Turn around, bright eyes

By Kelly Connolly
August 22, 2017 at 03:14 AM EDT
Adam Rose/FOX
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Happy Melanie and Neil Day, dance fans! Can you believe the whole country paused as one to remember Melanie’s leap in that contemporary routine? The scientific community still can’t figure out how she did it.

Is that NOT the total eclipse everyone’s talking about???

Logan and All-Star Allison
Choreographers: Emma Slater and Sasha Farber, Jive
“5 Months, 2 Weeks, 2 Days” by Louis Prima

If you eclipse fans think space is so cool, try growing up there, am I right? Logan gets the line of the night when he tells the camera in absolute seriousness, “I’m so much more than just an alien.” (I don’t know where to start! Why does he say this with all the angst of the Little Mermaid??? WHY DO ALIENS AND MERMAIDS NOT SEE HOW GOOD THEY HAVE IT?)

Logan wants to be a Real Boy, but I’m not sure this jive — about a World War II soldier who’s home to “chase the girl of his dreams” — gets him there. He plays it so big that it’s like a cartoon soldier from a 1940s wartime ad came to life and accosted Kelly Clarkson in the middle of a performance of “Stuff Like That There.” This jive that should be all joy and cheeky charm, but Logan’s face kept taking me out of it. Still, his tricks are impressive, he’s definitely leaving it all on the stage, and Allison is serving up just the right dash of polka-dotted realness, so there’s still fun to be had. And the judges love him. Logan, tell us about space!!!

Also, even though it’s far too soon for anyone to be doing a solo to the exact same song that knocked out Robert last week, let me just say that the gulf between my feelings for Logan’s (incredible) solos and my feelings for Logan’s duets is like how I feel about Jennifer Garner in Alias versus how I feel about Jennifer Garner in any commercial for anything.

Koine and All-Star Marko
Choreographer: Dave Scott, Hip-Hop
“You Don’t Own Me” by Grace feat. G-Eazy

I was 100 percent on board with this routine from Dave Scott’s description alone: Koine plays a pageant girl who’s ready to walk away from that life. OKAY! And then that grimy, defiant cover of “You Don’t Own Me” kicked in and I fully yelled in my apartment. KOINE, GET IT, GIRL. I don’t want to jinx it, but Koine could take this whole season if there’s any justice. She debuted in a flower crown, and now she’s getting dirty. (Mary, for the second week in a row, yells, “WE DON’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE ANYMORE” about a non-hip-hop dancer’s hip-hop performance. This one actually earns it.)

My only complaint is for Dave Scott, who really should have let Koine out of that chair earlier. It felt like she and Marko were only dancing together for a few eight-counts. I wanted more! I thought Nigel was about to actually give that critique, but no — the only aspect of the choreography that he “took issue” with was the fact that it turned a young woman (such an innocent little flower!) into a “feral animal.” Dave looked like he appreciated that fake-out about as much as I did.

Dassy and All-Star Fik-Shun
Choreographer: Ray Leeper, Jazz
“Bring the Funk Back” by Big Gigantic

A week after Dassy “got sexy” by pretty much continuing to smile as usual, she’s going back to the drawing board for a sexy jazz piece (“sexy”) (“jazz”) about…something? I don’t know. Velvet argyle. This piece is more “clubbin’ sexy” than “rumba sexy,” but it’s really fun, and Dassy does at one point crawl over Fik-Shun with an emotion that is not Cute Smile, so that’s progress. I just wish she’d been asked to do more. Make These Jazz Routines Technical Again! If nothing else, Nigel and Mary need something to anchor their critiques because if you set them adrift in a sea of no technique, they start saying things like “You threw it down with a little jiggy gettin’ on it” (MARY) or, with a wink, “Fik-Shun, isn’t it great getting choreography like this?” (Obviously that’s Uncle Nigel.)

Vanessa, whose critiques are an unchanging force in the universe, tells the pair that she wouldn’t have minded “a little bit more, you know, rawr.” Then she makes claw hands. Say what you want, but I love her still.

Mark and All-Star Comfort
Choreographer: Talia Favia, Contemporary
“Ending” by Isak Danielson

Okay, I finally got here: I really like Mark. It’s no surprise that he’s sharp, but he brings raw grace to this piece about a relationship on its last breath. Mary is so moved that she starts crying. (“It was special tonight.”) For someone whose personality is so loud when he isn’t dancing, Mark isn’t a loud dancer; his magnetism is elemental enough that he doesn’t have to shout it, and I agree with Nigel that his willingness to do whatever is asked of him is a major part of Mark’s appeal — especially because, again, it makes him seem more genuine than those antic-heavy montages want us to believe. I do wish his shirt in this routine didn’t look so much like a coffee-stained straitjacket, but I got over it every time I looked at Comfort’s skirt. More tulle skirts, please.

ASIDE: Aren’t you just glad Travis Wall exists?

Lex and All-Star Gaby
Choreographer: Warren Carlyle, Broadway
“Miss Otis Regrets” by Bette Midler

This show has spent so many weeks pretending that Lex doesn’t have a background in everything that he’s started to do it too, describing the two years he spent touring in Billy Elliot as “uh, just a little bit” of Broadway experience. Ya think?! In this routine, Lex plays a guy who won’t stop bothering Gaby even though she doesn’t want to have dinner with him (so, Lex plays a guy). Luckily/unluckily, that concept doesn’t really come through in the dance, a light and likable enough number that I’m naturally inclined to find even more light and likable because I love flapper dresses and Bette Midler. Lex and Gaby get to play with some airy side-by-side footwork while they’re sitting down, and Lex’s leg swipe at the end is nice.

