Finally, America votes! Therefore finally, the results are likely to be based less on quickstep prowess and more on personality and perceived likeability! The shift in the elimination process came just in time for Peter this week. I was floored to hear Nigel basically instructing America to ignore the lumbering, grit-your-teeth-and-maybe-they'll-think-it's-a-smile performance by Peter and keep him on the show.
But then, the shift reveals much more than what America thinks. It reveals what the judges want America to think. So for some unknown reason, Nigel wants Peter around, although in my estimation of talent he's the obvious next guy to go.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's recap the performances from last night, then we'll talk about the group number and the results.
Kevin & Karen: … do the Hustle! (Doot-doot-doot-deedoot-doodoot-doot-doot …) Chapter 4 in my forthcoming back about why Karen is awesome. I know the judges are tired of talking about how magnetic of a dancer she is, but damn, girl. She wasn't as much of a vamp here as in the last couple of dances, but she was equally as hard to tear one's eyes away from. I loved Kevin's little jete, and I agree with the judges that he was more a feature in this routine, mostly because he presented Karen well, but it's to his credit that he even managed to soften those hands for some disco floppiness. Prediction: Nobody goes home.
Ashleigh & Jakob: Mandy Moore's jazz routine to "Relax" (although not to "when you want to come" … am I wrong, or was that actually cut out of the music?) was loads of fun to watch. Yes, the prop routines are hard to relax and enjoy because you're always holding your breath waiting for a prop mishap, but that's true of the flashier lifts and tricks, too (albeit this cane routine was maybe the biggest prop high-wire act in memory). Ashleigh held her own and got the bulk of the judges' praise, but this dance was Jakob Unleashed, and I looooove J.U. That leap? I'm sorry, I want to see it every week, I don't care how much it has to be shoehorned in. Prediction: Nobody goes home.
Pauline & Peter: Here's where I'm going to disagree with the judges. My notes from last night (during the dance) read "Quickstep, aka The Dance That Sends Peter Home." Talk about somebody not having a bit of fun. He lumbered around the stage with his butt sticking out like he was pushing a floor polisher, and he manhandled Pauline such that even her sunny smile cracked a bit as he tugged her this way and that. No question he was working hard, but the problem was that every drop of sweat showed. Prediction: Both should be in trouble, although the judges did their best to distract America from what they were witnessing.
Legacy and Kathryn: This was the Broadway number with Kathryn getting all up in Leg's grill over being a typical male with the beer and the remote. I didn't really get this at first. The storyline didn't come through in the first minute, and I think that's because Kathryn didn't have the right emotional beat — rehearsal footage pitched it as a fight, but there was no fighting happening on her end. But by the time Legacy was flipping over her back and standing on his head, I was loving every second of it. What I'm realizing is that dancers as performers have to have transparent emotions, and when we saw Legacy in auditions he didn't seem to have that paper-thin, heart-on-sleeve quality; he seemed more guarded. The past two dances he has opened up in two very different storylines, grim menace and cartoony conflict, and not only gotten them exactly right but seemed eager to perform them and get them right. Still the most improved dancer for me by a country mile, and a real contender now. Prediction: Kathryn could be in trouble, but Legacy's safe.
Channing and Victor: Contemporary for this new couple formed out of the wreckage of the two couples broken up last week. I'm a little tired of these contemporary dances about a struggle of some kind, and I realize that's after I praised last week's Legacy/Kathryn number to the skies. I don't think this one went beyond the cliches and got to anything particularly moving. But Channing and Victor danced it very well. Most notable moment in this segment was when MM almost criticizes the choreography for not "moving her soul," although that could be read as a critique of the dancing.
Ellenore and Ryan: Hip-hop from Lil C, and folks, if Adam wasn't so gunshy (notice how he went out of his way to praise almost all the choreographers), he might have had a field day with this number. I thought this was not good at all, and only a little of that is the dancer's fault (mostly Ryan's). it took forever to get going. The song was the wrong tempo for the kind of movement being prescribed. "Sluggish" was the word Mary used, and that's the right term. And the movement is all schematic, sort of big and flailing, no subtleties. Then the costumes were so busy with accessories that any moments of relatively small movement were really hard to pick up. A bad marriage of choreography, song, costuming, and yes, dancer. Only Nigel got it right, and he had to argue with Adam about the nature of hip-hop movement to make his point. Prediction: It's unlikely that the fan's favorite bare chest will be in trouble, but Ellenore could possibly get caught in the crossfire, although the judges surely wouldn't send her home.
