While Chelsie, Katee, and Joshua steam up the joint, Thayne and Comfort leave us cold, and Nigel and Mia are downright creepy
Chelsie Hightower

It was three steps forward, two steps back on last night’s So You Think You Can Dance. (It was really only a matter of time before I hauled out that hoary old cliché for a lead, but Smirkelstiltskin, my snark demon, is giving me the ol’ stink eye for it all the same. Apologies.) For all the routines that melted sex appeal all over the screen (hel-loooooo Will’s chest and Gev’s hips!), there were routines that just sat there like two-year-old freezer-burned ice cream (good-byyyyye Comfort and Thayne!). Cat Deeley not only looked stunning — and without a single sartorial reference to Broadway or 1920s Belgium — but, heavens to Murgatroid, she also brought the funny; the judges, on the other hand, brought the lechery, inconsistency, and wide-brimmed hats. And although the show finally introduced new alumni choreographers (Pasha and Anya) who know from showshopping numbers, and a new genre (Bollywood) that pretty much stopped the show, we were also subjected to yet another tangled mess of quickstepping that threatened to bring the show to a screeching halt.

After Cat introduced the judges — Nigel ”I Took My Viagra Today” Lythgoe, Mary ”I’m a Living Brooch” Murphy, and Mia ”I’m a Jazzercize Gangsta, Beeotch” Michaels — we started right in with our first couple, because Fox has decided I don’t deserve sleep and the jam-packed, two-hour, two-routines-per-couple performance shows must continue. Thankfully, the show opened with one of my favorite duos this season, Mark and Chelsie, who totally sold Alex ”Brazilian Bono” Da Silva’s salsa routine and a clingy black unitard and Mardi Gras peacock ”dress” (respectively). The judges may have docked Mark some points for his less-than-perfect technique for this routine and their Tyce Diorio Smokey Joe’s Cafe Broadway number, but all I could see was the pair continuing their streak of unrelenting entertainment — even if I did really want Melinda Doolittle to pop up for a live performance of ”I’m a Woman.” Mark and Chelsie’s salsa also marked the start of the evening’s secondary competition between Nigel and Mia as to who could make the most off-putting comment about the female dancers. Two rounds went to Nigel for his lechery over where Chelsie’s ”dress” did and did not touch her body and the relative length of her legs, but Mia certainly was a close second for wishing Chelsie stab wounds for looking like Brigitte Bardot.

The only thing that was off-putting about Thayne and Comfort’s time on stage, alas, was the dancing itself, and for that I place the blame squarely on Comfort’s slight shoulders. The hip-hop was a’ight — my notes at the end: ”Aww, they told a little story!” — but Mia was right, once they left the stairs, that story left their steps for much of the number. And even though Thayne worked hard to make it seem like he wasn’t working hard for the hip-hop, you could literally see Comfort thinking her way through their contemporary routine, which was so tepid that the audience could barely even muster canned enthusiasm for it. The knowledge that they’d never make the top 10 was written clear across their faces, but it was also all over Comfort’s dancing — the woman just wants to go home. In the face of that kind of resignation, Thayne could have been equal parts baking soda and vinegar and there wouldn’t have been any chemistry on that stage.

NEXT: More Jessica abuse

Meanwhile, bless her heart, Jessica’s suffered more abuse at the hands of the judges than pretty much any other dancer this season, and yet she still managed to turn in by far her best performance last night. Of course, it took about four viewings of Tyce’s erotic Garden of Eden routine before I really saw her part in it, what with Will’s negative body fat siphoning away all my attention. (Note to Will: Keep dancing in hot pants and a burlap sash, and I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll make it to the finals.) If there ever was a time for the editors to learn the mantra ”less is more,” it was with this routine; the judges were so gobsmacked by it that I have a feeling its impact would’ve been much easier to feel on TV had we just seen it play out on the stage without a single cut, as the audience did in the studio. (Click here, by the way, if you want to know why Mia’s comparison of Will to dancer Desmond Richardson was such a supreme compliment.) No amount of camera trickery, sadly, could’ve saved that quickstep. Tony Meredith and Bette-LuPone-I-mean-Melanie-LaPatin certainly tried to by inserting the occasional backflip and twist, but every time Jessica and Will re-entered their official quickstep ”carriage,” you could see it in their eyes: ”Oh, sweet baby Jeebus, please just get me through this dance.” What I didn’t see was Will’s eyes screaming, ”Oh, sweet baby Jeebus, free me of the deadweight that is my partner Jessica,” as Mia suggested. (And this round of off-putting commentary goes to Ms. Michaels!)

