While the dancers reveal ''hidden'' facts about their partners, both the performers and the judges sometimes give us a little too much information
Joshua Allen

We learned about the ”hidden” talents/quirks/tattoos of the dancers during last night’s So You Think You Can Dance, but, oh, did we learn so much more than that. We learned that some 40 years ago Nigel once lifted the late dancing legend Cyd Charisse. We learned that guest judge Adam Shankman can exceed Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy both in insight and in borderline obnoxiousness. We learned that no one, ever, will be able to make the quickstep anything more than the SYTYCD equivalent of brussels sprouts. We learned that such words as valta, baltafongo, and batchacow evidently exist beyond Mary’s imagination (although my spelling of those words is a guess at best). We learned that choreographers Napoleon and Tabitha (a.k.a. NapTab) are the best thing to happen to this show since Mia Michaels introduced Travis and Heidi to the park bench. We learned that the SYTYCD wardrobe department is lacking in either fabric funds or dress patterns. (Most likely both.) We learned that Nigel can unambiguously appreciate another man’s bum. And we learned that Mary has definitely decided to join Cat Deeley’s efforts to make 1980s music-video attire ”happen” again.

Mary, Cat, I’m sorry, but even in the 1980s, the only person who could make kitschy rhinestone explosions and micro-mini white lace wedding dresses ”happen” was Cher. Both of you are many things — great things, kooky things, entertaining things, certainly. But as even Mr. Shankman — who likened Mary to a ”really pretty disco ball” and called Cat’s outfit ”categorically, cataclysmically cat-tastic” (as opposed to the outfit he deemed merely ”catastrophically cat-tastic” last season) — would have to admit, neither of ya is Cher.

But I digress. Most important, we learned for certain which couples are still flying under the radar, rising to the challenge, straining to match their hype, and stumbling after auspicious debuts. I’d pegged Thayne and Chelsea as early favorites two weeks ago, but goodness, how these two have drawn the short end of the stick since. Last week they were saddled with neck ruffles and disjointed choreography, and this week they pull the quickstep? My only guess is that the universe is just righting itself after the supernova of sexiness that was their top 20 cha-cha, with a dollop of karmic payback for all the floral arrangements Chelsea’s allegedly been purloining from hotel lobbies.

Fortunately, so long as their (inevitable) solos stand up to scrutiny tonight, Chelsea and Thayne should be safe another week, thanks to the squishy bowl of wet noodles that’s become of Comfort and Chris. Granted, neither last week’s krumping routine nor this week’s African jazz routine was exactly the most ideal dancing showcase. (Nigel may not be able to say so, Lil C and Tyce Diorio, but we all know you guys can do so much better.) By now, though, it’s safe to say that if any of the other couples had been handed these routines, they’d at least have been able to make them interesting, but my eyes keep glazing over whenever these two take the stage. Perhaps Chris’ plain-yogurt personality is sucking away all of Comfort’s spunk, or maybe he’s spending too much time shoring up her lack of training to concentrate on his own steps. Regardless, neither of them exactly helped matters when they shared that Comfort was once a standard-issue pageant queen (there goes her street cred) and Chris, um, eats other people’s food right off their fork. (That moment with Thayne did look a bit staged to me, but, even so, why would anyone agree to stage eating food off of someone else’s fork?)

NEXT: The Twitchington paradox

Given the volume of cheering during Twitch and Kherington’s opening mini-solos, meanwhile, they’re clearly in no danger of dancing for their lives. Which means I’m likely walking into a thicket of trouble in the message boards, because I think they should be. Their NapTab hip-hop routine was solid in concept, but was I the only one who found their execution of it to be far too imprecise and sloppy around the edges? Kherington kept seesawing from her showbizzy grinning into a vaguely doofy ”tough gal” grimace, and, I’m sorry, but if I wanted to see bad lip-synching, I’d just watch the Thursday-night musical-guest performances. Even Twitch wasn’t nearly as on it as I’d like. Given that the judges have decided to pimp them all the way to the final four, a little taste of bottom three-age could be just the bitter pill these two need to keep from permanently sinking into lazy complacency.

