SYTYCD Recap: Sign of the Beasts

Melanie, Sasha, Marko, and Tadd. We’ve all pretty much known for the last several weeks that they’d be the final four dancers standing at the end of So You Think You Can Dance‘s eighth season, and Wednesday night’s Top 6 performance show most likely sealed the deal.

But that doesn’t mean the evening was void of the unpredictable or the unexpected. Melanie finally stared down a hard-hitting hip-hop routine, and looked completely comfortable doing it (no matter what Lil C had to say about it). Tadd showed his dirty side (mmm hmm) while hanging from a chandelier. Sasha moved Lil C to tears. Christina Applegate proved both a knowledgable and witty addition to the judges’ panel. And Caitlynn danced like she had no idea she was doomed to fall just short of the finale, delivering a series of performances worthy of the term “beefy beast.” Let’s run through the proceedings in chronological order:

Melanie (with Twitch): Nappytabs, Hip-Hop
Yeah, the phrase “Little Red Swaggington” is totes prepost (as is my attempt to coin the phrase “totes prepost” as a viable alternative to totally preposterous), but I adored seeing Melanie break out of her season-long lyrical reverie to get down and dirty — with fabulous Twitch no less! — to the nasty beat of Nikki Minaj’s “Roman’s Revenge.” The final sequence of steps was so fast and so furious, I half expected Vin Diesel and Paul Walker to take the stage and endorse ’em. And I just about leapt off my couch watching Melanie shake her noggin’ all around with the recklessness of a melon falling off the back of a speeding vegetable truck. Yeah, yeah, my rural, upstate New York, white boy roots are showing with that metaphor, but so what? And so what if Melanie didn’t grow up living the hip-hop lifestyle? If Lil C had issues with her dancing, he should have made his critique about her dancing. I don’t recall a judge delivering a tone poem on racial or socioeconomic status when any of our resident B-boys struggled with ballroom or contemporary this season. Also bewildering: Nigel addressing “allegations” that Melanie hadn’t been pushed outside her comfort zone very often this season. Granted, it was her second hip-hop routine of the season (the other one was, ugh, lyrical hip-hop), but if our exec producer wants to right some wrongs, make sure she gets Bollywood next week, ’cause you know she’d be incredible!

Sasha (with Kent): Tyce Diorio, Contemporary
Tell me I’m not the only one who rolls his eyes whenever the judges take a special time-out to praise wounded kitten Tyce, who’s taken a lot of heat this season for his lackluster routines. To this I say, “Choreographer, please!” The good news is, Tyce delivered his most successful piece of the season, sending Sasha and Kent through the harrowing steps of a soured relationship utilizing a sparse and ominous wall. Do I wish he hadn’t introduced it by telling us the number was about “two people who hit a wall”? Well, yeah. And did my inner cynic kind of wish Sasha hadn’t shed tears/lobbied for votes during her intro package about how “life is a struggle”? I can’t deny it. But damn the finished product was mesmerizing. Christina was right that Sasha is such a riveting presence that you find yourself watching her just as carefully when she’s sitting static against a wall as you do when she’s performing an inverted split propped on Kent’s shoulders. Bonus points: Lil C in tears! Big boys do cry!

Marko (with Janette): Dmitry Chaplin, Paso Doble
Probably all you need to know about this dance is that Marko was the matador, and Janine was an “animal rights activist” trying to stop the killing of the bull. For the love of all that’s PETA, this is not a good way to interpret the Paso. Neither is covering up Marko’s bare torso with an Alexis Carrington Colby special. (Nice ad-lib, Cat Deeley!) I felt like Marko’s facial expression looked more like a guy trying to remember his steps than a bullfighter on a mission to kill, but Mary was correct that the “Janette-as-Cape” maneuver was spectacular-spectacular.

Tadd (with Ellenore): Sonya Tayeh, Jazz
This routine was undoubtedly Rated D (to the A to the M to the N). Uh-huh. I went there. How can you not with superfine Tadd in a sheer corset-waisted vest getting his sexy on with phenonenal(ly) odd Ellenore. Watching Tadd hang off that chandelier like a dizzy kid on a swingset, observing Ellenore’s arousal at Tadd’s up-the-arm kisses, seeing our resident B-boy perform an arm-stand on a chair as an ode to his sensual awakening…I loved every second of it. When Cat segued to the judges by declaring “I so wanna have a go at that,” I didn’t know if she meant Tadd or the chandelier. Nigel wanted more dancing (whatevs) but Mary said it best: “The most daring choreography of the season!” Send that boy to the finale!

