See, this Wednesday on "SYTYCD," Amber Jackson and Brandon Mitchell were eliminated, out of a bottom six that also included Lindsay Arnold, Eliana Girard, Dareian Kujawa, and George Lawrence II. While I was basically okay with this decision (though I personally would have swapped Lindsay for Amber, especially since Amber actually delivered her all-time best performance this week), I wasn't all that okay with the process that ultimately led to this result.
Basically, after the bottom six were announced by hostess Cat Deeley, Cat asked the judges--who freely admitted that they'd known since Wednesday morning which six contestants had received the fewest votes--if they needed to watch any of the bottom six solo for their lives. Nigel Lythgoe answered that yes, they wanted to see four of them--Amber, Eliana, Brandon, and Dareian--dance one more time, but that their minds were already made up about Lindsay and George.
It was easy to assume--correctly, I might add--that the judges had already decided to save Lindsay and George, and that they were only undecided about the other four. So this of course took away some of the suspense from the whole results-revealing process, making for some less-than-thrilling television. But more crucially, in the past on "SYTYCD," we have occasionally seen the judges be swayed by a particularly amazing (or un-amazing) last-chance solo. So why not ask all six to dance one more time? If Lindsay or George hadn't been up to snuff, this week's results could have gone another way. But maybe, with the weekly elimination having to be shoehorned into the same episode as the top 16's dances, there just wasn't enough time for all six solos. Whatever the reason, it seemed unfair, and it just didn't sit right with me. A cursory glance at Twitter shows it didn't sit right with a lot of "SYTYCD" fans, actually.
However, before this controversial result, we got to see eight solid routines--including, ironically, the finest performance yet from Amber and Brandon, who were paired up this week after losing their respective partners last week. Nigel pointed out that if America had been able to vote for them based on THIS week, Amber and Brandon would probably be safe, since their number was actually one of the standouts of this week's entire episode. But the new "SYTYCD" format messed all that up for them. Lame. Oh well. At least they went out in style.
Here's how everyone, including Amber and Brandon, did this week...
Tiffany Maher & George Lawrence II - Hip-Hop
Choreographers Nappytabs are barely even trying to be "hip-hop" these days, but this routine was still fun and cute, if not exactly gangsta. Tiffany and George played harried babysitters running amok to B.o.B.'s "Out Of My Mind" in a Beetlejuicy day-glo nursery, and it was a great way to start the show. However, Tiffany definitely upstaged her more serious partner George, who didn't quite embody the dance's wacky spirit as convincingly as Tiffany did. Nigel thought the number was enjoyable, but griped that he'd like to see "grungier" hip-hop routines in the future (are you listening, Nappytabs?) and expressed surprise over how George had so much trouble keeping up with Tiffany. Mary Murphy was more effusive, gushing, "I'm certainly out of my miiiind for this couple right now!" And guest judge Christina Applegate, who came across as unexpectedly knowledgeable, praised the pair for being "tough and scary, with such a great balance of cuteness," although she wanted the slower parts to be "soupier--is that a thing?" I'm not sure if that's a thing or not, but I have a feeling this is a routine that will get viewers to pick up a thing called the phone.
Amber Jackson & Brandon Mitchell - Jazz
It was an absolute travesty that Amber and Brandon went home the same night they danced this dynamite Ray Leeper routine. Reminiscent of the red-hawt "Twitch's breakfast" dance with Sasha Mallory from last season, this Aretha-soundtracked number, about a loved-up sexy Southern couple, featured plenty of what Nigel semi-creepily called "baby-making choreography," executed with a shocking amount of convincing chemistry for a duo that had only been together for one week. "I'm not religious, but Jesus &#$%@! I feel like none of us should be here watching you, that was so private. Amber, that was the best I have ever seen you dance," raved Christina. "I don't know what kind of cereal these two had this morning, because there was some soul in that bowl!" howled Mary. And so on. The judges had nothing to offer but wild praise. And then they eliminated both of them about an hour later. Not even Brandon's ties to "SYTYCD" crony Adam Shankman (via a bit part in Step Up Revolution) could save him.
Janelle Issis & Dareian Kujawa - Cha Cha
The judges were hard on this number choreographed by "SYTYCD" alum Pasha Kovalev, going so far as to describe it as unsexy...and while I didn't really disagree, I think a lot of that had to do with the music used: Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe." Really? For a Latin ballroom routine? It just didn't fit. At all. But I thought these two gave it their a decent try, even if they were hardly amazing. "The dancing was going in and out. There was no real chemistry between the two of you," sighed Mary. "It's not your thing, but I think you gave your best effort," shrugged Christina. Nigel grumbled, "Janelle, you are so sexy when you belly-dance, and yet in this routine I didn't find you sexy." I still thought Janelle was hot--she oozes hotness out of her pores, the girl can't help it--but some more appropriate music and a snazzier tempo might have made this dance a little hotter.
Lindsay Arnold & Cole Horibe - Contemporary
This emotional love/hate Mandy Moore routine set to the Charlotte Martin remake of "Wild Horses," depicting martial-arts warrior Cole as a dark force dragging down bubbly free spirit Lindsay, slightly reminded me of that landmark "Addiction" routine by Kayla and Kuppono in Season 5. It only further established Cole as a frontrunner, and it certainly showcased an entirely different side of the usually polished, almost pageanty ballroom princess Lindsay. This was just superb. Nigel called Lindsay "absolutely fantastic" and declared Cole a "genius." Mary apologized for once saying Lindsay didn't have as much fire as this season's other ballroom girl, Witney, and she told Cole there's "nothing he can't do." And Christina said, "Cole, you're an enigma. Lindsay, you were speaking so much through your muscles and your body." Lindsay may have been in the bottom this week, but now that she's been saved by the judges, I think the public will save her next time, based on this week's routine. This is the kind of routine that gets votes.
Amelia Lowe & Will Thomas - Jazz
Two weeks ago, my favorite Season 9 couple danced to the Cure. This week, during this Mandy Moore routine, they shimmied to Siouxsie Sioux's Creatures. What perfectly gothy soundtracks for the translucently SPF 100-pale, raven-haired Amelia. So, can Amelia and Will please dance to some Bauhaus next time? Because they WILL be around for the next episode. True, this was not their best number--they've already set the bar so stratospherically high for themselves--but it was still adorable and pleasingly quirky, and it didn't at all deserve the lashing it received from nasty Nigel. "I didn't feel it at all this week; it didn't really connect," he barked, as the studio audience understandably booed. The other judges were kinder: Christina rightfully called this couple a "dream team," and Mary said, "Was it as strong as the numbers you've done before this season? No, it wasn't. But you guys are still at a very strong level." I still think Amelia and Will are the couple to beat, since even when they're not at their absolute best, they're still great.
Audrey Case & Matthew Kazmierczak - Salsa
Uh oh. This couple may be in trouble now. Matthew seemed like a real contender last week--Adam Shankman even told him "the competition is yours to lose"--but that was before he and his partner were unfortunately stuck with this underwhelming Liz Lira salsa. This simply was not that exciting to me; it was oddly slow and sluggish for a salsa, and it seemed to drag on a long, long time. It was also obvious that both dancers were really struggling. "I don't think this is going to be the biggest highlight on your journey. It looked really unfocused. It just wasn't on fire," lamented Mary. "I was a bit distracted by the music, and I thought you kind of looked a little lost," Christina added. "The salsa for me is this cocktail of sex and energy, and this was a margarita mix on quarter-speed," agreed a disappointed Nigel. I was disappointed too. I know both Audrey and Matt can do better. We'll see if they get a chance to prove that next time.
Witney Carson & Chehon Wespi-Tschopp - Contemporary
After both being in the bottom six (and being saved by the judges) last week, these two were fortunate this week to get a classic "SYTYCD" push-pull Stacey Tookey routine about forbidden, impossible love--i.e., the kind of routine that always, always gets votes. I wonder if that was Nigel's doing, since he clearly adores both of these contestants. Well, however it came to be, this number undoubtedly ensured this couple's short-term safety, since it was a beautiful routine executed beautifully from start to finish. And the heartstring-tugging song choice, Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You," paired with a dramatic Dirty Dancing-style flying leap, certainly didn't hurt their chances either. The judges gave them a standing ovation, and Christina raved, "I'm out of breath because I think I'm going to cry. You weren't just the muses, you were the painters. That was one of the most beautiful things I ever saw in my life." Mary was also sobbing, and Nigel called the routine "absolutely flawless." Yeah, these two don't have to worry about being in the bottom six again--at least not for a couple of weeks.
Eliana Girard & Cyrus Spencer - Hip-Hop
Eliana, a technically skilled ballerina, has been dragged down by the likable but much less experienced Cyrus, but this week Cyrus at least got a robotic Nappytabs number that allowed him to shine--and, hopefully, allowed Eliana to deservedly survive. In fact, Eliana impressively kept up with Cyrus throughout, and she sometimes even outdanced him, according to Nigel. "Cyrus, it was so crazy sick frozen good--it's a privilege to watch you do your stuff. And Eliana, you were getting down! You're both on the damn [Hot Tamale] train!" exclaimed Mary. Christina even told Eliana, "You are one of the best dancers I've ever seen." Let's hope America agrees; I do NOT want to see Eliana up for elimination again any time soon. (Side note: This routine's song, a cover of Britney Spears's "Toxic" by District 78, featured lead vocals by "The Voice" contestant Cheesa. Reality TV worlds collide!)
So we won't find out who gets eliminated until August 16, due to a stupid Olympic hiatus. (Hey, I only like competitions if the grand prize is--rather than a gold medal--a recording contract, a bachelor or bachelorette's rose, or the title of "America's favorite dancer.") But I do think Dareian, Matt, Audrey, and Janelle should take advantage of the long break and really perfect their solos--just in case the judges actually want to see them solo, when they likely wind up on the chopping block when the show returns.
And maybe I can spend that down-time gathering signatures on that aforementioned petition...
- Arts & Entertainment
- Nigel Lythgoe
- Christina Applegate
- Mary Murphy