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SYTYCD: Back In The Comfort Zone

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

Last week, Mia Michaels wished--out loud--for Will to get a new partner. Well, she got her wish, as this week the remaining five SYTYCD couples were split up and paired off anew. (I don't why they didn't just rotate partners week to week from the season's beginning, instead of waiting till now, but who knows what goes on inside those Fox producers' heads.) Anyhoo, be careful what you wish for, Mia: Because Jessica, who did manage to barely make the top 10 last week, dropped out last night due to two broken ribs. Ouch.

Jessica was never, ever my favorite dancer on the show, and I often agreed with Mia and also wished Jess would be voted off. But I still can't help but feel sorry for her--making it this far and then having to quit. That's gotta suck. But Jessica has four weeks to recover before the So You Think You Can Dance national tour, which she'll still be included in, so that's a good thing, at least.

By the way, last week Mia also wished--out loud--for Comfort to go home. And that's a wish that was also granted, when Comfort was in the bottom three couples last week and the judges used their one last voting opportunity to kick her off. Well, sorry, Mia, but that one wish fulfillment was rescinded last , as Comfort was recruited, understudy-style, to fill Jessica's vacated spot in the top 10. Psych!

Last week, I noticed that Comfort seemed to have already given up. Her chemistry with (also-eliminated) partner Thayne was zilch, her hip-hop duet dance was surprisingly underwhelming, her lackluster attempt on that Mandy Moore-choreographed contemporary routine was disappointing, and even her solo was so-so. But now, given a rare second chance this week, Comfort wasn't going to get too comfortable. She gave it her all, and it was one of the greatest comebacks in SYTYCD history. I still don't know if she has what it takes to win this thing, of course, but I think she will be safe for this week, at least. America loves a good comeback story, and the votes are squarely in America's hands from now on. No one would dare vote her off so soon, just when she's finally redeemed herself.

First of all, this week Comfort was paired with fellow hip-hopper Twitch, and finally, finally, she'd met her match. And I suspect Twitch was secretly pleased that Jessica had gone home early--not pleased that she'd cracked her ribs, of course, but pleased that he got the chance to dance with Comfort, I mean. Their schmaltzy waltz to Journey's '80s prom classic "Open Arms" was unexpectedly graceful (especially since Comfort wasn't exactly Ginger Rogers on that Mandy Moore "A Different Corner" routine last week). These two even pulled off that big Titanic-style "top of the world" lift at the end. The judges weren't that impressed (it was hard to tell when guest judge Lil' C was ever impressed, anyway, because he was such a mellow, soft-spoken cat), but I put matters into perspective, noted how much Comfort had grown in such a short period of time, and had to give her credit.

Of course, that was nuthin' compared to the totally "buck" hip-hop routine that Twitch and Comfort did for their second dance. Busting a move during a "Studio 54 in 2085" routine, dressed like funky robots (or like backup dancers for Kanye West's Glow In The Dark tour), they just totally killed it to Chris Brown's floorfiller "Forever." I could've watched it forever, actually. FINALLY Comfort delivered on her promise and lived up to that "best female hip-hop dancer on the show" title Nigel sort of cursed her with back in the audition episodes. Comfort needed this. Even if she leaves the tonight, after this, she leaves with dignity. Mad respect to her. Her sexy, Ciara-esque solo was off the hook, too.

Incidentally, Twitch's solo was one of the strongest of the night. I was soooo glad that all 10 dancers did solos this week, because usually the finalists only get to solo when they're up for elimination. Twitch hit the floor like a real action man in his Superman-style "T" logo shirt ("Saving the world, one dance floor at a time"), and he was MY hero last night, after that super showing.

Sadly, the pairing of Comfort and Twitch meant the end of Twitchington. And it meant the creation of Markington, I suppose, as Twitch's old partner Kherrington was matched with quirky contemporary dancer Mark. Now, these are two of my fave dancers on the show, but something happened when they came together. They were SO not two great tastes that tasted great together: On their own, they're tasty, sure. But mixed together, they were like strawberry jam and sauerkraut.

Of course, Kherrington and Mark were already at an unfair disadvantage during their first number when they were randomly assigned the country twostep--a dance that's not only hard to do, but hard to make look cool. Poor Markington just seemed lost, y'all. Kherrington kept smiling her famous Rembrandt-commercial smile throughout, and Nigel Lythgoe praised them for never giving up, but they might have been better off if they HAD given up. It was a mess. And then I assumed their Tice Diorio-choreographed jazz routine to Jamiroquai's "Canned Heat" would be fabulous...but, while it was better than Napoleon Dynamite's famous cinematic dance to that same tune, it wasn't quite as entertaining. It just sort of...I dunno, it just wasn't all that exciting. I fear that SYTYCD viewers would rather vote for Pedro again than vote for Markington, at this point.

Hopefully Mark's solo saved him. He whipped out the big guns and revisited his "Bohemian Rhapsody" act--such a memorable moment from the audition rounds--and he finally got a chance to let his freakflag unfurl after that embarrassing rodeo routine. Kherrington's solo was not nearly as impressive--at least not to me. It was fine, but that final rumpshake at the end was a little strippery to me. I half expected her to bend over and start collecting stray dollar bills from the floor. It sort of straddled the line--literally--between sexy and sleazy. Not cool. Kherrington is a great dancer and she doesn't need to pander to get votes.

