So You Think You Can Dance, Season 12: Top Ten, Two Eliminated

E: Hey there, dance fans! Sorry to have been away for so long, and particularly for longer than I said I’d be.  It was a strange couple of weeks on the show, too – first an amazing top 16 episode featuring interesting pairings and a belated glut of personal information about the dancers, then a less satisfying (though still informative) top 14 episode topped by brutal cuts.

This week’s cuts were pretty hard to stomach too, weren’t they?  Not that any of them are easy, but as we close too quickly in on the finale, it’s only going to get more painful.  The good news, of course, is that the dancing was fabulous.

No student of the show needs Cat to tell them that Sonya Tayeh choreographed the opening number; her fingerprints are smeared all over it, from the stark costumes (halter dresses for the women, skort-culottes for the men, each made from black with a print that looks like a subtle silly string spray) and the severe hair to the music (Bjork’s “Earth Intruders”) to the sort of tribal military hunched movement.  Like Cat’s red long sleeved lace dress, I like and appreciate it without finding it particularly memorable. Paula Abdul’s puffy-sleek 60s hair and Egyptian inspired necklace and strapless dress, however, is the kind of crazy fantastic that’s memorable from every angle.

Cat starts the night with news, both good and bad.  For the good, Jennifer Lopez is offering the winner a slot as a backup dancer in her Vegas show, which starts in January.  For the bad, JJ has injured her ribs and can’t dance.  Boo!  If she makes it through tonight, Cat says, she’ll automatically be in the bottom next week.  (She then says something confusing about a judges save, something that doesn’t exist at this point in the competition. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard her make such a misstep.)  Then there’s more news — each dancer will “introduce” themselves to us (about time) and dance a solo to music from the Empire soundtrack.  Nice FOX synergy!  And way better than that terrible Ryan Seacrest monstrosity.

First up is Virgil Gadson, who talks about being a 28 year old Philly native and Mamma’s boy who currently lives in NYC.  He brings up a featured dance role in the Broadway show After Midnight (with Tony winning choreographer Warren Carlyle) and how he’s always loved to dance, and we meet his super-young looking mom who confirms this life long passion and shares a bunch of adorable pictures of him as a tiny tot.  Tinier tot?  Dressed in white jeans, a white t, black sneakers and a black and white striped jacket, he dances to a song called “Conqueror” and it’s vintage Virgil – tricks, personality and generally taking up way more space than his body does.  A cute brown-eyed girl in the audience leaps to her feet with a black and gold Team Virgil sign.

For the first pair routine, Hailee has drawn Brandon and a Broadway routine from – guess who? – Tony winning choreographer Warren Carlyle.  He describes the dance as tap without actual tapping — high energy fun.  We can see from rehearsals that it’s incredibly fast, too.

Brandon wears white pants and a white button down under a silver vest, and holds a conductor’s baton.  For her part, Hailee’s wearing a super short textured silver dress with a plunging neckline and white gloves just above her elbows, and Warren’s got them dancing to “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” by Tony Bennet and Lady Gaga, and it’s Vintage Broadway with all caps.  She’s so Liza Minelli it’s crazy, from the marcelled hair to the choreography – and yet she’s more than that.  Where Liza can be laconic, Hailee is high octane.  It’s pretty awesome. There are splits and walks overs and yes, tap without tapping is pretty apt.   She and Brandon aren’t an absolutely perfect fit in unison, perhaps because her personality is so damn loud (in the best possible way) that you forget to look at him; the bits where he dances by himself show him off, though.  Not that it’s about Brandon.  When they finish, Warren Carlyle bounces up and down in the audience (we’ve seen enthusiasm from him before but never like this), and the judges give them a standing ovation.

According to Nigel the judges have spent the season referring to Hailee as Liza Gaga (so apt) but she’s really more than that; she’s Hailee Payne, a star in her own right. Aw!  As if that wasn’t enough, he adds that it’s not her physical dancing, it’s her mind and attitude, and that like a Broadway dancer, she kills it every time she’s on stage.  Yes, you’re a nostalgic throwback to Liza Minelli, Paula agrees, but you have your own radiance.  You’re more than just a beautiful dancer, Jason agrees (even though she is that); you’re a mesmerizing star.

