So You Think You Can Dance recap: Judging the Judges
One favorite is sidelined, while Nigel and Co. continue to baffle by rallying behind a not-so-skilled dancer
As reality TV junkies, we’re all prone to heartbreak. We’ve felt our television-loving souls crumble when Michael Johns was voted off American Idol. When Rupert didn’t even come close to the $1 million on Survivor: Pearl Islands. When Bret Michaels chose Taya over Mindy on Rock of Love Bus. (Just me? Okay. Moving on.)
But after suffering crushing blows on So You Think You Can Dance last summer and fall, when we learned both Billy and Alex freaking Wong would be unable to compete, I thought we were headed for happier times. Why wouldn’t we be? We had two major contenders all but locked in for season 7 — and one of them was Alex freaking Wong, a contestant who truly lived up to his (fake) middle name. He was a gorgeous dancer who we quickly learned could tackle anything, be it an awe-inspiring contemporary number, a Tyce Broadway routine (a.k.a. the real kiss of death), or a hard-hitting hip-hop dance.
Yet, as we all know, the SYTYCD gods giveth and they taketh away. So while they gifted us with one of the best hip-hop dances ever to hit the SYTYCD stage last week, they decided to take away the star of that routine this week after an injury left him sidelined. Yes, as much as we want to put our hands up to our ears and hum loudly to block out the news, it’s true: Alex freaking Wong might be leaving season 7. Turns out Alex’s Achilles tendon would not be a Tyce routine, or even the quickstep — no, instead, his Achilles tendon is literally…his Achilles tendon, which was left ruptured after an improper landing. (But since, as Nigel informed us, David Beckham suffered the same injury, we can officially label this rupture the rupture of champions.) Say it with me, friends: NOOOOOOO! Why must you be so cruel, SYTYCD gods?! WHY?!
Of course, Alex isn’t officially out of the competition yet. Because he’s unable to dance this week, he will automatically be placed in the bottom three, with the judges deciding his fate tonight. (Ultimately, however, the doctor will have the final say over whether or not Alex can continue his SYTYCD journey.) So join me, everyone, as I spend the next 24-odd hours chanting while dousing myself in the SYTYCD equivalent of holy water (Pasha’s sweat, of course): ”Our Nigel, who art in CBS Television City, pervy be thy name. Thy judging will come, thy will be done (with one contestant), but please save Alex, for he is heaven.”
NEXT: Jose, AdéChiké, and the judges
Because if the judges ditch Alex, thereby sending Jose to the top seven, there will be a disturbance in the SYTYCD universe. Over the past month, it’s become clear that the judges have a story line set in stone for the dimpled b-boy: Jose will be this season’s Ivan or Legacy, a dancer whose heart transcends any lack of technical talent, transforming every number into an emotional roller-coaster everyone wants to hop on board to ride. Problem is, the judges have the story line all wrong. Jose is not an Ivan, or a Legacy. Heck, he’s not even a Comfort. No, Jose is a b-boy talent with otherwise mediocre dance skills whose undeniably sweet smile is, in all honesty, clouding Nigel & Co.’s judgment. Their continued praise of the dancer is equal parts confusing and infuriating, particularly when seeing them compliment Jose after he turned in a ho-hum Mandy Moore contemporary dance with all-star Lauren. To be fair, Mandy Moore’s numbers usually don’t beg the same emotion from viewers as those choreographed by, say, Mia or Travis, but Jose’s soul mate dance left me cold. Yes, the judges are right in saying that Jose lacks an ego. But he also lacks technical prowess, something that’s inexcusable at this point in the competition. Let’s face it: Jose couldn’t even bring his supposed strength — power — to his Sean Cheesman African jazz routine later in the evening. In fact, I don’t think he rose higher than two inches off the ground while jumping during the routine, in which he was supposed to play the hunter to Billy’s prey. If you ask me, Jose brought as much fury to his hunt as a fluffy gerbil. And Adam lets him off easy with a simple, ”You just got to hit it harder. And that’s all I’m going to say”?! There was so little emotion in the contemporary routine, and so few technically perfect steps in his African jazz number, that I don’t see how the judges can justify their praise, even if Nigel attempted to do just that. ”He’s accepted the challenge of So You Think You Can Dance,” said our executive producer, after admitting that many wonder why the judges have been rallying behind the b-boy. But do you know who else has accepted the challenge of So You Think You Can Dance? Everyone else on the show. Heck, even Sex accepted the challenge year after year, and Nigel didn’t feel pressured to compliment him, did he? (As for the collective ”Awww!” that echoed through the studio when Jose said ”it felt amazing” to dance with Lauren — did a kitten peek its head outside the curtains exactly at that moment? Because that statement is hardly awww-worthy, no?)
