There’s evolving, adapting, and being flexible -- and then there’s a train wreck like last night’s show. Not that the dancing was problematic, but the combination of new procedures, technical snafus, unforeseen injuries, and general atmosphere of desperate silliness really piled up over the two hours. Before I give you my take on the competitors, let me berate the judges a bit for one of their least substantive outings this season. Mia’s everything/nothing dichotomy and her use of made-up words like “murderation” are ridiculously empty, and come off as flailing attempts to have anything at all to say after Nigel gets done with his monologues. I got exactly what Adam was talking about with his smallness schtick, and therefore it infuriated me that the other judges undercut the point by mocking him while he made it. Nigel’s defensiveness about the viewers’ distaste for Robert, meanwhile, missed the point entirely; we don’t like him because he mugs like crazy during the critique and generally seems about as genuine as a three-dollar bill when he’s not dancing.
However, giving credit where it’s due, Nigel’s explanation of why the judges praise Jose was one of the most cogent paragraphs ever spoken on the show. It’s what I was getting at with my Bruce Lee thing last week -- we respond to the guy because he accepts challenges gratefully, as worthy opponents against which he can match himself. Even when he comes up short, he doesn’t just try to get through it -- he is after mastery, and he pursues that goal with joy. (I felt the same thing about Legacy last season.)
How’d our top eight do in my book? Let’s go in order of excitement:
Lauren: I haven’t been a consistent Lauren fan, but this week she got me back on the bandwagon. I don’t think it’s just the fantastic dress that made her dance with Pasha so electric -- she was a dynamo. And her work with Kent on the Travis Wall number was a season highlight for me, the kind of contemporary routine that I wait for.
Billy: It’s not that he was particularly well served by either of the numbers he was asked to dance; both the Cats number and the African number were too conceptual to allow him to shine. But you could see in his dancing this week the extraordinary aesthetic he brings to the stage. It’s like nothing else in the competition, and it’s worth watching even when what’s around it makes little sense.
Ashley: That was the most credible quickstep I’ve seen on the show, largely due to the fact that Ashley didn’t look like she was being dragged around the stage. The ninja assassin deely-bob didn’t thrill me, actually -- the music outdanced the dance, which was almost the case with the quickstep, too.
Kent: I’m cold-and-hot on Kent this week. That soft-hop number was as exciting as melted ice cream, with about as much structure. But the contemporary was simply joyous. Just keep in mind that it played to his gee-whiz personality, even if the sentiment was mercifully dialed down in favor of delight.
Jose: Didn’t wow me at all in either dance, despite my agreement with Nigel about his heart. Please don’t put Jose in the requisite contemporary open shirt. Don’t make him into that guy.
Adechike: How can I even watch him dance when I’m so crushed -- crushed! -- that I didn’t get to see Alex do Bollywood? Oh, man, there’s no way that would have been anything other than thrilling. And the Mandy Moore contemporary was my least favorite choreography of the night. A minute in, I was asking out loud, “Are they going to do any actual dancing, or are they just going to climb all over that bar?”
Robert: Contributed to the credible quickstep, there’s no doubt. But I really kind of hated that doll number. It played to Robert’s biggest weakness -- his belief that he has the kind of outsized personality that can make a Ken doll expression winning rather than punch-him-in-the-face annoying -- and it spent too much time in the box, quite literally.
Alex: I can’t talk about Alex. I’m too busy weeping for the Alexiriffic season I was looking forward to last week.
The suspense for tonight is weirdly attenuated. Odds are that Alex will be out (much to the producers’ bitter chagrin); it seems unlikely that an injury that would keep him from dancing last night will be magically okay enough to greenlight him for the next six grueling weeks. If so, that’s it; it doesn’t matter how anyone else danced, and the whole competition show is moot. If by some happy miracle Alex is not out, then I predict Ashley and Robert on the bottom and Robert out.
My ehhhh reaction to the Sting-scored opening number was explained when Cat pointed to Mia Michaels as the choreographer. Or maybe it’s more that I was wondering why Billy had been put in a skirt, and peering to see what All-Stars had joined the group. Could it be that some people took their votes back after seeing that number? I’m a little surprised that America has soured on Billy so fast. I was right about Ashley, though ... she has just never emerged as an individual, Mia, in response to your question about why she’s there.
The judges make a unanimous decision. No, wait, the MRI made a unanimous decision. Alex, if he so chooses, can make his third trip to Vegas Week. Out by choice, out by injury -- I hope he can’t think of another way to exit early next year.
- Nigel has loads of news for the “who’s honoring us now” segment: Mia Micheals has another Emmy nom (but I hope she gets beat by Stacey Tookey for that marvelous Legacy/Kathryn routine), Shankman’s 2010 Oscars got a dozen nominations, alum Chelsea Hightower was recognized for her DWTS work, and powerless figurehead congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton is getting behind Dance Day.
- Shankman either consulted his conscience or was passed a note during the first 10 minutes of the show, because his belated recognition of his producing partner (in phrasing borrowed from Mia, “you are everything”) was super-awkward.
- Why is SYTYCD having to beg for people to audition for American Idol? Were there some empty seats in Cowboys Stadium last year?
- Mia apologizes to Adechike for being harsh on him last night. Or, translated from Mia-speak: “America thought I was a heartless bitch, and I didn’t like that.”
- Anya and Pasha did their audition number, and now we all have fulfilled our fantasy of seeing them together. It was super-hot, but I have a lingering wish that they weren’t pulling out routines from the past for the All-Star performances. Haven’t Pasha and Anya come a long way since they auditioned?
- Man, I really want to see In The Heights. Not just on the basis of this fantastic number, but first because of last year’s Tony Awards.
- Natasha Bedingfield and Cat are of equal height and apparently show-biz buddies.
- It took the show 55 minutes to get to the point, but America finally got the answer it was waiting for: Alex Wong is going to Miami.