25 year old Eddie Neptune Eskridge — who first started with popping, and then tutting, and eventually krump via that oft sited documentary Rise — moved around a lot as a kid, and comes from the Bay area in Northern California by the way of Arkansas and Texas.  Right now he lives in Texas and spends his days missing his lovely little daughter, who lives in the Bay area.  He desperately wants a career in dance to help him move back to California.  Okay.  I mean, he deserves a career in dance, but wouldn’t that put him in LA?  And possibly on tour?  Ah well.  LA’s still closer to San Fransisco than Dallas.  Dressed in a white t and grey pants, Neptine dances to “Power of the Empire,” and is hard hitting and memorable.

And, hey, we have someone I’m pretty sure is a new addition to our roster of All Stars — Kayla, who we saw dance with Jason a few weeks ago.  For her first pair routine, she’s drawn Derek and jazz routine with choreographers Nick Florez and R.J. Durell.  The vibe is edgy, sexy and aggressive.  Show us your ‘eat you alive’ face, the choreographers instruct Derek, who looks like he’s trying not to burst out laughing when he shimmies up to Kayla.  I think it’s Kayla who’s going to eat him alive.  Travis speaks of a turning point, a break through moment. The performance is there, he enthuses.  Ah, but you’ve said that about him before, Travis; I’m reserving judgment.

And, yeah.  It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but there’s something about the performance quality… Well.  First, the routine itself is sexy as hell, and Kayla is sexy as hell, her blonde hair flying.  (My first roommate in college looked a lot like Kayla.  It’s as intimidating as hell.) There’s a red chair, and a striped table, and they’re dressed in black and white stripes, so it’s all very stylized, but there’s nothing stylized about the way they’re staring at each other, breathing hard. Derek is focused completely on Kayla, which brings a nice intensity as she leans into him (standing on a table) but I guess I don’t get the sense that he’s living in the dance and enjoying being with her like I think he should?  Like, sometimes I feel like I can see him thinking through where he has to be next rather than where he is.  When he skids into Kayla, back first, he’s not savoring the moment; Kayla’s enthusiasm carries the routine through, but I wanted more from the dancer Cat refers to as a survival artist. Some of that impression might come from him being rough, and maybe that’s called for from the routine, but I don’t think that was the whole thing. The bits where they dance side by side are awesome, and together they accomplish some impressive tricks, like when she rolls over his back into a flip and then split.  I mean, dang.  And I like Marian Hill’s “Got It,” so that’s something.

When Cat calls the two over, giving the All Star her brief moment in the sun, she thanks Kayla for “Addiction,” still a favorite after all this time.  Your strength prevailed, Paula says, with I think is code for “you successfully pretended to be hot for a girl” and your technique was great.  She’s very cautious about phrasing her constructive criticism next, but you can sense she thinks it’s important for him to hear; when she does spit it out, it crystallizes something for me.  Derek needs to split his focus between the audience and his partner; even though he was able to give the appropriate emotion to Kayla, he has to turn some of it outward.  I didn’t find this the sole issue with his performance, but it’s a genuine issue and one I think would be really helpful for him to concentrate on.

Kayla’s amazing energy fed you, Jason says, and it called out a kind of Wolf of Wall Street persona that really suits you.  You should try to hold on to that.  Er, maybe.  Nigel loves the routine but admits he didn’t see Derek at all until he and Kayla started to dance separately.  He too, however, thinks Kayla made Derek into a different man.  What can a kid do but nod and agree?

The next solo goes to 20 year old Gaby Diaz, who introduces us to her large Cuban family in Miami.  Her dad is a percussionist, she says, and her mom a dancer, so that must have bred the tap in her.  Through pictures we see her friendship with last year’s crop of Miami SYT talent – Nick, Rudy, and eventual winner Ricky.  They encouraged her to try out for the show, and here she is, having the time of her life.

She wears jeans and a black crop top to dance to “Can’t Truss ‘Em,” a song she acknowledges is very different from what she normally taps to.  I’m not sure she’s left herself enough space or texture with the tapping, but she does some cool things to compliment the song’s rhythm.

