So You Think You Can Dance Recap: Roaring 20!

It was clear we were in for a strange episode of So You Think You Can Dance on Wednesday night the minute guest judge Debbie Reynolds started cracking jokes about her limited time left on the planet. “It’s fantastic to be alive,” she declared, before host Cat Deeley encouraged the screen legend to try to “keep going for the next two hours.” Wowza. That early weirdness spilled over into the contestants’ confessionals (where they spilled “shocking” secrets about their partners), the performances (which included a wardrobe malfunction and a bloody nose), and especially to the judges’ table, where Nigel Lythgoe tried to level the playing field before voting lines opened, Mary Murphy put the wrong couple on the Hot Tamale Train, and Ms. Reynolds purchased a ticket for the Horny Seniors Express.

Let’s recap the evening’s dances in chronological order, then try to predict who will (and should) make up this week’s Bottom 3 couples:

Ryan Ramirez and Ricky Jaime (Jazz: Mandy Moore)
Mandy worried during rehearsal whether Ryan and Ricky had the maturity to pull off a
“sexy, powerful, tension-filled” piece, and the choreographer was half-right in her concerns. To be fair, both dancers brought an exciting physicality to the performance, but for the second week running, Ryan’s facial expression was so bizarre and inscrutable that it took me right out of the moment. I’m not saying a smile can’t be sexy, but Ryan’s perma-grin read like a beachfront hotel in December: totally vacant. The judges made no mention of it, but I felt like Rickey brought more to the dance, too; in one side-by-side spin, he whipped his leg like a propeller, while Ryan went with a more basic step. Of course, it couldn’t have helped Ryan that the top of her dress was slipping away like Paris Hilton’s dreams of music/film/TV stardom. Even as the couple was getting feedback from the judges, the poor girl was trying to coax her cleavage back into its proper place. If ever there was a time for the show’s director to cut to a closeup of the contestants’ faces, this would’ve been it, no?

Caitlynn Lawson and Mitchell Kelly (Contemporary: Stacey Tookey)
My second favorite performance of the night started with Caitlynn and Mitchell in armchairs — the former in the foreground and filled with angst, the latter in the background and exuding confidence. As Nigel put it, the choreography was “remarkable” and packed with an inherent sense of drama, but just as impressive to me was the way Caitlynn and Mitchell lost themselves in their characters. I gasped when she springboarded off that chair into his arms with utter fearlessness. A chill swept through me when he ended the dance by crossing his leg and turning off the light with a quiet menace. You didn’t need Stacey to explain the backstory of the dance to understand the little telenovela playing out on the screen because Caitlynn and Mitchell’s faces and bodies told the entire tale — even after Mitchell accidentally punched Caitlynn in the face and caused her nose to bleed. How’s that for a high degree of difficulty?

Missy Morelli and Wadi Jones (Cha Cha: Jean-Marc Genereux)
“If you’ve never done [cha cha] before, it’s a little suicidal,” warned Jean-Marc in an intro package that might as well have ended with Missy and Wadi being chased through a darkened auditorium by Leatherface. And as much as I’ve enjoyed Wadi’s b-boy moves up to this point, I couldn’t disagree with Nigel and Mary that the guy’s technique was not up to par. Wadi’s hips had less flexibility than David Tyree’s stance on same-sex marriage, leaving Missy to try to cover for his deficiencies with an almost manic enthusiasm. The costuming did the couple no favors, either: Missy’s sparkly leopard dress with lace-up back and black fringe bottom looked like something from an SNL parody of Dancing With the Stars, while Wadi’s black tank top and army green pants seemed to have been selected for a completely different number.

Iveta Lukosiute and Nick Young (Bollywood: Nakul Dev Mahajan)
There was nothing particularly wrong with Iveta and Nick’s performance, but while it was indeed quick and complicated, it lacked the lightness and inherent exuberance of the best Bollywood routines. Iveta’s face got frozen into a manic, joyless mask, while the relentless rhythms of the routine sometimes failed to make it to the tips of Nick’s lanky limbs. There were a few lovely moments, however, like that “MC Hammer” sidestep into an unexpected fall. Still, as much as I like this duo and don’t want to see either one tapped for an early exit, I’m worried their position in the early part of the episode — coupled with the judges’ muted praise — could spell trouble.

Miranda Maleski and Robert Taylor Jr (Hip-Hop: NappyTabs)
It didn’t hurt Melinda and Robert that their routine was set to Busta Rhymes’ “Break Ya Neck,” a song so catchy and rhythmical it could make Elaine Benes look fluid on the floor, but I have to admit that the couple I wouldn’t have minded losing last week did a solid, if not spectacular, job with a skittery, jittery NappyTabs routine. I liked the energy and crispness the couple brought to the dance, though I was surprised Nigel pretty much glossed over Miranda’s stumble coming out of her tumble, using her recovery from the snafu to praise her as the best hip-hopper from SYTYCD‘s eight-season pool of contemporary dancers. (Dial 1-800-Thats-A-Stretch.) Debbie Reynolds, meanwhile, pulled off a Woody Woodpecker imitation that was as spot-on as it was disconcerting.

