So You Think You Can Dance Top 16 Results Recap: Did the Right People Go Home?

“The honeymoon is over,” declared Cat Deeley — bedazzled bird applique fastened to her chest — at the top of Thursday night’s So You Think You Can Dance Top 16 results-show telecast. And while the stylish and delightful hostess (who really, really, really needs to get an Emmy nomination this year) wasn’t fibbing, I can’t say that I’m ultimately distraught about the pair of dancers whose Season 8 vacation to dancer’s paradise came to an end as the credits rolled.

That said, a few things did stick in my craw about this week’s elimination extravaganza: Head judge Nigel Lythgoe complimenting Chris on his “hummingbird” “woodpecker” routine from Top 20 Redux night, when in fact, that fowl hip-hop routine was brought to life by Robert. The telecast’s director placing inexplicable focus on weak link Ryan during the evening’s opening group routine. (Uncle Nigel & Co., please explain your unsavory fascination with this solid but unspectacular hoofer, or better yet, redirect it to a more worthwhile competitor!) And, of course, my favorite performers from Wednesday night’s performance show — the duo that delivered a sizzling samba — finding themselves alongside the doomed contestants in the Bottom 3. Speaking of which…let’s get to the facts:

Bottom Three Couples
Ashley Rich and Chris Koehl
Miranda Maleski and Robert Taylor Jr
Caitlynn Lawson and Mitchell Kelly

Eliminated Dancers
Miranda Maleski and Robert Taylor Jr

On the men’s side, the need for Robert’s ouster was as obvious as a piercing “woooo!” in a public library, which is probably why he was the unanimous pick among the judges to go home. His solo was by far the weakest among this week’s at-risk gentlemen (more on that in a second), and during his Wednesday-night Broadway routine, he faded away like a chalk drawing in a rainstorm. And while Cat referred to Robert as “Mr. Personality” as he ended his solo, the problem is that his nickname really only fits when he’s not actually dancing.

As far as Miranda’s exit, I think it’s safe to say her demise was in no way prompted what she did during this week’s “Dance for Your Life” segment, during which she leapt higher than Caitlynn , and moved with more panache and emotional maturity than Ashley. My guess is she either fell victim to the Season 8 trend of the judges opting to send home couples as opposed to individuals — they’re three for three in this department thus far — or suffered for never having participated in a truly stellar routine. Whatever the case, it certainly seemed a little cruel for Nigel to call Miranda forward, reiterate how she was the most improved and most changed contestant this season, then tell her she was getting the boot. Dude didn’t even bother talking to Ashley or Caitlynn, but maybe that’s because he didn’t want to reference the former dancer’s very tepid solo before extending her life by another week. I’m glad Cat was there to ease the pain, wrapping Miranda in a warm hug and declaring her a “delistrously [sic], gorgeously, beautifully talented” dancer.

Since we’re on the subject of solos, though, let’s go ahead and assign some letter grades, shall we?

Ashley: Her solo — set to David Ryan Harris’ meandering “For You” — was pretty, I suppose, but it lacked any sense of depth or emotional maturity. Plus, none of the moves looked it didn’t look particularly challenging from a technical standpoint, either. Overall, this looked more like “Warming Up for Your Life” as opposed to the unbridled, passionate art of the dance. D+

Chris: Nigel praised the b-boy for “dancing with all the passion we expected,” but this solo looked a wee bit overwrought from where I was sitting thanks to Chris’ “angst face.” I did enjoy that series of backflips ending with Chris on his knees, then bouncing back up again, but is it just me, or does this guy never really look like he’s having that much fun? B-

Miranda: I never really boarded the Miranda Express, but there’s no denying her solo to Maria Zouroudis’ “Unthinkable” was a powerful one. Her elevation when she’s leaping is effortless and extraordinary, and that move where she stood on one foot and moved her arms like wings was pretty nifty, too. A-

Robert: Dude’s second “Dance for Your Life” solo was not much better than his first, plus it was set to a Jamie Foxx song. (Cue sad trombone.) There’s something almost cartoonish in the way the Wooo Man moves his Jello legs, and his slo-mo sequence near the end was good for a smile, but I’ve seen it all done better by past contestants. C

Caitlynn: Was it just me, or did Caitlynn almost lose her footing coming out of that rather wayward looking first pirouette? The rest of the routine, howeverm proved Caitlynn’s got power and fire, and her final spin — the one that ended with her dropping viciously to the floor — was one of the few “wow” moments of the night. B+

Mitchell: If you’re going to set your solo to Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” you’d better bring the drama, and that’s exactly what Mitchell did. His every movement built in intensity right alongside the music; Mitchell displayed some incredible flexibility to begin his routine, and then let loose with a series of technically flawless leaps and pirouettes. Plus, he never should’ve been in the Bottom 3 in the first place! A-

Top 16 Group Routine: Set to “The Incredits,” from The Incredibles, this Michael Rooney routine was slightly reminiscent of the “Red Door” guys’ number from earlier in the season, but also looked like the most thrilling CIA training/calisthenics routine ever conceived or executed. I loved how Jess’ entire body got turned like a crank, and Tadd and Miranda’s final pose (which they held for a good 15 seconds) was a thing of incredible strength and beauty. A-

What did you think of this week’s results? Should Ashley have gotten the boot before Miranda? Were you surprised to see Mitchell and Caitlynn at risk? And what about this week’s special guest dancers? (I thought both acts were pretty incredible.) Sound off below, and for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV.