On last night's "bloodbath" Vegas show, choreographer Mia Michaels was the worst of the bunch, with her constant gangsta-like or goth-like "cutter" talk ("I love cutting because I like to see people who aren't good at what they do go home," she sneered at a pack of hapless, about-to-be-eliminated contestants). And there's little doubt that when she instructed the Vegas Week semi-finalists during their contemporary routine, threatening them with "my horns will come out!" if they made a mistake, many of the dancers were quaking in their Capezios.
But judge Adam Shankman wasn't much nicer, describing routines with colorful colloquialisms like "barf," and show leader Nigel Lythgoe seemed to take malicious delight in dubbing many dancers "horrific" and barking out barbs like, "Congratulations! That is the worst routine we've seen this morning!"
Come on, was such nastiness necessary? Sure, obviously some dancers this season were better than others, but if they'd made it to Vegas, it was safe to say they all were good--maybe not good enough to make the top 20, but still good. As in, better than 99.99999 percent of all dancers in America. Yes, I know the world of showbiz can be cut-throat and all, but still...a little respect was in order here, was it not?
Additionally last night, the judges acted like the cruel overlords of some medieval pageant, forcing hopefuls like Gabi Rojas to "dance for their lives" over and over again, only to finally cut them in the end (like they'd probably been planning to all along). Other favorites, like Natalie Reid (the BFF of last season's Katee, and an awesome dancer in her own right) and notable sob-story screentime-hogs (football coach's son Travis Prokop, recently widowed Talia Rickards), were quickly cut with hardly any explanation at all.
But then again, Mia's a cutter. She wasn't faking when she said that.
But on tonight's SYTYCD episode, during which the top 20 dancers were revealed, there was plenty of faking going on--as in fakeouts. And the judges weren't cutting to the quick, either, so to speak. The decision-making process was draaaaaagggged out as much as possible, creating (as all reality shows do) the greatest amount of suspense at the contestants' expense.
First, the judges kept faking it when delivering the news to the actual final 20 contestants, initially misleading them into assuming they'd failed to make the show at all. Like when Mia ever so sweetly told the inexplicably polarizing Brandon Bryant, "I can't take you. What you bring to the floor annoys the sh*t out of me. In Vegas you just rubbed me the wrong way"--before, of course, informing him that he'd actually made it. ("It's ON," retorted the delightfully attitudinal Brandon, indicating that maybe Mia had finally met her match. Woot!) Or when Nigel frittered away what seemed like 17 minutes telling Tony Bellissimo how much he sucked, before giving him the good news that he'd also made it. Or when crump-king judge Lil' C babbled incessantly about algorithms and equations and variables like a calculus teacher on crack before finally getting around to telling Haitian underdog Vitolio, in plain English, "You made it."
The emotion-toying fakery involving the rejected contestants was even more cruel, of course. For instance, the judges blathered on and on and on to Diana Vaden about her dancing genius and how much they adored her, before they did a whiplash-inducing 180 and told her she was going home. The tears flowed while the ratings soared. And it was even sadder when phenomenal ballet dancer Alex Wong had to listen to the judges prattle on about how he was one of the most talented males in Vegas...but that he would not be on the show due to his unbreakable contract with the Miami Ballet Company. Why had the judges let Alex advance this far, failing to inform him until NOW that he would not be able to legally compete on the show? For tears and ratings, probably.
And perhaps the most heartbreaking moment came when there was only one male slot left on the show, and the producers surely uncoincidentally let it all come down to the lovable cut-up Kasprzak brothers, Ryan and Evan. The two siblings were bawling while still sitting on their hard iron folding chairs outside the judges' room awaiting their fate, knowing they would soon be split up. And while it made for good television that the results order had been organized so that the Kasprzaks would be the last two boys standing (or last two boys dancing, as it were), it still seemed needlessly cruel and manipulative...
...especially when Nigel delivered the news as such: "RYAN....be PROUD...that...it was your choreography got your brother Evan through." Psych!
Sigh. I honestly felt there was room for two Kasprzaks this season--family quotas never stopped multiple Schwimmers from getting through in past SYTYCD seasons, after all. Anyway, I'll certainly miss Ryan's choreography--he was responsible for last night's Fanny Pak-like "Nerdography" number, the one Vegas Week routine that didn't seem to make Nigel spit up his tea. Maybe Ryan can come back as a guest choreographer sometime next season.
But in the end, despite the heartbreakery and judge fakery, it was all smiles, as the final 20 turned out to be an awesome mix. My favorites so far are avant Hawaiian Kuponohi'ipoi Aweau (although I miss his old Mohican hairdo), Vitolio, Brandon Bryant, and returning triple-jointed breakdance god Philip Chbeeb; I'm still trying to figure out which girls I like best (though I'm partial to Caitlin Kinney and Randi "Unitard Girl" Evans right now). But it seems to be a solid overall top 20 that will make for another hot-tamale SYTYCD season.
Here is the final top 20 list:
I just hope they're all ready for what lies ahead...because judging from how the judges and choreographers have behaved this season so far, the bloodbath is far from over. To quote Brandon Bryant: It's ON!