so wrong. The judges put it in terms of him not living up to his presence, and I guess that’s as good an explanation as any—there’s just something off about the guy, and though he was a powerful and enthusiastic dancer, he just kinda skeeved me out. It has nothing to do with his talent or abilities, but hey, we’re looking for America’s favorite dancer, and I don’t see Vitolio winning over that many people.
The rest of the bottom three was a little surprising. Though I don’t think either Kayla or Kupono are much longer for this competition—especially Kupono, who has the same “there’s just something off” vibe to him as Vitolio—their “dark” contemporary routine last night seemed like a crowd pleaser, and it was very well danced. (It passed what I call “the freeze frame test” with flying colors, meaning that you could pause during pretty much any point during the routine and their lines and expressions would make for a beautiful still photograph.)
And then there was the big shocker of Phillip and Janeane, who managed to shine last night despite NappyTab’s (ugh) eye-rolling chain routine, which continues to show the choreographers’ flair for the head-slappingly literal. Thank God for Mia Michaels, who came about as close to calling them on it as Nigel and propriety would allow, saying that the “chainography” made things look sloppy. I’ll go a step further and say that aside from detracting from the dance’s lines, it added absolutely nothing to the routine and actually made the dancers somewhat tentative in their movements—the fact that they were able to “hit it” despite that is a testament to Phillip and Janeane’s abilities. I was also annoyed by how Nigel and Mary fawned over this routine’s “creativity” mere minutes after acting all weirded out by Jason and Caitlin’s alien-impregnation pop-jazz routine. Granted, the concept was a little not-ready-for-primetime, and poor Caitlin’s styling was beyond unfortunate, but she especially danced the hell out of that routine. More importantly though, was it really that weird? Are people really sitting on their couches being put off by a silly routine about a tinfoil alien, Nigel? Is there really that much to get here? Once again, EAWMM backs me up: it was “refreshing” and “fun,” and more importantly, its creativity level was above the caliber of a high-school talent competition routine—looking at YOU, NappyTab.
Okay, rant over. Regardless, it looks like America felt the same way about the choreography—Phillip is too much of a crowd-pleaser for it to be based on personality—because Phillip and Janeane had to dance for their lives. I like how everyone pretty much acknowledged that they weren’t really going anywhere, framing the whole thing as, “well, at least now we get to see Phillip’s solo!” And, yes, his solo was highly entertaining, if a bit “desperate” as Nigel put it. (And his music choice, the Switch/Sinden remix of Santigold’s “You’ll Find A Way,” is one of my favorite jams, so extra points there.) But here’s the thing: Yes, Phillip is the only one who does what he does, and the show does need a hip-hop presence. But then again, he’s gotten to dance in his genre two of the four nights already, and when he’s in other genres, he’s capable, but not amazing, and I feel like he’s been getting the hip-hopper free pass a lot. I like Phillip, and I don’t want him to leave, but he needs to pull out some Twitch-like metamorphosis soon to warrant his staying beyond the top 10.
The breakout couple of this season is easily Melissa and Ade, and last night’s classical pas de deux only reinforced that. Some might poo-poo the fact that a ballet dancer getting the show’s first-ever classical ballet routine spits in the face of the supposed “random” routine selection (so much for that), but the fact of the matter is, Melissa is the only person in the show’s history who could physically do an en pointe routine, and her and Ade’s Romeo and Juliet literally brought tears to my eyes. Melissa especially gets more beautiful every week (I couldn’t agree more with Cat’s comment about little girls everywhere asking their moms for ballet lessons—hell, I want ballet lessons), and Ade’s quiet, dignified grace is an excellent complement to her. However—and I hate that there’s a however, because I really do love the both of them—neither of them has been pushed very far out of their wheelhouse, with the possible exception of last week’s rumba. I worry that the moment they’re forced to bring as much attitude to the stage as grace and physical ability (which they both have in spades), they might falter. I hope they don’t though—how great would it be if Melissa turned out to be a crumping badass?
Brandon and Janette’s cha-cha also confirmed them as a couple to watch—and they’ve already proven they can deliver a solid hip-hop routine—and also brought us the Mia-Brandon showdown we’ve all been waiting for. I thought EAWMM handled it well, not exactly apologizing—because why should she apologize for doing her job and judging him—but acknowledging that he has definitely risen in her estimation. And he deserves her squishy-faced respect, because he is definitely one of the strongest, if not the strongest male competitor. However—geez there’s a lot of those tonight—I was a little surprised Nigel didn’t call him out on his flounciness during the cha-cha. For someone who’s so quick to berate male dancers who don’t dance “manly” enough (which is mostly bullshit, but whatever), Nigel seemed awfully quick to overlook some major face-pulling from Brandon. I know the cha-cha isn’t exactly the most stoic of dances, but Brandon was definitely falling more to the “sassy” side of the spectrum than the “sexy.”
Lastly, Evan and Randi continue their descent into the flabby middle ground. I want these two to shine so much, but they both just seem to be fading into the background in routines where they should be shining. Granted, their routine, helmed by giantess Maggie Gyllenhaal doppelganger Joey Dawling, was a pretty difficult one. (It was also excellently choreographed, and actually looked like it was meant to be danced by just two people, which this show’s Broadway routines don’t always pull off—looking at you, Tyce.) But I got the feeling that neither of them had enough physical power behind their moves, especially the lifts, which made them come off as kind of lethargic, a problem they’ve run into before. I hate to think something as basic—and mostly inflexible—as physical size could be their downfall, but it just might be.
Next week we’ll have our top 10. Who should go, who should stay, and who should win the whole damn thing? Fire away!
• So when did the hot tamale train become a barometer for anything besides Mary’s craziness? Everyone talks about it with such reverence, as if it has any bearing on their place in the competition. I’m usually willing to dial my brain way down for SYTYCD, but I’m finding it more and more difficult to overlook this particularly stupid aspect of it. That said, Mary usually does give very good notes before she devolves into the screeching.
• Man, Vitolio looked piiiissssed when he found out he was in the bottom three.
• Poor Caitlin had to go through that criticism of her routine while wearing that horrible tinfoil getup. I think she totally rocked that routine though, and Mary deserved that boo when she said it didn’t “sit right” with her.
• “Phillip’s knees are all torn up and we have chains all over the place in our apartment.” So glad Cat didn’t let that one slide by.
• Cat was rocking the ’80s rocker chic this week. And as if I didn’t love last night’s hot-pink belted number enough—it has pockets! (Sorry, girly moment.)
• Nigel’s joke about keeping a woman quiet with a snap of his fingers deserved the icy response it got.