Mamma Mia, here she goes again

By Kelly Connolly
September 19, 2017 at 01:33 AM EDT
Adam Rose/FOX
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Welcome back, dance fans. We’re one week out from the finale — and from saying goodbye to a season that has brought this show back to peak form — but before Jenna starts sobbing again, there’s a lot to enjoy. Mia Michaels is back. NappyTabs choreographed that opening group number. Vanessa and Mary are dressed like sisters — sisters? Hallie, they’re like twinsMia is back. A new So You Think You Can Dance romance is afoot. Mia is back.

Also, I know the Emmys literally just ended, but can we nominate the judges waving glow sticks in the opening number for a comedy Emmy please?

Koine, Kiki, Taylor, and Lex
Choreographers: Travis Wall and Chris Scott
“Elements” by Nathan Lanier

By their powers combined, they are Captain Planet. Travis and Chris team up to show off the top 4 (and take pollution down to zero) in this group routine, which is really less about the group than it is about who they are as individuals. Travis and Chris assign each of our dancers an element: Taylor is wind (YES), Kiki is fire (clearly), Lex is water (without question), Koine is earth (because earth is what’s left). Koine gets to throw handfuls of dirt everywhere like a kid in the sandbox, but it still feels like she gets the short end of the stick here. Meanwhile, Taylor gets to live out everyone’s Peter Pan fantasies with some sweet aerial choreography. But let’s not be bitter.

Other than highlighting how lucky Taylor is, the main takeaway here is that Kiki’s essence screams “bad CW supervillain,” and oh wow does that ever explain everything. You may need to brace yourselves for the fact that I pretty much thought Kiki was very good tonight, but in this routine, he isn’t quite at everyone else’s level.

Kiki and Taylor
Choreographer: Anya Garnis, Cha-Cha
“Don’t Cha (Ralphi’s Hot Freak 12” Vox Mix)” by The Pussycat Dolls

Right, so, this is one of those “Kiki was very good” numbers. Everyone calls him a “generous partner” (ahhhhh), and despite how dime-novel that sounds, it isn’t wrong: He makes this routine all about Taylor and sets her up to succeed in a genre that isn’t her strong point. (Mary says there was an “issue” at the end of the dance; did they bungle the floor work? It looked awkward enough that I thought they might have, but they recovered too well for me to tell what went wrong.) Taylor’s hips could be looser, but her legwork is sharp, and Mary is satisfied. She says Taylor WAS a hot tamale. Is that a step up from riding the Hot Tamale Train, or is it a step down? Do you have to be a hot tamale to ride the train, or is the train the tamale on which hot people ride? Please write 1,000 words and justify your response.

Anyway, Nigel watching ballroom is also me watching ballroom: “Mary didn’t complain, so it must have been good.”

Lex and Koine
Choreographer: Al Blackstone, Broadway
“L-O-V-E” by Nat King Cole

“This routine is very romantic, a bit sexy, and it involves pizza.” THIS [Cat Deeley voice] is SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE.

What a dream! A sexy Broadway routine about pizza. This is why they give this show the Emmys. This number made me feel things I usually reserve for Instagram pics of Travis Wall’s dog or Mia Michaels’ dog or Gillian Anderson’s sparkly rainbow clutch or Gillian Anderson’s dog. It’s a charmer. Lex and Koine play well off each other, Lex shows off that personality he totally has, and they actually do find comedy in unexpected moments. But it’s Koine whose magnetism steals the show. She’s just got that star power, and her technique backs it up; I could watch her fan kick for days.

“This is gonna go down as one of my favorite routines in the history of So You Think You Can Dance!” Mary yells. Al, bring her the pizza!

Kiki and All-Star Jenna
Favorite Routine: “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”

And now, for his thoughts on making it to the top 4, here’s Kiki: “Whoa” (two syllables).

For his favorite routine of the season, Kiki chooses Mandy Moore’s contemporary piece, which is an interesting choice given that he wasn’t actually very good at this one (IT’S NOT A PASO, KIKI) but an admirable choice for the same reason. Now he gets a second chance to dance contemporary without paso doble arms. Can he do it? MAYBE.

It’s hard to tell — maybe time has dulled my senses, maybe I just like him better now — but I think Kiki performed this one with a little less ballroom flair than he did last time. I can’t say the same for Jenna, who turns the flair up to 11 (out of, like, 2) and full-on sobs because she just loves dancing with Kiki so much!!! To which I say, not for the first time this season: Take it down a notch, Daniel Day-Lewis.

All of this drama does at least bring us to the moment Vanessa has been training for her whole life: “It’s love!” she yells, throwing her arms up in a V, becoming one with the elements, summoning Captain Planet, creating an infinite time loop.

Koine and All-Star Marko
Favorite Routine: “Speaking in Tongues II”

For her favorite routine, Koine — who points out that she’s in the running for the title of America’s Favorite Dancer after her parents immigrated to America, and doesn’t that just warm your heart? — picks Sean Cheesman’s insect number. What a good choice. People are more primed to love this one from her now, and love it they do. Nigel praises her pizza-to-insect versatility, and Mary puts in a request to see this one on tour. Seconded.

Have we settled the custody battle for that headdress yet, or did Cat already steal it and drive cackling into the night?

Koine and Taylor
Choreographer: Mandy Moore, Jazz
“Black and Gold” by Brenna Whitaker

Sultry, sensual, strong, and sophisticated: You remember the Four S’s, right? From school? Mandy Moore sure does, and she’s grilling them into the top two ladies of season 14. FINALLY someone is giving these dancers a jazz routine that actually requires technique. Bring on those side-by-side turns.

