Here we go with the Top 6! If this opening number, with its skeleton costuming motif and black lights, isn't a Pharside and Phoenix number, I'll eat one of those Bane masks (from "The Dark Knight Rises") they're wearing.
Our top six, in order of introduction: Valerie Rockey, Casey Askew, Jessica Richens, Ricky Ubeda, Jacque Warner and Zack Everhart.
It looks like I better figure out a way to eat a Bane mask, because Nick DeMoura did the opening number. Cat tells us that each dancer will be dancing three dances tonight: one with another contestant, one with an All-Star and a solo dance.
Regular judges Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy are joined by returning guest judge Christina Applegate.
Ricky and Valerie get a Broadway routine from Spencer Liff. Valerie muses that Ricky might be nervous about their lift because she's been with All-Stars Ade and Ryan the last two weeks. She politely says, "They're a little more muscular than him." But she adds that she trusts Ricky and it'll be fine.
The routine starts with Valerie standing on a swing. They return to the swing in the choreography later, including a moment where Valerie looks like she gets a little caught on the seat. Even though Ricky may be the better technical dancer, my eyes were drawn to Valerie throughout.
Before we get to the judges, Cat queues up some footage from rehearsal where Valerie's dress tried to eat the swing and she got stuck. So glad that didn't happen to her tonight. Nigel loved it and compliments Ricky's leap through the swing. Christina compliments both of them and talks about Valerie's elegance, grace and honesty, and tells Ricky there's no one else like him. She's right, you know: In each generation, only one wood nymph is given the gift of dance.
EEEEEE!!!! EEEEEEE!!!!! EEEEEE!!!! They finally brought back Doriana Sanchez for a disco number with Jessica and Casey, and to "Dim All the Lights" by Donna Summer, no less! I'll use this as an excuse to recommend a really fun documentary about disco called, "The Secret Disco Revolution." Not only is it packed with interviews with performers of the era and academics, but it has a hilarious conceit in its narration.
There are so many lifts in this routine that Jessica's feet might be in the air more than on the ground. Christina calls it fabulous, but criticizes Jessica's scared face during some of the spins, saying that it looked like she was afraid a snot was going to slip out. Mary says she knows exactly what Christina is talking about. Nigel calls it a tough routine and says they did really well.
Now we get the tear-jerking footage with the contestants' families, starting with Ricky, prior to his solo. I may tease Ricky but there's no denying he can do amazing things with his body while dancing.
Jacque and Zack are back together for a foxtrot with Jean-Marc Généreux. They both seem to get the frame right for the style. Mary says it was a little rough around the edges, that in hold, their feet seemed to just be smacking the floor. Nigel, who wasn't thrilled with the performance, worries the routine won't garner them many votes. Christina tells them that if they're here, they're incredible, but that their faces seemed phony rather than natural.
Jessica's turn for family interviews and a solo. Per footage of Jessica as a pre-schooler, she was shaking her goodies when she didn't even have any. And tonight she's dancing in a bikini top and a boyskort.
With the contestant pair dances out of the way, it's on to All-Star pairings ... after a quick song from Rixton. The sound is kind of terrible, but at least this guy seems like he can actually sing. He's not one of the greatest voices of all time, but compared to previous performers this season, he's worthy of a Golden Throat award.
Valerie and Twitch are paired up for an unorthodox first dance at the wedding reception routine. It's a hip-hop routine from Will "Willdabeast" Adams but with a nod to classic wedding dances. Twitch calls Valerie "super funky." And while it's hard to overlook how super cute she is at all times, she really does execute all the krumping, twerking and such phenomenally well.
Nigel asks Willdabeast if he's married. (He's not.) Nigel isn't surprised, hollering, "You can't rip off your bride's dress." Nigel calls Valerie a great performer. Christina seems a little stunned by the whole thing, calling it "something else."
And now it's Casey's parents' turn to talk about their kid. He's got his dad's lips with his mom's mouth and teeth. Man, genetics are weird. Casey's solo reminds us that he can spin like a top.
Valerie's parents and brothers are interviewed. Her brothers are total goofballs and I love them. Her solo is to the old Romantics' song "What I Like About You" and she nails it.
