Before we begin, an urgent concern: Should we be thrilled or a little depressed that Christina Applegate ranks among the best SYTYCD guest judges? Yeah, she’s not flawless — she’s a little cloying in her abject praise and teary-eyed awe — but the woman knows her vocabulary, connects individually with contestants, wears a Mexi-print top like your favorite aunt, remembers past routines without hesitation, and doesn’t mind being critical. Can’t say the same about Kenny Ortega, y’all. And he directed High School Musical 3 and Hocus Pocus, those true choreographed miracles.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There are too many damn contestants at this stage of the game. I can’t separate my Jades from my Jennas, my Mariahs from my Maleces. They’re all twirling, hard-smiling pageant droids to me right now, and you know what? It’s too damn hot out to remember everyone. I can’t be bothered to recall who “Tucker” is when the weather outside my apartment is performing a horrifying tribute to the Do The Right Thing heatwave. Get the ice cubes, Mookie, because I’m going to die of exhaustion and embarrassment if Nigel keeps leering at every nameless contestant in Danskin.
Weirder yet, Tuesday’s episode introduced a new twist that made me gag and cry. The week’s eliminated contestants were jettisoned at the beginning of the show, as opposed to the end. This didn’t strike me as too terrible an idea until I realized, oh, yeah, the eliminated contestants still have to perform with their un-eliminated partners. Who OK’d this? Was it that sneering slickster Tyce Diorio? I blame most lame things on Tyce Diorio. Unemployment. The Happy Endings cancellation. The Bhopal disaster. Whatever.
At least a few of the night’s routines were pretty solid, if not legendary. In no particular order, let’s cruise through these fast-paced, highly “multicultural” performances. And by “multicultural,” I mean, “Their costumes belonged on coke-powered extras in Michael Jackson’s ’Black or White’ video.”
Malece & Jade: Bollywood Squares
Unfortunately, Bollywood routines will always be hilarious. It’s not the frenetic style or gaudy costumes that makes me laugh, it’s the all-too-apparent terror in the contestants’ eyes, like they’re worried they’ll point their fingers or toes the wrong way and India will notice. Jade’s athleticism and vigor compensated for his greenness, and Malece continued to resemble a Precious Moments rendering of Linda Evangelista. That was fine, and I even reveled in her fantastic whimsy from time to time. The problem is, it’s rare that a Bollywood routine stands out among the many Bollywood routines we’ve now seen on this show, and I’m worried these talented movers weren’t memorable enough for America’s vote. Keep Lil’ Linda alive! Maybe she’ll perform a tiny version of the “Freedom ’90” video in a pumpkin shell.
BluPrint and the eliminated Brittany: The library is open, and they’re about to get read.
What. Was this. First of all, pairing Bjork’s “It’s Oh So Quiet” with a library-themed routine is inherently sad. Second, yiiiikes, the choreography: Call me Contrarian The Librarian, but disappearing and reappearing behind books is a little too Music Man, wouldn’t you say? The only Robert Preston reference acceptable to me is Victor/Victoria, and SYTYCD should’ve known that. But the worst part was that the very talented Brittany couldn’t soar with BluPrint, who sauntered meekly through this routine like he was avoiding broken glass. Renew that library card, Nigel Lythgoe, because BluPrint’s eviction is already overdue.
Jasmine M and Alan: A Twisted Tango Tease!
This was splendid. A libidinous tango that had Mary Murphy hooting about her undercarriage for almost 24 minutes. I particularly enjoyed when the leg choreography got intricate and tangle-y (and tango-y). Plus, look at Alan’s face. There’s a sex factor there that I hope we all celebrate.
Amy & Fik-Shun: Did we just witness the invention of “Bellbop”?
