Quadruple eliminations are always brutal, but for some reason this episode felt as light and fun (and technically incredible!) as the series has ever been.
In terms of a reality competition, a quadruple elimination is a straight-up BLOOD BATH. And it's not like So You Think You Can Dance did it when it had 20 strangers to whittle down. No, we've now gotten to know these kids more and more over the past month, making this a particularly tough massacre. That being said, leave it to SYTYCD to still somehow produce bright, exciting, and joyful television from these dark times (and dark is the key word here, since many of the routines were borderline macabre). Plus, as it turns out, the single-night format has never been more effective than this episode, which saw heightened stakes for all the dancers on the chopping block. And sure enough, one pair single-handedly saved themselves from elimination by turning in some transcendent work. Truly good television.
Let's talk about it!
PERFORMANCE OF THE NIGHT
Casey & Jessica's contemporary routine, choreographed by Travis Wall. Pretty sure the universe is in agreement about this one, right? Because holy moly. It's merely incidental that Jessica and Casey hadn't danced together before. What matters is they both owe Travis Wall a gift basket or an Edible Arrangement for concocting this chills-inducing piece for them on a night when it REALLY counted. Not only did I get tons of goosebumps and maybe even slightly misty-eyed from it all, the technical perfection on display removed any and all doubt that Casey and Jessica would be the two Bottom 6 dancers the judges would save. If the judges' standing ovation at the end wasn't enough foreshadowing, their overt threats to the American voters for allowing these two to be in the bottom in the first place sure was. So good.
CHOREOGRAPHY OF THE NIGHT
Valerie & Ricky's hip-hop routine, choreographed by Pharcide & Phoenix. (Uh, can these two be the official replacements for NappyTabs?) More hip hop routines should be voodoo themed, but really maybe more of them should be danced by Valerie and Ricky, who could not have looked like they were having more fun. Even when Valerie busted out that impossible-looking side-split levitation move, it appeared so easy for her. At this point Christina Applegate outright said that the main reason she'd wanted to judge this season was to meet these two in person. And for good reason: They are incredible.
Jacque & Zack's paso doble routine, choreographed by Jean-Marc Généreux. Yes, this looked like a cut-scene from Repo! The Genetic Opera, but I DID NOT CARE. And yes, this is probably the only paso doble routine I've ever liked, and yes, a Rob Zombie song had a lot to do with that. Those costumes, those strobe lights, those moves. So fun. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Jean-Marc is a maniac and it was so good to see him back. Now let's get to luring Melanie LaPatin back to the show. —JR]
Bridget & Emilio's jazz routine, choreographed by Ray Leeper. You know you're in for a wild ride when the dancers are wearing bowler hats with chin straps. This routine kicked off the night and its demonic Bob Fosse realness was a blast to behold.
Travis Wall's group routine. Yeah. What more needs to be said about this stunner? Travis Wall is in A+ form lately and putting gauzily-clad hunks in an oceanic-themed piece was particularly appealing. Extra points for the dancers straight-up falling off the stage at the end. Amazing.
Mandy Moore's group routine. This piece was also great, with the recurring theme of each dancer falling and then reabsorbing into the group. The very concept brought Mary to tears. [EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm not going to lie, when I saw the music choice was Evanescence, I immediately laughed. God bless Mandy Moore and her defiantly uncool taste in music. Truly she and I are soul twins. But damned if that crescendo at the end didn't completely work with the story Mandy was telling. —JR]
Serge, Carly, Teddy, and Emily. Man, there are some tough losses in this group, but first of all, my picks of Casey and Jessica were chosen over these four so I'm biased when I say that this was exactly the outcome I'd been hoping for. That being said, after the solos it was clear that Casey was the best of the three guys by far (solo ballroom routines will always look ridiculous, sorry Serge). But as for the girls, only Carly really stepped to Jessica and I could've seen a possibility where they'd kept her instead. But then again, of course, Nigel seems to have a weird, inappropriate crush on Jessica. Then there was the matter of Casey and Jessica's flawless routine. Anyway, long story short, these were some fantastic dancers. Yes, even Teddy, Joe. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Fiiiiiiiine. I shall not speak ill of the late, unlamented Teddy. No, he was fine. —JR]
JUDGING THE GUEST JUDGE
Christina Applegate. Okay. So. In general, not my favorite recurring guest-judge. In fact, one of my least favorites. It has a lot to do with trying to seem self-consciously cool while also spouting off actor-motivation nonsense. And believe me, I used to ADORE this lady. The day I realized I didn't like Christina Applegate on SYTYCD was almost as dark as the day I realized I didn't like Mindy Kaling anymore. Our relationships to celebrities change sometimes! [EDITOR'S NOTE: This show also killed my affection for Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and I feel kind of terrible about it, because ultimately, both JTF and Xtina Apples love this show as crazy-much as I do. They're just big ol' actors about it. But seriously, please no Jesse Tyler Ferguson this year. —JR]
The newest twist in this saga was that Christina Applegate was actually pretty great in this episode? [EDITOR'S NOTE: Best she's ever been by a mile. When she actually, smartly defined face acting for poor clueless Emilio? Fantastic. —JR] Sure, she believes that "I saw you dancing" is a negative critique and she frequently advised dancers to go watch old movies as research for routines they'd no longer be doing. There was also the painful moment where she asked all the girls if they'd heard of Spinal Tap and only crickets responded. But she DID express sincere enthusiasm for all the dancers for whom I ALSO felt enthusiasm, so us being on the same page went a long way. But yes, credit where credit's due: Nice job, Christina Applegate.
I have to say, when all is said and done, Cat Deeley was the best host of the night. It wasn't just her exciting llama-patterned dress or her newly unveiled alternate pronunciation of "Shazam," it was her expected finesse controlling a live show while also casually dropping in and out of banter with the judges and contestants. If SYTYCD is a living room, Cat Deeley is the warm hearth at its center. If that makes sense?
... All-stars! All-stars! Not only were the ten all-stars announced, we were told how they'd be paired with the contestants. And here they are: Jenna, Chehon, Amy, Brandon, Lauren, Ryan, Jasmine, Ade, Kathryn, and tWitch. (Aw, no Neil or Melanie or Comfort?) [EDITOR'S NOTE: Fingers crossed they show up later. For now, I'm starting an advent calendar for Ricky and Kathryn's routine. —JR]
... Are you going to see Step Up All In? I AM. That made the weird sit-down talk show plug completely tolerable, in that Step Up is one of history's greatest film franchises and it's exciting to see former castmembers from SYTYCD onscreen. Except, wait, is Kathryn no longer the female lead? The guy from Revolution is the male lead, but the female lead is the girl from 2 the Streets? Personally 3D is probably my favorite one, so I hope those leads make cameos. (Sigh, Rick Malambri.) Look, I don't know, let's talk about this later.
... Emily has a business degree! That's like a Step Up plot in itself.
... Teddy's solo was set to Shai and I was NOT mad.
... Commence nightmares. (Also, hey Comfort!)
... The Academy of Villains had cool blacklight ski masks on, but wasn't it sorta scary that you couldn't see their eyes? And they kept opening their mouths like suffocating goldfish? I was into it.
... Hey Rudy.
... That was a particularly festive and emotional closing dance party. I guess we had extra time for the camera to do multiple loops around the contestants, and it was so touching how the eliminated kids were the ones to get the rest dancing. Man, I love this show.