SYTYCD Recap: Two Too Divine

Will there be a more stressful day this year for So You Think You Can Dance fans than Thursday, July 14? No, that’s not a reference to Bastille Day — Nigel Lythgoe is a Brit, after all! — but it will mark the brutal moment when the final two dancers are sent home just short of the SYTYCD Season 8 touring Top 10, and the 2011 Emmy nominations are announced. And as far as I’m concerned, there can only be one satisfying conclusion: Ryan Ramirez and Ricky Jaime must get the boot, and Cat Deeley must finally score herself a nod in the Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program category.

Okay, so maybe I’d accept Nigel Lythgoe and his cohorts sending home Alexander Fost in Ricky’s place, but as for Cat’s Emmy worthiness, well, that’s not up for discussion. Heck, even tonight’s guest judge, Modern Family‘s Jesse Tyler Ferguson, closed the show by acknowledging the repeated failure of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to show some love to the funniest, leggiest, sharpest, most genuinely caring host in the business.

Oh, and speaking of all things Emmy, since I’ve got to be up at the crack of dawn with the rest of Team TVLine to assemble our comprehensive nomination coverage (do bookmark us and come back all day and all of the night), I’m going to keep this week’s recap — which I’m worried might be deemed a wee bit contro-versee-ahhhl by fans of the season’s most talented couple — shorter than the sides of Sonya Tayeh’s mohawk. So without further ado, let me offer a couple sentences on each of the six remaining couples — each of whom had to perform not one, but two dances –followed by my picks for the night’s best routines (spoiler alert: the night’s opening two dances both made my Top 2), and my verdict on who will (and should) wind up in the Bottom 3.

Sasha Mallory and Alexander Fost (Paso Doble: Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin)
Sasha and Alexander had me at that opening, intertwined pose, the one in which they resembled a two-torsoed beast, and the entire performance was exploding with violence and power. Sasha’s leg-crawl was particularly ferocious, and I dare say this was the best Paso I’ve witnessed on any platform since Jeanine and Brandon’s classic Season 5 showdown. Side note: I’m not a big fan of Alexander’s, but he really kept up with his partner this week, to the point where I actually winced at Jesse’s scathingly backhanded compliment: “You came up to her level!” Ouch, Mitchell Pritchett, that stings!

Jordan Casanova and Tadd Gadduang (Contemporary: Travis Wall)
Oh how I wish Jordan and Tadd had gotten to close the show with this stunning piece of work, which featured the former dancer as a vulture lady, and the latter as a very dehydrated and very shirtless (thanks, Travis) traveler. The vibration that traveled through Jordan’s body, all the way to her toes the first time Tadd “choked” her was mesmerizing, and dude’s flip-jump combo and general flexibility were a sight to behold (as was his torso, sorry). A Top 10 without Tadd should be as illegal as anyone on the SYTYCD panel quoting Randy Jackson, though, in his defense, at least Jesse poked fun at his own “in it to win it” reference before anyone else could.

Ryan Ramirez and Ricky Jaime (Broadway: Spencer Liff)
Watching the increasingly leaden Ryan try to get in touch with her inner Audrey Hepburn was kind of like watching a pelican attempt to imitate a swan: Morbidly fascinating on certain levels, but in no way successful. Granted, Spencer’s routine was the night’s biggest clunker — and Ricky’s hat brim often hung so low it distracted from seeing his eyes — but as Mary pointed out, it’s up to the couple to fill every second of the number (particularly those spaces in between the movements) if they’re going to win over the audience. Oh, and guess what? They didn’t.

Caitlynn Lawson and Mitchell Kelly (Hip-Hop: Christopher Scott)
I knew we were in trouble the minute I spied Caitlynn and Mitchell wearing those “invisible children” t-shirts (the choreographer’s nod to kids forced into battle in northern Uganda and the Congo), and alas, the judges came down harshly not only on Christopher Scott’s routine, but on the way it was executed. And while, yes, there were entire passages where the duo got slightly out of sync, I think the real problem was the assignment of a very literal, very serious meaning to an abstract routine. I wish that at the very least, the judges had been more effusive about the power and explosion Mitchell and Caitlynn displayed. In a season where hip-hop has been marshmallow soft, it was nice to see some harder edges and even a little bit of abandon in Mitchell and Caitlynn’s bodies.

Melanie Moore and Marko Germar (Tango: Louis Van Amstel)
Props to Louis for believing enough in his steps — and his dancers — that he didn’t feel the need to assign a storyline to his routine. (Not that I have any problem with storylines, per se, but I do think sometimes we see choreographers digging a little overzealously to explain their art in a way that will ensure its mass appeal.) My biggest problem with the end result, though, was the abysmal camera work involved from start to finish, which robbed us of huge swaths of flicks and kicks and other fancy footwork. Mary was right that there were undoubtedly some “a few awkward shapes,” and I could’ve sworn there were a few moments where both Melanie and Marko looked a little unsteady, but that final WHOOSH — with Melanie going through Marko’s legs, then flipping up and back through — was probably enough to ensure their absolutely essential safe passage to the Top 10. (Not that a possible inclusion in the Bottom 3 wouldn’t possibly be a positive for Melanie and Marko in that it might sharpen their competitive resolve and wipe away any complacency they might be experiencing after five weeks of almost unanimous effusive praise. Ahem.)

