The strangely stressful, Michael Jackson-themed Top 8 performance show culminated in the season's most shocking elimination to date.
Well, I'm not okay. Are you okay? I really doubt it. Even if for some monstrous reason you were okay with this episode's shocking elimination, the Top 8 performance episode was weirdly stressful and unfun in general. While it was jam-packed with performances, the production felt rushed and intense in a way SYTYCD rarely does. Part of that is the added pressure of a rapidly approaching finale, but a lot had to do with, again, some bad choices by producers. Like, why even bother with solos if they're pre-taped, thus turning Cat Deeley into a liar every time she had to pretend they were happening beside her? And why even bother with a Michael Jackson night when the show could clearly only afford some bargain basement MJ tracks? "'Will You Be There' is out of your price range, but here's 'Earth Song'." Was the whole thing just an infomercial for Michael's "new" "album" Xscape? And why on earth did the producers continue the practice of telling dancers they were in the Bottom 2 right after they performed? I maintain that it colors the voters' impressions for the following week, and this week Cat even told the dancers who their All-Stars partner would be just before imploring viewers to vote for them. Associating Valerie with tWitch just before voting felt shady, like an unfair advantage. She's perfectly good on her own, obviously. But questions of fairness aside, I just don't understand how these choices create entertainment value.
AND THEN THERE WERE THE UPSETTING RESULTS. Guys, I did not care for this episode. Just a bummer episode for a bummer week. That being said, there were some terrific performances, so we might as well talk about 'em!
PERFORMANCE OF THE NIGHT
Rudy & All-Star Allison's contemporary routine, choreographed by Ray Leeper. If we're being absolutely, 100% real here, this routine was ALL Allison. It's saying something that I rarely if ever noticed Rudy—my favorite male dancer in a torn shirt!—while Allison was flipping and flying around him like whirling dervish. Yes, the All-Stars raise the dancers' game, but in certain circumstances can eclipse them entirely. That's what happened here, but I was not mad. [EDITOR'S NOTE: I was super prepared to have to fight you on this, but I agree completely. Rudy was basically a prop for Allison here, reminding me of that Cyrus/Jaimie routine from two seasons ago, where Cyrus was similarly mere ballast. Allison is the goddamn greatest, but this was the first performance where I started to see Rudy being a bit out of his depth. — JR]
CHOREOGRAPHY OF THE NIGHT
Jacque & All-Star tWitch's hip hop routine, choreographed by Dave Scott. I'm not sure that this routine totally came together, but Dave Scott's work just makes me so happy and at this point in the show I NEEDED it. [EDITOR'S NOTE: I thought Jacque was slooooooow on this one. And, predictably, she got a pass, as almost all girls attempting hip-hop get on this show. — JR]
Casey & All-Star Comfort's hip hop routine, choreographed by Pharside & Phoenix. While it's true that virtually any dance routine could benefit from the addition of a giant spiderweb, it was still an absolute pleasure to see Comfort doing her thing while Casey danced flawlessly beside her. Their "chemistry" wasn't really the most convincing, mostly because he's still a very polished Disney kid (no joke, the other day while I was watching an episode of Good Luck, Charlie on the Disney Channel DON'T JUDGE there was an interstitial segment about kids doing different sports and a pre-SYTYCD Casey talked about being a dancer) but what they lacked in chemistry they made up for with sheer skill. I was honestly just so happy to not be bored and sad for two minutes. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Technically on-point, charismatically void. That's our casey. I like that even his dance mentors were like 'Casey picked us?? How nice, who'd have expected?' Because how would you ever know how he truly feels? — JR]
Valerie & All-Star Ryan's samba routine, choreographed by Jean-Marc Genereux. As a rule I don't love the samba routines, but add "Wanna Be Startin' Something" and also a shirt straight out of the International Male Catalog and I'M DOWN. [EDITOR'S NOTE: I was proud of Valerie for stepping it up, and for hiding her disappointment that Ryan is this season's designated ballroom mule instead of Pasha. — JR]
Ricky & All-Star Jaimie's contemporary routine, choreographed by Travis Wall. Sorry guys, I wasn't wild about any of the gooey contemporary routines this night, but if I had to rank them, this one was probably the best. It felt slightly choppy and awkward, and when Ricky and Jaimie did that one move where he's on the ground kicking her back upright again it looked like he kicked her way too hard. [EDITOR'S NOTE: My pick for routine of the night. It only looked like Ricky kicked her hard because Jaimie is a genius. And Jaimie used to be Travis' girlfriend back when he needed to tell people he had a girlfriend, so really this routine was about the two of them, and I melted into a puddle on the floor. The very best that life has to offer, was this dance. —JR] Anyway, yeah. Ricky's going to win this competition right? Especially now that...