Afterwards, we get to see the film that 30 year old Jessica JJ Rabone made before injuring her ribs.  We see adorable pictures of her as a little tyke in Japan, and meet her British dad and Japanese mother, and see a little bit of her glamorous sister without actually hearing about her.  We only know that JJ chaffed against the strict structure of Japanese society, and moved to LA for freedom, only to find that her dancing wasn’t up to snuff.  She took classes in everything, worked really hard, and now is living her dream.   Sadly, she’s chased her dream right into the bottom 2, a not particularly surprising fate after the lack luster pin-up number she and Kate got saddled with last week.

There’s nothing expected about the next routine, however, where Virgil gets Comfort and a Christopher Scott piece about a young couple’s first night in their new home.  He thinks I’m the best thing in the world, which I pretty much am, Comfort says cutely, and while Virgil’s goofing off and beaming, tWitch glowers and tells him not to get too handsy with his sister.  After a moment’s stony glare, the team captain bursts out laughing.  Phew!

I get a little bit of flashback to one of my favorite ever Comfort routines when we see the hip hop dancer kneeling on the ground folding tea towels, but that’s where the resemblance ends.  Virgil pops up behind her, playing with the towel, goofing around.  She’s wearing jean shorts and a soft baseball shirt, and he’s got on jeans and a button down over a t, as if they really were moving into a space with just a mattress on the floor and a few packing night tables covered with candles.  You can sense their delight in each other, and it’s both childish and sensual, which is a pretty miraculous line to walk.  It’s cute and bouncy and makes great use of the bed – Comfort even wallops her man in the face with a pillow at one point, causing him to flop back onto the bed and roll off it.

Sometimes Christopher Scott does these small moment scenes and they don’t click, but this year his romantic inspiration seems to be on fire.  The piece — set to the Temptations “Just My Imagination” — is gentle, and sweet, and feels lived in.  Like the singer says, you feel like you’re looking in a window at something perfect and intimate.  And the synchronized moments are so impressive.  You can tell all through the routine that the audience in enraptured.  When it ends, everyone is standing up, including the judges.  That’s two for three, which is a pretty impressive start.

That was like a cool breeze on a hot LA day, and exactly what we needed, Jason enthuses before telling Virgil that’s he’s one to beat and praising his consistency.  Nigel thinks Virgil was born to dance and entertain (yep) and comments on how Virgil and Comfort made every complex trick Christopher gave them look easy and natural.  He also has this fantasy of Comfort and Virgil getting married and producing their own cute little dance crew.  (There’s your girl, Cat tells Virgil, pointing to the girl with the sign, and he waves with such excitement I start wondering if this is his girlfriend and not a random fan.)  Finally, Paula lauds Christopher’s clever song choices and asks Virgil what kind of batteries he takes (double A) and whether he comes with a lifetime warranty. Or does she mean guarantee?  Or a guarantee of a warranty?  Augh.

Instead of hearing about her fiance like we have the last two weeks,22 year old Jana Jaja Vankova talks to us about her tiny town in the Czech Republic and how dance was an escape for her from the harsh winters and, though she doesn’t say, the difficult jobs available (her dad’s a lumberjack and her mom a seamstress in a factory).  In every childhood picture, she’s a magnetic, adorable, cherubic little imp. Philip Cheebeb rescued her from all this after seeing her dance by asking her to come to LA and join his crew.  We see a little of her disappointment at being cut in the green mile last year, but she says that in retrospect she’s pleased, because the Stage v. Street theme suits her perfectly.  She dances in a black t, trucker hat and olive camo leggings from her audition to “Keep It Moving” and it’s fricking awesome.   She hits so hard, and yet her facial expressions are just so interesting and full of life.  I’ve never seen a street dancer combine those two elements, except perhaps Fik-shun.  She’s extraordinary.