In this continuing and not easily trackable game of interchanging partners, Mark's former cohort, ballroom bombshell Chelsie, was matched up with b-boy Gev. Oh, poor Gev. It's been so obvious that he's been crushing on Courtney all season, and now he had to dance with a new girl. Of course, I didn't feel TOO sorry for him, as Chelsie is  pretty smokin'. Gev could do a lot worse. But did Chelsie and Gev share the same chemistry he so clearly had with Courtney? The answer, in a word: YES. Their first number, a supersexy slowdance to Otis Redding that required them to lie on top of one another like Splendor In The Grass lovers, was splendid indeed. I had to turn up the air-conditioning in my living room while watching it, it was so hot. And hawt! I wondered if Gev was indeed daydreaming about Courtney during this dance, as Nigel jokingly accused. If not, then I bet Courtney was just the slightest bit jealous, because Gev was a very attentive partner.

On the flipside, Chelsie and Gev's jive routine to Brian Setzer's "The House Is Rockin'" rocked the house too, in a totally different way. It was fun and silly (not as fun and silly as when former SYTYCD champ Benji Schwimmer once soloed to it, but still great), and Gev was totally sweatin' to the oldies, as he was positively drenched by the song's end. His effort was clearly equal parts inspiration and perspiration. Chelsie of course stole the show due to her ballroom background--Mary Murphy likened their routine to a Dancing With The Stars number, aka a pro teamed with an amateur--but I think Gev held his own. He also held Chelsie pretty tightly, I noticed.

As for this pair's solos, Chelsie was an Ann-Margret-esque spitfire, twirling the fringe on her mod minidress so rapidly I thought it might fall off; meanwhile, Gev took a page from the Will playbook and removed his shirt mid-dance. Extra points for his Danny Zuko kneeslide, too. A fine showing by both.

So now this meant Gev's former flame Courtney got to dance with Josh. Lucky girl, that Courtney--Josh is one of the strongest and most versatile dancers on the show. Their first dance together, a crazysexycool Weird Science-themed hip-hop routine to a Mario track, was pretty awesome. With Courtney playing an animatronic robobabe who electroshocks Josh with her staticky smooches, the routine could have been disturbingly reminiscent of another, specific Dancing With The Stars doll-comes-to-life moment, but luckily it never veered down a bad Marie-Osmond-doll-dance path. (I guess because Courtney can dance, and Marie can't, right?) Anyway, the duo's second number, a red-hot rumba, surely made Gev jealous, so Courtney got her pretend-lover's revenge. Josh was a sexy beast on that floor, and was never shy about letting his fingers do as much walking as his feet--that is, letting his hands do the walking all over Courtney's curves. After the routine, a breathless Courtney sighed about Josh, "He's a MAN." Yep, Josh proved once and for all that there is NOTHING sissyish about a man dancing.

As for their solos, Courtney was all WOMAN, vamping vixen-like in mussed hair and a billowy button-down that made her look like she'd just rolled out of her lover's bed and thrown on his shirt before hitting the stage. Hubba hubba! Josh's solo got off to a slow start, but by the time he finished it with a few pectoral pumps, he once again demonstrated his totally testosterone-soaked manliness.

Katee had had the good fortune to dance with the amazing Josh earlier in the season, and now this week she had the even better fortune of getting paired up with the even more amazing...yes, you guessed it, the dancer who's been (deservingly) hyped to Archuleta-esque extremes, Debbie Allen disciple Will. Of course, in some cases it wouldn't be such an advantage to dance with Will--it certainly wasn't for Jessica, who wouldn't have gotten nearly as much flak if she'd been paired with someone, anyone, else this season. But Katee is pretty much the best female on the show, so she was the one girl up for this unique challenge. Will and Katee's Broadway routine, in which Katee dressed up like a pigtailed, Daisy-Duke-clad Mary-Ann from Gilligan's Island and flirted with a nerdy Will around a wooden rowboat, was so sweet it almost gave me a cavity...and as for the female viewers disappointed that Will's own manly hotness was all covered up with a geeky tie-and-shirt combo, I'm sure they were thrilled and relieved when Will got his revenge-of-the-nerd and ripped off his shirt midway through the song. (The guy goes shirtless more often than former finalist Dmitry, but hey, I ain't complaining.)

Will and Katee's second dance, a bewitching ballet masterminded by the legendary Desmond Richardson, was one of those goosebumpy SYTYCD moments that people will be talking about for seasons to come, and afterwards Mary declared them "two of the most beautiful dancers I have ever seen." Even hostess Cat Deeley couldn't hide her bias, telling them their dance gave her "proper chills" and saying these two were "born to dance." Maybe this show should just be titled So You KNOW You Can Dance, after this.

And unsurprisingly, Katee and Will's solos--to Maxwell and Luther Vandross, respectively--were magical and majestic and magnificent as well. It's almost unfair for them to be in the competition now, they're so freakin' good.

But of course, all 10 remaining dancers are so freakin' good. It's a shame any of them have to go at this point, really. But tonight, one guy and one girl--not one couple, but two individuals--will alas be voted off. For the first time this season I'm genuinely stumped as to who it will be, but based entirely on last night's dances alone, I am afraid it might be Markington, aka Kherrington and Mark. I'd hate to see either of them get the axe, but then again, I can't think of who else I'd rather see leave the show instead. Can't it just be a 10-way tie?

Guess not. Oh well. Anyway, whoever goes, we'll know the results in just a few hours. Tune in tonight to see whose dance dreams are dampened--and come back later to see what I have to say about it.

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