Two more go home, including the last tapdancer, and Nigel lets loose on one young dancer
So You Think You Can Dance | Pauline's never really shined enough for the judges to consider saving her
Credit: Joe Viles/Fox

Well, that was easy come, easy go, wasn’t it? There was so much ado about not one, not two, but three tappers making it to this season’s Top 20 — and after three weeks of competition, not one, not two, but all three of those tap dancers are now off the show. It was as if an extra-long cane from stage right swiped them mid-scuffle. After last week’s exits of Bianca Revels and Phillip Attmore, it was Italian Stallion Peter Sabasino who ended up quickstepping off into the sunset, and he escorted his jazz partner, adorable little Pauline Mata, off with him. And while I don’t think anyone can say that they were surprised with this ouster (shoot, my colleague Kate Ward all but called it in her Tuesday night performance recap), their exits still seemed an unfortunate result of circumstance. Would the affable Peter from Philly, with his big family and booming heart for charity and cute, spunky chowhound Pauline have been eliminated if, say, Channing and Victor were also in the bottom three? While Pauline and Peter’s quickstep routine may not have been technically proficient, Mary Murphy did say that a train wreck was averted, and they were able to pull off a great narrative performance that was as fun and flirty as a tiki drink with one of those little umbrellas on top. And at least their dance didn’t falter as painfully as some (*cough* Mollee and Nathan! *cough*).

And while whatever it is that also lines the Jonas Brothers’ pockets with gold and fuels the Twilight franchise voted to keep Nathan and Mollee out of harm’s way this week, Nathan better watch his back, because now it seems it’s marked with a huge target. It was a cold and frosty air that blew into the SYTYCD set on Tuesday night when Nathan flippantly ignored the judges’ withering critique of his and Mollee’s samba and appealed instead to his squealing fans (”hot!”). And Nigel really let him have it during Wednesday’s results hour.

Beware the wrath of a Lythgoe scorned! The supportive, effusive Nigel who once generously offered our young, elfin dancer a ticket straight to Vegas was quickly shut down, and out came the disapproving disciplinarian. It appears that if you make a mockery out of Nigel, he’ll never let you forget it. Uncle Nigel giveth, but Uncle Nigel also taketh away. Nathan’s ”been voted for this week because a lot of young ladies like him,” the executive producer admonished. ”It’s not because of his dancing. It’s because they like him. And I think that’s sad for dancers who are now going to have to go into the bottom three this week.” And judging from the length and breadth of his commentary (Karen and Kevin ending up in the bottom three was a mere afterthought in Nigel’s tirade), it sure did seem that Mr. Lythgoe wanted to make an example out of Nathan for his ”immature” outburst. And while he can’t change the votes of a gazillion swooning tweens, he certainly has the power to banish the saccharine-sweet couple to the SYTYCD equivalent of a labor camp — and by that, I mean the Russian folk dance. (Or he could force Nathan to be a man-on-the-street reporter a la season 3’s Dominic, who quizzed a gaggle of girls on their dance terms, demonstrated a bachacada, handed out a bunch of scooters, and shilled for K-Mart — all on scene in a Hollywood set.) Though if Nigel had his way, he probably would have sent Nathan directly to a gulag in Siberia. And then made him to do the Russian folk dance over there, over and over again, until Nathan’s peachy cheeks and rosy bloom dissolved into raw, chapped leather and he was not so desired by the screaming youth. Or, until he recanted and admitted Nigel is the master of the universe…and ”deliciously divine.”

NEXT: Dancing for their lives…and failing

But that’s for another week. Back to the results! After a stark, intense performance by three members of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, bottom three teams Ellenore and Ryan, Karen and Kevin, and Pauline and Peter were left to dance for their lives. (Guess Victor and Channing have a bigger fan base than we’d realized: Goths and competitive lawnmower racers unite!). And like the judges, I felt each person’s solo was a bit lacking — though I don’t know if I would have compared the top 16 dancers to the solos of season 5’s Ade, Brandon, Jeanine, and Kayla just yet (and correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Nigel totally harp on Kayla for trying to cram in everything but the kitchen sink into one her first solos last season?).

Still, Ryan, so smartly dressed in army duds in honor of Veterans’ Day, almost made a mockery of the uniform when his show-stopping round off back flip at the end came up short, nearly resulting in a face-plant (maybe his uniform was too tight? Kudos, though, for showing some restraint and not ripping the bursting-at-the-seams shirt open in a desperate attempt to cover up the stumble). Pauline moved more like a frantic cheerleader than an elegant contemporary artist. Even Karen’s Latin heat was missing some of its sizzle, and Ellenore, who is usually so delightfully quirky and poppin’ fresh, seemed weighed down by expectation (maybe she’s still trying to get down into the krump of it all from the night before). And poor Peter was hampered by his own genre. His tap routine, despite being a fun riff that was even better without accompanying music, could not compete against the flashier routines of his fellow competitors. In the end, though, Peter and Pauline could have all but shot fireworks out of their pointed toes and they still would have been sent home, as the judges’ decision seemed to hinge less on who to let go and more on keeping the contestants that they were invested in.

But back to the flash: How about that group dance choreographed by Dave Scott? It was like a mash-up of African tribes and Mayan civilizations (in honor of 2012, maybe?) that was Afro-pop primitive and powerful — and a perfect showcase of Russell’s strengths. And good job making sure that Ryan and his 12-pack were front and center and gleaming for the routine’s end.

What did you think? Did the right people go home? Was Nigel right to dress Nathan down so thoroughly on national television? More importantly, do you think it will work? Was he right to compare this week’s solos to the greatest hits of season 5? Last, but certainly not least: What was up with the ginormous, sparkly scarab hanging out in Cat’s hair? Creepy crawly, or beetle-fully bugalicious? Discuss!

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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