Megz has a jazz routine by Ray Leeper; with All Star Marko as her partner, Megz spends the entire rehearsal on a high, unable to wipe the smile off her face, in love with the routine.  It’s a cute idea, too; it’s about that moment that your favorite song comes on the radio and you just can’t help but dance.  They’ve been given a bright yellow bench, with Marko in gray pants and a gray patterned button down and Megz in a natty blue patterned suit over a striped and peekabo yellow shirt, an explosion of shape and color that shouldn’t work together but does.  It’s fun and exuberant, and it’s so cute to see Megz singing along to Jamariquai’s “Canned Heat,” a fantastic song that might just be older than she is.  She’s not without fault — there are times when I want more precision in her arm movements, especially compared to Marko — but the tone suits her far better than last week’s disastrous “Worth It,” and her facial expressions fit in.  And that perfectly timed, perfectly matched tumbling run?  Outstanding.

If I could dance with anyone, Cat coos, it would be Marko, he’s so generous and kind and great.  Wow!  Everyone else just gets thank yous.  Though Megz doesn’t get a standing ovation (fair), the judges are pleased.  Nigel loves that she owns who she is.  You were born to stand out, he says, not follow.  He does ask her to work on her flexibility, since her split jump was rather uninspiring (so much so that I had to rewind to even remember what he meant).  Paula thought she was magnificent (“Magnificent Megz!” Cat cries out), and says she wanted to join in the infectious fun.  Well done, Ray!  Jason loves how hard she works and how she’s always in the pocket, and thinks she too is a contender.  Sadly, last week’s unimpressive routine has done her in, and she’s in the bottom 2 with JJ.  Not that any cuts are easy at this point, but yuck.

26 year old Jim Nowakowski of Rochester NY reminds us that he was adopted at the age of 6 month from South Korea.  His mom remembers for us what a beautiful smile he had, even with his cleft palate.  The operations made me the strong person I am today, he says.  We see him at 18 get a contract with the Houston Ballet, but hear his desire to do more, to learn more, even after accomplishing his dream.  When he dances to “You’re So Beautiful,” it’s breath-taking.  He’s so light on his feet, as if he’s a marionette being lifted by invisible hands, and his leaps are so impossibly high.  It looks effortless, and joyous.  It’s some of the prettiest ballet I’ve ever seen, and a wonderful and necessary reminder of his genius.

Edson‘s lucked out with a contemporary routine by Travis, with Jamie as his partner. She’s one of the All Stars I know the least, so I’m curious to see her. Travis’s idea is that Jamie’s  depressed and deciding to go toward the light, as the cliche goes, and Edson is challenged to stop her.

And indeed, Jamie lies on the floor to begin the routine, bathed in a brilliant white light sent from the other side of the stage, convulsing with the need to submit its power.  She wears a pale pink leotard with cut outs, and when he enters, Edson is shirtless with simple gray pants. And wow, but the lines of their bodies are so beautiful!  Son Lux sings us “Your Day Will Come” as Edson persists in turning Jamie away from that light, once yelling into her face a wordless howl from the song.  Despite that howl it’s so elegant, so stark and tender and beautiful.  At the end of the piece, when Edson lays Jamie down on the ground, encouraging her to go back to sleep, that things will improve, I’m struck by the remarkable gentleness in his hands.

And for the third time this episode, the judges are on their feet.

That was so powerful, Nigel enthuses.  The All Stars have really pulled something extraordinary out of the contestants.  It was your best ever.  Paula says it’s now one of her all time favorite Travis routines.  (I don’t think I can say the same — there are so many! — but it was certainly wonderful.)  She thinks it’s a game changer for Edson, and that the effortless looking lifts were exquisite.  It was magical and he was so present it was like he and Jamie finished each other’s sentences.  (Yes, exactly.  He did what Derek couldn’t manage; he was fully present with his partner, but made that emotion available to the audience, too.)  I think Paula just wrote a poem, Jason smiles, and then agrees that it was a break out moment for Edson.  We’ll long remember this routine.

Unfortunately, however, last week’s boring routine lands Edson in the bottom.  It’s really not his fault;  he and Jaja tried their best, but the idea was just too thin. It wasn’t nearly as bad as Derek’s, but with only last week’s voting numbers involved, this week’s brilliance won’t have any affect on Edson’s chance’s to last the night.

