So You Think You Can Dance Recap: The First Cuts Are the Deepest

So You Think You Can DanceNobody said it would be easy mashing up So You Think You Can Dance‘s weekly performances and results into a single, 120-minute telecast. But just as an old Cat can learn new dance steps — our hostess really did boogie as she made her entrance in a sultry red dress! — so too did SYTYCD manage to pack in a group number, a special guest performance (from the cast of Step Up Revolution), 10 competitive routines, and a brutal set of results that lopped off a fifth of the Season 9 crop.

And just like Eliana doing overtime in her Jive with Cyrus, you could barely see any sweat beading up on the show’s forehead. Let’s break down how the night played out:

DANCE OF THE NIGHT | Witney Carson & Chehon Wespi-Tschopp I hate to automatically heap praise on the routine that gets the pimp slot, but this particular Bollywood number was at once exuberant and exhilarating. As choreographer Nakul Dev Mahajan, this one had no story — just speed, stamina, and hands. Witney was so fast and sharp, I came thisclose to screaming, “Dance, heffa!” And as far as Week 1-to-Week 2 redemption, no one climbed further faster than Chehon.

RUNNER-UP | Amelia Lowe & Will Thomas I’m not sure why I thought Will was cannon-fodder after watching the Top 20 announcement episode, but I certainly stand corrected. Dude has incredible strength — with his towering frame, he should! — but as Adam noted, said frame didn’t make him any less lithe, or cause him to fall out of perfect sync with Amelia. I loved how this duo got completely lost in the sway of the strings and the drama of Sonya Tayeh’s steps. And while it’s still too early to call this pair the best of Season 9, juxtaposing this week’s flowing jazz routine with last week’s alley cats hip-hop, I wouldn’t hesitate to call them the most versatile.

MOST DUBIOUS FEEDBACK | Lindsay Arnold & Cole Horibe I’m not sure why the judges hit Lindsay so hard for failing to embody her role when, to my eyes, she danced twice as hard as Cole. I mean, yeah, the guy stayed in character all all the way through the judges’ critiques, but he also spent a third of the routine sitting back in the dentist’s chair, and failed to bring much dance quality to the moments he was walking to and from said seat. Plus, while Lindsay’s man-eating intent was clear, it was never certain to me if Cole’s geeky patient was digging the come-ons or dreading ’em.

CAUGHT IN A BAD WARDROBE Amber Jackson & Nick Bloxsom-Carter It can’t be easy trying to pull off the fast, furious drama of an Argentine Tango while clad in a bulky jacket and ill-fitting pants, which is why I’m wondering if dear Uncle Nigel instructed the wardrobe department to jack Nick up, or if there’s a less nefarious explanation for his attire. Amber, meanwhile, deserved the praise heaped on her by the judges: Her kicks and flicks had the speed and precision of a speed-skater’s blades.

VICTIM OF UNINSPIRED CHOREOGRAPHY | Janelle Issis & Dareian Kujawa I always flinch a little when I hear “lyrical hip-hop,” and the minute I realized it was set to the Temptations’ “My Girl,” I’ll admit I started daydreaming about Janelle and Dareian’s African Jazz number from seven days prior. [Side note: Anyone worried Dareian might lose out on text votes if folks forget the rogue ‘e’ in his name?]

MOST IN NEED OF SOME PARTNER-SWAPPING Eliana Girard & Cyrus Spencer
Eliana may actually be the strongest dancer in the competition, but as Nigel noted, she hasn’t really been able to fully spread her wings, not while she’s carrying enthusiastic-but-overmatched Cyrus on her shoulders. (Burning question: Anyone else getting a Jeanine-Phillip vibe from the couple?) I will say, though, that girlfriend’s back-to-back-to-back series of twists and splits was one of the more mesmerizing sequences of the night.

MOST BACKHANDED PRAISE | Janaya French & Brandon Mitchell Janaya and Brandon were perfectly fine on this silly little Broadway number, but if you weren’t certain of poor Janaya’s cannon-fodder status, the judges certainly clarified things with their “you actually played the character!” critiques. Why not just hand her an “it’s an honor just to make the Top 20” banner and send her home with a Blu-Ray copy of Step Up 3D?

NOT AS BAD AS THE JUDGES SAID IT WAS | Alexa Anderson & Daniel Baker I can’t say I shed any tears over the duo’s early exit, but I thought Alexa and Daniel were pretty successful imitating waves of water during Dee Caspary’s “bathtub” dance. It can’t be easy to pack that much movement into two minutes while maintaining that much fluidity, so at the very least, Alexa and Daniel can exit on a high note. What troubles me, though, is sometimes I worry the judges don’t connect as viscerally with a routine when it doesn’t have a very specific, character-driven backstory assigned to it in the pre-performance rehearsal package. Am I on to something with this theory, or am I not giving enough credit to Nigel, Mary, and their ilk?

NOT AS GOOD AS THEY SAID IT WAS (AKA THE “WHAT AM I MISSING WITH THIS COUPLE?” RANT)| Matthew Kazmierczak & Audrey Case Okay, I’ll admit Matthew and Audrey showed terrific strength and stamina in Sonya Tayeh’s routine about “an erotic power struggle,” but if I’m being honest, I wasn’t really feeling any chemistry between ’em. When all was said and done, it was more a case of “I admired that effort!” than an “I was feeling it!” I did get a surge of joy from their bug-legged walk maneuver — Nigel called it “stank steps” — but I’m not yet ready to follow Adam’s lead this early in the season and tell Matthew that the competition is his to lose.

LEMONS INTO LEMONADE AWARD| Tiffany Maher & George Lawrence II I can’t say the Fox Trot is the most exciting or evocative dance in the SYTYCD oeuvre, but this routine was absolutely stunning — in large part thanks to Tiffany and George’s grace and total committment. Midway through the number, I actually scribbled on my notepad “She is IN it,” and that turned out to be very close to Mary’s “you were livin’ it!” critique. Tiffany hasn’t gotten much hype this year, but she’s rapidly gaining momentum — and George is similarly looking like he’s in it for the long haul.

As for the week’s eliminations, Cat announced that it was Nick, Daniel, and Chehon in the Bottom 3 Guys, and Janaya, Alexa, and Witney in the Bottom 3 Girls. Given Witney and Chehon’s triumphant closing number, there was absolutely no suspense regarding who the judges would cut — er, save! the judges only save people, says Nigel! — and therefore they didn’t request any solos. (I’d have liked to know, however, what was the deal with that love child of a tuxedo, a kimono, and a sequined ladyblouse that Nick was wearing.) I will, say, though, that Amber and Brandon got lucky.

Now, as for next week’s results, a few predictions:

SHOULD BE THE BOTTOM 6 NEXT WEEK
Brandon
Cyrus
Cole
Lindsay
Janelle
Audrey

WILL BE THE BOTTOM 6
Brandon
Cyrus
Dareian
Lindsay
Janelle
Amber

What did you think of this week’s SYTYCD? Who was best in show? Who will and should be in the Bottom 3 next week? Sound off in the comments!