On ''So You Think You Can Dance,'' after Destini and Jamile give the hottest performance of the night, the crazy judging system puts them at risk of elimination
So You Think You Can Dance
Credit: Destini Rogers: J. Viles/FOX

”So You Think You Can Dance”: Trashing the best

The first step to conquering a problem is admitting you have one in the first place. And so perhaps it’s time for an intervention with the producers of So You Think You Can Dance, who have concocted a system for eliminating contestants that’s so utterly messed up that it puts the show’s credibility — and its enjoyability — at risk.

On second thought, maybe they should all just get a tap shoe upside the head. It would certainly serve ’em right for spoiling this week’s rock-solid 90-minute episode — capped off by an extraordinary hip-hop performance by Destini and Jamile — with the boneheaded decision to put the aforementioned duo in the bottom 2.

Mind you, Destini and Jamile’s first performance, an enjoyable, albeit technically questionable quickstep, wasn’t exactly the stuff of greatness. But that hip-hop routine was a frenzied, ferocious display of sexuality and aggression unlike anything SYTYCD has served up in its first seven weeks — a fact the judges and the audience acknowledged with a standing ovation. Dan Karaty accurately described the routine as ”the best of the night.” Brian Friedman declared he’d hire Destini on the spot. Pretty much all Mia Michaels could get out of her mouth was ”Oh. My. God.”

And then, in what I can only describe as the equivalent of hurling a rock at Lance Armstrong’s head 20 yards from the Tour de France finish line, the three panelists, along with Nigel Lythgoe, nominated Destini and Jamile for possible elimination. Whaaa? Were they judging the poor kids on their unfortunate moon-boots-and-white-gloves attire? I hate to say it, but if superlative-spewing hostbot Lauren Sanchez had chosen that exact moment to utter her favorite word — ”Incredible!” — she’d have been right on the money.

Which brings us to the crux of SYTYCD‘s problems: Even though the series comes from the folks who brought us American Idol, for some reason, they don’t trust the American public to independently decide the fate of the dancers. Now I’ll be the first to admit this great country of ours has a somewhat dubious track record when it comes to Idol voting — exhibit A: Tamyra Gray’s fourth-place finish behind Nikki McKibbin and Justin Guarini — but SYTYCD‘s judges are so subjective and inconsistent themselves that every week I wind up questioning their motives, their qualifications, and their contact-lens prescriptions.

In my mind, SYTYCD should institute an Idol-esque structure immediately:

1. Limit the judges’ power to merely critiquing each performance.

2. Let viewers call and vote for their favorite individual performers at the end of the evening. This way, a great dancer won’t be penalized for randomly choosing a weak partner (or be forced to carry an inferior partner into the next round).

3. Tally the votes, and eliminate the lowest-scoring male and female respectively each week.

4. Force all the dancers to compete within the same genre each week: After all, wouldn?t it be much easier to compare ballroom with ballroom than to try to rank the apples and oranges thrown at us each week? That way, too, competitors won’t be punished for picking a particularly difficult dance from the hat — two weeks ago, both couples who got stuck with the quickstep found their heads on the chopping block.

There now. Now wouldn’t that be easy?

The one thing I will say in the judges’ defense, however, is that if they’d spared Destini and Jamile this week, they’d have had to make a tough call of nominating Blake and Ashlé, Nick and Kamilah, or Artem and Melissa (all of whom performed admirably) to join the faltering Ryan and Melody at the back of the pack.

I’d have given that dubious honor to Nick and Kamilah, whose stiff, tepid tango won over the judges but wasn’t fast enough, sharp enough, or tense enough for my tastes (mostly due to Kamilah’s lumbering footwork). Though they recovered nicely on their second performance, a stirring pop performance to Celine Dion’s ”I Drove All Night” that almost distracted me from thinking about Cyndi Lauper’s vastly superior version, it still didn’t quite match the natural heat of Melissa and Artem’s routine in the same genre. Then again, it’d take Brangelina-level chemistry to outdo those kids; they even looked sexy doing the quickstep, with Artem furiously twirling Melissa across the stage, her ruby-red-grapefruit dress sweeping with every turn. (Then again, I bet the routine would’ve been even better if Artem had been paired with ballroom belle Snow, who got eliminated last night, along with underdog Allan Frias.)

I’d love to see any of the aforementioned dancers mount a real challenge to front-runners Blake and Ashlé — and it’s not out of the realm of possibility. True, the judges’ favorite couple absolutely nailed Mary Murphy’s samba routine to ”Jazz Machine” (anyone remember that little ditty from Vanessa Williams’ Dance With Me? Anyone?), but in their lyrical performance, they couldn’t quite overcome the absurdity of Tovaris Wilson’s hokey dolphin choreography, paired with Richard Marx’s ghastly ”Right Here Waiting.” Perhaps that’s a sign that SYTYCD is a little more wide open than the judges want to admit. Now if only they’d offer us a chance to boot the clearly talented but super smug Blake from the competition, we’d be able to tell for certain.

What do you think? Did Destini and Jamile get robbed? And could one of them go home before the over-his-head Ryan (a great freestyler but not much of a partner), or the suddenly tiresome Melody (as Mia put it, ”We know that leg can go up, but it’s time to dance”)?

Episode Recaps

So You Think You Can Dance

Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and the viewers at home crown America’s Favorite Dancer.

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