August 06, 2010 at 06:25 PM EDT

Image Credit: Frank Micelotta/FoxYou may not have expected Kent Boyd and Lauren Froderman to have made the finale when So You Think You Can Dance‘s seventh season began, but exec producer and judge Nigel Lythgoe sure did. “Not to put too fine a point on it,” Nigel told EW backstage after last night’s SYTYCD results show, “but I went to see Lauren and Kent [in their homes]. They were always my favorites.” (Lythgoe does admit that, like everyone else, he fully expected Alex Freaking Wong to make the finale, but he’s happy to report that Wong is “healing really well” from the Achilles tendon injury that forced the odds-on favorite to drop out of the competition, and could be walking as soon as September, “which is unheard of.”)

Lythgoe concedes he wasn’t sure about Robert Roldan’s chances on the show — “I liked his look, and then he was so sort of childish off camera, and sometimes on camera” — but he loves how the dancer has grown and matured, and thinks he could be a true “dark horse” contender. And apparently he means that: When he’s confronted with the idea that many folks think the SYTYCD crown is Kent’s to lose, Lythgoe tosses it aside like (strained SYTYCD metaphor alert) Kent was tossed aside by Neil in this week’s killer Travis Wall routine. “[Kent] hasn’t won [the vote] every week,” says Nigel. “Other people have been number one, and he didn’t necessarily win last night, either. It’s all too close to call.”

As for the season’s somewhat controversial format changes — i.e. the inclusion of SYTYCD All Star dancers as partners for ten finalists instead of 20, and the elimination of only one dancer per week — Lythgoe acknowledges that maybe he changed too much too quickly. “It’s very frustrating because the standard of dance, and the standard of choreography this year, has been enormous,” he says. “I will look to next season whether we start with 20 dancers again, bring it down to ten and then introduce the All Stars, and get rid of two [dancers per week]. I want to get it right for the audience, but at the same time, I don’t want to let down dance, and this season the dance situation has really been tremendous….When you get to dance with Pasha, you have to grow. And when you get to dance with Anya, you have to grow f—ing quickly.”

What do you make of this season’s final three dancers, PopWatchers? Are you loving the All Stars this year, or should the show go back to its old format, full stop?

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