Clarice Ordaz and Jess LeProtto (Contemporary: Stacey Tookey)
Based on TVLine reader comments, I know I’m in the minority, but I love Jess’ dancing, and I’ll be crestfallen if he’s booted from the competition this week. That said, as Nigel cautioned, the Broadway sprite and his lithe partner should prepare for a Bottom 3 showing, seeing how they got placed in jeopardy last week for a much stronger performance. Maybe it was because Stacey pointed out their difficulties with lifts in rehearsal, but on several occasions during the routine, it looked as though Jess was a Wal-Mart stockboy trying to hoist something onto a high shelf, and Clarice was all too willing to play the sack of potatoes. In their defense, though, this week’s routine felt lazily conceived — he was a prince, and she was an ill-defined bride wearing pink — and didn’t give the couple anywhere near the amount of drama or playfulness that most of their competitors benefitted from.

Jordan Casanova and Tadd Gadduang (Viennese Waltz: Jean-Marc Genereux)
I should probably recuse myself from commenting on this routine, seeing how it was set to David Cook’s “Fade Into Me,” and seeing how my hard-drive is pre-programmed to geek out over anything David Cook related. But I have to say, the combo of a classic, floating dance with a moody rock ballad was a winning one. Jordan and Tadd seemed to crash together in one relentlessly lovely wave of motion, the rise and fall of their dance mirroring the lyrical content of Cook’s music. I couldn’t help but nod when Nigel went out of his way to remind Tadd that he’s a b-boy, not a ballroom guy, because honestly, my untrained eye would’ve had a hard time making the distinction. (Gratuitous side note: It doesn’t hurt that Tadd is easy on the eye regardless of what style he draws, does it?)

Melanie Moore and Marko Germar (Jazz: Mandy Moore)
What is there to say about Melanie and Marko? I mean, shouldn’t they just advance directly to the Top 10 without passing go and without collecting $200? Actually, no. Because then we’d be deprived of weeks of their mesmerizing moves. It says a lot that the couple had the night’s ugliest outfits — Melanie in spangled mom shorts and bowtie, Marko in a red blazer — and I barely noticed till they’d lined up for their judges’ critiques. There wasn’t a moment when the couple lost sync, and Melanie’s flying split into Marko’s was a thing of uninhibited beauty. Is it crazy that I want Fox to launch a half-hour Saturday-night show called Dancing With Melanie and Marko?

Sasha Mallory and Alexander Fost (Hip-Hop: NappyTabs)
My favorite routine of the night told the tale of a soldier returning from Afghanistan to his emotionally spent wife, and if this was a film, let’s just say Sasha would be campaigning for a Best Actress Oscar, while Alexander would have to focus on the Supporting Actor category. Mary Murphy was spot-on when she said that Sasha’s soul was bursting through that gripping intro, in which she writhed in pain and anticipation and nervousness as Alexander marched slowly, methodically out of a war zone and back into civilian life. The slight moment of hesitation as the dancers connected — followed by their blissful, triumphant reunion — was undeniably gorgeous, and might be the best NappyTabs routine in recent memory. Burning question: How in the heck did these kids pull off that beastly move with Alexander executing a handspring-into-headstand onto Sasha’s back while she held steady on all fours? And how in the heck did it not land them on the Hot Tamale train?

Ashley Rich and Chris Koehl (Broadway: Spencer Liff)
Mary and Nigel have to stop trying to make Ashley and Chris happen, no? Or maybe I’m missing something great happening right on my TV screen. Right or wrong, I just didn’t feel any chemistry, and kind of sexual tension, in the duo’s Broadway routine set to “Please, Mr. Jailer.” Yes, on paper, it was an interesting concept to having the couple pull off a routine with bars thrown up in between them, but in practice, there was something oddly two-dimsenional about it all. I felt like Ashley, in her Far From Heaven-y dress, seemed far too aloof in her motion, while Chris failed to capture the lust of a pent-up man seeking a conjugal pas de deux. Nigel, though, said the routine was so great he hopes that Chris and Ashley will stay in the competition for “many many weeks” and Mary detected enough heat to fuel the engine of a Hot Tamale Train. Again, what did I miss, folks? Hit the comments and tell me, but first, let’s get to some predictions!

Three Best Dances
Sasha and Alexander
Caitlynn and Mitchell
Melanie and Marko

Should Be Bottom Three
Ashley and Chris
Missy and Wadi
Clarice and Jess or Ricky and Ryan

Will Be Bottom Three
Missy and Wadi
Clarice and Jess
Iveta and Nick

What did you think of Week 2 of the Season 8 performances? What was your favorite routine? How about your least favorite? Who did you vote for? And who is most likely to go home? Sound off below, and for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!