The Wife:

Before we could smother this year’s incarnation of America’s Favorite Dancer with flowers half the size of his or her body, the good people at SYTYCD regaled us with two hours worth of Judges’ Favorites, retrospectives on the season and Cat Deeley’s earnest one-on-one interviews with each of our Top 4 dancers. Though the content of Cat’s interviews didn’t prove to be quite as in-depth or illuminating as last year’s (in that there was no Katee moment in which Cat asked a dancer what was going through their mind when they announced to millions of viewers that if they didn’t make this year’s Top 20, they were going to stop dancing), but everything that makes us love Cat as a host is reflected in her interviewing style. The woman actually scratched her head and, I believe, cleaned her ear with her finger during her interview with Jeanine. For someone so imminently fashionable, I admire her complete lack of vanity. And I want to be her friend. (If only so I can borrow some of her clothing, even though she strangely decided to don what appeared to be one of those “towels you can wear” to the finale.)

So . . .  many . . . sparkles . . .

So . . . many . . . sparkles . . .

The evening’s dance encores started out with a retooled version of Tyce DiOrio’s “Brand New Day” Broadway routine. Why retooled? Well, you see, it was originally choreographed for the Top 10, but they decided to add 10 more dancers and make it the only time the Top 20 would appear together in the finale. At first, I didn’t notice because the camerawork focused on our Top 4. It lingered on Kayla’s barely-there spangles, Jeanine’s mane of hair and even a little bit on Melissa’s ballet segment (even though she didn’t make the Top 4). But then I saw a really tall dude in the back and I thought, “Oh my God. They let Tony Belissimo join this number.” My question is this: what was wrong with the perfectly fine Shane Sparks routine to “Boom Boom Pow” that was intended to be danced by 20 dancers? No other Shane Sparks routine was performed that night, and yet another Tyce DiOrio routine was. Shane was even there, wearing a baby blue baseball cap and some stunna shades. Granted, of the hip-hop group numbers, I actually prefer TabNap’s “Seven Nation Army,” and they later had a routine on the show. Were they trying not to overrepresent each style of dance? That couldn’t have possibly been their goal as three of the judges’ picks were contemporary routines, and Mia’s A Chorus Line routine walks the line between contemporary and Broadway, so it would have easily filled the Broadway quotient alone. I don’t know, guys. I can’t figure it out. It’s not that I dislike “Brand New Day,” or even that I thought “Boom Boom Pow” was all that spectacular (it’s no “They’re Everywhere”). It’s simply that I do not understand the decision to rechoreograph a routine to include more dancers, rather than using the one that was originally intended to be danced by that number of people.

After that, we saw several judges’ favorite routines. Shankers asked for a repeat of TabNap’s “Mad” for Jeanine and the Chbeeb, which I like just as much as I did the first time, especially the spooning (or “schnoogeying,” if you’re Cat) at the end. Debbie Allen inexplicably wanted to see Asuka and Vitolio’s Louis Van Amstel waltz to Enya’s “Dreams Are More Precious,” which I assume was chosen simply to give them something to do in the finale. I don’t love that waltz, but it was the pair’s best work together. Miss Allen was right about that.

Mary requested to see Travis Wall’s completely fabulous contemporary routine for Jeanine and Jason set to Jason Mraz’s “If It Kills Me.” Watching that piece again, I am even more impressed by Travis Wall as a choreographer and the incredible grace and athleticism of Jeanine and Jason. Every lift in this dance is superb, and those two dancers just ooze the pent-up sexual tension the dance requires. Furthermore, there was something about the camera work this time that made the use of the prop necklace seem more necessary. Maybe it was having a little extra rehearsal time, as well, because not only did the two transition the necklace between each other more smoothly, but I simply felt like those movements were intended for the prop, rather than pantomime that was filled with something. It read better this time, and now I think I was wrong to say the piece could do without the prop. Isn’t it amazing how a little extra rehearsal can change your mind?

Mia picked the evening’s second Louis Van Amstel number, proving that these routines were not chosen at all with a view to letting each choreographer shine, but of the Van Amstel pieces we got to see again, this one was hands down my favorite. She invited Max and Kayla to perform their hot-pink, fringed, Hot Tamale Train Ticketing, smokin’ hot, showstopping samba from the first performance show of the season, and it was just as marvelous as it was when I first saw it. I’m glad someone gave Max his due, because that dude partners a lady like nobody’s business. But then again, I always root for the Russian. It was a tradition started with Artem that will continue every season hence.

