SYTYCD Recap: A Super Sweet 16!

Veronica Lake, Charlie Chaplin, Christina Applegate, and the Alvin Ailey all figured prominently in last night’s Top 16 episode of So You Think You Can Dance. Okay, so Veronica Lake wasn’t actually Veronica Lake, but rather Emmy-nominated hostess Cat Deeley dropping cheeky asides about “hot water and towels” to expectant choreographers Tabitha and Napoleon.

Oh, and the Charlie Chaplins were actually our Top 16 dancers in mustachioed drag, part of a Tyce Diorio group number that left me as cold as a meat locker (maybe it’s because I’m generally opposed to routines where I can’t tell one contestant apart from the next).

On the plus side, though, the Lady Applegate (so terrific these days on Up All Night) once again proved a sharp and constructive guest judge, while those Alvin Ailey fellas offered up a stunner of a piece called “The Hunt” that made me downright skittish in the best way possible. If I cover my mouth, do a little rain dance, and/or try to creepy-tango in black-and-red kimono pants later today, blame those dudes, not me, okay?

Anyhow, let’s get down to business:

DANCE OF THE NIGHT | Eliana Girard & Cyrus Spencer I’ve been mesmerized by Eliana since her audition, but watching her transition from music-box ballerina to a manic, booty-dropping hip-hopper provided the episode’s biggest thrill. I wish the judges had pointed out the way that NappyTabs relied on Eliana’s raw talent to infuse the routine with some added technical difficulty, but I suppose that was obvious to anyone with functioning eyes. Cyrus, meanwhile, finally managed to keep pace well enough with Eliana that I didn’t spend half the routine focusing on the chasm of training that’s between ’em. Let’s leave the final word to Mary Murphy: “You’re both on the damn train. Get out of here!”

RUNNER-UP | Witney Carson & Chehon Wespi-Tschopp Oh Stacey Tookey and your love of the big diva ballad! I’ll admit I groaned a little when Witney and Chehon revealed they’d be dancing to Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” but somehow the dancing remained front and center, never getting swallowed up by the strains of the late diva’s most iconic ballad. A lot of the credit goes to Chehon, whose quality of movement was astonishing and whose torso really looks amazing under a blue light. Witney, though, had an amazing night, too. How about that expression during the move where she wound up suspended in the air, her back pressed against Chehon’s? I could honestly see her having a future in movies (if she adds the missing ‘H’ to her first name). Is it just me?

MOST DISAPPOINTING | Janelle Issis & Dareian Kujawa My pre-season rankings had Janelle and Dareian each ranked at No. 3 among the Top 10 guys and girls, but I’m coming to the sad realization that their actual dancing isn’t really living up to expectations. It didn’t help that their cha cha was set to “Call Me Maybe” (srsly?) or that Janelle was in full ballroom regalia while Dareian was in jeans and a lycra v-neck (why, because of the lyric “ripped jeans, skin was showin”?). But ultimately, as Mary Murphy pointed out, there was absolutely no chemistry between the couple, and even worse, their footwork was about as sharp as a down comforter. On the plus side, if Janelle lands in the Bottom 3 (and she should), maybe we’ll get another fierce bellydancing solo?

BETTER THAN THE JUDGES INDICATED | Amelia Lowe & Will Thomas This was one of those cases where I was more impressed with the technical execution of the piece than I was moved by the emotions behind it. Ultimately, though, I think that was more a product of Mandy Moore’s jazz choregraphy and those peculiar suits that reminded me of jaunty playing cards. Will displayed monumental physical strength — especially when he held Amelia upside down and flush to his chest — and I loved the way she turned to liquid when he dipped her. Plus, the duo pulled off some of the best head swivels in SYTYCD history; I was worried one or both of those noggins was gonna pop off before the move was completed.

SPECIAL EFFECTS AWARD FOR BEST LIGHTING, COSTUMES AND MUSIC Lindsay Arnold & Cole Horibe I don’t want to take anything away from the couple — as Christina Applegate pointed out, Lindsay, in particular, spoke so much with just her muscles and her body — but really, they could’ve stumbled around the stage for 90 seconds and I’d still have been stirred by that gorgeous cover of “Wild Horses,” by Lindsay’s exquisite seafoam dress, and yes, by the dramatic lighting that the judges cooed about excessively. Credit where it’s due, though, Lindsay and Cole really brought to life Mandy Moore’s abstract piece about light and dark, and Lindsay’s pirouettes were stunning, to boot.

BIGGEST FALL FROM GRACE| Matthew Kazmierczak & Audrey Case I know I’ve never gotten aboard the Matthew-and-Audrey train despite the judges’ continued love for them, and to be honest, this Salsa routine made me feel a little justified for remaining skeptical about the super pretty couple. Matthew, in particular, brought zero performance quality to the floor; his face registered about as much expression as those blurry polaroids in The Ring. Even worse, though, Matthew and Audrey performed the routine as a series of steps and tricks, without any sort of connectivity or transitions to hold them together. And as Nigel noted, even the tricks — like that tornado spin — were too slow and finished too quickly. Will these kids prove to have enough of a fan base to avoid the Bottom 3? That’s the biggest question looming over the next SYTYCD results night.

PROBABLY AT RISK | Tiffany Maher & George Lawrence II Sometimes I have a hard time dealing with the literalness of NappyTabs’ choreography, and this “babysitters with a crying infant” piece — with its funhouse crib and dressers — definitely fell into that category. Tiffany hit her moves harder than a Mack truck demolishing a ladybug, but George’s inner hip-hopper was a little less on point. Christina’s critique — that the couple’s slower moves needed to be “soupier” was oddly astute, too. If George landed in the Bottom 3 guys after the couple’s exquisite Fox Trot last week, then I’m worried how they’ll fare in this week’s voting, especially with the top-of-show death slot. (Side note: Was anyone else a little surprised by Cat’s comedy misfire at the end? “There’s no movement in the crib. I might have to call social services.” Yikes.)

NOT A BAD EXAMPLE OF A GOOD LAST IMPRESSION Amber Jackson & Brandon Mitchell No, this wasn’t nearly as sexy as “Misty Blue,” but Amber in particular got to show off a dazzling combination of light-footedness and pure strength while dancing to what might be the sexiest song of all time, Aretha Franklin’s “Dr. Feelgood.” Not the worst way to exit the show, if you have to exit the show, y’know?

As for the week’s eliminations, Cat announced that it was George, Dareian, and Brandon in the Bottom 3 Guys, and Eliana (WHAT?), Lindsay, and Amber in the Bottom 3 Girls. When Nigel asked that Dareian and Brandon do solos on the guys’ side, and Eliana and Amber on the girls’ side, you knew Amber was toast. I mean, no way they were getting rid of the ballerina who might be the best all-around dancer of Season 9, right? It didn’t hurt that Eliana’s solo trumped Amber’s in technical skill and evocativeness. The Brandon-Dareian showdown was less of a foregone conclusion, but when the latter dancer infused his with jaw-dropping tricks, while the former did some okay steppin’, Brandon’s fate was sealed. So yep, the Top 14 will resume — after a two week hiatus — sans Brandon and Amber.

Now, as for the next set of results, a few predictions:

SHOULD BE THE BOTTOM 6 NEXT WEEK
Dareian
George
Matthew
Janelle
Audrey
Lindsay

WILL BE THE BOTTOM 6
Dareian
George
Will
Janelle
Audrey
Tiffany

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