20 year old Utah native Hailee Payne reintroduces us to her super supportive family, many of whom came to her audition last year.  And, huh, also in season 10?  I didn’t realize she’d been trying out that long.  She then tells us a little bit about her parents’ devastating divorce, and how blessed she feels that she’s been able to remain close to both of her parents, who’re seen picnicking together, and that they still have that family bond.  She dances to “Nothing to Lose” and it’s typically fiery and full of attack.  Maybe a little frenetic at first, but you have to love her zest for life.

Pharside and Phoenix have a hip hop routine for Neptune and Jasmine.  Awesome!  Their typically theatrical routine involves a little family dinner between Frankenstein and his bride, which is a pretty fabulous conceit.  tWitch is excited that we get to see Neptune be beastly.

And so he is, licking a platter at a fancy table set with a candelabra.  Jasmine’s dolled up with the typical Bride of Frankenstein hair and a blue frock coat over white leggings and a frothy tiered skirt, while Neptune wears a cravat and an earth toned ensemble along with studs in his forehead.  The song is Yultron’s “Milk Was A Bad Choice” which is kind of the best song title ever.  The dance itself – well.  There’s a bone breaking hug, which is hilarious, and some awesome back bend walking, but there’s not enough.  It’s awesome style, but I want more dancing.  The judges and audience do not agree, and give the routine the fourth standing ovation of the night.  Dang!  It’s the polar opposite of last week; everyone’s in a great mood.

Stymied by fact that he can’t curse on network television, Jason tells Pharside and Phoenix that they’re “outta y’all minds” and crazy just like him.  That showed mastery at the highest level.  Neptune, too, is a contender.  (How many contenders does he have?)  Nigel loves the choreographers sense of theatricality and drama, and tells Neptune that when his daughter sees this buck routine, she’ll be so proud.  Paula marvels at his growth and says he found his perfect match in Jasmine.   (Well, maybe.  He and Kate were pretty spectacular together, too.)  It’s a marriage made in Transylvania!  Har har.  Because he hasn’t been annoying tonight, Nigel ruins his streak, piping up that the last time Jasmine danced on a table it was “Misty Blue” with tWitch and look what’s happened to him!  Um, okay.  First off,  tWitch was already pretty established at that point, but more importantly, come on.  That was Sasha, who doesn’t look a blessed thing like Jasmine.  UGH.

When he reintroduces himself, 18 year old Derek Piquette of Chicopee MA (yay!) lets us know for the first time that he was inspired to take up dance by watching dancers “like” Travis on So You Think You Can Dance.  Aw! Also, 18?  I forget he’s that young.  No wonder he’s having trouble with bringing the full on sexy; most people can’t do that out of the gate.  Heck, even Asaf couldn’t pull that off in his ballroom routine and he lives in sexy land.  Speaking of Asaf’s failed attempt at a sexy routine, are we just done with ballroom?  Not going there anymore?  Sorry, sorry, back to Derek, who left home at 16 to study under former SYT dancer Viktor, who trained last year’s winner Ricky.  Good thinking, Derek, even if I sort of maybe wish you’d waited a little longer to mature.  You could have owned this competition in a few years.  Then again, who knows if it’ll be around, and if it isn’t, then auditioning now was the only choice.  In the video, his mom gets understandably teary about seeing her son live out his life long dream.  He dances to “Drip Drop” in white shorts and a loose kelly green t-shirt, with his heart in his eyes.

Last year’s finalist Jessica takes a turn as an All Star for Jim with a Dee Caspary routine about a man with internal conflicts who’s saved by a woman.  Huh.  Okay.  That seems vague.  Steady, happy Jim’s having enough trouble with the choreography that he breaks down crying when Travis pays his visit.  Aw!  Poor guy.  Dancing to Tim Odell’s “Heat,” Jim wears jeans a gray t-shirt and Jessica a rust colored dress with cut outs and an open back.  And it’s very pretty, but I don’t see the story in it at all, and I can’t tell if that’s the choreography, or Jessica (who has trouble emotionally connecting) or Jim.  He certainly seems to have the choreography down despite his concerns about the movement, but there’s no emotional through-line.