Ricky (with Jaimie): Dee Caspary, Contemporary
It’s hard to weigh in on the success or failure of this piece, in which Ricky was asked to “conduct” and control Jaimie with a pair of sticks, since nothing about Ricky’s body language or facial expression depicted anything remotely powerful or authoritative. Christina made an excellent point when she told The Artist Who Somehow Outlasted Jess that “sometimes you don’t dance with the clearest intention.” And while Nigel was right that he has beautiful lines, I don’t believe that’s reason enough to crack the final four.

Caitlynn (with Pasha): Dmitry Chaplin, Samba
I felt like Mary and Nigel ganged up on Caitlynn’s sexyface as a covert way of saying “You are not to advance to the finals over our precious pets Sasha and Melanie.” Fair enough, since Caitlynn’s body of work this season really doesn’t match up to the Season 8 front-runners. But that doesn’t mean her lightning quick samba wasn’t pretty flawless. Donned in a raggedy pink frock, she resembled a sexy, spastic flamingo on speed in the best possible way. Christina couldn’t believe the batucada! Or is it bachacada? Who cares! Loved it! Loved Pasha! (Why isn’t he a pro on Dancing With the Stars yet? Make this happen, America!)

Sasha and Ricky: Kumari Suraj, Wacking
I won’t make a comment about this wacking routine being, well, kinda whack, but I sure do wish Kumari and her weird head-salad millinery had served a little more hardcore, air-traffic-controlling gesticulata — if that makes any sense. It didn’t help that Ricky was dressed, as my hubby noted, like a cross between early Michael Jackson and your grandpappy, or that Sasha was forced to wear a weird sheer skirt, but I just thought the routine and the performances could’ve been a little more vibrant as we make a final push to the finals. This wasn’t wonky enough to let Caitlynn slip past Sasha for a finale spot, right? RIGHT? (Side note: 1,000 points to Mary for name-checking Princess Lockaroo. Serve us her glamour in Season 9, Uncle Nigel, or else!) (I’m making a lot of demands this recap, no?)

Melanie and Tadd: Spencer Liff, Broadway
I’m always wary of a routine that requires a 30-second setup — he’s a choreographer! she’s the lead dancer! she’s falling for him! he’s just acting the part to draw the best performance out of her! — but the reality lived up to the hype in this case, and it turned out to be my favorite of the night. Melanie really is a sublime thespian and an extraordinary dancer, and I felt Tadd’s own acting skills matched hers completely. It never hurts to dance to a Shirley Bassey remix (try it at home sometime!), but I just wish Tadd had gotten a little more credit from the judges. Nigels’ critique — “to say you didn’t suck is a compliment” — felt condescending in the extreme, but at least Christina countered by telling him that his port de bras was better than many ballet dancers. (Um, yeah. Exactly what I was thinking!)

Caitlynn and Marko: Sonya Tayeh, Jazz
If you’re on your way to the exit, this is how you make the journey. Caitlynn showed amazing range and power with the sublime Marko in this piece about a woman trying to get out from under her overbearing man. (Yeah, we see that theme at least once a week on SYTYCD, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful when it’s conceived and executed this brilliantly.) The entire routine was manic and passionate and borderline violent — Marko’s somersault flip thingie was almost as brave as Melanie’s leap into Neil’s arms the other week — and as Nigel said, it really did provide Caitlynn with her coming of age moment, even if she maybe came of age three or four weeks too late.

As for the evening’s solos, I will now rank them from most to least favorite, without further comment: Beefy Beast Melanie, Marko, Sasha, Caitlynn, Tadd, Ricky.

What did you think of Top 6 Performance night? Were you as delighted by it all as me? Who should and will make the final four? Is there any way it won’t be Melanie-Sasha-Marko-Tadd? Sound off below, and for all my reality recaps follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!