As much as I was all twitterpated by Will last night, I honestly can’t wait to read the comment boards today to see how many of you needed smelling salts after the return of season 3’s SYTYCD Russian stud muffin, Pasha Kovalev. You could tell both Pasha and his partner, Anya ”Robbed of the Season 3 Top 10” Garnis paid close attention to the elements that’ve made up the most successful ballroom routines on this show: a driving beat, intricate and whip-fast spins and twirls, sexy but not crude crotch thrusts, and a smattering of playful touches like Courtney’s horizontal kicks during one of the percussion breaks. There’s no doubt that season 4’s official dark-horse couple had a really good night — their kicky Mandy Moore jazz-in-the-jungle number could’ve just as easily been called a high-concept Broadway routine — but I don’t agree that they’ve been showing steady improvement, especially since Nigel and Mary couldn’t help pointing out Gev’s sloppy footwork in the cha-cha. And yet, after Nigel had slammed the door hard on Cat when she tried to make excuses for Thayne and Comfort by pointing out their still-nascent partnership, the judges chose to gloss over Gev’s technical failings in favor of his showmanship. (Nigel did get the message about Courtney; no, not that she was a strong dancer, just that she’s as sexy as Anya. And this round to Mr. Lythgoe!)

NEXT: Kherington gets a bye

The most egregious excuse making, though, came after Twitch and Kherington’s krumping. Yes, the couple did come the closest SYTYCD contestants ever have to matching what actual krumping looks like. (See here and here, though you may want to turn the audio down on those links.) Twitch hit it so hard, in fact, that I wondered if he’d krumped for realz before making the show. And Kherington was right there with him — for the first two-thirds of the number, and then the buckness left her completely. She bucked the buck. The buckness bucked her. She couldn’t buck up her buck. The buck stopped with her. She bucking bucked. (On a completely unrelated note, I’m currently typing this at 3 a.m.) Yet Kher left the stage carrying all kinds of slack from the judges, which I kinda expected from Nigel and Mary, but not from Mia, she who calls Jessica deadweight and calls out Mark’s wee technical failings. Thank the good buck above the judges took that slack right back after Twitch and Kher’s torpid smooth tango, which was pretty much anti-buck. (Oof, I’ll stop now.) This is the second week in a row that Twitch has lost all his flavor when taking on ballroom, which does not bode well for the coming weeks when the couples split off into new pairs.

The couple I’ll be most sorry to see part, though, will be Katee and Joshua. Like Chelsie and Mark, they’ve been almost unfailingly consistent this season, but more than that, they’ve found a simpatico frisson on stage that goes beyond mere chemistry. I hadn’t the first clue that their Viennese waltz was in any way lacking, but then again, I don’t know if the Goo Goo Dolls ever played 19th-century Vienna either. (1990s Vienna, sure.) I do know for certain, however, that I want to see Bollywood show up again on the SYTYCD stage, and right soon. Of course, I don’t quite know how the judges are supposed to seriously critique a Bollywood number, and, indeed, Mary seemed at such a loss for words that she veered dangerously close to Paula territory with this mind-blowing apothegm: ”On this stage, we have one rule. Heart. Soul. Equals stardom.” But no matter. It was such a fantastically welcome jolt to see brand-new movement on stage — and such exuberant, playful, inventive movement too! — that I really, really, really hope Nigel picks up on Mia’s comment and hires Nakul Dev Mahajan for next week’s results-show group number.

Are you with me, dear readers? Who stood out to you? Did you think Nigel was in an especially randy mood last night? Were the judges too lenient on Kherington and Twitch and too harsh on Thayne and Comfort? Should Will always dance shirtless? And can Cat ever top her rejoinder to Nigel’s question regarding Chelsie’s oddly high-class kitchen attire? Nigel: ”Would you wear that in a kitchen?” Cat: ”Not to cook.” Somewhere, Joel McHale is salivating.

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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