There are a lot of neon colors in this opening number, which is essentially a neon nightmare of a line dance. I'm old enough to remember when neon was a thing in the '80s. The boys are in cowboy shirts with 10-gallon hats. Then there's a jump rope and I think I'm in the middle of some kids' show I never wanted to watch. Oh, and now there are chairs, because what this routine needed was more props. This whole thing feels so jumbled and not cohesive.
Now that we're down to the Top 10, the contestants are introduced solo:
Bridget Whitman, Emilio Dosal, Tanisha Belnap, Rudy Abreu, Jacque LaWarne, Zack Everhart, Jessica Richens, Casey Askew, Valerie Rockey and Ricky Ubeda.
Jamal Sims choreographed the opening number and his suit gives me all the answers about the costuming choices.
Judges Mary Murphy and Nigel Lythgoe are joined tonight by Tara Lipinski. I guess I can see it — figure skaters have to know something about choreography. I so wish her appearance leads to a Johnny Weir cameo. They're not telling us right away who's in danger of going home.
Bridget & Brandon Bryant (Season 5) are doing Bollywood with a disco twist, as choreographed by Nakul Dev Mahajan. I remember Brandon's disco routine from his season. Having just rewatched it on YouTube, maybe what I remembered most was how well Brandon filled out a pair of white trousers. (Related: Whatever happened to Doriana Sanchez? I love her wacked out disco routines.)
Ha! They've got Brandon shirtless and in a pair of white trousers. It's like Christmas in August just for me. Good grief this routine is high energy, though. The disco routines always looked exhausting, as do the Bollywood, so this is double the workout.
Brandon leaves the stage for Bridget to face the judges. Cat points out that Bridget's eyebrows are completely covered in glitter. Tara thought Bridget sparkled through the entire routine. Mary said it had strength, stamina, speed, skill and spirit. She says of Bridget, "Those quadriceps must be singing." Nigel says whatever Bridget's been given on the show, she's done it "with her whole heart."
Now we get some results. They're going to announce the bottom two of each gender. Alas, Bridget is one of the bottom two vote-getters for the women.
Tanisha is "right at home" doing an Argentine tango with Ryan Di Lello (Season 6). Ryan makes a comment, I think, to the effect that he and Tanisha have danced together prior to the show.
Even though Tanisha is young, she's able to project a certain maturity that makes her very believable dancing a sexy dance like the Argentine Tango with the much older-looking Ryan. Her legs are flawless. The lifts and the transitions are amazing, too.
Mary is ecstatic and says the choreographers, Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo, have outdone themselves, giving her a routine that has everything she'd want in an Argentine Tango. She praises Tanisha's performance and says she was amazing. Nigel says the footwork was magic and praises some very specific moves in the choreography. Tara praises the terrific opening, which was a solo moment for Tanisha, who was essentially seducing both Ryan and the audience to dance with her.
Cat gives the happy news that Tanisha is safe tonight.
Emilio gets hip-hop for a routine with Jasmine Harper (Season 10). But first, a deodorant company has apparently given the show some money to sponsor a segment about the pressures of the competition.
Tabitha and Napoleon D'Umo are back to choreograph. Just last week, I had a conversation with a fellow viewer on Twitter about how glad we were not to have seen "NappyTabs" yet this season.
The routine starts strong with a seated Emilio getting in some popping right away. Jasmine is in a giant basket and slithers up out of it like a snake. Emilio's better at this than Jasmine. He's getting low with it and adding his own flourishes to the choreographed moves. Jasmine can do things with her backside that are a miracle.
Nigel welcomes back Napoleon and Tabitha, praising them for how they "commercialize" hip-hop. He then tells Emilio that he's improved over the course of the competition. Tara says that Jasmine is unreal. Mary uses "amazing" a lot and also praises Emilio's improvement.
My '70s-era Barbie had a dress just like Mary's tonight. Except Barbie had a giant multi-color butterfly decal on the front. I can't decide if that would make Mary's dress better or worse.
After Cat announces that Emilio is in the bottom two, Nigel interjects that if Emilio had done tonight's routine last week, there would be no way he'd be in the bottom two. I totally agree.
Tyce D'Orio's got a jazz routine for Valerie and Ade Obayomi (Season 5). Tyce says he's challenging Valerie not to be so nice and comments that Ade is a "fierce presence" he needs Valerie to live up to. They're dancing to Gotye's "Hearts a Mess," which I was fairly sure I heard Tyce humming during the rehearsal footage.
