So. That happened. Look, the performance finales of So You Think You Can Dance have never exactly been known to showcase powerhouse dancing. I don’t really blame anyone for this. The contestants are at the end of a grueling three-month competition that only gets exponentially harder as it progresses, like a marathon in which the finish line is at the top of a mountain, at the end of an obstacle course, and atop a granite obelisk slathered in Crisco. The choreographers have been churning out routines about couples who break up, couples who cheat, couples who yearn, couples who cope, and couples who on rare occasion are happy simply to be a couple — they are bound to suffer from some creative burnout. And the producers have two hours of airtime to fill each week, and by this point have exhausted all possible cutesy video packages that help us get to know the dancers. Brilliant and talented though she may be, there is only so much vamping Cat Deeley can do. In fact, if you’ve clicked through EW.com’s Top 25 So You Think You Can Dance routines of all time — absent the top-flight routines of season 8, of course — you will find only one number from a finale (the Travis and Benji hip-hop routine from season 2), way up at No. 20.
So I get it. This particular episode is always really, really, really hard. But good grief, people. The first half of last night’s show featured some of the most titanically unsuccessful routines SYTYCD has seen in years. Things picked up toward the end, but no one escaped unscathed — not the contestants, not the judges, not even the usually unflappable Cat, who resembled a glamorous cyborg with that giant mic pack sticking out of her back. At one point, while casually rearranging her hair, Cat offhandedly asked Melanie whether her late father would be proud of her, the sensitive-human-interest-interview equivalent of lifting your partner like a lumpy sack of potatoes.
Which is exactly how Marko lifted Melanie throughout their staggering calamity of a Doriana Sanchez disco number. Nothing worked. Marko’s shirt was the color of middle school lunch trays. Melanie’s costume looked like someone had taped together a set of novelty glitter napkins. Their expressions, meant to evoke effortless cool, made me think that one or both of them had accidentally farted. The “sparkle cam” that popped into the middle of the routine caused my snark demon Smirkelstiltskin to break out in hives. And I’m sorry, Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” sounds like a beluga whale having a tantric orgasm in the middle of a West Berlin warehouse rave circa 1983.
So naturally, the judges punted. Choreographer and director Kenny Ortega said it was “fun, electric, sizzling, great” like one might describe a set of engine parts. Onetime Tyce Diorio routine performer Katie Holmes told the dancers the expressions on their faces made her want to dance (“away from the disco flatulence cloud you just left on that stage,” she thought in the Katie Holmes internal snarkologue I created for myself throughout the evening to fill in the suggestive glances and pregnant pauses woven through her deceptively pleasant commentary). At least Nigel and Mary pointed out how much of an “uncomfortable” “struggle” the routine was, but I guess no one wants to start an evening off by pronouncing something the worst piece ever performed this season — or everyone knew that it was only going to get worse, so why waste all their ammunition so early? Foreshadowing!
NEXT: Mark, and Mark’s chest, returns to dance with Sasha