Clarice Ordaz and Jess LeProtto (Lyrical Hip-Hop: Christopher Scott)
Much like Christopher’s previous routine this week, I felt like Clarice and Jess would’ve benefitted if their storyline about a painter and his insecure muse hadn’t been weighed down by thuddingly literal props like a paintbrush, a mirror, and a giant if not entirely successful portrait of Clarice that made an embarrassing appearance at the close of the dance. On the plus side, though, Jess proved that he can pretty much master any style that’s thrown his way; his moves were crisp and precise, with plenty of edge. Meanwhile, after weeks of slightly beige performances, it looks like Clarice is finally living up to the potential she displayed in her final Vegas solo.

As for the night’s second set of routines, I’m going to deal with ’em like a hot-dog eating champ facing a half-dozen frankfurters — finishing ’em in one bite apiece. (Hey, I told you I’ve got Emmys to deal with tomorrow!)

Sasha Mallory and Alexander Fost (Broadway: Tyce Diorio)
I’m with the judges: This was the first time in six routines I’ve found myself focusing on Alexander more than Sasha, and while that final lift looked like it got abandoned at the midway mark (was that intentional?), the overall number was a lot more solid than their lamppost prop.

Jordan Casanova and Tadd Gadduang (Broadway: Spencer Liff)
Nigel was absolutely right: Tadd and Jordan should’ve stuck to the Gaston-Belle vibe with which the routine began. I actually laughed out loud at Tadd’s breath spray/hair slick moves, but didn’t crack a smile for the rest of the dance. I’m glad Jesse (the best celebrity guest judge we’ve had this season) made mention of the vulture dance in his closing remarks; it’d be kind of criminal for Jordan and Tadd to have to dance for their lives after having left their hearts and souls on the floor after that first performance, no?

Ryan Ramirez and Ricky Jaime (Cha Cha: Louis Van Amstel)
I’m not an expert in cha cha execution, but my notes on the dance read “Nothing about Ryan’s dancing looks sharp or tight here.” So I was encouraged that folks who do have an eye for the technical aspects of ballroom both made mention of Ryan’s “sloppy” footwork. Plus, girlfriend maintained her vacant smile from beginning to end. She seems like a nice enough gal, but like a carton of milk that should’ve been finished in June, Ryan has reached her expiration date. As for Ricky, yeah, he was definitely better, but I don’t know if he entirely earned that ticket on the Hot Tamale train. (Actually, ticket distribution for that particular ride has been a little hinky all season, no?)

Caitlynn Lawson and Mitchell Kelly (Contemporary: Travis Wall)
I swear on Cat’s Emmy nomination that my head will explode if Nigel’s gripe about Mitchell’s face losing intensity during his partnering work is some kind of maniacal groundwork that will lead to a Mitchell-Caitlynn ouster — and another reprieve for Ryan and Ricky. I actually thought Mitchell was magnificent — haughty, sexy, and full of verve — and that Caitlynn once again managed to dissolve fully and completely into her character. Yeah, I realize that said “dissolving” means it’s hard to get a sense of Caitlynn’s personality, and that may hurt her if people vote for their “favorites.” But bear in mind she’s excelled on everything from the tumultuous chair dance to last week’s love affair to this week’s sexy rock star: Shouldn’t that be enough to crack the Top 10?

Melanie Moore and Marko Germar (Contemporary: Dee Caspary)
Don’t get me wrong: Marko and Melanie are sublime, and I will weep openly if they get cut from the competition Thursday night. (Spoiler alert: Nigel and Mary are more likely to get evicted at this point than Marko and Melanie.) Still, I felt like the duo weren’t entirely at their best in Dee’s somewhat scattershot piece about a couple struggling to go toward the light. It was all a little too lah-dee-dah, a little “look at us doing something artsy with a lightbulb!” without a lot of deeper feeling behind it. But the judges all ate it up like me devouring a peanut butter spoon while stress eating at 2 a.m., so maybe I’m way off the mark. I dunno: You tell me.

Clarice Ordaz and Jess LeProtto (Jive: Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin)
Oh I do love me some well executed ballroom, and this one was lightning quick, full of flicks and kicks, and totally sick. Look at me rhyming! No, actually, look at Clarice and Jess dancing — all the way to the Top 10! Like I said last week, Jess somehow manages to perform entire routines as if he’s suspended three inches off the ground. HE IS INCREDIBLE. And Clarice and her hot pink tailfeathers were pretty dazzling this week, too.

Three Best Dances
Jordan and Tadd (Contemporary)
Sasha and Alexander (Paso Doble)
Caitlynn and Mitchell (Contemporary)/Clarice and Jess (Jive)

Should Be Bottom Three
Ryan and Ricky
Caitlynn and Mitchell
Melanie and Marko (please don’t abandon me for the rest of the season for saying that…y’know, a little scare could motivate ’em to new heights. Also: Who hasn’t been dying to see another Melanie solo since the season premiere?)

Will Be Bottom Three
Ryan and Ricky
Caitlynn and Mitchell
Jordan and Tadd

What did you think of this week’s SYTYCD? What were your favorite routines? Who will and should crack the Bottom 3? Sound off below, and for all my reality recaps follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!