SYTYCD Recap: Grieving Las Vegas

Everyone knows it’s next to impossible to gamble in Las Vegas and come home a winner, and that rule most definitely applied to Wednesday night’s installment of So You Think You Can Dance. The episode kicked off with 160 contestants making their way to Sin City to fight for a spot in the Season 8 Top 20; two hours later, we’d seen the field whittled down to 31 — with torn tonenails, bruised tailbones, shattered egos, and even a diagnosis of diabetes along the way.

Things started jauntily enough with 30-year-old Vegas-round vet Iveta Lukosiute delivering a police lady strip-o-gram to Nigel Lythgoe — complete with phallic nightstick, of course — but within minutes, the emotional roller coaster was had me whipping around a bend, hanging upside down, clutching the safety bars, and whimpering for my mommy: We had Debbie Allen righteously railing against a hideous hand-painted unitard; we had Wadi Jones defying gravity with a B-Boy routine that had me gasping and cheering; we had sister act Sasha and Natalia Mallory performing a fierce routine to an Adele track (and making Ms. Allen spontaneously holler, “All right, girls! Now that’s what I’m sayin!”); and we had unexplained exits for some of my favorite Season 8 auditioners, including Irish stepper Mary Kate Sheehan (awww!), bowtie-wearing Patty Anne Miller (really?!), Japanese dancing robot Hero McRae (wha?!), and air-traffic controller Samara “Princess Lockeroo” Cohen (noooo!). And that was all in the first 20 minutes!

To me, the too, fast too furious pacing of the Vegas episode makes it one of the least satisfying of the SYTYCD season — even with fabulous Mama Bear Debbie in her Boca Raton retirement community cap behind the judges’ table — so instead of giving you a rote recitation of every muscle cramp, wonky step, last-minute triumph, and tearful goodbye, I’ll give you my picks for the best moments, and a couple of bonus instances of rage/shock/why the face-ness:

FIVE BEST MOMENTS
* I really dug all the contestant-choreographed group numbers this year, but quite possibly my favorite came from the quintet of Arielle Coker, Natalia Mallory, D.C. Chapman, Dashi Mitchell, and Jordan Cassanova (pictured). The five disparate dancers delivered moments of exciting synchronicity, but allowed for little variances that showed off their individual strengths. As judge Robin Antin put it, she found herself “watching the music through [their] choreography” — and that’s no small achievement.

* Clarice Ordaz’s solo — an outrageously sexy piece with a side of winking humor, set to a dramatic operatic score — may have been the single best bit of dancing from the entire episode. Here’s hoping we haven’t seen the last of her.

* It might be blasphemous for me to say this, but I wasn’t particularly impressed with the solo Natalia Mallory delivered after missing the contemporary round while she was at the hospital, hooked up to an IV drip and getting diagnosed with diabetes. (But, hey, if you can’t be a little below par after being hooked up to an IV drip and getting diagnosed with diabetes, when can you be?) That said, her speech to the judges about why she wanted a place in the Top 20 made for pretty emotional television. The zaftig Natalia talked about how she’s “always been the girl who was bigger than everybody in the class” and tearfully explained how she wanted to share with the SYTYCD audience “an ounce of what I felt this week or whenever I perform.” You know you’re watching something emotional when even Nigel Lythgoe is tearing up. They’re not setting us up to watch girlfriend (or her equally likeble sister Sasha) fall just short of the Top 20, right?

* I also got a kick out of watching B Boys Wadi Brown and Lil O — with respective partners Jordan Cassanova and Jessica Watanabe — sizzle outside their comfort zone on Tyce Diorio’s hot and hormonal Broadway routine. Worth the price of admission for the naughty, end-of-routine pounces alone. (Here’s hoping Tyce brings that much energy to the pieces he choreographs for Season 8’s live rounds, eh?)

* Oh, and I didn’t think it was possible to moonwalk while flat on one’s back, but Wadi’s aforementioned B-Boy solo proved me wrong. I also loved the way he went from a dipping spin into a dangerous-looking flip — the kind of move you might think would only be possible on ice skates — and the weird interlude where he floated across the stage in a combination Russian jig and hip-hop strut.

CUT THAT KILLED ME
The aforementioned (and green-haired) Arielle, whose creepy, thrilling Los Angeles audition was my favorite Season 8 moment thus far, looked pretty solid in the contemporary routine, so how come the judges questioned what she could deliver as as a contestant and sent her packing right before the Top 20 (for the second consecutive year)?

BONUS CAT!
My favorite exchange of the episode came as Mistress Deeley questioned Sasha about her sister’s health woes and subsequent trip to the hospital.

Cat: “Did she say ‘what the heck?’ or did she actually swear?”
Sasha: “You know what? This is a family show, so she said ‘What the heck?’.”

ONE MORE COMPLAINT
So many shots of super-talented Ginnifer Goodwin doppelganger Melanie Moore , and yet not a single extended instance of her actually dancing? This somehow seems borderline criminal, no?

What were your favorite moments from the SYTYCD Vegas rounds? Which cut hurt you the most? Would you like a Top 20 that includes both Mallory sisters, or is one of them destined for a painful last-minute exit? Sound off down in the comments, and for all my summer reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!