When does 'technique' (something good) turn into 'tricks' (such a no-no); the judges seem clueless, so by-bye Marquis
So You Think You Can Dance

The judges sent the right girl and the wrong guy home last night. Before I launch into all that, though, I have to give a big ups to my colleague Schmalynda Wheaties. Why? Because Smirklestiltskin (my snark demon) is insisting I give her some rhetorical schmoochies for handling Wednesday night’s So You Think You Can Dance TV Watching duties so magnificently. Me, I’m not so sure. I think Smirkle’s just got a crush on Alynda’s mastery of the snark, because she certainly did me no favors. Well, I mean, she did me a solid by filling in, totally, but she was indeed so terrific, I feel I gotta raise my game in kind. But whereas Alynda had a two-hour feast to tear into (Kherington’s smilegate, Mary’s ensemble de midlife crisis, Susie and Marquis’ snarl of a salsa, Nigel’s apparent affinity for his crotch), last night’s results show was a mere appetizer platter, with, perhaps, one or two standout morsels, maybe three, while the rest were either clearly heated from the freezer or uneaten leftovers from the last table.

The first tasty bit, of course, was Shane Sparks’ kickin’ group number. All of you who have been lamenting Sparks’ absence from the show in the message boards must’ve been all atwitter to see his top-notch work finally return to the show (I know I was), but the absence of any shots of Shane in the studio audience, nodding in coolly fly approval at his work, remained quite conspicuous. That is, until one of the ad breaks, when a smokin’ promo played for MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew — which features Shane as a permanent judge and is the ostensible reason he’s been MIA on SYTYCD. (Odd seeing a commercial for ”the best dance show on TV” during a show that Fox had promoted as…the best dance show on TV, no?) Perhaps it’s because he felt he had nothing left to lose, but I couldn’t help but note how much Shane showcased Twitch, Will, Joshua, and especially, Comfort and Marquis. It’s almost as if the (semi)prodigal choreographer caught the performance episode (it tapes on Mondays) and realized these two dancers were in danger and needed the spotlight STAT. (More on the success of this effort later.) (I really like parentheticals.)

I was sorely disappointed, however, to see that Mary had decided to raid the wardrobe archives of the final season of Love American Style — which strikes me as a big step back in the ”I’m far beyond my salad days” shame spiral. (Leopard prints always come after lamé, Mary. Always.) Alynda is currently Blackberrying me, meanwhile, in an attempt to get me to make fun of Mia’s Western shirt — ”she could be a farmer in those clothes” — but see, the thing is, I’m pretty sure I actually own that exact same shirt. In fact, I wore it on a date last week. Which is to say, Mia’s never looked better.

NEXT: Spicy or hot — discuss amongst yourselves

The eliminations started predictably enough; once we realized that Chelsea and Thayne would be the final couple Cat would get to in the first round, it was pretty obvious they’d be dancing for their lives. But then things got all screwy, and delightfully so. I had just recovered from the unexpected cameo of Papa Schwimmer — sitting in the audience with his trademark ”I want to be on TV” electronic sign, pulling for Chelsie Hightower, who, so Google tells me, evidently once trained with Mama Schwimmer — when Nigel and Co. pulled one of the better results-show fake-outs I’ve seen in several years. I’d already written ”Safe?!” next to Kourtni and Matt’s names and ”Bottom Three’d?!?!” next to Will and Jessica’s in my notes when Cat gave the latter couple their reprieve, and I couldn’t help but share in the foursome’s elation at the good news. (Although the wild-eyed degree of their relief does lead one to infer that perhaps the phrase ”dancing for your life” carries a graver connotation than had previously been believed.)

Of course, the fake-out also only made the final two couples’ ride into the danger zone all the more inevitable: Susie and Marquis’ fate was all over their faces before Cat confirmed it (one question, though: Isn’t something that’s spicy automatically hot?), and Comfort and Chris’ inability to enliven Lil’ C’s krumping pretty much doomed them to bottom-threeage. This time the judges were better at not tipping their hat to predetermined favorites when Cat goaded them to comment on America’s decisions, though it would appear Nigel was well aware that he’d gone overboard with Chris on Wednesday’s show after he gave Chris props for his ability to ”bounce back.” (Like bamboo and palm trees!)

