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‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Recap: Top 20 Redux

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

After last Thursday's surprising results-free "results" show, on which the indecisive judges opted to save all 20 excellent dancers from elimination, the stakes were high when the "So You Think You Can Dance" top 20 returned this Wednesday--knowing that to compensate, four dancers (not the usual two) would go home this week. And this week wouldn't just be tough for the dancers, but for the judges, too--because, come on now, if the judges couldn't decide on two contestants to cut before, how on earth would they ever handle sending four home?

This week's quadruple-elimination was the bad news, but the good news was, the added competitive pressure this week inspired all 20 hopefuls to step up their game, thus resulting in an especially amazing two hours of dance, ranging from Broadway to Bollywood. So everyone wins! At least until Thursday night, that is...

Here's how everyone did--and be warned, Thursday's results show is going to be TOUGH:

Ryan & Ricky - Jazz
R&R seemed a little nervous when they were faced with the prospect of dancing a sexual-tension-filled Mandy Moore routine to "Addicted To Love," during which the two young innocents were required to bump 'n' grind like principle characters in Lambada: The Forbidden Dance. (At one time, Ricky even mounted Ryan from behind as she laid face-down on the floor! Gasp!) At first, this might've seemed like a routine more suited for the show's resident sexpots, like Jordan or Iveta, but these two surprisingly pulled it off--without ever veering into tasty, tasteless PCD territory. (Sorry, Robin Antin.) "Absolutely sensational!" howled bug-eyed judge Nigel Lythgoe. "That was so raunchy! At one point I wanted to throw a bucket of water over them!" But Mary Murphy was quick to praise the routine for "not being too X-rated"--so parents of ballet-obsessed little girls needn't implement the V-chip on this show just yet. Mary was as enthusiastic as Nigel, however, raving: "I am addicted to the two of you!" And very, very special guest Debbie Reynolds, a true dance LEGEND, delivered high praise as well (although, to be fair, she loved EVERYONE), gushing, "I never saw anyone dance sexier!"

Caitlynn & Mitchell - Contemporary
Last week Mitchell had to sit out the first competitive show of the season due to an elbow injury, then narrowly escaped elimination when he was, as per "SYTYCD" rules, automatically placed in the bottom. Now I am so delighted that he got another chance this week, to really show what he can do. This Stacey Tookey number, set to Adele's bitter breakup ballad "Turning Tables" (one of many Adele 21 songs that I hope and expect to hear this "SYTYCD" season), was just stunning. Depicting the tragic unraveling a complex relationship, these dancers did more than turn tables--they jumped all over a bunch of furniture. Yet they were never upstaged or encumbered by such props. Mitchell was a revelation, delivering on the promise of his gorgeous solo from last Thursday, but it was Caitlynn who stole the show, particularly when she "defied gravity" (Mary's words) by almost literally flying through the air when she jumped off an armchair and into Mitchell's trusted arms. This was fantastic. "I am so glad we got to see you dance tonight," Mary told Mitchell. "The chemistry between the two of you is so believable!" Raved Debbie, "You're both so beautiful, so dramatic," then she even broke into song. ("You made Debbie sing!" Cat Deeley cried out.) Nigel added, "There wasn't just technicality there, there was so much drama...for me, dance is the language of the soul, and that's what came across tonight."

Missy & Wadi - Cha-Cha
A jazz dancer and B-boy doing a "hot 'n' spicy cha-cha" choreographed by Jean-Marc Genereux should have been a disaster, but there are few disasters on this show, of course. Still, this wasn't amazing, either. Yes, despite Jean-Marc's warning that this cha-cha to Ke$ha's "Cannibal" would be the show's most difficult ever ("suicidal" was how he described it), this odd couple for the most part pulled it off. I say "for the most part," though, because while this was not bad by any means, this was hardly one of the best routines of the night. Something just seemed off; I didn't sense any major chemistry, especially coming right after the previous dance by Caitlynn and Mitchell, and the number felt like it dragged on for a long time. Wadi, who was wearing heels for the first time, even seemed relieved when it was all over. Debbie was forgiving in her commentary, saying, "You chewed it up, muy bueno!" But Nigel and Mary were, unsurprisingly, a little tougher. "Whenever strength was involved, with partnering, you were there for Missy--but when it came to the actual technique, there was an awful lot that was missing," Nigel sternly told Wadi. Mary also told Wadi that he "fell short," but singled out Missy for praise, dubbing her "the cha-cha queen." But alas, there was still no Hot Tamale ticket for Missy. Hopefully she won't be getting a ticket home after this.