That’s not to say I’m ready to join the judges in their standing O. Nigel raves about Lex, Warren Carlyle, and Bette Midler (what company!) because Warren Carlyle also choreographed the current revival of Hello, Dolly! But can we just admit that if Lex and Gaby were playing the wait staff in Hello, Dolly!‘s big dance number, there’s a chance they would have dropped a tray or two? A few of their big tricks don’t seem to hit their mark.

In happier news, Mary’s here to teach us her definition of patootie: “Patootie! It’s a whole body and a little bit of booty!” (Recap continues on page 2)

Sydney and All-Star Paul
Choreographer: Luther Brown, Hip-Hop
“Really? Yeah!” by Kyle

Much like our bitter pageant girl, this routine has a killer elevator pitch: “It’s like Miami Vice 2025.” I’m sold! Hand over that neon. Pile on the blazers. Keep the sunglasses and the Pulp Fiction wig, thanks; I can’t see Sydney’s face.

Sydney is cute and sharp, but she seems hesitant here. In the end, she falls into this season’s pattern (two make a pattern, right?) of ballroom dancers who just can’t get dirty in hip-hop numbers. And unlike Kiki, she actually gets called out on it. The judges point out that this choreography requires extra swagger — it basically is swagger — and Paul does a better job at adding it than Sydney does. Then Mary rattles off terms like “sick,” “frozen,” and “lit,” Vanessa says she wanted more “stank face,” and Nigel wraps it up: “You have to add the stank to that.”

Truly a banner night for Nigel.

Kaylee and All-Star Cyrus
Choreographer: Spencer Liff, Jazz
“Less Talk, More Art” by Vitro Fun & Koil

We’ve got ourselves a hat routine! There’s an inescapable whiff of “creepy clown” to this number (IT is coming, Spencer Liff! This is not the time!), but if you aggressively think of Magritte paintings and tell yourself it’s culture, it’s possible to enjoy yourself with this one. Nigel — who likes to call Kaylee “Impavido,” which makes me wonder why the moniker was dropped — even compares Kaylee to Gwen Verdon, Tony-winning dancer and onetime wife of Bob Fosse.

Like Mary, I still think there are times when you can see Kaylee doing the work. She isn’t effortless, and sometimes her posture just isn’t there. But she eclipsed Cyrus — and he loves it — and she earns points for doing her solo to Elliot Yamin’s “Wait for You,” which I forgot was a song.

Taylor and All-Star Robert
Choreographer: Jean-Marc Genereux, Samba
“Bun Up the Dance” by Dillon Francis & Skrillex

I mean, this is fine? Taylor’s out to bring the rawr; she brings a meow. Jean-Marc wants her to be hot; she’s decently warm. (Nigel: “It felt a bit like a damp rocket.”) For some dancers on this show, this performance in this samba would be a victory, and both Mary and Vanessa want everyone to know that what Taylor did out there isn’t easy. But Taylor is on the top of the heap right now, and that means being fine just isn’t good enough, and that means the judges are actually going to tell her what she could do better (which is kind of a surprise, given how soft they’ve been on some people who are named Lex this season). Taylor’s arms are a little stiff, and she’s so focused on performing — as Vanessa says, she’s faking it until she makes it — that she doesn’t really connect with Robert. And connecting with Robert Roldan specifically is why the samba was invented. Next time, the judges want more fire.

To help light that match, here’s some motivational wisdom from Jean-Marc Genereux: “YOU’RE NOT 19 ANYMORE. YOU’RE 19 AND A HALF!”

Kiki and All-Star Jenna
Choreographer: Mandy Moore, Contemporary
“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by George Michael

I’d like to start out by acknowledging that Kiki gets, by far, the best Cat Deeley intro tonight: “Aaaaaand can I get a Kiki?” You sure can, Cat.

This piece is about “the moment you see someone and it becomes intoxicating to you.” It is tragically not set to the other Mandy Moore’s cover of “Stupid Cupid,” but the judges don’t hold that against it. The judges don’t actually hold anything at all against this number; they give it a standing O. Vanessa has the giggles. Mary is crying. Are they all just under the spell of George Michael and wind machines? Jenna is great (when Nigel says the internet wants him to stop calling Jenna fabulous, I hope that’s because the internet just wants him to find a new synonym), but she’s the only one here who knows she’s not in a paso doble. Kiki needs to ease way up on those ballroom flourishes. Like, to the point of non-use.

Also, why does Kiki need Cat to hand him his glasses as soon as this routine is done? Are his eyes okay? Did he stare at the eclipse? Does he know about contacts? As someone who lasted approximately one ballet class without her glasses before realizing you have to see to dance, I don’t get why Kiki wasn’t wearing contacts, unless he was and the glasses are fake and we’re all being played, in which case, honestly, he has my respect. Kiki knows his assets.

And he’s about to be the only ballroom dancer left standing…

BOTTOM THREE: Dassy, Sydney, Mark

ELIMINATED: Sydney

Unlike last week, this elimination felt inevitable, even though the bottom three continues to be a total toss-up. Farewell, Sydney. We hardly knew you, but you wore two great pairs of glasses tonight, so maybe Kiki is barking up the wrong tree.

Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and the viewers at home crown America’s Favorite Dancer.
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