Valerie's keeping her foot hyperflexed for most of this routine. It doesn't look natural. It looks like she's having to remember to do it. Good gracious. At one point, Ade is essentially in a push-up position on the floor and Valerie walks up on his back. That was always my favorite thing about Ade - he was so frickin' strong and tough physically but a complete pussycat personality-wise.
Tara criticizes her for not keeping up the not-so-nice character through the whole routine. Mary thinks Valerie's gone another step with this routine, but that she didn't quite dig deep enough to lose the innocent, nice girl. Mary says that she loves Valerie tonight anyway. Nigel didn't love Valerie tonight, comparing her unfavorably to Ade and his breadth of movement. He also points out that she was a bit tight and self-conscious. He hopes people (as in the voters) remember how good she's been across the series so far to this point.
Cat delivers the happy news that, at least for this week, Valerie is safe.
Hi there, Louis van Amstel! So happy to see you! He's choreographing a cha cha for Rudy and Jenna Johnson (Season 10). Louis says the storyline is simple - they have the hots for each other and they're using the cha cha to express that. Louis, I love you.
Rudy's in a vest that Jenna pops open immediately. It's kind of a lackluster, very perfunctory cha cha. I'm not sure if that's Louis dumbing down the choreo for Rudy or Rudy just not doing the choreo very well.
Mary thinks it was hot and Rudy does gross things with his body to celebrate. Mary praises Louis' choreography and says Rudy was on fire, full of chemistry and power. Maybe my inherent dislike of Rudy is clouding my judgment.
Nigel says he owes Rudy an apology because he used to think Rudy was so full of himself, but then says he's actually full of life. He does caution Rudy, however, not to go so over the top with looking at the camera and winking and whatnot. Mary says not to listen to Nigel. Rudy, trust me — listen to Nigel. Tara says his smile and performance is infectious. Is it infections you can cure with antibiotics? Maybe?
Cat holds us in suspense before giving Rudy his safe result. C'mon, there's no way, given that they've revealed one male and one female dancer in the bottom so far that someone else this early is not going to be declared safe.
Travis Wall is doing a "contemporary/ballet" duet this week for Jacque and Chehon Wespi-Tschopp (Season 9). Chehon himself has a ballet background. They're dancing to "Adagio for TRON." That makes me titter, even if I really like that soundtrack by Daft Punk.
There's one bright spotlight they're doing a lot of the dancing in front of and it takes the camera guy a while to figure out how to show it and them without blinding us. There must also be a strong spotlight at the front of the stage because we're getting amazing shadows of the dancers on the back wall of the stage. It's cool - with the angle, it looks like a different set of dancers in the shadows, even though we know it's Jacque and Chehon. The whole package - lighting, music, choreography, performance - is giving me chills.
Nigel opens with a reverent, "Wow." He praises the director of the show for how she filmed it, using only one camera. He also deservedly praises Travis's choreography. Mary uses the word "exquisite" a lot and her tone of voice suggests that such a routine makes even the Hot Tamale Train conductor hushed with awe.
Jacque is one of the bottom two tonight, and if she goes home instead of Bridget I will throw things. Although at least she stayed long enough for us to see that gorgeous routine tonight.
Ricky gets Lauren Froderman (Season 7) for a Mandy Moore jazz routine. This could be too cute and energetic for words. It's a rockabilly inspired number, so it's jazz by way of jive, kind of.
Nigel says Ricky, like a lot of the other dancers, is really raising his game. He says it was a simple looking routine that's actually quite difficult to execute. Tara and Mary also praise Ricky to the high heavens.
Casey and Kathryn McCormick (Season 6) perform a Broadway number choreographed by Spencer Liff. He says it's based on the "Love me, love me not" game you do while picking petals off a flower.
Casey looks both really good and slightly awkward in his suit. They're dancing to Liza Minelli's "Maybe This Time," which is almost comical in its over-the-topness.
Mary starts out by talking about Kathryn. Focus on the current contestant, not the All-Star, Mary. She says that Casey is quickly becoming a star in his own right. She adds that when the music crescendoed, so did Casey's dancing. Nigel says that Spencer found a style that really suits Casey. He echoes Mary's comments about Casey being on the rise. Tara tells him how handsome he looks.