Iveta & Nick - Bollywood
This Nakul Dev Mahajan-choreographed routine showcased a fun new side of smoldering ballroom hottie Iveta. She seemed more youthful, more cheerful--and yet still a total pro. Tapper Nick also was a transformed man, in his Deeley-approved guyliner. While there have been better Bollywood numbers on this show (Nigel, for instance, compared it unfavorably to Katee and Joshua's iconic routine from Season 4), it was, as Nigel put it, a "really good job" from two people working way outside their respective boxes. Mary, a big fan of Iveta's (they both come from the competitive ballroom world), told Iveta, "You shined out there," called the dance "super-entertaining," and raved, "The chemistry between you two--you guys just seem to fit." Hooray for Bollywood!

Miranda & Robert - Hip-Hop
When choreographers Tabitha & Napoleon explained that they were creating a routine in which B-boy Robert would play an experienced woodpecker (yes, woodpecker) and Miranda would portray a baby woodpecker taken under his wing, I figured this could go one of two ways. Either this would be something animalistically amazing, a sort of sequel to the famous "Hummingbird" piece of Season 3, or it'd be ridiculous and silly like that time when Caitlin was forced to play an impregnating alien in Season 5. It turned out neither was the case. Instead, this was more of a straightahead hip-hop number to Busta Rhymes's "Break Ya Neck," not at all lame but not exactly bird-like, either. The intricate choreography definitely allowed Robert to shine in a way he didn't during last week's jive, and allowed him to flaunt his fun personality without being too gimmicky or over-the-top. Miranda totally kept up with him, and while she stumbled briefly after doing a backflip and not quite sticking the landing, she recovered so well I honestly would not have noticed this flub if the judges hadn't pointed it out. "I always get nervous when animals are imitated on this show, but this absolutely worked for the two of you," said Mary. "I was mesmerized by the both of you," said Debbie, before doing a dead-on Woody Woodpecker impression. And Nigel told Miranda that, despite her misstep, she is "the best contemporary dancer I've seen do hip-hop," and praised Robert for reining his "Woo Man" shtick. So all around, this was bucc.

Clarice & Jess - Contemporary
Another great Stacey Tookey routine to a little-known late-'90s single, "Cathedrals" by the North Carolina alt-rock band Jump Little Children, this was a lovely depiction of a fairytale prince and his princess, something any starry-eyed little girl watching this show would go crazy for. I worried that little Jess, one of the most elfin guys who's ever been on the show, would struggle with the lifts, but he danced elegantly and effortlessly and was truly princely. Clarice was regal as well. "You just touched my heart. I'm gonna take you home, I need more children! Let's all go home with Mommy Debbie," Debbie said (praise that probably meant the world to a musical theater buff like Jess, who was probably ready to take her up on her offer). Mary loved this dance too, raving over Jess's "perfect emotions" and body-control, and telling Clarice, "You're a beautiful dancer, and you just proved it one more time again tonight." But Nigel was less impressed. "I did enjoy parts of it," he began. "I loved the work that you did separately....but sometimes when you came together, it felt a little uncomfortable to me. You just didn't get it together as a couple; it just didn't look right to me." Clarice and Jess were in the bottom three couples last week--will they be there again this week? Nigel seemed worried that they would be.