I’m not a fan of how much I loved this routine. The bellboy getup struck me as goofy and lame from the start, and indeed there was an element of vaudevillian wackness that made this performance feel like the very opposite of hip-hop. But ugh. The skill here. Amy, the undisputed favorite to win the competition, weaved through that luggage rack like a black mamba, popped her hips like the boogaloo was electric, and topped off with her irresistible cereal commercial grin. Fik-Shun was a total party too, and although the bellhop jackets were too Paula Abdul-ish to be respected in this context, I couldn’t resist the elan and speed here.
Hayley and Curtis: Mission ImpASSible
My condolences to the gorgeous Curtis, who is quite a star, but this routine was all about Hayley’s independently powered, self-starting ass. My god! This girl donned dancewear that Nicki Minaj might consider a bit tight, jutted her glutes at the moon, and motorized that maximus with freakish zeal. It was astonishing, and I won’t even get into those wicked-ass boots. Though I’d like to reiterate that they are wicked-ass.
Jasmine H and Aaron: Getting I-KINKY at IKEA
It’s hard not to root for Jasmine H, who exudes so much control, passion, and actual sexuality. Sometimes that sexual awareness is in her facial expressions, but often you can detect it simply in the way she extends her body. Her legs, they’re unending beams. Beams of fire. Beams of womanpower. They’re such sturdy beams that I’d pay to watch Kim Zmeskal execute pirouettes on them. Aaron has a self-owned fire too, and among all the couples in the competition, I’d say their chemistry is most apparent. And most instinctive. And deeply watchable.
Alexis and Nico: War is Hella Bland
I loved when Applegate dropped an out-of-nowhere reference to The Velvet Underground and Nico when critiquing this duo. No good reason. His name is Nico, see. And he’s maybe heard of the ’60s, so there’s that. Anyway. We were supposed to be awed by Alexis’ character, who was returning from war, but let’s analyze some confounding factors: 1) Nico’s H&M outfit; 2) the boringness of this dance; 3) the not-particularly-specific energy between these two dancers. I really love Nico, and not just because he’s hot in a prissy Nordstrom cashier way. He’s talented without being attitudinal. Unfortunately, this team is on a downward trend more than all of the others in the competition, and I’m scared this spells disaster for the coming week.
Makenizie and Paul: The Jazz Slingers!
Jesus. These two jazzed and spazzed like an evil Bob Fosse had started an electrical fire beneath the floorboards. Makenizie (please pray for me as I remember how to spell that name every single time it comes up) dealt us both kitsch and an untouchable sauciness, and Paul practically grabbed me by the lapel and purred, “I’m the hottest person here. Recap my LOINS, Louis.” Such a twisty, energized performance with a number of grandiose leaps for our amusement. Did I mention Paul’s loins? Something is compelling me to note that they’re fiiiiiiiine.
Mariah and the eliminated Carlos: Ordinary Contemporary
Anyone else shocked that Mariah wasn’t booted at the top of the show? Her solo routine looked like something Skylar Astin would’ve improvised during a break on the set of Pitch Perfect. Just a lot of thumping and mugging, like Shelley Winters’ acting in the ’70s. Anyway: She lived to tackle this routine, and it was far less memorable and way more hokey than plenty of the other stuff we saw. Carlos’ character suffered from “memory loss,” and now so am I. I can’t even remember if Mariah redeemed herself, which is a feeling of uncertainty I usually reserve for that other Mariah.
Tucker and Jenna: A Cha-Cha Slide Into Oblivion
I kind of love Tucker’s sleazy, wormlike undulations here. I know he wasn’t the star of this act, but his nasty edge was kind of awesome. Jenna vamped at us like a Transylvanian muse, and I ate up her nefarious energy too. Sort of dug it, despite Nigel complaining there wasn’t enough pure “cha-cha” in this performance. Come on. Is that really a worthy critique when you excuse a hip-hop routine backdropped by the Dewey Decimal System? Try again, kid.
Your turn. What was the night’s best routine? I’m prepared to give the crown to Jasmine H and Aaron, personally.