We’re one away week from the final performance round, which means that it’s time to play dirty. It’s time for Cat Deeley to sing “Jason Derulo.” Cat’s singing everything tonight. She’s also coordinated her dress to Travis’ tie, like they’re going to a wedding.
Coincidentally, Team Stage, which has lost to Team Street for the past three weeks, and you’d best believe Travis is “FULLY AWARE,” claimed 55 percent of the votes this time. It’s the tie. The tie and the dress move in the same social circles.
Not really. It’s America! And now America gets to determine who’s in the finale.
Gaby and All-Star Marko
Choreographer: Ray Leeper, Jazz
Song: “Emergency” by Icona Pop
Are you HAPPY NOW, voters?? This routine has No Story. It’s just DANCE. It’s STEAMPUNK ANARCHY. Set adrift without context, the wardrobe department picked up on some “Ramalama”-esque moves and outfitted Gaby in a “Ramalama”-esque costume—which, sure, made me nostalgic, but it also hid her hip movements. And what is with the high-heeled boots this season? I hope she burns this ensemble on the altar of No Story. (Marko, on the other hand, should wear this every day.) I agree with Paula and Nigel that Gaby is a star, but I also think the energy of this routine was better suited to a large group number. I had that in my notes before Jason said it. I agree with Jason. What is my penance?
Jaja and All-Star Alex
Choreographer: Tessandra Chavez, Contemporary
Song: “Youth” by Daughter
Story is back. And so are my tears! Chavez casts Jaja as a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s whose recognition of her lover flickers on and off, but the best thing about this routine is that it doesn’t limit itself to a love story. Jaja opens the number alone, sitting in a spotlight, trying to read. Witness: the fastest a SYTYCD routine has ever broken me. I really love reading. But I also love Jaja, who acts the crap out of this thing, from her moments of clarity to her lowest and most muddled. She isn’t even dancing—she’s just being (thanks Paula). There’s one move, just one, that could use a straighter leg, but other than that, Jaja matches up to Alex Freaking Wong at every turn and seals her fate as the dancer I’d most like to see win. If she’s a bird, we’re all DIRT. We don’t deserve her.
Megz and All-Star Joshua
Choreographer: Christopher Scott, Hip-Hop
Song: “Freedom” by Pharrell Williams
Megz has always been more at ease outside her style than in it, which I presume a high school guidance counselor has already made into a poster about comfort zones. Nothing good happens inside them! Or something. In any case, she’s freer in most contemporary routines than she is in this freedom-inspired hip-hop number—her leg works seems a little soft, and her whole demeanor feels more angry than determined. That said, it’s a cool routine; she comes into her own along with her character, and I can’t think of a more appropriate image of Megz than that final pose, with her arms lifted high. Nigel, speaking Paula’s language and mine, says that he can see Megz in West Side Story. YES. Something’s coming, something good…
Jim and All-Star Anya
Choreographers: Anya Garnis and Dmitry Chaplin, Samba
Song: “Chillando Goma” by Fulanito
Setting aside all of those technical samba terms—forgetting Nigel and Paula’s reasonable talk of hips and shoulders—is anyone else just really proud of Jim right now? The judges have been telling him all season to loosen up. They’ve begged him to let go of his technique and just dance. Jim did that tonight. He had fun. He was confident. Where is Mary Murphy when we need her? Where is Jim? He’s so sure of himself and so happy, even during his critique, and that’s worth celebrating. It’s not that Nigel and Paula make bad points. It’s just that they’re not listening to every point they’ve been making all season. In terms of pure showmanship, this routine was Jim’s breakthrough.
Virgil and All-Star Melanie
Choreographer: Justin Giles, Contemporary
Song: “All Is Now Harmed” by Ben Howard
Giles casts Virgil as a soldier coming home from war, while Melanie—Melanie!—is the wife trying to look out for him. So the first challenge here will be to look away from Melanie. I had to rewatch twice to tear myself away from her, but I think that’s less to do with Virgil than with the choreography, which just doesn’t challenge him as much as it could. Even so, he’s a solid presence, and his emotional connection to the piece comes through. Paula’s right when she calls this a mature performance. Nigel understands PTSD now, guys.
NEXT: Step away from the fedora
Hailee and All-Star Robert
Choreographers: RJ Durell and Nick Florez, Jazz
Song: “Haunted” by Beyoncé
“This week I get to be the angel of death reincarnated as, like, a crow.” Did everyone hear this? This show has Emmys. Hailee is fierce as the crow-like angel of death, who’s out to sink her claws into a shirtless, eyeliner-wearing, mussy-haired Robert. Death: It’s just like us. Cat is also like us: She just wants to know if they kissed with tongue. Hailee says no, but Robert grabs the microphone and intones, “Yes,” and I think we should probably listen. As far as the judges are concerned, we should only listen to Paula, who is simultaneously the most eloquent in her praise (“You are a flame on stage. It’s a perfect mixture of finesse and fury”) and the most specific in her critiques (smooth out your transitions, Hailee!).
Gaby and Jim
Choreographer: Josh Bergasse, Broadway
Song: “Fever” by Michael Bublé
If you’d like a lesson in how to say nice things with absolutely zero emotion, check out Jason’s critique of Gaby in this routine. The judges are in a mood tonight. They’re down on Gaby and Jim’s Broadway number for everything from the “nightclub” vibe to the “lack of chemistry” to Jim not being “dreamy” enough. Okay. This is Broadway, not prom. I won’t say they’re a sizzling pair, but Gaby and Jim are all class as a feverish woman and the man of her (literal) dreams—to say nothing of the fact that it’s been far too long since this show last gave us a good planche over a bed. Honor Center Stage in your heart, Nigel, and keep it all the year.
Megz and Hailee
Choreographer: Stacey Tookey
Song: “Sarajevo” by Max Richter and Sara Leonard
Not to bring it back to story again, but this one’s a little vague. And I kind of love that about it. What’s breaking up these inseparable sisters? Unclear. Find a story that works for you. Megz and Hailee obviously did—they’re feeling this one the whole time, and they match each other move for move. They connect with each other, they connect with the audience, and Megz proves again that she’s at her best out of her element.
Jaja and Virgil
Choreographers: Pharside and Phoenix
Song: “If You Crump Stand Up” by edIT
I love Paula, and I don’t care who knows it. I spent this whole routine wondering why it didn’t feel as big as it should—Virgil and Jaja are the biggest personalities of the year, and Pharside and Phoenix are the show’s new go-to for quirky, fun routines. What could be louder and more colorful and more wonderful than Jaja in Wonderland, with Virgil as her Cheshire Cat? Nothing. They kill this dance (and the fact that Jaja might even be taller than Virgil adds yet another trippy dimension to it all). But there’s something missing, and it takes Paula to put a finger on it: The music isn’t right. She doesn’t even blame the dancers. Meanwhile, Nigel—who shows up every week and acts surprised when hip-hop dancers can “dance”—is over there giving a speech about how he just can’t understand why people don’t respect hip-hop. Revolutionary.
ELIMINATED: Megz, Jim
FINAL FOUR: Jaja, Gaby, Virgil, Hailee
This is the teariest elimination yet. JIM IS SO SAD. I’m sad. Hailee has a certain star quality, sure, but Jim is better on a technical level, and I never thought he struggled to connect as much as the judges would suggest. The judges pushed him so hard every week because he’s so good. (I sound like his parent. I should be so lucky.) I have no problem with the top four, but I’m sad to lose Jim—and Megz, even though I think it was her time. At this point, our opening number said it best: Everybody hurts.
FINAL COUNT: Tears. See you for the final performance round, America.