So You Think You Can Dance S09E11: "Top 10 Perform/2 Eliminated"
After last week's bloodbath which saw the dismissal of almost a third of the remaining competitors (including some one-time frontrunners and fan-favorites), this week's Top 10 competition did much to heal our raw nerves. For one thing, it was just a much better episode. No offense to Mia Michaels, but an entire episode devoted to old routines just wasn't very exciting and was an example of how boring self-mythologizing can be. But this week unleashed this show's BEST form of self-mythologizing: The All-Stars! Ten new routines—each contestant paired up with a past contestant—made for a jam-packed show! And many of the routines were plum terrific! But which routine was the best?
ROUTINE OF THE WEEK
Though the judges favored Stacey Tookie's incredible contemporary piece performed by Eliana and Alex (yay!), the performance that stayed with me longest after the credits rolled was the Travis Wall number performed by Cyrus and Jaimie. First of all, it was set to M83's "Outro," which, I mean, I'd probably love ANY performance set to that song. Was it kind of cheating to have chosen that song? Probably! But still, Cyrus did his best work yet as the last man on earth chillin' with the last woman on earth (a way sadder situation than the old cliché suggests!). And that closing walk/drag in darkness they did at the end? Just wonderful, you guys.
You didn't ask, but man do I dislike this show's treatment of Bollywood numbers. True, most of my experience of the genre comes from the 10-hour flight I took on Air India where I watched an endless loop of Bollywood music videos. But still, very few of the actual Bollywood things I've seen have been this terrible/ridiculous:
Just my opinion! Also, I realize Will is a fan favorite, but the fact that he has outlasted both Matthew and George is outrageous. You know? (Confession: I'm still kinda steamed about Matthew not making the Top 10. At least he was in the audience looking happy. At least there was that.)
WHO WENT HOME
Thankfully only TWO contestants went home this week; those four-contestant purges are too much to handle! Based on last week's audience votes, the bottom four were Witney, Chehon, George, and Audrey. The judges opted to save Witney and Chehon.
It was the second week in a row in which the judges saved a foxy blonde teen Utahan. But apparently after saving George last week (instead of Matthew!) Nigel wasn't in the mood to repeat himself this week. Which is actually fine since I think Chehon has a lot of potential for greatness (despite his annoying haircut in this episode). Audrey's exit was a bit of a heartbreaker since she seemed so genuinely different and funny. The main reason these exits have stung so much in the past few episodes was how well-defined each contestant was and how deep this roster has been. Almost everyone seemed like they'd go far. It's just a bit of a rude awakening when we're reminded that not everyone will. But again, at least they made the Top 10 and will go on tour. And from tonight's selection of All-Stars, it's clear the show will invite back even people who didn't go very far during the competition, so there's reason to believe we may see these folks again.
JUDGING THE GUEST JUDGE
It's to this show's credit that nobody even once mentioned that guest judge Benjamin Millepied is Natalie Portman's babydaddy! (And husband too, I guess.) But as much as I appreciate that SYTYCD has been getting actual dance experts to guest judge lately, Millepied was more polite than erudite. Plus, he's undeniably knowledgeable and articulate, but there was something vaguely embarrassing about a ballet expert critiquing a piece about hip-hop vampires. You know? He generally didn't have a ton to say beyond warm-fuzzies.
... I am a total sucker for the All-Star element of this show. As Nigel repeatedly pointed out throughout the evening, many of these dancers have gone on to larger successes (okay, mostly involving the Step Up franchise), but will still return "home" to dance for us. I love that. I love the sense of continuity in the SYTYCD universe, how dancers come back to perform and/or choreograph. It seems to affirm the impression that above all else these guys and gals are having a blast. As ridiculous as tWitch and Audrey's vampire hip-hop routine was (why was she dressed like a Fly Girl?), he's such a dashing presence on this show it's impossible not to be entertained. The return of Anya was similarly fun, and obviously it's great seeing Alex and his bionic knees killing it up there. So yeah, I love that on this show, the contestant narratives continue long past their seasons. As a viewer it's very rewarding!
... Also, I've totally come around on the competition-results show hybrid format this season's been using. I love that the first three-quarters of the episode is high-intensity fun, but the last half hour is tense and scary. It used to be the competition nights would sort of just peter out as Cat went over the phone numbers again. But here, there's a mounting sense of dread that someone we've just seen perform won't even be eligible to vote for afterward. I like it. I don't love this season's intermittent airing schedule—four contestant dismissals are a bummer, man—but that probably couldn't have been helped.
... Last thing: The presence of Tyce Diorio in the opening number was really just the dead bird in my guest bed. You know? I mean, the choreography was fine but GET OUT OF HERE, TYCE.
... "Lord have Murphy!" - Mary Murphy.
What was YOUR favorite routine of the night?