So You Think You Can Dance recap: Grill Interrupted
When the story of 2008 is told, much ink will be spent on this year’s historic presidential campaign, the home-mortgage crisis, the flooding in the Midwest, the devastating earthquake and ensuing Olympic games in China, the box office juggernaut that is The Dark Knight, and that completely insane Wimbledon men’s final. Well, I don’t know about y’all, but I’m personally hoping that some small corner in the annals of history is also reserved for the moment that Cat Deeley, host of So You Think You Can Dance, suddenly became the coolest person on television. Yes, even cooler than Tim Gunn and the entire cast of Mad Men. Yes, I’m not kidding.
In truth, this moment has been in the works for a few weeks now, but I must confess I wasn’t hip to it until colleagues both on EW.com and in EW: The Magazine! took the time to sing Cat’s praises. Perhaps it was the lingering bouquet of sulfur and peppermint left behind by my snark demon, Smirkelstiltskin, after he forsook my shoulder for Cat’s bouffant, but I’d still regarded the leggy Brit as something akin to a Technicolor Chia Pet festooned with rhinestones and a tutu — adorable, harmless, and designed specifically for our mocking amusement. But then Cat’s outfits became increasingly more chic — aside from the occasional nautical number, of course — and, better still, she started talking back to the judges and treating the dancers like an adoring aunt who wears designer frocks and always has gum.
And then, last night, during a show in which guest judge Adam Shankman told Joshua and Chelsie that it was impossible for them to be so insanely good, Cat pulled off the most physically unachievable feat of the entire evening: She went gangsta. And. It. Worked. After Twitch showboated in a solo set to Midnight Touch’s ”Midas Touch” by sporting golden sneakers, golden glasses, and a golden grill (that is what you call those things, right?), Cat called him over to give out his numbers, then slipped on his gold glasses frames. Then Nigel told her to put the teeth/grill/bling on, too, and, shockingly, she obliged: ”Oh, come on, then, hand them over, spit and all.” Twitch looked incredulous. I looked incredulous. Heck, I’m pretty sure I even caught Smirkel behind Cat’s hair looking incredulous. But Cat was determined. In they popped, and before I even had time to wince, this sweet TV presenter from across the pond somehow transubstantiated into a sly and tough gangsta queen, mouthing with a perfect ghetto attitude, ”What? What?” to a hysterical judging panel and audience, but never, not once, crossing over into camp. ”The things we do for art,” Cat said afterward, while ridding her mouth of Twitch spit. ”That was art, ladies and gentlemen, nothing else.” I disagree. It was also cool. Insanely, hilariously cool — so cool, in fact, I now fully expect those corsage pom-poms on Cat’s feet to be the hot item on the Emmys red carpet this September. IV REAL. (Please note: I make no such claims for my own coolness or gangsta-osity. Quite the contrary.)
NEXT: Luck of the draw?
What I can’t decide is whether Twitch is incredibly lucky or incredibly screwed that he was the catalyst for it all. Even with the ”surprise” ouster of onetime sure thing Will last week — and an overdue tip-o’-the-hat to my colleagues Lisa Raphael and Christian Blauvelt for so ably TV Watching during my absence at Comic-Con — I think we can safely assume at this point that Katee, Joshua, and Chelsie will continue their streak of never once appearing in the bottom four and sail on through to the finals. (I’ll get into why, and why I kinda wish Courtney would be taking Chelsie’s place, in a moment.) That leaves the only open finale slot for either Twitch or Mark, and I haven’t a clue which one is going to make it through.
If I were cynical, I’d say the SYTYCD producers don’t have this dilemma. If I were cynical, I’d wonder why Katee was ”randomly” paired with her old partner Joshua, thereby forcing Mark to work with the doomed Courtney, and Twitch with the can-do-no-apparent-wrong Chelsie. If I were cynical, I’d wonder why Mark and Courtney ”pulled” a Viennese waltz (never known to be a standout genre) and a weird, dark, and raw jazz routine with season 4’s kook-and-a-half choreographer Sonya Tayeh that is sure to put off as many voters as it turned on. If I were cynical, I’d wonder how Twitch got away with barely making it through a mambo without a word of technical criticism from ballroom expert Mary Murphy, and then got to follow it up with a NapTab hip-hop number that played right into his core strengths of character comedy and witty freestyling. If I were cynical, I’d almost have no choice but to conclude the show was stacking the deck in Twitch’s favor.