Koine and Taylor are sultry, sensual, strong, and sophisticated (they did it! That’s all of the S’s!) in this number, they show off their turns, and I love them both and Mandy, and yet I am only very into this number as opposed to losing my mind over it. Were my expectations too high? Or is it just that we’ve done all of this (right down to the song) before? The routine sparks, but it never catches fire.

Still, Cat is not wrong when she says these women are the James Bond villains we need. Vanessa calls this “literally the ultimate female empowerment” (literally! The ultimate!). Mary, with a straight face, says they had “sophistication up the wazoo,” which is how all the sophisticates describe their sophisticated ways. (Recap continues on page 2)

Lex and Kiki
Choreographer: Luther Brown, Hip-Hop
“The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” by Missy Elliott

Next up, it’s Zenon: Boys of the 21st Century. Unlikely bros Lex and Kiki (sound bite of the night from Luther: “They’re like romancing it up, which is good, but for this routine you gotta come off like y’all are crew”) team up for this sleek hip-hop number in futuristic black plastic. And, um, did Kiki get better at hip-hop when we weren’t looking? Zetus lapetus! These guys get down. They’re having fun. I’m having fun. This is Kiki’s hip-hop redemption arc.

Now let’s go to a weird place with Nigel. Uncle Nige says Lex is good at everything… well, his samba is iffy. Nigel, was this a samba? Then he mixes metaphors with Kiki: “You haven’t just bloomed — you’ve blossomed. In fact, you’ve sprouted. You’ve sprouted wings.” So he’s a winged plant?

Taylor and All-Star Robert
Favorite Routine: “Change Is Everything (A Capella Version)”

Taylor’s first piece with Travis is the obvious choice, but it’s also the only right one. She takes Travis’ breath away (and mine, and hopefully all of yours, because who would dare breathe when Travis Wall does not?) all over again, and the vulnerability she’s gained over the course of this season helps her let go even more. Taylor just melts into Robert. Nigel once again compares her to Cyd Charisse, which was really a comparison more suited for their Broadway week, but if I danced with Cyd Charisse I would definitely tell everyone more than once, at inappropriate times.

“A woman’s intuition knows best,” Vanessa says, apropos of nothing. Vanessa is sleeping in her The Future Is Female shirt tonight.

Lex and All-Star Gaby
Favorite Routine: “More”

Lex “I’m not really like a ‘personality’ guy” Ishimoto picks tap for his favorite routine, which is honestly adorable: There is no strategy to that pick. (To anyone who thinks Lex and Taylor saved their big relationship reveal for tonight as a play for votes, I give you THIS PICK as proof that Lex could never.) Tap doesn’t bring the votes, and the judges weren’t even obsessed with this one the first time around, but Lex had fun, so here Lex is, dancing tap again. He does at least add a cute little finger point in the camera’s direction. Oh, Lex.

Vanessa says his guardian angel gave him wings because he floats and she didn’t want to make an It reference. Nigel once again brings up his trusty Fred-and-Ginger comparison. Mary says she’s glad Lex picked this one. Everyone is glad that everyone picked everything.

Kiki and Koine
Choreographer: Travis Wall, Contemporary
“Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell

We’ve found the This Is Us of SYTYCD routines, and it’s Travis Wall choreographing a piece set to the Joni Mitchell song Emma Thompson cries to in Love Actually. That is SO MUCH TO FEEL. This dance is about a relationship in time-lapse: We meet Kiki and Koine when they’re newly in love and then fast-forward seven years, picking up with the disintegrated remains of their romance. Oof. You can tell this one is a heavy one for Koine by the way our usually bubbly dancer goes quiet in rehearsal, but she channels the emotions into a capital-P Performance (our girl is acting). I’m glad Koine gets to dance a Travis Wall routine for a number of reasons, but here’s one: After a season spent in chairs or on hangers when she could be dancing, Koine teams up with Travis and suddenly finds a way to make her collaboration with a chair the best part of the routine.

Kiki is here also, apparently! What a generous partner. (In seriousness: Kiki is great in this routine and doesn’t use a single paso arm, and that’s the power of Travis.)

Lex and Taylor
Choreographer: Mia Michaels, Contemporary
“You Matter to Me” Sara Bareilles feat. Jason Mraz

IT’S MIA TIME. Mamma Mia is home again, and she is learning oh so much about the season 14 contestants. Have Lex and Taylor ever experienced the kind of love that makes them feel like they’re falling? Apparently they have! With each other! Mia gestures at the space between them in disbelief. “This is happening??” It is… amazing.

And it is happening. Confirmed Hot Dance Couple Lex and Taylor give it their all in this dreamy piece, which is sweet in a way only Mia Michaels (and the Sara Bareilles Waitress album) can be. It isn’t saccharine. It’s just earnest and joyful. Adding another move to the pantheon of iconic Mia Michaels choreography moments, the kids dive at each other across the floor and meet in a full, unashamed liplock — and that isn’t even their first kiss of the routine. It’s like kissing is their default state. Life is what happens when they’re busy waiting to kiss again. They move lightly and with flourish, like they’re conducting an orchestra just for each other, which is an admittedly cheesy sentiment that I believe Mia would encourage me to run with because Mia knows our hearts. I can’t say enough about how much I’ve missed her.

And on that note, we get one last week without an elimination, not that Kiki isn’t thinking about it. Someone taught him Japanese for “I want to go home.”

Next week, three dancers do just that. Well, technically all of them do. Who will win? And can we keep Mia forever?

You stay sophisticated, dance fans.

Episode Recaps

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