Will and Jessica aren’t in any danger of that, thanks to the judges’ relentless commands to Jessica to be as splenderifically awesomulous as Will, dammit, or we’ll strap you to the nearest stretch of railroad tracks and run you over with the hot tamale train. That pressure must be paying off, because they managed to get me to enjoy a disco routine, even after Jessica went down with a pretty harsh thud for her first spin. I was initially planning on spending time in this space, though, to talk about how I’m failing to ”get” the hype surrounding Will, but then (1) I Blackberried this intention to SYTYCD compadre, TV Watch understudy, and well-established Will enthusiast Alynda Wheat, and she threatened to cut me; (2) I rewatched the disco routine and saw how much work Will puts into making it look so effortless; and (3) I finally zeroed in on my issue with Will and realized it’s roughly 73.8 percent not his fault. As Adam Shankman said of Chelsie and Mark (more on them shortly), the eyes are as vital a part to a performance on this show as any other element, and to date Will has never drawn me in on this score. But in the last three weeks, he’s gotten tango, hip-hop, and disco routines that haven’t called for all that much more than a ”check me out” smirk — which Will has ably delivered each week.

So here’s hoping that in the near future Will and Jessica are handed routines like Chelsie and Mark’s lyrical hip-hop number, or Katee and Joshua’s killer samba, both of which stand as two of my favorite routines in SYTYCD history. NapTab seem to know better than pretty much all the other choreographers on this show right now that when you’re putting together a two-minute dance routine for TV, you can scarcely go wrong telling a complete story, and Mark and Chelsie delivered on that score so captivatingly that they earned Adam’s pronouncement that they’re now the couple to beat. Mark especially is growing on me big time, crooked pinkies and all.

NEXT: A big finish

Hot on their heels, though, are Katee and Joshua, who’ve established by far the best chemistry of any couple this season. Nigel was absolutely right when he said Katee’s strength is in how she never oversells her movements, which makes her feel that much more natural and human. And sweet Jeebus, was there ever a SYTYCD hip-hopper/popper more unmistakably born to dance than Joshua? I’m certainly no expert in this particular area, but it looked to me as if he’d sambaed his whole life — I just loved the way he tossed Katee into her first spin while he nonchalantly looked the other way. They were so utterly beguiling that I didn’t care a whit that they appeared to miss a lift toward the end. The judges certainly didn’t bother to mention it, either, what with all the attention paid to Joshua’s trousers and gluteal inheritance from his pops.

With the final two couples delivering so much, so memorably, it was a good thing we got a recap of the other performances, because I’d kinda plumb forgot about Gev and Courtney and Kourtni and Matt. The first of these two pairs can thank Mr. Shankman for overshadowing their slow-burn rumba with his judging-panel shenanigans, even as he passed on some thoughtful advice to both of them. (Gev, watch those hands!) Courtney certainly brings out Gev’s smoldering side, but the first half of their routine felt a tad too slow and shaky to me. Kourtni and Matt, however, appeared not to know what to make of new choreographer Sonya Tayeh’s comic-book-y contemporary stylings, so they fell back on their considerable technical skill and quirky wardrobe rather than evoke a pair of vivid characters on their own — which is doubly odd considering how idiosyncratic these two appear to be off the stage. Neither of these couples was in an way bad, but they’ve never really stood out so far this season either, and once Chris and Comfort say their goodbyes, there’s going to be some (proverbial) blood on the dance floor as the judges narrow down the rest of the crew into the top 10. These four better come up with a couple standout moments, and quick.

What stood out to you last night, dear readers? Are Comfort and Chris total goners, or is there hope for them yet? Are Mark and Chelsie really the couple to beat, or do Joshua and Katee deserve that crown more? Do Twitchington, Will, and Jessica really merit all the judges’ praise? Didn’t you think Cat’s nickname for Adam ”Shankers” Shankman was totally adorable? And are you getting the feeling that Mary actually believes the hot tamale train is a real choo-choo that runs from L.A. to Funkytown to Surf City to the Nutbush city limits? Or is it more likely she’s just building a 1/20 scale model in her basement?

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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