Rudy & Tanisha are gone! This was shocking, just straight-up shocking. Is this that American Idol curse where a front-runner comes in 4th place all of a sudden? Because while Rudy may not have the finesse of other dancers, he seemed primed to coast to a win off his charm alone. Tanisha on the other hand, was a technically extraordinary dancer. I just don't get it. Rounding out the Bottom 2 were Casey (!), a shocker after his recent tremendous performances, and Jacque, who hasn't really blown me away all season, but Joe posits was benefiting from her showmance with Rudy. Too bad Rudy himself doesn't seem to have benefited from it! Man, Rudy's expulsion was truly one of those heartbreakers that knocks the wind out of your sails and makes you question whether you even want to keep watching. I will obviously keep watching this show, but with one of my favorites gone and my other favorite failing to find traction with voters, it's looking like the finale won't be quite as captivating as I'd hoped. Sorry, Zack fans, but he can't even touch Ricky (whereas Rudy may have actually presented a challenge). Ugh. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Here's what happened. With Emilio gone, we were left with three contemporary dancers and Zack, a tapper who looks like a contemporary dancer. So everyone's fighting for the same demographic here. Zack danced the routine of his life last week, and Ricky is the best. So suddenly Rudy was third place at best for the week. But nobody stopped to think about that, they assumed he was safe, and Casey managed to rally support from the Society for the Preservation of Human/Wax Hybrids. And so here we are. Tanisha fell victim to the fact that the SYTYCD viewership is only teen girls and gay men at this point, neither of which groups are able to effectively give a proper shit about girls. I'm bummed Rudy's gone, too, but I think this was the week that all the whispers of Rudy-haters on Twitter finally convinced me that he was somewhat lacking. — JR]
JUDGING THE GUEST JUDGE
Jenna Dewan-Tatum, the original Step Up heroine. She was fine. Not great. Kind of said the same vague, positive affirmations over and over, and awkwardly. Next week Apples will be back, and I feel vaguely relieved about it, which is saying something.
Cat Deeley remains the best host even though the producers made it VERY tough on her this week. Obviously there was the whole pre-taping gambit (couldn't the show just acknowledge that they were pre-taped and not resort to canned cheering and Cat's pantomimes?) but also the show was so jam-packed with content that Cat barely got a word in. In general it's just bad production when your #1 resource for good times is forced to rush through her intros, but oh well. She was nonetheless just as dazzling as ever.
... Hello, I would like to know more about Ricky's full-ride scholarship. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Welcome back, Victor, one of the undersung knockouts from the underrated season six! Love you, Victor. Forgive you for Dance Moms Miami. — JR]
... Again, the solos weren't a particularly riveting aspect of the show, especially in light of the fact that they were pre-taped and who even knows how many takes the dancers were allowed? But even still, I liked Rudy's, Casey's, and Jessica's. Sorry tappers and ballroom dancers, solos in those genres are just not very entertaining. But there should be legal restrictions put in place about the cavalier use of M83 songs, which are DANGEROUS WEAPONS emotionally. Casey's use of "Outro" was especially reckless with our hearts. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Mmm-hmm. — JR]
... "You liquefied my bones tonight." - Mary Murphy to Ricky
... What did we think of Valerie's hair extensions? I'm against them.
... Did Nigel get bleeped toward the end? The sound cut out while he riffed and Cat ignored him and then he muttered jokingly "I said 'beer'". What did he say?
... It's slightly amusing that the Step Up franchise presents dance crews as these hyper-hardcore and creative dance thugs who wear bulletproof vests and rappel down cranes and set off smoke bombs, yet here were Control Freakz, dancing to the Amelie soundtrack.
... Closing dance party was tear-soaked and short and frantic. Seemed about right. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Bye, Rudy. Never let them make you wear shirts. Never. — JR]