In shoes, Casey's actually even a skosh taller than Cat. America did not vote him into the bottom two, so maybe our hatred of tall dancers is coming to an end.
Jessica and Twitch (Season 4) are doing a NappyTabs jazz number. The story is that Twitch is an "old cat at a bus stop" and Jessica is a pinup type girl and as she walks past Twitch ogles her. Ew, ew, ew. Don't indulge Jessica's tendency to veer stripper. It's not good for anybody, least of all her. And old men leering after young girls they don't know isn't cute or funny — it's just gross, even if Twitch will sell the heck out of it with his innate charm.
I'm sorry, everybody, but if Twitch is onstage, I'm watching him, not whoever he's dancing with. Especially when he's doing the "I just threw my back out" mime while doing hip-hop.
Tara says she's obsessed with Twitch and that she loves Jessica's dancing. I think she means the former more than the latter. Nigel thanks NappyTabs for choreographing a routine inspired by him. Oh, Nigel. This doesn't get you off the hook for all the Creepy Old Man Leering you do at young dancers, particularly blondes like Jessica. Nigel thinks with last week's routine and tonight's, Jessica has started living up to her potential.
We already know Jessica is safe because they've announced Bridget and Jacque as the bottom two. Also, by process of elimination, Zack must be the other male dancer in the bottom two. Spoiler for when Cat tells us this in about four minutes.
Sonya Tayeh has choreographed a contemporary piece for Zack and Amy Yakima (Season 10). It's a tribute to a friend of hers that passed away suddenly. Zack is playing the dead friend.
He's shirtless and so, so pale. He also doesn't have the same abdominal definition that Rudy was showing off earlier. The choreography is gorgeous, though. The partnering moves are amazing. Near the end the music stops and they're dancing only to the sound of a thunderstorm. It's really dramatic.
All three judges give a standing ovation. Cat gets the "bottom two" news out of the way right off the bat. Nigel seems to be near speechless. He praises Sonya's body of work and then announces that Sonya will be going to the Martha Graham company. Then he rants about how all their choreographers don't get Emmys instead of just one.
Finally, he's getting around to talking about Zack. He calls him "absolutely stunning." Zack is very clearly on the edge of tears standing next to Cat. Mary's choked up as she calls the routine "a masterpiece." Oh dear. Mary's about to cry so Zack's about to cry and everybody needs tissues.
Cat has Zack and Jacque step forward to hear their results. Cat's off-camera, but you can hear she's having trouble with the envelope and says, "I can't get into it." Then you hear a ripping noise and she says, "Oooh, I've ripped it." Jacque and Zack are about to die. This is a million times worse than the fake tension of drawn out results on "American Idol."
Jacque and Zack are safe, so Bridget and Emilio are eliminated. I'm not surprised by either elimination, but I hate to see Emilio go. These two were partnered with each other, and I wonder how far either one of them could have gone if they had different partners. Imagine Emilio with the more mature and confident Tanisha. Bridget never really showed much of a personality, but maybe someone as ebullient as Rudy could have drawn her out more?
Next week's All-Star partnerings:
Tanisha & Nick Bloxsom-Carter (Season 9, Ballroom)
Valerie & Ryan Di Lello (Season 6, Ballroom)
Rudy & Allison Holker (Season 2, Contemporary Jazz)
Jacque & Stephen "Twitch" Boss (Season 4, Hip-Hop)
Ricky & Jaimie Goodwin (Season 3, Contemporary)
Casey & Comfort Fedoke (Season 4, Hip-Hop)
Jessica & Will Thomas (Season 9, Contemporary)
Zack & Makenzie Dustman (Season 10, Contemporary)
Tanisha's lucking out with all these ballroom partners. They're really loving Rudy to give him Allison, and they've managed to find one of the shortest female dancers I ever remember being on the show to pair with Ricky.
It's so hard to predict who might be bottom four next week because Jacque and Zack both had amazing routines tonight that should keep them out of the bottom. Based on routines tonight more than past voting, I'm thinking we see Tanisha in the bottom, partly because ballroom generally doesn't seem to grab voters on this show. I hope America likes Valerie better than Jessica but Jessica had the better routine tonight.
As for the guys, I'm going to say Rudy for previously stated ballroom reasons. And since I can't remember Ricky's routine at all, and I just finished watching the show, I don't like his chances. Ricky's been popular with viewers so far, but Casey's on the rise and has momentum that could carry him, despite having a near-ballroom Broadway number tonight.