So You Think You Can Dance Recap: Hey Now, You're With All-Stars

There’s a weird but easily identifiable pattern to the judges’ comments on Season 9 of So You Think You Can Dance, and last night, it went a little something like this:

For the male contestants: Niggling criticism, praise, praise, niggling criticism, death blow. For the ladies: Praise, praise, praise, praise, niggling criticism.

In other words, with only 10 dancers left (each paired for the first time with an All-Star former contestant), and no separate results show in the mix, Uncle Nigel & Co. made it clear with their critiques which guy and which gal would feel the sting of the guillotine on their necks after the results of last weeks’ votes were announced and the Bottom 2 from each gender danced for their lives.

On one hand, it makes sense. If the judges wated time heaping praise on the soon-to-exit dancers, it would be a disconcerting experience for the audience: “Hey! So-and-so was fantastic this week! You can’t kick her to the curb!” (Plus, just because Nigel’s obvious doesn’t necessarily mean he’s wrong.) But on the flip side, this season-long trend has sucked some of the suspense out of the proceedings. I mean, it might have made for better television last night had Nigel finished his harsh criticism of doomed George’s lack of maturity in his movement by pulling a trap-door lever and letting the kid be swallowed whole by the stage, never to be seen again.

Anyhow, since I’d also welcome the experience of sinking into the floor and turning to dust — I’m battling a summer flu with high fever and chills — I’m going to be very brief in disucssing this week’s dances. So without further ado, let’s rank the five gals and five guys based on their routines this week:

Top 5 Gals
1) Eliana (with All-Star Alex): The music (Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang”) and the lighting were tremendous, but this couple — who should really dance together every week — were the true stars, creating the most vivid and breathtaking pictures from start to finish. Look for a photo of this routine in the dictionary next to “quiet intensity.”
2) Lindsay (with All-Star Jakob): I’m always a little iffy when SYTYCD goes Broadway, but “Me and My Shadow” was effervescent fun. Anyone else feel, though, like the judges’ slight lack of effusiveness is setting things up for Lindsay’s ouster next week?
3) Witney (with All-Star Nick): I agreed with Nigel that Witney brought to life every rhythm and every beat of the music, and her footwork was fab.
4) Tiffany (with All-Star Brandon): Girlfriend looked a little wobbly in the opening set of spins, no? But she might’ve earned a pass to the Top 4 girls by virtue of that mid-air, upside-down split executed while latched onto Brandon’s trunk (pictured). Yowza!
5) Audrey (with All-Star Twitch): Audrey went into the piece thinking she’d get upstaged by Twitch, and that lack of confidence made it a self-fulfilling profecy. Adieu!

Top 5 Guys
1) Will (with All-Star Kathryn): On a week where the men were a little underwhelming, Will put the “charm” in his Bollywood snake-charmer, and started looking like a potential winner. I loved the lightness of his poses juxtaposed with the outright stomp of his footwork.
2) George (with All-Star Allison): I understood Nigel’s critique about George’s lack of maturity — certainly, he was more Allison’s submissive than her sexual equal. But if you viewed the piece as naive-kid-gets-seduced-by-one-of-SYTYCD’s-all-time-greats, it worked splendidly, no? The guy’s quality of movement will be missed.
3) Cyrus (with All-Star Jaimie): I know the judges love Cyrus, and he certainly brought passion to the post-apocalyptic contemporary piece, but several of the lifts looked positively labored. I don’t see how much further dude could or should go.
4) Cole (with All-Star Anya): There were transitions and moments throughout the dance where my notes read “doesn’t look like ballroom” and “sloppy?” Thankfully, the judges were able to translate my doubts into actionable critique. Is this a one-week blip, or did Cole peak too soon?
5) Chehon (with All-Star Lauren): The judges praised Chehon for his looseness, but for a hip-hop routine — or even a “slinky groove-hop” as Mary called it — shouldn’t there have been some kind of hard-hittingness? A hot, honeyed mess from the choreography to the execution.

As for the Bottom 2 girls (Audrey, Witney) and guys (Chehon, George), the women’s solos did nothing to sway me from the inevitable conclusion (Witney, safe!), but on the guys’ side, George’s evocative, “clutching the crystal ball” solo (which seemed somewhat inspired by last week’s “Hometown Glory”) was so special, I thought the judges might spare him and axe Chehon. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

Anyhow, for next week, here’s my predictions:

Should Be in the Bottom
Tiffany and Witney
Chehon and Cole

Will Be in the Bottom
Tiffany and Lindsay
Chehon and Will

What did you think of this week’s SYTYCD? Who should and will be in trouble next week? Sound off in the comments!