Then it was time for this week’s guest hoofer, America’s ”No. 1 flamenco dancer” Timo Nuñez. I can totally understand why 14-year-old girls would scream for any hottish and sweaty shirtless dude dancing within tackling distance. But if any of those girls’ mothers are reading this right now, I do hope they take the time to sit them (and for good measure, their gay sons) down, fire up the DVR, pause it on Mr. Timo ”Not Good Enough to Compete But Good Enough to Showcase” Nuñez, and explain to their brood just what makes him an absolutely perfect specimen of the North American Tool. You’ve got your vest and black jeans but no shirt, carefully groomed stubble, California Tanned skin, and chest buffed to a high polish, but mothers, you should also make sure to point out the subtler, but no less important, insufferable self-regard, which is really the hallmark of the species. (I’m not even going to bother with our musical guest of the evening, Flo Rida, except to say that he’d better patent that ClubJAM Cliché Generator he’s got before Kevin Federline gets his hands on it.)

NEXT: Potent wowzah

By the time we got to the solos, I was pretty sure how it was all going to go down: Chelsea would be unnervingly sexy with lots of personality; Thayne would be competently expressive with lots of personality; Susie would demonstrate once again why the judges did her no favor by placing her in the top 20 solely because she’s got boobies; unshackled from his unworthy partner, Marquis would finally get to show off why he was worthy of making the top 16; Comfort would redeem her lackluster krumping with a solo that would finally give credence to Nigel’s claim that she’s SYTYCD‘s best-ever female hip-hopper; and Chris would continue to demonstrate how a tree can have tons of personality, even if it’s so far best manifested in an unfortunate penchant for pit stains. I don’t mean to toot my own horn here so much as point out that the five of the six solos were simply unsurprising, distressingly so for Comfort and Chelsea, who both have the ability to drop some potent wowzah on that stage, but merely delivered good-enough goods. Only Marquis really stepped it up, throwing down some serious skill, including a flip so insane that his was the only solo I bothered to rewind and watch again.

So naturally the judges sent him home, calling his skill a mere collection of ”tricks.” Um, ”tricks”? As in Neil from last season? As in pretty much the entire arsenal of abilities deployed by poppers and hip-hoppers? Nigel did promise that last week would be the first and last time they chose technical skill over personality, but still, I’m kinda stumped as to how Chris’ routine of elongated reaching translated as passion to the judges, let alone enough passion to overtake Marquis’ own avid virtuosity. Maybe he can start a Gone Way Before Their Time club with Jimmy and Jesús from season 3 and Ben from season 2.

At least Susie’s gone. Even though Comfort wasn’t at her A-game, I seriously doubt her performance in Shane’s group number was the deciding factor that condemned Susie to the SYTYCD gallows so much as it was the simple fact that Susie belonged in that top 20 about as much as my decent rendition of Coldplay’s ”The Scientist” qualifies me for the top 24 of American Idol. ”I honestly never thought I was going to make it past Milwaukee,” she confessed during her exit montage, which I’d believe a bit more if she’d auditioned in, say, a potato sack. There’s always America’s Next Top Model, Susie, though Mr. Jay needs to get you a new weave, pronto.

Were you happy with the bottom three guys and girls? Did Chris deserve another shot, or did Marquis get a raw deal? How many times do you think the judges can say ”personality” in one episode? With the guest dancers 0 for 2, would it kill Savion Glover to stop by? Will the Schwimmer family’s viselike grip on this show ever cease? Do you think Nigel’s aiming for courtside seats at the Staples Center with his praise for Kobe Bryant’s sportsmanship after the final Celtics-Lakers game? Or just an autographed basketball for the office? And how many of those dancers do you suppose were thinking ”Kobe who, now?”

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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