So You Think You Can Dance Recap: 16? Sweet!

On Wednesday night’s Top 16 episode of So You Think You Can Dance, highly entertaining guest judge Kristin Chenoweth declared that the night’s final two-person routine was “a dessert — and I liked every bite!” But if you think about it, her metaphor could’ve (and maybe should’ve) been expanded to describe the entire two-hour telecast, which offered one sweet treat after another, to the point where I was practically waving my arm at the TV screen and shouting “I’ll take one of everything!”

When it comes to confectionary indulgence, however, there’s always a price to pay. And we’ll know just how painful the comedown from our sugary dancing high is gonna be at the end of Thursday night’s results show. Indeed, picking which three couples will (and should) comprise the bottom three is a tricky task — and I’d bet good money that we’ll see a shock (or two) before Cat Deeley delivers the final verdict.

It’s not a task I relish, but let’s do the hard work of getting hyper-critical and predicting this week’s at-risk couples, as we recap the evening’s dances in chronological order:

Sasha Mallory and Alexander Fost (Contemporary: Dee Caspary)
I worry a little that Sasha will have to pull in enough votes on her own to carry herself (and her partner) to safety, but the truth of the matter is, she’s dancing with such awesome physical and emotional power, I suspect she could leap over just about any hurdle — even with a talented if not very exciting partner affixed to her coattails. I adored that move where Alexander whipped Sasha off the piano and onto the ground, and the way she bounced back on top of the keyboards, her body bouncing about as if it was made of musical notes. Alex’s dancing was more than adequate in telling the story of a musician reflecting on the memory of love lost, but his facial expression was the unfortunate stasis in the sea of tremendous movement. (Plus, his “piano keys” shirt was too hein to be discussed in any further detail.) The intonation of Mary’s “positive” critique, though, was a little troubling. “Did you pull it off?” she asked, before responding to herself with another question, “I think you did?

Caitlynn Lawson and Mitchell Kelly (Samba: Jean-Marc Genereux)
I can’t lie: I’ve been a sucker for well-executed ballroom ever since the days of Vanessa Williams and Cheyenne in Dance With Me, so maybe that’s why Caitlynn and Mithcell’s samba was my favorite routine of the episode. Caitlynn is such a chameleon, and disappears so thoroughly into the character of the dance she’s performing, that I sometimes worry she runs the risk of losing fans to contestants whose outsized personas burst through their routines. Nevertheless, her body became an object of perpetual motion, and even though Jean-Marc had not-so-subliminally placed the image in my head, I could indeed envision her hips as surprisingly limber speakers. Mitchell, meanwhile, in his tight brown pants, is no official competition for Maksim Chmerkovskiy in the Emmy category of Most Eye-Popping Male Derriere. When he straddled Caitlynn’s prone body and shook what his mama gave him, I could hear the Hot Tamale Train calling in the distance. Anyone else have the same experience?

Miranda Maleski and Robert Taylor Jr (Broadway: Tyce Diorio)
If I had to choose one routine as the night’s weakest, I supposed I’d go with this conceptually murky tale of an “upper-class working girl” trying to seduce a singularly focused musician. Whether that’s the fault of Tyce’s choreography skills (likely) or Miranda and Robert’s execution (also quite possible) is debatable, but I’ll give Miranda credit for putting as much focus as she could on her gorgeous gams. The tempo here was fast and furious, but some of those transitions looked a little rusty, and Robert at moments kind of faded into the background. Is it his turn for a Final Destination moment after that Houdini-esque escape in Week 1?

Melanie Moore and Marko Germar (Lyrical Hip-Hop: NappyTabs)
It’s getting to the point where Melanie and Marko could come out on stage and apply Band-Aids to their blisters and I’d find myself waxing poetic about it. Their every movement, their every touch, their every facial expression is so spotless and sublime, I don’t even mind when Nigel pimps them as “the couple to beat.” I will say that Marko’s undone red bowtie was the overlooked scene-stealer of the routine, but that’s no criticism of the way the duo brought to life the story of a jilted groom and his comely pal who realize they’re destined to be together. I loved how Melanie cradled Marko with her motions at the start of the routine and the way she rolled off his back like teflon to end the dance. Also: That kiss! ‘Nuff said! These kids get enough praise anymore. Sheesh.