Mollee and Nathan: Salsa, ay-yiyiyiyiyi! Mollee promises in the rehearsal footage to sex it up, but she can't pull it off, and while Nathan is awesome on his own, what happened with the tricks and lifts? Degrees of difficulty and danger they nailed a few weeks ago in disco now appeared tentative, and you could see all the work they were putting into it. Something went very wrong at the end, and probably more stuff than I could pick up went wrong in the middle. A bit of a train wreck; is it possible that trust issues have developed between these two? Prediction: Hard to believe America's going to put this button-cute couple in danger, though.
Noelle and Russell: The closing spot is reserved for the new-to-the-show discipline of Afro-Jazz, and I have a request. Can we replace Lil C, both on the choreography rotation and at the judges' table, with the guy who did this number (whose name I didn't write down)? Great inventiveness, a strong point of view, and as a bonus, he can string words together relatively clearly. I thought this was a huge winner for both dancers; their movement was strong and uninhibited, and those linked somersault thingies they did close to the end were awesome. Prediction: Nobody's going anywhere.
So ahead of the results, I'll put Ryan/Ellenore and Peter/Pauline in danger. Even though there was problematic dancing and bad choreography this week, it's a little hard to calculate who have been dubbed America's sweethearts since we've had no votes to analyze, so anything could happen
And the actual bottom three couples? America surprises me by sending Ryan to the bottom along with Ellenore. I'm two for two when Peter and Pauline, but again I'm surprised because the judges were working so hard to tell America it wasn't so bad. But I'm afraid I was right about America's inability to vote against adorableness; Karen and Kevin are unjustly in the bottom, and Nigel gives Nathan quite the lecture about how he's immature and unlikely to learn any lessons if he keeps getting through "because a lot of young ladies like him." (Who activated Nigel's schoolmarm chip tonight? What with this and the tongue-lashing he gave to the soloists about not really dancing for their lives — and the audience about booing his critique — I feel quite scolded.)
Solo analysis: Ellenore and Pauline are really competing against each other, and Ellenore wins in my book; she's doing the little cutesy thing she wowed with in Vegas, which is a little troubling since you hope for some development, but Pauline's solo was flailing and desperate, without the clean lines she really needs to demonstrate. As for the men, Ryan gives the ladies what they came for, Kevin is controlled and strong without being overly tricky, and Peter — well, Peter taps.
Verdict: After Nigel scares the crap out of me by having Peter step back while he tells Kevin he needs to step it up (don't do this to me, you hectoring limey!), Pauline and Peter go home as they deserved to do all along. And with the last demonstrably weak dancer (Peter) gone, we've got some serious problems next week; somebody with a great deal of promise is headed for the exit.
- Cat Deely, God bless her, had some of the worst hair I've ever seen on a television personality last night. She looked like she'd been designed by H.R. Giger, and sweetie, the lizard-skin textured dress did not help. And just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, she walks out among those elaborately costumed warrior dancers in a red aluminum foil bubble number. (I admit that I have an incurable prejudice against bubble dresses.)
- Love the group dance choreographed by Dave Scott, capped by the appearance of Ryan as alpha male flashing his six-pack. And the Alvin Ailey excerpt from Episodes? Captivating in every way. You know, used to be that television was thought of as a way to bring culture to the masses. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: There are few shows on network television trying to carry on that tradition, reality or otherwise, and you've got to respect that millions of people just watched three incredible performers from the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater for a few minutes.
- Since Peter is going home tonight, it's my last chance to point out that I don't think the SYTYCD production team ever solved the tapping problem. Peter's solo sounded great, but all I could think about when the tappers hit the stage was "Alert the sound mixer, it's a tapper!"
- If you are planning your own impersonation of a SYTYCD judge, should you ask and answer your own questions? Absolutely you should. Will it endear you to your friends if you keep it up? No, it won't.