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SYTYCD Recap: And Then There Were Four

Silent screams pierced the So You Think You Can Dance stage this week, and it had nothing to do with Mary Murphy’s voice giving out during a Hot Tamale Train boarding call, or young female dancers responding to lascivious feedback from Nigel Lythgoe.

Au contraire, Mia Michaels and Tyce Diorio separately concocted routines that respectively found Eliana and Cole miming howls of rage and aggression, and Chehon and his All-Star partner Kathryn releasing their agony into the wind. In both instances, the unintentional homages to Edvard Munch proved deeply moving, so much so, in fact, that I worry the SYTYCD choreographers’ pool will mercilessly flog the device till we’re witnessing some NappyTabs “shouting into the drive-thru microphone at Wendy’s” ridiculata, or a Doriana Sanchez disco extravaganza with a backstory about young lovebirds playing Marco Polo at Studio 54.

But let’s not fret about what’s yet to happen. This week’s show found the Top 6 dancing three times apiece — once with an All-Star, once solo, and once with a fellow Season 9 hoofer — before receiving the results of last week’s viewer votes, and then getting whittled down to a Top 4.

Interestingly enough, Cat Deeley (in a patchwork sequined dress that looked much better from afar than it did in closeup) never gave out any numbers to vote for the contestants. Next Tuesday will bring us the Season 9 “Performance Finale” — and a chance to vote for the respective female and male champs — followed by a Sept. 18 finale when the results of those votes are revealed.

So last night’s dances? Instead of directly resulting in a frenzy of texts and phone calls, they’ll just have to contribute to the public’s cosmic consciousness when they officially go to the polls next week.

Who fell just short of the Season 9 Finale? Witney (perhaps the missing ‘h’ in her name resulted in one too many  text-vote typos?) and Cole (whose “method” approach to dance may have left viewers fearing he was the human embodiment of drug addiction, or at least a sociopath). Which leaves Eliana and Tiffany, certainly among the two strongest Season 9 women, on the ladies’ side, and Cyrus and Chehon battling in the men’s bracket.

While Uncle Nigel starts a collective chant of “Favorite dancer! Favorite dancer! Favorite dancer!”, let’s rank the nine partnered dances from best to worst — leaving out the six not-exactly-inspired solos:

1) Eliana and Cole: I was a little dubious about Mia Michaels’ “rams at war” concept, but I was sold from the first headcrash, and practically on my feet by the time Eliana ravaged Cole’s torso, threatening to roll him off the stage. Much like the Melanie-Cole routine from earlier in the night, this performance really allowed the female partner to put on a display of brute strength. The stunning, swirling camera work and exquisite lighting didn’t hurt, but this was one dance worthy of a Standing O.

2) Tiffany and All-Star Benji: No, this diner-set jive didn’t have an “emotional” backstory, but dang if Tiffany and Benji didn’t mesmerize with moves so fast and precise, they might qualify as possible sidekicks for the good heroes of The Avengers. (Pow-POW! Kick, flick, and destroy!) I loved the flirtatious way the duo looked toward one another in their side-by-side moves, and the triple-cartwheel trick was a stunner. Hats off to the underutilized Jean-Marc Genereux for one of the season’s best ballroom moments.

3) Chehon and All-Star Kathryn: This “immigrants arriving at Ellis Island” number was undoubtedly Chehon’s high-point this season — the perfect marriage of his technical brilliance and a willingness to tap into his well of emotional reserves. (It was also a high-point for choreographer Tyce Diorio, no?) It certainly didn’t hurt to be paired with as evocative a partner as Kathryn, but seriously, I got chills watching Kathryn stand atop Chehon’s back as he bent his torso perpendicular to his legs, not to mention the much-lauded move where he leapt toward his suitcase.

4) Cyrus and All-Star Comfort: I understand the frustration with Cyrus making the finale despite his questionable skill set, but for me, that didn’t detract from the joy of seeing him let loose on a loopy little dubstep routine about a guy getting pulled into a movie projector by a sexy screen siren. The “Jacob’s ladder” portion of the proceedings was indeed worthy of my DVR rewind button. Good stuff.

5) Cole and All-Star Melanie: I adored the physical power Melanie displayed in this piece about a guy trying to flee a bad relationship — whipping Cole around like a dad hurling his baby skyward in a swimming pool — but if one is trying to make sense of Cole’s exit, it has to be said that, in much the same way as he did last week with All-Star Allison, Cole got outshone by the Season 8 champ this time around.

6) Tiffany and Cyrus: This Spencer Liff Broadway number about 1950s teens getting a little freaky when the parental units went out for the night was a cute way to end the show, but I don’t understand why the judges made absolutely no mention how, in their side-by-side maneuvers, Tiffany was significantly more precise and pronounced than Cyrus. Just because America loves the affable animator doesn’t mean dude wouldn’t benefit from a shred of constructive criticism, does it?

7) Eliana and All-Star Twitch: I’m just going to come out and say it: I don’t care for hip-hop routines set to Golden Oldies fare. So while Eliana shook her booty with gusto to “Please Mr. Postman,” I’d have to agree with excellent guest judge Christina Applegate: Jay-Z won’t be looking to hire the charismatic ballerina anytime soon. (Side note: How come Twitch’s postman shirt stayed on for the whole number? Just asking.)

8) Witney and All-Star Marko: My notes mention a Ray Leeper number involving a reluctant bride, but my gut tells me this one will be flushed from my memory bank quicker than a Kim Kardashian marriage hitting divorce court. (Uh-huh, I went there!) I simply didn’t feel any connection between Witney and Marko, and the music was absolutely distracting, to boot.

9) Whitney and Chehon: Like an old door hinge in need of some WD40, Chehon’s hips creaked and flinched in this cha cha, while the usually charismatic Witney seemed oddly disconnected throughout. Then again, if you knew your partner was about to lift you as clumsily as a gangly Target stockboy trying to place a lawnmower atop a 15-foot shelf, you’d be a little distracted, too, no?

What did you think of this week’s SYTYCD? Hit the comments with your thoughts!


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