Ashley Rich and Chris Koehl (Jazz: Sonya Tayeh)
Accurate or not, Ashley probably didn’t do herself any favors by describing herself as “obnoxious” in the couple’s pre-performance package. But let me say this about that: While last week, I’d have gladly have traded Ashley and Chris for either of the duos booted during that tragic results show, this week I finally felt a connection to my lead least favorite couple. I think part of the judges’ problem here was that Sonya referenced Beetlejuice as her inspiration, when she should’ve said The Walking Dead. Seriously, there wasn’t a whole lot of exaggerated whimsy up in there; the routine was far more somber and methodical, from that groovy, ghoulie intertwined walk to that weird and wonderful moment where Chris “ate” Ashley’s divinely extended leg. I’m not sure why Nigel insisted there “wasn’t enough character or heart and soul”; the piece was about ZOMBIES! They’re not supposed to have heart and soul!

Clarice Ordaz and Jess LeProtto (Foxtrot: Jean-Marc Genereux)
Yell at me if you want, but I love me some Jess. Sure, his entire life is essentially an annoying Tyce Diorio routine — exaggerated facial expressions and all — but his dancing fills me with endless delight. The problem with his pairing with Clarice, for the past three weeks, is that he’s gotten all the good stuff from their choreographers, while she’s gotten the Charlie Brown Halloween Rock. Last week he was a regal prince; she was some chick who was marrying him. This week, he was Frank Freakin’ Sinatra; she was some chick in the audience. Even in Week 1, Jess had leaps and hops and pirouettes, and Clarice got to, well, observe all of her partner’s fabulousness? Maybe the Lady Ordaz doesn’t inspire great routines; or maybe she’s just brutally unlucky. But much as I loved her final solo, I’m gonna admit I’m starting to have fantasies about a Clarice-Alexander exit package, and a startling (and hopefully successful) Sasha-Jess partnership. (Heck, we can call ’em Jessasha without either one of ’em giving up a single letter!)

Ryan Ramirez and Ricky Jaime (Contemporary: Sonya Tayeh)
Was Ryan serving her standard-operating restaurant-hostess grin during this dance about a couple fighting to let go? Honestly, the lighting and angles involved made her face pretty hard to see, but I think the answer is “No.” So, yay for that! And what’s more, I appreciated what Mary Murphy said about the difficulty of dancing with a giant, fabric tether — especially that moment where Ricky leapt over the binding element with the grace of a gazelle — in a routine that was alternately harrowing, haunting, and fascinating. If I had to find fault, though — and in a race this close, we kinda have to — Ryan looked a little less graceful, and perhaps a little less in the moment, for the duration of the routine. Hrmmm….now that I’ve raised the subject, what about a Sasha-Rickey partnership. Ricksha? ShaKey? Get the brainstorm started down in the comments, yo!

Jordan Casanova and Tadd Gadduang (Hip-Hop: NappyTabs)
Oh how it pains me to not 100 percent love a routine featuring the charming and delectable Tadd repeatedly removing his shirt. (Maybe he can try again next week…I’m sure it’ll be a success, yes?) But for a dance about a couple of crazy college kids caught in a one-night stand, there wasn’t the slightest hint of sexytimes on or around or under those fluffy white sheets. Jordan definitely captured the “Uh-Oh” moment of awakening, and the “get me dressed and outta here!” panic that followed — and Tadd brought a crispness to the moves that was in short supply in his counterpart — but without the mutual attraction on display, I found it jarring to see the couple fall back into bed before it was all said and done. Tadd’s triumphant fist, though, made me chuckle, and if it was an ad-lib, then that alone should sway the judges to advance him to the Top 14 on the off chance he winds up in jeopardy.

I’m going to leave discussion of the group dances to all of you — except to say there was perhaps an, um, imbalance of screen time and center-stage prominence that favored certain hoofers (hello, Melanie!) and gave short shrift to others. But before I get all in a huff, here’s my take on who was best, who should be in jeopardy, and who probably will land in the Bottom 3.

Three Best Dances
Caitlynn and Mitchell
Melanie and Marko
Ashley and Chris

Should Be Bottom Three
Miranda and Robert
Jordan and Tadd (though not his torso)
Clarice and Jess OR Ryan and Ricky

Will Be Bottom Three
Miranda and Robert
Ashley and Chris
Clarice and Jess OR Ryan and Ricky

What did you think of Week 3 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!