Do you know what time it is? It’s time to feel terrible. Why? Because I can’t believe I even dared to critique past guest-judges Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Christina Applegate for their cloying or uninformed commentary when this week’s guest judge, teensy pop phenom Carly Rae Jepsen, swept in on a cloud of bangs and ignorance and offered precisely zero insight to the remaining 16 competing dancers. I’m not saying Carly Rae Jepsen should be an erudite dance critic, but I am suggesting she could at least pretend there’s a good reason she’s sitting alongside real judges. Because to my knowledge, CRJ is not a dancer or a “dance enthusiast” (like Minnie Driver during the audition rounds). She is apparently just a dance tolerator, which would explain why she was satisfied dropping soundbites like “That was really great” or “That was great.” Does this take away from the fact that I’ve listened to her album Kiss 1,579 times? Dear lord, no. “Curiosity” forever. Never let me go-oh-oh-OH.
Nico and Alexis: Slump, Jive, and Wail
Nico again wins the prize for Most Delicate High School Senior With A Hopeful Child In His Eyes, but otherwise he didn’t make much of an impression this week with his palatable partner Alexis. They shuffled hard to Imelda May’s “Mayhem,” and I actually dug how square they looked jiving like Garfield during his backyard fence act. Embrace your squareness, kids! Please! But the swiftness of this routine suffered a bit thanks to slow transitions and a couple of clumsy holds. Surely this was one of the more difficult dances of the evening, but when you’re up against natural stars like Amy Yakima and Jasmine Harper, you can’t just survive a tough performance and expect to be remembered the following week. This might be an early death knell for Alexis and Nico — kind of like the minor bike accident that turned into a death knell for that other Nico.
Jenna and Tucker: And Then There’s Maudlin
My biggest SYTYCD pet peeve is maudlin song choices. Sweet Peabo Bryson, I hate them! I hate when I’m forced to stomach the horrible lyrics of, say, “Jar of Hearts” and then suffer through a dance of longing grasps and tearful mugging. Thankfully, this Travis Wall contemporary routine involving ropes (giant red Kabbalah strings?), aerial flailing, and emotions stayed on the right side of schmaltz thanks to tough, technical choreography and a couple of interesting tricks — but the weepy ghost trilling of Jann Arden’s “Hangin’ By A Thread” did threaten to drench the whole exercise in sap and angel tears and sugary frowns. Props to these two dancers for not hanging us on a thread of unbearable “emotions.”
Mariah and BluPrint: Caught Jazz-Handed
In theory, this should be the most dynamic team in the competition. Mariah is a thumping hip-hop wildcat, and BluPrint is a righteous robot king. These two should be solving crimes in the future, not floundering on a reality TV show. The real shame is, although they were both eliminated at episode’s end (which sorta surprised me), this spunky jazz routine was one of their most spirited, successful efforts. Like many animators on this show, BluPrint has a hard time adapting to new genres, but here he popped and matched Mariah’s clean footwork step for step. Did himself proud, for sure. We could dwell on the routine’s sadly terrible lift and ending, but I think there was enough versatile talent on display here to warrant another week in the competition. Oh, well. As Nick Cannon said to his wife every week before another disastrous American Idol tapping, “Mariah, baby, you don’t need this. Can I have my allowance now?
Malece and Alan: And None For You, Alan!
Nigel Lythgoe spends almost 85 minutes every episode praising Malece for being both cute AND a good dancer. He cannot believe it. He thinks it is so rare that a dancer can be both adorable and dancey, and he’d like us to acknowledge that. Not to join in this boring and sexist conversation, but Malece does deserve major praise for playing (successfully) vastly different characters from week to week. Sometimes she’s whimsical and balletic, other times she’s urgent and hard. This week was more of the latter, as she jolted and werked like a rad coffee percolator. With her early ’90s bob haircut and fitted futuristic costume, she looked to me like a cross between Cathy Dennis and a Resident Evil character. That I love. Alan, meanwhile, disappeared behind her gift for watchability and coolness. That’s too bad. Try a funky roundish coiffure next time, sir!
Curtis and Hayley: Sooner or Ladder
Of the two aerial routines we watched tonight, this was the slower, less memorable (but still interesting) one. Curtis and Hayley scurried up a ladder, swam in and out of its huge rungs, and writhed. Cute, I say. Like something Pink does at the Grammys. But Curtis’ shruggy shoulders were upsetting to both Nigel and Mary, so I’ll pretend to be Martha Graham now and say that infuriated me too. Hayley knocked me out a couple weeks ago with a ferocious, black-clad routine, and I hope she just bulldozes Curtis (if need be) with stage presence and scorpion-like sexuality in the coming weeks.
Fik-Shun and Amy: Hobosexual
Get this: Fik-Shun and Amy were perfect comic partners in this fascinating, funny, and unpredictable dance, and while they often dazzle us, there was a particular supremacy here that substantiates their place as the dancers to beat. In the case of Amy, I’m almost positive she can’t be beaten at this point. She’s soaring ahead of the competition, and she’ll stay ahead unless Jasmine Harper Tyce Diorio choreographed this hobo-themed spectacle — beginning with stark, cutting movements and evolving into a more sensual dance — and the ensuing joy was pure, vaudevillian eye candy. My favorite moment was actually its final pratfall where Amy tumbled over into a bunch of garbage bags with a big goofy grin on her face. Wish more hobos were this actively cartoonish. Sigh.
Paul and Makenzie: T & A Confidential
He’s a ’30s photographer in suspenders! She’s a flapper who exists in the ’30s for some reason! Together they’re — well, they’re just very watchable. Paul is a charming beaut with a mile-high Mentadent grin, and Makenzie is a sexified slab of glitter bomb debris. This was both cute and libidinous, like my man Billy Bell from season seven. Miss his barbership haircut and serious muscles. Thanks for the unbearable romantic nostalgia, Paul!
Jasmine and Aaron: Quaking Through the Quickstep
We’d been warned all episode that one team had drawn the hair-raising genre of quickstep, so when it came time to watch the frenetic, leggy dance, I was pretty sick of the stakes. Couldn’t be too disastrous, right? And in fact, we/I/ONLY I were right — Jasmine’s quickstepping wasn’t flawless, but her attitude beautified the stodgy routine at hand. Aaron was serviceable, but Jasmine’s stunning talent and goldfish bowl bootay overshadowed him yet again. Just like Antony and Cleopatra.
Your turn: Which routines ruled tonight?