But I’m not cynical, so I can take heart in noting that Mark and Courtney danced the most elegant, light-footed ballroom number of the season; that Sonya’s choreography was just as much in Mark’s wheelhouse as NapTab’s was in Twitch’s; and that Mark got the all-important final slot to deliver his solo. And, more important, I can relish that, when it counted the most, it was finally the kind of freewheeling-but-well-conceived solo I’d been waiting for all season from Mark, and he managed to doff his shirt while also integrating it into his dancing. In fact, I found this so enjoyable, I may have watched it a few times. For the smart choreography. Obviously.
In all fairness to Twitch, he’s been burning up his solos all season, and it was nice to see that he’d traded in the tired ”Super Twitch” persona for a new, slightly more savvy ”Golden Twitch” motif. But that NapTab number wasn’t quite as clever or entertaining as it could’ve been, and Twitch still hasn’t mastered the ballroom numbers as well as Joshua and Mark have. So maybe it helps Twitch that his solo got some super-mega-bonus screen time courtesy of Cat Deeley, or maybe Cat’s entrée into the pop-culture firmament isn’t the best shadow to be standing under. All I know is I’ve been calling 1-888-TEMPO-06 all night as I’ve been writing this recap, so those of you who are paying extra-special attention know which one I’m pulling for.
NEXT: Split decision
Of course, that doesn’t mean Mark is still my favorite to win. I think whatever torch I was still carrying for his taking the SYTYCD crown was extinguished about the same time that Katee leapt into the air in a full split and somehow stopped on a dime in Joshua’s arms. The music for their subsequent paso doble was certainly overwrought, but I don’t think anyone in the audience cared a whit, especially after the number caused Mary’s vocal chords to short circuit and burp out a series of noises that had me thinking she’d swallowed a malfunctioning police siren. (Or maybe, given Mary’s penchant for mirror-ball dresses this season, she’s just been in training to be Daft Punk’s newest bleat machine.) Neither of Katee’s and Joshua’s solos was exactly their best work, and all the effusive praise from the judges means there’s a slight risk that either of them could suffer the same fate as Will and have their fan bases lulled into complacency — but I don’t think so.
Chelsie’s popularity, on the other hand, kinda baffles me. I’m with the judges’ assessment of her dancing abilities, sure, but I’m not all breathless about it, either — I couldn’t help noticing that they praised her fire-engine-red dress as much as her mambo steps. I also wondered why we never once saw even one clip of Chelsie dogging on Twitch for busting a sag in the rehearsal room. Had the producers decided to cut her a break? Had Chels finally realized that acting like a bratty kid sister isn’t exactly endearing? Or had she simply realized that five hours’ worth of smart-alecky comments from her would never be able to match a single withering purse of Melanie LaPatin’s lips, and so she wisely backed off? (Sidebar: Who else desperately wants to see Ms. LaPatin at the judges’ table?) One thing’s for certain: Chelsie’s definitely made some good friends in the wardrobe department; her dresses for both the mambo and her solo seemed tailored to accentuate every last twitch of her gyroscopic hips.
Still, without question Courtney delivered the best, most completely realized solo of the night, male or female. I’m understanding now just how saddled she’d been with Gev; she’s really come into her own these last few weeks, no more so than with Mark. (Shankman was right; together, they were a near-perfect match, boob grazing and all.) As Nigel so often points out, this is a reality show that’s as much about the dancers’ personality as it is their superlative dancing, and of the three women left, I think I’d enjoy a night on the town with Courtney the most. (My heartstrings still ache a bit thinking of her sitting all by her lonesome backstage during last week’s results show.) I knew it was going to get crazy tough in these final weeks, but, jeebus, will I be sorry to see Court and Twitch go. (I’m not even contemplating the alternative right now.)
Who’s your ideal final four, dear readers? Did Mark earn his way to the finale, or did Twitch? (The answer, by the way, is Mark. Just FYI.) Are Katee and Joshua officially locked in a battle for first place? Do you know why America seems more fond of Chelsie than Courtney? And after learning Adam Shankman danced with Tyce Diorio at the 1990 Oscars to a routine choreographed by Paula Abdul, do you get the feeling that the dancing world is about as big as your homeroom class in seventh grade?
Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and the viewers at home crown America’s Favorite Dancer.