So You Think You Can Dance Recap: Hard Eight

sytycd willWe’ve reached that point in the So You Think You Can Dance season where every cut is painful, where any negative critique becomes a larger harbinger of impending doom. It’s times like this when we need a guest judge like Jesse Tyler Ferguson, a guy who’s clearly a fan of the show and of every dancer on the stage, and a man whose lightning quick wit provides a much-needed counterbalance to the sting of losing absolutely terrific competitors like Lindsay and Will.

Whether pointing out the difficulty Witney must’ve had dancing in “diaper pants,” or declaring his need for a cocktail after Cole and Allison’s “American Horror Story promo,” Ferguson is that rare persence on the panel who’s genuinely funny, and yet can provide insightful critique despite mistaking gauchos for nachos. If Uncle Nigel decides to use only Ferguson, Christina Applegate, and Debbie Allen in the “third chair” slot in Season 10 (because there just has to be a Season 10, right?) I, for one, would be perfectly content.

As an aside, I’d also be perfectly content if Uncle Nigel continued to shake up the choreography rotation for the remainder of Season 9. Peter Chew’s geishas-and-assassins opening number was strange and memorable, while Luther Brown and Jonathan Roberts both impressed with their first routines of the season.

Anyhow, without further ado, let’s rank the four gals and four guys based on their non-solo routines this week:

Top 4 Gals
1) Eliana and All-Star Ryan, Quickstep: I know, I know, Mary and Nigel have pretty much been declaring Eliana the Season 9 champ for several weeks running, but just because they’re obvious and manipulative doesn’t mean they’re wrong. Eliana was tremendous as the bored and very sexy housewife in this tricky ballroom routine. That “waterfall” into a back layover was positively eye-popping, and as Jesse noted, Eliana has an accessability that makes you feel like you truly know her, even if you don’t. Plus, her smile has enough wattage to power a small city in the event of a weather-related blackout.

2) Witney and All-Star Twitch, Hip-Hop: Like a Pointer Sister, I was so excited to see a harder-edged hip-hop routine instead of the lyrical shmyrical stuff we’ve been getting all season. And Witney brought an interesting mix of femininity and nastiness to the floor, while nailing every fast, furious arm movement, and never once surrendering focus to her equally magnetic partner Twitch.

3) Tiffany and All-Star Ade, Contemporary: When the routine finished, my husband verbalized the thought that was percolating in my head: “Wouldn’t that routine have been more moving had it not been set to Celine Dion’s ‘Power of Love’?” Not to be all music-snobby, but that particular track just seemed a little too…obvious? Over the top? Cornball? And so while Tiffany flew about the stage with the speed and lightness of a hummingbird, and while it was terrific to see Ade back in the mix, the overall effect left me a little less in rapture than the judges, who rose to their feet with a Standing O.

4) Lindsay and All-Star Alex, Jazz: I hate to put Lindsay at the bottom of the pack this week, especially since I’d say that aside from Eliana, she’s been the most versatile, consistent performer on the women’s side overall. And frankly, I’m not even sure it’s Lindsay’s fault that she was fourth out of four this week. The stuttery movements and cacophonous connections she was given by Sonya Tayeh seemed destined to be more intellectually stimulating than truly soul stirring. But you knew when the judges started harping on Lindsay and Alex’s lack of chemistry, and then Nigel declared she had “the ability to be a fantastic dancer,” that the show was fixing to axe the girl who’s always been viewed by our panel as the lesser of the two Utah ballroom powerhouses. I just wish Nigel had publicly acknowledged that it was Lindsay’s solo this week was vastly superior to Whitney’s. Anyone else agree?

Top 4 Guys
1) Will and All-Star Lauren, Hip-Hop: Call me crazy, but I thought Will was hands-down the best of the guys this week, articulating Christopher Scott’s tricky “voice in guy’s head comes to life and helps him through a tough time” routine with real passion and admirable precision. Dude proved to be fleet and sharp, and stayed in sync with a woman who wasn’t even in his line of sight for half the routine. How the panel marked him for elimination is a mystery so bizarre, I half-expect it to be the subject of a Nova episode in 2013.

2) Chehon and All-Star Anya, Tango: This was definitely a sexy dance, almost like watching two satin sheets slowly intertwine atop a mattress, but I thought I caught Chehon looking a little wobbly at the end of those spins with Anya on his shoulders, no? Plus, I missed a little bit of the dynamic tension you’d usually get from a tango, though I’m not sure if that was Chehon’s doing, or the choreography concocted by Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo.

3) Cole and All-Star Allison, Contemporary: In my mind, Nigel’s veiled criticism said it all: “It’s difficult to judge anybody when Allison is dancing.” Indeed, Ms. Holker was so wickedly expressive as the desperate woman of Sonya Tayeh’s piece — her face frozen like a horrified doll when Cole held her upside down with her limbs splayed — that it practically transformed her character into the stronger one when compared to Cole’s more subdued performance. Also, that move where Allison hopped upward, and appeared suspended in the air next to her partner, will be replaying in my mind at least 10 times today.

4) Cyrus and All-Star Melanie, Jazz: I adore Melanie. I adore anyone who adores Melanie. I adore anyone who adores anyone who adores Melanie. But I did not enjoy this trifle of a routine from Mandy Moore, with its synced-up fisticuffs and jauntry struts. When it was all said and done, I couldn’t help but wonder if the choreography had been stripped down to allow untrained Cyrus to master it. Plus, his lifts still look like he’s hauling bags of potatoes to a loading truck. The guy is adorable and admirable, but I’m just not convinced he’s Top 6 material. Still, let’s all thank Uncle Nigel for banging the “America’s favorite dancer” drum, as if the title shouldn’t be synonymous with America’s best dancer.

And before we get to your comments, here’s my rankings of the week’s solos.

1) Lindsay (loved how she made the skirt-cape her partner!)
2) Eliana
3) Tiffany
4) Witney

1) Cyrus
2) Chehon
3) Will
4) Cole

And as for the results…

Bottom 2 Guys
Cole (saved by the judges)
Will (eliminated by the judges)

Bottom 2 Girls
Witney (saved by the judges)
Lindsay (eliminated by the judges)

What did you think of this week’s SYTYCD? Hit the comments with your feelings on the eliminations, and who should advance to the finale!