So You Think You Can Dance finale recap: Who is America's Favorite Dancer?
This is it, kids. After a lifetime of watching shadows dance on a cave wall, tonight I glimpsed reality in its true form and saw the universe as it is for the first time. Tonight, Mary Murphy quoted Plato.*
I don’t want to be dramatic, but Mary Murphy casually QUOTING PLATO right as this season is on its way out the door is one of the cruelest events in the recorded history of the arts. Mary, you tease! Come back and quote more Plato at me! LORD HAVE MURPHY.
*To be clear, this isn’t about whether she’s quoting Plato accurately. When Mary says, “It’s the music and rhythm that finds the way into your soul,” she’s quoting Plato by way of, like, an inspirational cat poster that was probably misquoting, at best, Socrates, and at worst, the guy who made the cat poster. I don’t need Mary Murphy to actually start reciting the Allegory of the Cave. I just want to hear what she thinks Plato said.
Anyway, in the words of Plato, we’ve got a great show for you tonight, presented by Macy’s.
But before we look back on the highs and pre-recorded lows of the season 14 finale, let’s cut right to the chase and congratulate Lex Ishimoto, America’s Favorite Dancer! Lex is an otherworldly talent and a real trooper (remember when he clearly very seriously injured himself??? I still don’t know if he’s okay). This is Lex’s well-deserved coronation ceremony. But this celebration doesn’t just belong to him. It also belongs to Star, returning Wednesday on Fox.**
**I will take every form of cross-promotion with department stores and Fox dramas if it means we can have this show back for another year, which I’m not taking for granted despite Cat’s declaration that she’ll see us all next summer. Cat Deeley is an optimist and also possibly omniscient.
To fill time in our two-hour extravaganza, Cat exchanges luxurious hugs with her sparkly pal Mary and guides the judges as they introduce a few of their favorite routines from the season. This, as always, is an exercise in getting to know the judges more than anything else. Nigel loves feathers and people pretending to be birds. Vanessa loves the ‘70s. Mary loves pizza. Nigel also loves…RuPaul! And routines from this show being popular on YouTube! Huge shout out to Mark’s group number, a.k.a. how Cat gets to work every morning.
And have I mentioned that I, personally, still love Robert Green? Thanks to Vanessa for highlighting him — and for once again being my voice on this show and asking the tough questions about how anyone breathes that much hairspray.
The hits of the season keep coming, but this isn’t just a night to look back — there are a few new performances in the mix. First up, you thought she was done after last week, but Mia Michaels is just getting started. She sits down with the top 4 and shares a moment with each of them: Koine cries, Taylor opens up about her insecurity, and Lex and Kiki out-droll each other. Kiki, when asked how he feels, tells Mary he’s “confused.” Confused about what? “How I got here.” (He gets it!) And Lex delivers the single funniest line he’s said all season when he shrugs, “There’s no way to shape personality. It’s just the way you are. And for me that’s a really, really boring and dry human being.”
Lex! Never change.
Mia then gets down to the business of changing lives, choreographing a group number for the top 10 and their All-Stars. I loved last week’s romantic duet, but if you were missing a little mystifying edge to your Mia Michaels magic, may I present this piece. Mia is accessing her inner Hannibal. (“Let’s just explore what kind of monument we can create with bodies.”) Everything is right again.
I don’t know what this dance is supposed to be about — it’s left to our interpretation — but the hoodies feel like social commentary. The dancers eye each other with twitchy paranoia at the start; by the midpoint of the piece, they’re thrown into each other’s arms, trusting each other even as they push each other away; by the end, they’re screaming together at some unseen force overhead. It’s haunting and unsettling and cathartic, and somehow it feels like progress.
The next new routine of the night feels like it might as well be the envelope with Lex’s name in it: He joins Travis Wall for a Shaping Sound duet about tortured artistry and Hot Suspenders, and it’s officially my favorite thing Lex has done all year. How does Travis do it? (By fighting his mirror self, apparently.)
Lex has already won, and we all know Lex has won, but there’s still one more performance to enjoy, and yes, it stars Vanessa. Lady V joins Shawn Hook for a duet of their song “Reminding Me,” which looks at first like it’s going to be a dance, and then it looks like it’s just going to be a song, and then — haha! — Robert comes up out of nowhere, wearing just pants, and hugs Vanessa from behind because that’s how Robert tells you it’s time to dance. (I yelled at my roommate, “Come back, she’s dancing now,” and then rewound and made her watch Robert’s awkward approach, if you want to know what it’s like in my apartment.)
The comparison to the top 10 doesn’t do Vanessa a ton of favors, but you know what? I’m proud of her for going for it.
And now, to the top 4. Kiki, in fourth place, is the first to be eliminated, followed by Taylor in third (I have to wonder if people just assumed she didn’t need their votes), leaving Koine and Lex standing together, one of them sure to be this show’s first Japanese American winner. When Lex is announced, Koine looks more excited for him than he is. Everyone in this top 4 is, actually, a great sport. It’s lovely.
I would have been happy with anyone in that top 3 (Taylor is all grace; Koine is a powerhouse), but Lex always seemed a little more inevitable than the rest, even when the judges tried to make us question his humanity. So here’s to Lex. And here’s to this quote from Cat Deeley, which makes no sense: “It’s like boxes of frogs here in the studio.” And here’s to you, dance fans. Until (hopefully) next summer, always remember you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. Plato said that.
Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and the viewers at home crown America’s Favorite Dancer.