Jordan & Tadd - Viennese Waltz
This Jean-Marc waltz could've been vixen Jordan's undoing. The Viennese waltz isn't by nature a very sexy dance, so she wouldn't be able to do any of her signature wannabe-Pussycat Doll moves. But I was shocked how lovely this was. Soundtracked by the new David Cook ballad "Fade Into Me," Jordan classed it up and tripped the light fantastic. Tadd also was transformed, so far from his B-boy world and yet so at home in this style. "That was just so beautiful," gushed Nigel. "It had everything. Jordan, you're just such a beautiful dancer. And Tadd, I need to remind you that you are a B-boy!" Concurred Mary, "Tadd, you are for me the biggest surprise of this season. And Jordan, you have just transformed yourself into one of the most beautiful ballroom dancers!" Debbie's praise, however, was the highest of all: "Have you ever heard of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse? You were just and wonderful as them." WHOA!

Melanie & Marko - Jazz
Dancing a Broadway-ish Mandy Moore number involving split-second timing with hats as props, my favorite couple of Season 8 so far were just adorable this evening. But they didn't just play cute; there was some seriously challenging stuff going on here, like when Melanie did a crazy split-legged leap into the air and Marko caught her just in time. This was just a joy to watch. "Everyone has a voice when they dance, and you guys are speaking loud and clearly! So good! I feel like you guys can take on anything we throw at you!" shouted Mary. Debbie called them both "great stars." And Nigel added, "I really think Debbie's right, you really are stars."

Sasha & Alexander - Hip-Hop
This was another Nappytabs routine, but it couldn't have been any more different from that earlier woodpecker number. This was one of Nappytabs' more serious and emotional pieces, about a solider returning to his wife from Afghanistan (set to Diddy-Dirty Money's "Coming Home"), and it kind of reminded me of the "No Air" and "Bleeding Love" dances from Season 4. What a connection these two shared! It was magical, and it felt so real. Sasha stole the show with her pure passion and rage as the lonely wife, but Alexander sure cleaned up nice in his army uniform and was totally in character. "You made us cry, we loved you!" cried out Debbie. Mary was reduced to tears, sniffing, "This is definitely a story that's too close in my life right now. Sasha, your soul is what really brought it home for me. I could just feel it!" Then Mary trailed off, overcome with emotion, and in a rare moment of speechlessness asked Nigel to talk instead. Nigel, referring to President Obama's speech from earlier in the evening about plans to bring the troops home in 2012, simply said, "You showed all the passion and emotion that will come from those reunions." So true.

Ashley & Chris - Broadway
This creative Spencer Liff routine was probably the most fun number of the night. Hoofing to '70s/'80s rock siren Rachel Sweet's "Please, Mr. Jailer" (from the Crybaby soundtrack), Ashley played a red-dress-clad coquette visiting her bad-boy love interest in prison. The duo faced the unique challenge of having to do their ENTIRE routine while separated by jail bars, but after disappointingly getting one of the least demanding routines of last week, it was fabulous that they had a chance to really show off their skills here. Their stellar dancing reminded me of other classic "SYTYCD" numbers involving prop furniture, like Sabra and Neal's "Sweet Dreams" tabletop routine from Season 3 or Katee and Twitch's "Mercy" door-dance from Season 4. And they brought the sexiness and sultriness in a way I thought neither of them could manage (I had them pegged as more cutesy types). This was so hot it was almost illegal! "Ashley, I hope next time they put me in prison, you come visit me, sweetheart," purred Nigel creepily but amusingly, while also declaring Chris "absolutely fantastic." Debbie raved, "Elvis Presley made jailhouse rock famous, but look what you did for it tonight! Sensational!" And Mary made Season 10 history when she said, "211 degrees is hot, 212 degrees is boiling...and boiling water can power a steam engine...and you two are on the Hot Tamale Train!!! Wooooo!!!" Yes, the first Hot Tamale tickets of the season were issued this evening, and if Ashley and Chris can keep this up, they'll be riding it all the way into the top 10 and beyond, first-class.

So now, it is prediction time. This one's going to be tough. I think Missy and Wadi may be in danger, after their slightly underwhelming cha-cha; and probably Clarice and Jess, due to Nigel's comments and their near-elimination last week; and maybe Jordan and Tadd, but only because a genre of dance like the Viennese waltz, no matter how wonderfully executed, will never draw the same kind of votes that hip-hop, jazz, and contemporary do.

Sigh. I'll hate seeing any of them go, but I'm at least glad I got to see all of them dance again for one extra week.

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