Jacque is paired with All-Star Will Wingfield for a contemporary routine about first love from Sean Cheeseman. Apparently it's going to involve a giant balance ball, which sounds like a recipe for disaster. The music is a slowed-down version of "99 Luftballons," retitled "99 Red Balloons" so the ball is red, of course. For the end of the routine, the stage is filled with red balloons that drop from the ceiling. It's all very sweet, which is a nice change of pace from all the angsty contemporary pieces.
Christina says she'll have a smile on her face for the rest of the night, thanks to that number. Mary loved it, too, and can't wait to go home and watch it again. Nigel, apparently, is a sucker for rhythmic gymnastics. Who knew?
Apparently Zack's mom put him in dance when he was 7 to correct a problem with his legs. Hey, that's why my mom put me in ballet classes. I, obviously, never got as good as Zack, though. It did fix my feet, so yay dancing. Anyway, Zack's tap solo is charming and a little bit sexy. Go Zack!
Ray Leeper is giving Jessica and All-Star Ade a jazz routine set in a dance club in Tokyo. Apparently in Tokyo you dress like a neon version of a Sailor Moon cartoon. Actually, that might be accurate. It's a great routine for Jessica — perfectly suiting her personal style and it's hard not to keep your eyes glued to her.
Christina loved it. Mary, who calls the routine a lot of fun and insane, wants to know what club Ray inspired this number. Nigel didn't connect with the routine or with Jessica. Nigel doesn't understand fun.
Jacque's parents have some cute, cute video footage of her as a kid. And now she's doing an en pointe solo to "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy." Super creative and a great way to break out of the ballerina box a little bit.
Ricky and All-Star Anya Garnis are paired for a cha cha and I'm not sure Anya won't eat him alive. Even Ricky admits, "Anya is just a lot of woman." Even though Ricky acquits himself admirably, I have to admit my eyes were on Anya, who has crazy huge sex appeal. Ricky's arms aren't always as sharp as I want them to be; sometimes they're more fluid, like you'd see in a contemporary routine.
Ricky looks wrung out. Nigel says Ricky looked like he'd been doing this for years. Christina wants to be Anya when she grows up, but then jokes that that ship has sailed. Christina says she kept her eye on Ricky through the whole routine. Mary asks him how he likes dancing in the heels of the Latin dance shoes and he calmly answers, "Feels like home." Ha! That's the first glimmer of personality I've enjoyed out of Ricky.
Stacey Tookey has a contemporary number for Casey and All-Star Makenzie Dustman. Stacey says the routine is about a couple that finds out they have only one day left together. Why they only have one day isn't specified. The routine starts with Makenzie essentially climbing up and over a still-as-a-statue Casey. Even though I usually get bored with the angsty contemporary routines, this one is finding some new moves and new ways to tackle the "couple torn apart" subject matter. Well done, Stacey Tookey.
Christina wants to know what that dance made Casey feel. She kind of badgers him about it. Mary says Casey and Makenzie made a beautiful couple. She calls it "a performance of a lifetime." Nigel praises the storytelling of the choreography. He says Casey is continuing to grow.
Zack and All-Star Fik-Shun get a creative routine from former contestant Phillip Chbeeb: They're going to be a dancing version of the Rorschach inkblot tests, which could be really cool. Their synchronization has to be spot-on for the conceit to work and Zack is almost a head taller than Fik-Shun, so this could be a big challenge.
Mary screams that it was fabulous. She adds that Zack is the biggest surprise of the season. Nigel is so proud of his tapper. Christina thought Zack came up to Fik-Shun's level in the routine.
Now it's time for the painful elimination. Cat's going to name the top two male and female dancers and they'll know they've made the finale and can leave the stage. She calls Jessica's name first. Inevitable, but boo. Ricky is also in the finals, to no one's surprise. Valerie is in, which means Jacque is eliminated. Zack's name is called last, meaning Casey is out as well.
I'm not sure how the voting is going to work, because they said earlier that tonight's votes will be combined with next week's votes. So does that mean we'll vote during the show? Or that it's a two-night finale next week?
Next week's episode will have Jesse Tyler Ferguson as guest judge and Jason Mraz as musical guest. Cat called it a "performance finale." I still have no idea if it's one or two shows next week. Regardless, I'll be here to tell you how it all ends.