Nor do they feel any pressure whatsoever to compliment poor AdéChiké, a dancer who couldn’t please the judges if he performed a quadruple pirouette while simultaneously juggling steak knives and crafting a golden sex robot for Nigel. Look, I admit I haven’t been the biggest fan of the dancer, and wouldn’t feel too distressed if he were eliminated from the competition, if only because I wouldn’t have to concentrate so hard while trying to spell his name. (Now it has a capital ”C” in the middle? What’s next — a silent 5?) But it was utterly heart-breaking watching him put his heart and soul into both of his dances last night — a Mandy Moore jazz routine with Courtney and a Nakul Dev Mahajan Bollywood dance with Nakul’s assistant Marla (filling in for Alex) — only to get subsequently beaten down by the judges. And I’m not talking a Billy ”aww, shucks you’re cute, but no krump, please”-type beat-down. I’m talking a Drago ”I must break you”-type beat-down. AdéChiké delivered groovy style and spot-on technique during his jazz number, yet Mia compared his routine to a ”donut hole,” empty and filled with nothingness. He delivered gasp-worthy leaps and a joyful personality during his Bollywood routine, yet Mia and Nigel could only say how much they wish they could have watched Alex dance it. It was enough to made this girl — a non-AdéChiké fan, mind you — write in her notes: ”YOU F—ING SUCK JUDGES. THIS INSANITY HAS TO STOP.”
NEXT: Cat to the rescue!
And then, a lovely, sparkling angel by the name of Cat Deeley almost stopped it. Proving for the 1,678th time why she deserves an Emmy nomination (and we’ll find out today whether or not she gets it!), our host stepped up and confronted the judges, calling them out on the hypocritical nature of critiquing AdéChiké for infusing Bollywood with his own style while praising Jose for doing the same just a few weeks back. Slow clap for Cat, guys! Slow clap! (I’ll pause while you do so.)
[UPDATE: And as we now know, Cat has been snubbed by Emmy once again. Really, Emmy? Heidi Klum over Cat? You were supposed to make this work!]
Mia, in response, claimed that was because Jose has ”a heart thing” that AdéChiké apparently doesn’t, attracting boos from the audience — and from my living room. It’s clear that as much as the judges have a story line in place for Jose, they have one for AdéChiké: Eighth place finisher. But, honestly, after their unfair judging, I would be surprised if the dancer’s fans don’t rally behind him by reaching for their phones. Heck, even I dialed AdéChiké’s number in protest! (Even if I really just wish I could just vote for Cat.)
But — and that’s a big but, since tonight was as much about butts as it was about unfair criticism — as angry as I was at the judge’s treatment of AdéChiké, I was pleasantly surprised to see the quality of dance turned in by the other members of the top eight last night. There was Lauren, a dancer who is easy to dismiss as a wannabe Laker Girl, turning in two stellar performances that made us all forget about spirit fingers. First, she shimmied her way through a Jean-Marc and France cha-cha with Pasha (who almost works the skinny tie better than Joel McHale), which led Nigel to cross his fingers for another wardrobe malfunction and proclaim, ”This is not a little girl up there dancing. This is a full-bodied woman. Yea, full-bodied.” Okay, I’m all about celebrating Lauren’s undeniable sexuality, but really, Nigel? All the talk about Lauren’s bum and revealing clothing got so out of hand, I had to rewind to make sure the executive producer told the dancer that she had ”another weapon in your arsenal,” and not ”another weapon in your a–hole.” Am I alone in wondering how long before Nigel talks to the costuming department about tassels?
