Loyalty is a funny thing in reality-show competitions, isn’t it? When the field of competitors is wide, it’s easy to pick favorites and cheer them on as they trounce over the rest of the pack. But what happens when all that’s left are your favorites? All of a sudden, you find yourself rooting against the pretty ballerina whom you’ve been so supportive of all season, or the doughy-faced Broadway boy who made you cry during auditions. They’re the same dancers they were last week, but as the field narrows, flaws are magnified and emotions heighten and… ah, screw it. Seriously, Janette??
Tonight’s surreal elimination show kicked off with a seriously WTF bottom-two announcement that put two of the show’s odds-on favorites—Janette and Brandon—in danger, and passed over a couple of dancers who really should have gone home this week, based on last night’s performance show: I still can’t believe none of the judges mentioned Evan’s series of bobbles during his and Janette’s rumba, and while Melissa’s cancer dance with Ade (which I’ll address further in a moment) was lovely, I’m getting really annoyed that she is the only remaining competitor who hasn’t had to tackle a hip-hop routine, as she’s the one who most needs to prove she can. (If she can’t shake off the ballet stature enough for a cha-cha, is she really going to be able to pull off street dancing?) The other two in the bottom, Kayla and Jason, have shot up exponentially in my estimation since the partner switch-ups started, but they seemed more likely to go than Janette or Brandon.
Between the bottom two guys, Jason’s dismissal over Brandon is understandable, but it should never have come to that: Both of his and Kayla’s routines last night blew Evan and Janette out of the water, particularly the spectacular show-closing Shane Sparks zombie hip-hop number that restored Nigel’s (and my) faith in hip-hop this season. As much as I like Evan, he’s clearly getting by on the Grandma Vote: Pinch-able cheeks do not compensate for a yawn-worthy jazz routine and a rumba that highlighted how uncomfortable he seems to be in his own skin, especially next to the effortlessly sexy Janette.
Oh Janette. Granted, her two routines with Evan last night were definite low points—they were the only couple who didn’t pull it out in the second act, after a decidedly ho-hum first half. But, as Cat pointed out, Janette’s never been in the bottom two: Her seemingly effortless ability to pick up any style thrown at her, a winning personality, and lack of formal training (America loves an underdog) are the Holy Trinity of SYTYCD. So what happened? Is it just that she didn’t shine when partnered with Evan? Was it her slow solo last night, so lacking her signature Miami heat? Or was it just that Melissa and Ade’s cancer dance pulled all her votes away?
Okay, the cancer dance. How does one criticize this number? Well, one doesn’t really, and I won’t: It was a beautiful, moving routine, and Melissa and Ade danced it wonderfully. I agree wholeheartedly with Mary’s comments about their obvious trust in each other during the lifts and jumps—particularly the one where Melissa flung herself across the stage into his arms—and Tasty Oreo’s choreography was inventive and emotional. However, this was stacking the deck just a little: Yes, it was a moving routine, but the rivers of tears leaking from the judges’ panel crossed the line between empathy and slavish fawning. And Nigel’s Emmy-grubbing was just gross.
And really, was it any better, performance-wise, than Brandon and Jeanine’s stellar pop-jazz routine, choreographed by Laurieanne Gibson? Or the hip-hop zombies? When the remaining contestants are so evenly matched in terms of technical ability (relatively), performance is key, and just because these other two couples didn’t make anyone cry, it doesn’t mean their performances were any less noteworthy. Brandon looked as powerful and confident in his movement as he ever has dancing with Janeane, and Jason and Kayla committed completely to their characters. I suppose you could chalk Janette’s dismissal up to an overall lackluster night yesterday; but then how do you explain losing Jason, who had his strongest night of the season? Nigel said “America got it wrong” about Janette, but I think they got it doubly wrong tonight.
But the weirdness of tonight’s elimination show didn’t stop with the shocking eliminations. I’ve been looking forward to this 100th-episode celebration since Cat mentioned it last week, particularly the prospect of seeing some “classic” routines restaged. But it just felt—off. It’s that old recapturing lightning in a bottle thing. As cool as it was to revisit these routines outside of a YouTube screen (why isn’t this show on DVD?), when viewed outside the realm of that season’s individual dramatic tension, the “Bench” and “Hummingbird & Flower” routines just felt a little flat—perhaps because the dancers doing them didn’t have anything riding on it this time. (And, quite frankly, I’ve never understood the love for the “Hummingbird & Flower” routine, Emmy or no.) And while it was a neat trick to throw Wade Robson into the “Ramalama” routine, again, nothing can match the joy of seeing that for the first time. (I also think the camera work this time around was less dynamic.)
And don’t even get me started on that Katie Holmes travesty. That was some sub-Britney, pre-taped, indulgent bullshit. I expect better from you, SYTYCD. And I expect better from you, America: Grandmas, step away from the telephones, and let’s salvage this top four: Jeanine, Kayla, Brandon, and Ade, whaddaya say?
• Both last night and tonight’s opening group numbers seemed to favor spectacle over substance. Travis’ “Rave in the year 2300” routine was fun to watch, but pretty soulless. And I can’t believe this show has been on for five seasons without doing “One” from A Chorus Line, but I have to say that Mia Michaels’ cracked-mirror, syncopated take on the classic routine left me a little cold.
• Oh yeah, Ellen DeGeneres was a guest judge last night. Why? I don’t think even she knew. While it was nice to get some purposely funny comments, not just Botox slipups and awkward screaming-related tomfoolery, she obviously knew better than to try and give any serious critique. Luckily Mia was there to bring down the hammer from time to time.
• Who in the hell gave Mary Murphy a train whistle?
• Was anyone else disappointed that they didn’t actually, you know, talk to any of the alumni who showed up to tonight’s show?
• The illusion that this show is live is growing fainter every week: Tonight’s routines were obviously pre-taped, unless Travis somehow went straight from his “Bench” routine into that Ramalama make-up and costume in under seven minutes. I don’t really care that some parts are pre-taped, but it does make the whole thing feel a little manipulated.
• Speaking of, Nigel needs to cut it out with the self-congratulatory back-patting about how wonderful his show is. Seriously, dude, we’re already watching, the Emmy voters are clearly watching… how about you focus on a way to keep Katie Holmes from every singing and dancing on my television screen again, mmkay?
• I really hate the repeat solos from the previous night. Why make them solo at all on performance night? There has to be a better way to segue into giving out their telephone codes.
• Speaking of, for all my bitching about Janette going home, I’ll freely admit that I never vote for SYTYCD. Do any of you? Does this make me a hypocrite?
• Janette’s farewell speech was so poised and well thought-out. Damn. Damn damn damn.