Last night was the first competing performance episodes of the SYTYCD Top 20. Before we could even get to know all of the contestants' names, we were informed that last year's injury curse was not, as Nigel had suggested in interviews, broken. Nope, unlucky Mitchell was subject to the curse this time, sitting out under a doctor's advice because of an arm injury, forcing his partner, Caitlynn to perform with Season 7's Robert, much to my delight I might add. But a lot happened before then.
1. Megan Mullaly is guest judge. Oh how I miss Adam Shankman, let me count the ways. First, the third guest judge is best known for her performance as a helium-voiced housewife from Will & Grace and, of course, the I Can't Believe It's not Butter commercials. Oh Joy. They say she's qualified, and it's not that I don't believe it or that she didn't give constructive criticism that sounded more intelligent at times than Mary and Nigel's sweeping praise. No, she did fine, but still... seriously? Second, we have Mary Murphy back. She lulled us into a false sense of security during the earlier episodes by convincing us that she would have real critiques and you would be able to hear them only with the volume set to a normal level. Then, last night, BAM. There was old Mary back, forcing me to turn down the volume when it was her turn to speak... Third... well, I kinda liked Adam.
2. Jordan and Tadd- African Jazz- Last week I dubbed Jordan as one of the ones to watch for this season. I haven't necessarily changed my mind. I still think she's got a phenomenal power, but she made me think twice. Maybe it's just that I'm not so into the African Jazz routines. I don't know why, but even the one with Russel from Season 6 that everyone raved about, I wasn't into it. It also could've been that Tadd didn't seem so confident or fluid with her. Was that my imagination? Because the judges didn't seem to comment. It was a good way to start the show, but if I was going next, I wouldn't have been too intimidated.
3. Sasha and Alexander- Contemporary- Sasha was also in my batch of favorites through Vegas week (though I would still have liked to see her sister with her in the Top 20). She didn't disappoint. Unfortunately, her partner really did. Awesome concept, awesome music and awesome choreography as usual, Travis Wall. There was this one point when Sasha was facing Alexander and you could see this burning in her eyes, truly in character and with great movement. I loved watching her. Alexander, not so much, and all the time he wasn't dancing was spent staring creepily at Sasha. Did anyone else see that? I felt like he was auditioning for Twilight.
4. Jess and Clarice- Broadway- Unbelievable. Jess picks Broadway. I'm never a huge fan of the Broadway routines. I love them as group numbers, but when it's just two people it always feels less grand than it should be. That being said, I loved watching Pee-wee- Jess... sorry I have to stop doing that- doing his solos through the audition process and he really stepped it up with his performance last night. He smiled and showed his personality. Clarice was good, but a little lackluster. Not sure what else to say about that.
5. Ryan and Ricky- Lyrical Hip Hop- I've never liked Ryan. Last season, watching the home visits to choose the finalists, I prayed that she wasn't one. But I knew she would be back. Surprisingly, I liked her better at times this year. She showed more emotion and performance during Vegas week than I had seen in her before. I was feeling positive about the idea of her sticking around for a while. But last night, I found that I still don't like the girl. I understood the concept of the routine and I knew, even beofre she explained it, why she was smiling, but it wasn't the right smile. Her smile was overjubilant when her emotion should have been sweet nostalgia since she wasn't real- only his memory. I thought Ricky's performance on the other hand waas spectacular, and severely under-reviewed. He did a good job conveying the pain remembering his love after she had left.
6. Caitlynn- Jazz- I never get sick of seeing Sonya routines. They have a such a special quality about them. Caitlynn did a great job. She brought a surprising strength to the performance that had me thinking "Wait, what was her name again?" Honestly, I feel like there's usually a little more... hardness in people dancing Sonya's choreography, but I still agree that she did a great job. And it was great to see Robert dance. He was my favorite last season...
7. Miranda and Robert- Latin- I love Jason Gilkinson. He puts so much life into ballroom, and it really speaks to me because I'm not generally such a fan of ballroom. Not sure why. Anyway this was a really fun routine. The performance was there. Miranda's cute. Robert put a lot of energy in, so credit where credit is due. Technically, even I could tell it wasn't really there, and not just for Robert. Step it up kids.
8. Missy and Wadi- Jazz- I really like Wadi. Plus I think free-running is wicked cool. I like that Sean Cheesman played to his strengths, but I kind of would have liked to see what he did with the jazz style, not just, you know his own style. Missy, for whatever reason, doesn't stand out for me. I don't know why. She has power. She certainly has confidence, to a fault perhaps. She has personality. She has technique. I don't know what it is. I'm just... Meh.
9. Melanie and Marko- Contemporary- Wow. Talk about a power couple. AND they pick their style? AND it's another Travis Wall routine. And such an awesome awesome concept. Yes, I expected greatness. I expected a routine to be remembered. And they didn't disappoint. First off, music is really important for me, and Travis always picks GREAT music. That Ingrid Michaelson song was just incredible. The costumes were great. Melanie was spectacular. I generally have a thing with favorites. I don't like to favor them. (Last season it was Robert or Lauren over *eyeroll* Kent. Before that it was Jakob and Kathryn over Russell, and before that it was Jeanine. I'm just saying- loved her from day one and she was NOT the favorite. Janette and Brandon rocked it every week, but I knew... anyway) I'm having trouble disliking Melanie. Which says something. Also unlike me, getting taken in by a person's story. It's just good TV, I tell myself but Marko got shot in the arm and he still dances like that? His yearning and desire for the female statue came through in droves. I loved the routine. Best Routine of the Night Award.
10. Ashley and Chris- Hip Hop- This routine was cute, and the really in character parts like the beginning allowed Ashley and Chris' personalities to shine. But after that they kind of lost it. This was one of the weaker routines of the night, though I was impressed by Ashley's hip hop. Her performance fell through though whenever she was really dancing. Chris was... I don't know, I'd be fine if he went home. I know B-boying is not the same as hip hop and blah blah blah. But Ashley totally outperformed him and he knew it, which is why he emphasized how different the genre was.
11. Iveta and Nick- Latin- I've been rooting for Iveta since season 6 and I said last week that Nick is one of my favorites. And then they pick ballroom? What could go wrong? And then I hear... Oh, it's the Quickstep. Loyal SYTYCD fans will know that the Quickstep rarely comes without "dreaded" before it and "kiss of death" after it. And for good reason. People always suck at it. But Nick rocked it! Don't get me wrong, of course Iveta did too, but I think her credit really lies in Nick's success rather than her own. Who even knows how hard she coached him. It was truly amazing in my, unprofessional opinion. I would point out that the judges agreed, but they pretty much agreed with everything all night so... yeah not sure that a good indicator.
12. Best Costume of the Night- The statues costumes for Melanie and Marko. I love a good concept dance, and I'm pretty sure so does the costume designer.