And that’s about how the judges feel, too.  Nigel politely praises Jim’s impeccable technique and the beauty of his movements, but asks him to concentrate on connection.  Paula tells him to trust himself and his magnificent, and Jason cuts to the chase, saying that he needs to stop concentrating on technique and throw himself into the story.  We didn’t get the story there, and that’s why we didn’t love it like we wanted to.  I enjoyed it, Paula pipes up, but Jason’s making the important point.  Then again, I think the fault belongs just as much to Dee.

29 year old Long Island native Megan Megz Alphonso is the middle child in a family of entertainers, with professional ballroom dancer parents, an older sister ballerina and a younger brother a free styler like herself.  (Okay, I guess she is older than “Canned Heat.”) In fact, it turns out that she and her brother auditioned together in season 5 and got cut in Vegas.  Wow!  I had no idea!  That’s a long gap between auditions, too.  She’s in constant shock that she’s still here on the show, she says, and her mother cries in pride for her daughter’s accomplishments. She dances to “No Apologies,” and it’s hard hitting and trick filled and awesome, bursting with power, fire and conviction.

The penultimate pair routine on a very long, very awesome night belongs to darling Jaja. (Seriously, if she doesn’t win I don’t know how my kids will handle it.) It’s Nakul’s Bollywood, and they brought in All Star Alex, which obviously scares me every time since that’s how he tore his ACL.  The idea is that Jaja is a princess trying to sneak out of the palace, and Alex is a guard intent on keeping her inside.  Interesting, interesting.  Krumper Jaja says she’s never played a princess before, and is really enjoying it.

Bollywood’s a tough style; because it’s so physically demanding, I never know which dancer is going to keep the energy going all the way through, and so I’m a little apprehensive to start.  Jaja’s adorable in a black cape trying to sneak past Alex, who wears a lacy gold vest over maroon harem pants and holds a big spear; he catches her by the cloak, pulling it off to reveal a sea foam, silver and purple skirt and top of stunning beauty and complexity, as well as a crown-like headpiece.  They dance in front of and around a little gazebo to “Naacho Re” from the Jai Ho soundtrack, and it not only start off magically, it ends that way.  It screams personality and appeal. Jaja’s precision and mischievous charm last the whole way through synchronized sections, knee turns (as Alex ballet-leaps in a concentric circle around her and the gazebo) and tricks.  That leap he does pushing off the spear?  I mean, dang.  Jaja mimes dropping a ring off her finger, and when Alex turns to get it, she grabs her skirt in both hands and tiptoes away, finally making her escape.  The judges stand for – what is that, the fifth time tonight?  I’m losing count.

What an amazing number, Nakul, Paula gushes.  There’s nothing Jaja can’t do.  Her personality is so charming, she’s like a firecracker and a sweet dream at the same time.  Agreed!  Jason calls her a chameleon, and tells her she looked like a professional, keeping up with Alex perfectly.  It’s true.  She really did.  During Virgil’s routine we saw a brief clip of Whoopi Goldberg in the audience, and Nigel lets Jaja know that she’s the Oscar winning actress’s favorite.  He too praises her ability to transform, boggles at a Czech dancer doing Bollywood in Hollywood, and calls her a princess of dance.  Before celebrating that she’s safe, Cat calls her on the transformation from tomboy to princess.

For our final solo, we get to see 24 year old Edson Juarez from Mission Texas who talks about being a sporty kid who fell in love with cheering at age 10, but couldn’t handle the bullying and went back to doing the expected sports.  By high school, however, he started to dance and cheer again, and lead a dance team, which we see like we’ve seen the cheerleaders he coaches.  Now he wants to show the kids he works with that they can overcome anything and should follow their passions, and his mom, too, cries in pride.  Aw!  I feel like it took him a while to open up — or maybe it’s just that the show sucked early on at showing the contestant’s personalities? — but I’m enjoying learning about what a really good person he seems to be.  His solo to “I Wanna Love You” smolders; he’s sexy coy in jeans and an open leather shirt.  Very confident and very hot, making me wonder if he didn’t turn down the heat a little for Jaja in their supermodel routine last week so as not to blatantly outshine her.

