So You Think You Can Dance Recap: Pairing Is Caring

One may be the loneliest number, but three is quickly becoming the most irksome — at least when it comes to Season 12 of So You Think You Can Dance.

Which is my roundabout way of saying I really, really, really miss the one-on-one routines that were the backbone of the show’s first 11 seasons, and — perhaps even more importantly — can’t figure out why Nigel Lythgoe couldn’t figure out a way this week to cram nine of ’em into a two-hour telecast.

Look, it’s not that I’m some kind of numbskull who can’t normally handle three (or more) lithe bodies in motion at the same time — strictly choreographically speaking… get your head out of the gutter! — but when a routine lasts all of 90 seconds, it’s harder for contestants to connect to multiple partners, and it’s harder for audience members to assess who’s straight killing it vs. who’s getting killed off like a recurring character on Scream or Scream Queens*. (*Two completely different series, if you can believe it.)

Three is also nastier than a Donald Trump sound bite because of our trio of unspeakable judges — Nigel, Paula and the One Incapable of Original/Interesting Critique — and their hideous decision to save a contestant this week solely based on his penchant for creating dramatic television rather than his ability to create compelling dance routines.

But anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself, so without further ado, let me spill the results, then endeavor to rank the night’s routines, and, finally, cook up power lists for the Street and Stage sides based on individual members’ performances during the entire episode.

Bottom 3 Team Stage (Based on Last Week’s Vote)
Edson
Moises
Kate

Bottom 3 Team Street (Based on Last Week’s Vote)
Ariana
Asaf
Burim

Asaf’s dismal performance in his cha cha routine made him the obvious low man on the Team Street totem pole, while Ariana’s triumphant African Jazz made her the only choice for Twitter save. On Team Stage, things were somewhat murkier, though while Moises was terrific last week, his less-than-hard-charging hip-hop had me thinking he would (and probably should) see his journey come to an end. Which had me tweeting thusly:

https://twitter.com/MichaelSlezakTV/status/625842148668084224
https://twitter.com/MichaelSlezakTV/status/625842315664363521
https://twitter.com/MichaelSlezakTV/status/625844576582942721

As with last week’s results, I suppose one out of two ain’t bad.

Twitter Saved
Kate
Ariana

Saved by the Judges
Edson
Asaf (What in the name of all that’s wrong and obnoxious?!?!)

Eliminated
Moises
Burim

Routines (Ranked Worst to Best)
7. Marissa and Asaf (Jean-Marc Genereux, Club Cha Cha) | The judges correctly groused that this wasn’t an actual cha cha, but never weighed in on whether it was Burim’s stiff transitions and mystified demeanor ruining the proceedings or if they simply didn’t like the lack of content in Jean-Marc’s tale of rock god and groupie? Marissa hustled hard to make up for Asaf’s lack of technical ability, but there were moments when her frenetic commitment to the cause was reminiscent of a desperate Dance Moms interlude.

6. Edson, JJ and Yorelis (Tovaris Wilson, Jazz) | The judges came down harder on Edson than his female counterparts, but to my eyes he carried the routine with his crisp execution and subtle mischief. Paula was right that Yorellis looked far more comfortable in the genre than her Team Street buddy JJ, but they both came off a little sloppy in terms of the quality of their movement. Perhaps most damning, though, was the fact that I’d have had little or no sense of the piece’s intent if Tovaris hadn’t intro’d the package with that “guy caught between two women” setup.

5. Megz, Moises and Jim (JaQuel Knight, Hip-Hop) | Megz hit the whole routine with such vicious, “eff the haters” energy that I wanted to stand up in my living room and cheer. Alas, though, early front-runner Jim’s sudden fade-into-the-backdrop energy and Moises weightless goofballery served as anvils to keep Megz from soaring into “all-time great SYTYCD moments” territory. (Side note: Given that Jim’s natural talent probably exceeds each and every one of his Season 12 rivals, wouldn’t you appreciate if he never again complained about getting stuck with a style outside his own ballet comfort zone?)

4. Jaja, Alexia and Derek (Stacey Tookey, Contemporary) | Jaja solidified her front-runner status with a mesmerizing portrait of a woman escaping an abusive relationship, her expressive face delivering notes of fear, triumph, agony and power — sometimes all at once. What exactly that character had to do with Derek’s returning soldier and Alexia’s single mother is still a bit of a mystery, but at the risk of sounding like a dolt, I didn’t really feel th trio ever fully gelled into a single “brave” unit. Alexia, however, did manage to extend well beyond her five-foot frame, but the judges’ praise of Derek’s performance felt too enthusiastic by half.

3. Kate and Neptune (Justin Giles, Contemporary) | The judges noted the small scale of this piece about a man leaving for dangerous work and the conflicted lover left home in his absence, but the way Kate and Neptune used only a small part of the stage brought a real sense of intimacy to a piece that brought out the best in both dancers. In some ways, the duo seemed to mirror each other’s moves and moods, but Neptune’s looser style contrasted with Kate’s more carefully coiffed look helped give shade and texture to their characters. If you had to choose Team Stage and Team Street Dark Horses, these names would be at or near the top of the list, no?

2. Gaby, Ariana and Burim (Sean Cheesman, African Jazz) | To be fair, Burim had a couple moments where he was a half-step behind his female partners, but while he wasn’t asked to do anything quite as epic as Gaby and Ariana’s intertwined ninja-flippy things (that’s the technical term, I think) he mostly held his own — or at least held his ground enough to prove he’d have been a better No. 8 finisher for Team Street than his fellow B-Boy Asaf. Gaby and Ariana, meanwhile came across like they’d been officially admitted into the Academy for Mystical Creatures of the Blood Moon. When Season 12 ends, this’ll be one of the routines that sticks in my brain.

1. Virgil and Hailee (Pharcyde and Phoenix, Hip-Hop) | You know why I grumble under my break when a dancer complains in an intro package about the style of dance he or she get? In part, it’s because, as Virgil and Hailee showed us, unflinching commitment to the cause — and unwavering belief in your own abilities — is the foundation for any epic SYTYCD routine. How Haille managed to balance herself on Virgil’s extended right arm (without sending him to the hospital) remains as great a mystery as Cat Deeley failing to take home the Emmy for Best Reality Competition Host for four years running. The fierce foot-ography, the awesome animated breaks and the ability to stay in character right through the end of judging had me agreeing with Nigel that this was good enough to earn a spot in the eventual Season 20 anniversary special.

Team Stage Individual Rankings
1. Hailee
2. Gaby
3. Kate
4. Alexia
5. Edson
6. Jim
7. Marissa
8. Derek

Team Street Individual Rankings
1. Virgil
2. Jaja
3. Megz
4. Neptune
5. Ariana
6. Yorelis
7. JJ
8. Asaf

With that, I turn things over to you. What did you think of Season 12 Top 18 results night? Take our polls below, then sound off in the comments!