Just as Lauren brought smoke and seductiveness to her cha-cha, she brought gracefulness and vulnerability to her Travis-choreographed contemporary number with Kent. Her back bend alone during the routine was breathtaking, not to mention her jumps and commitment to Kent as a partner. And Kent too stepped up to the plate during the routine, dropping his small-town boy attitude and unleashing an emotional, and uncharacteristically subtle, dance. I understood where Adam was coming from, saying he felt like he was intruding on an intimate moment between the two dancers. But rather than feeling embarrassed about it, I felt thankful — thankful that Travis seems to have returned to form, and thankful that we have two dancers who can sell a routine purely through movement.
I’m not too convinced, however, that Kent sold his Dave Scott hip-hop routine with Comfort. Not to say he didn’t try — that boy brought swagger to the slow groove, but, as Nigel said, didn’t let his acting distract viewers from his dancing. But for someone who resembled Justin Timberlake to a T, Kent’s (N)sync (heh) was surprisingly off during the whole number. It could be because both Kent and Comfort aren’t used to dancing such a slow groove — or ”soft hop,” as Nigel called it — but the dance felt like the hip-hop equivalent of counting sheep. In a word: sleepy.
NEXT: An Ashley sighting!
The other hip-hop routine of the evening proved to be much more of a winner, which was surprising, since it was performed by one of our more invisible contestants of the season. But, honestly, it was quite appropriate that Ashley danced a ninja-themed NapTab hip-hop with Dominic. After all, the dancer is season 7’s ninja: She’s stealth, always finds her way to safety, and we never can see her face. But Adam was right in labeling her a quiet contender — Ashley’s hip-hop was strong, sharp, and most important, coming from a so oh-so-serious dancer, fun. And even though she and Robert were left to contend with a predictably so-so quickstep routine (the dance is known as a kiss-of-death), I’m hoping she does buck the odds and nails a spot in the top seven, or even the top four. Hey, if Jeanine could win the whole shebang with a severe lack of airtime, why can’t Ashley?
The judges, however, are treating perennial bottom-three dweller Robert as the current underdog, rallying for him to garner votes from viewers who have yet to warm to him. And though I have criticized Robert before, I understand why they would want to push him further — last night, the contemporary dancer brought plenty of personality and technique to his live doll Sean Cheesman jazz routine. (Even if the dance made the Toy Story 3 fan in me just want to watch Robert change into a bunch of different outfits in his dream home.) As we have learned thus far in season 7, it’s not easy to attract attention away from Kathryn, but Robert was the first contemporary dancer to do just that, and not just because he’s naturally hammy. No, it’s because, quite simply, Robert has skill. Of course, that’s not to say that viewers will actually change their opinions about the dancer — as we learned last night, Uncle Nigel traveled to the Interwebs to discover that audiences felt Robert was ”arrogant.” This seemed to make Nigel frustrated with the Interwebs, but since it’s a magical place where you can also find something called ”porn,” I’m guessing our judge won’t be upset for long.
I’m also hoping last week’s other bottom-three dweller, Billy, gets a boost from his strong night. Perhaps I’m swayed by my love of felines (seriously, I would love a dancing piece of poo if it were wearing a cat mask), but I thought Billy brought more drama and power to both his numbers last night than he did to all his other dances this season. His Spencer Liff Broadway routine — danced with alum Katee! — was slinky, sneaky, and perfectly cat-like, complete with standing O-worthy leaps. Even though bad costuming made his shoulders appear uncomfortably raised throughout the entire routine, I’d be surprised if this dance couldn’t land Billy a job on Broadway. And as for his role as the jaguar prey in Sean Cheesman’s African jazz routine — well, seems to me that Billy turned the tables and devoured Jose.
Well, I’ll admit, all my Jose fury has left me exhausted. So now I’ll throw things over to you, fellow So You Think You Can Dance fans. Were you as angry as I was at the judges’ treatment of AdéChiké? Tired of their compliments of Jose? Can there be a season 7 without Alex? Can Cat get her Emmy now? Please? Do you love that the host still invites the contestants to her July 4th party? And did Lauren go to the prom with Richard Kiel dressed in a Saturday Night Fever jumpsuit?