The last pair routine is for Gaby, who we already know is safe.  She’s dancing outside her style (though as a tapper I suppose she always is, huh?) with Joshua as her All Star partner and Pharside and Phoenix doing the choreography.  This time, their equally theatrical idea is a geisha verses a ninja.  Except delicate, dainty Gaby isn’t going to be quite the push over that Joshua expects, they warn us.

And indeed she’s not. To the strains of Missy Elliot’s “I’m Really Hot,” Gaby stands on a red curved bridge in a short geisha-inspired outfit, her face painted white and red, when Joshua (thick in black ninja garb) leaps up behind her.  She gives as good as she gets the entire time, with tremendous gymnastics, awesome unison, and really great tricks.  That bit where he bends and she does a plank off him?  So cool, and it just goes on and on from there.  In the end, she breaks his neck, and as he falls limply to the ground the judges are on their feet for the sixth standing ovation of the night.  Six, out of nine routines. Come on!

I couldn’t love you more with every inch of my being, Cat tells Gaby, and Jason quickly agrees.  You twerked!  Three times!  He’s loving on Pharside and Phoenix, too.  Tonight was my favorite episode of the season, Nigel enthuses, fairly so.  Everything has worked and been brilliant.  Sure the season is street versus stage, but it’s team dance at the end of the day.  Everybody wins!  He reveals that Jaja and Gaby are his favorites. You kill me in the best possible way, Paula grins.  You speak every language of dance, and you prove you have something new to offer every time.  Cat finishes the love fest by calling out the fantastic costumes of this dance and the evening in general.

And, that’s when things get rough.  JJ, looking super cute in a striped dress, joins Derek, Edson and Megz on stage.  (Interesting — after an entire season of imbalance it looks like we’ll stick with the gender parity for a least a little while longer since one street girl and one stage guy will go home.)  Not that I don’t like all of the dancers, but judging on last week’s performances, it should be Megz and Derek going home, as JJ and Edson were perhaps forgettable in their routines but not actually unsuccessful.  And if there was a Twitter save, you’d certainly think Edson would have earned it after his bravura performance tonight!  But no.  I have to say, I’m really surprised at Derek’s ability to dip into the bottom but not go out.  It’s the injured JJ (fair if sad) and the mature and brilliant Edson (a travesty) who are leaving the competition.  I like Derek a lot, but come on.

Because they’re bumping up the contestant interaction, the producers have prepared an exit package not just with clips from the dancers’ time here, but nice stuff their competitors say about them. Edson’s fellow stage dancers will remember his impressive physique, his constant use of little cheers, and his steady partnering.  A very sincere Jim says they’ll be friends for life.  Aw!  JJ’s unique, a staunch supporter of her too restrictive homeland, shines like the sun, and is pronounced by Megz to be the best roomie ever. Aw!  As the show ends, the dancers are forced to be cautious and not hug the rib-injured JJ, though we do get one very creepy shot of Nigel moving in with an open mouth either to kiss her on the cheek or whisper something.  Ew.

And, so.  I didn’t think that Edson had a real shot at winning — Jaja and Virgil and Jim and Gaby are probably the top, right? — but it’s hard to let him go.  Since I didn’t get to recap that episode, I didn’t have a chance to praise his stunning work with Megz in “You There.”  That’s where I really wish there had been traditional partnerships, because I could see the two of them excelling together (along with Kate and Neptune, and Virgil and Hailee, and Jim and Jaja).  I did start the season thinking that JJ had a chance to win, although I feel like she didn’t get enough routines that let her shine, other than her stunning tango.  There’s no avoiding this kind of pain, though, especially not this late in the season, especially not when everyone’s great in some way.  Edson and JJ are bright lights, and I’m sorry we won’t get to see more of them, but I’m happy they made the tour.  Thanks for sharing your talents with us!

What do you think?  Was it the best night of the season, even better than the excellent top 16 episode?  Did the right two people go home?  Are you still smarting after losing 4 dancers last week? And who do you think should go home next?  How far can Derek make it?  Let me know what you think!

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