Your! Top! 4!

Your! Top! 4!

Taking a break from so the dancers could set up for their next bit, Cat screened a little producer package for the Top 4 in which they were invited to see a private screening of this year’s SYTYCD-related movie, Fame, starring Kherington Payne! And Miss Debbie Allen! It comes out Sept. 25! Go see it! After some lip service to the great Debbie Allen, who just kind of IS Fame, Debbie made her second pick for the night, the super hot club salsa number for the Top 16, choreographed by another favorite Russian of mine, season 2’s Dmitry Chaplin and TabNap. Once again, I feel the need to reiterate that there’s something about Dima’s choreography that I think is very unique among the SYTYCD choreographers. His work always feels very big and bold, and I think that’s because he understands, first and foremost, that he is choreographing a stage show for a live audience. Some of the choreographers choreograph for a competition setting first, and think about how it will look on a performance stage, being filmed for TV later. I started noticing the difference in Dima’s work with last year’s Argentine tango for Chelsie and Joshua, and it really hit me with this club salsa number. Both of those things are so amazing that they’d fit right into a stage show about Latin dancing.

Tahlia Fowler, the winner of SYTYCD Australia, was invited to perform a solo routine choreographed by our own Sonya Tayeh (marking her only routine of the night) to “Shot You Down” by Audio Bulgs. Because Sonya’s style is so strong, I can’t really say much about Tahlia’s talents except that she danced a very Sonya routine very well. Following this, Lil C chose to see Nakhul’s “Jai Ho” routine for Caitlin and Jason, but strangely insisted on pronouncing it “Jay Ho” instead of “Jai Ho.” Naturally, C insisted his pronunciation was correct, a fact about which I’m not really sure. I can see why he’d think that, as the vowels in the song are elongated, which makes you hear them not quite as they are actually pronounced (this is why so many song lyrics are misunderstood: vowel lengthening), but I am relatively certain that with my degree in linguistics and my small knowledge of how Hindi vowels work, it is indeed pronounced “jai.” (In fact, listen to a native speaker pronounce it here and totally prove Lil C wrong.)

Farewell, my lovely!

Farewell, my lovely!

Finally, after eight routines, we were given our first taste of results. Things ended up being pretty much in line with the EW Predicitify SYTYCD game as my beloved Kayla was awarded fourth place to join the gallery of losers along with Travis, Danny and Will. America, I will never understand why you guys never latched on to this amazing dancer. I mean, she’s what you find under “girl,” “perfection,” and “star” in Mia Michaels magical cross-referencing dictionary. How can you not love a girl that’s cross-referenced? Kayla was immediately swathed in a bouquet of pink lilies and said some lovely parting words about how everyone who makes the Top 20 is a winner (except, probably, for those who don’t make the Top 10, in my opinion) that I’m sure made her dear old grandpa weep his weepy adorable man-tears. She then was practically shooed off the stage to make way for what I knew was coming from Evan’s costuming during the results line-up: Mia Michaels’ “butt dance,” chosen by Adam Shankman as his second pick of the night.

I realized during the butt dance that I think Mia and Sonya were the only two choreographers on the show who even bothered to give Evan a chance to fit into their work. I know it must be hard to envision a routine, not exactly knowing who you’re going to get (and I also have to assume that each season, the choreographers have several ideas and decide which ones to do each week when they see what dancers they’ll be working with), but the routines Evan took the hardest critiques in were always in ballroom routines, which are typically styles that are not very flexible in terms of bending to the dancers performing them. That’s not really the choreographer’s fault, but I’m convinced there are things that would have been possible to do in those routines that made him, and by extension the choreographers, look very good. He really shined in the butt dance, and in the Sonya pieces he was in. Maybe there’s just something very contemporary and jazzy about being a modern-day Gene Kelly? I don’t know, but in any case, it was great to see him hit that horizontal leap again here. J’adore.

At least he went out on a great routine, no?

At least he went out on a great routine, no?

But, and there is a but, just as swiftly as Kayla was dismissed with her pink flowers to usher on the butt dance, more results were dished out after the butt dance and our own Gene Kelly was awarded third place and a bouquet of yellow flowers that were actually about as tall as he is. I know that the show is about being America’s Favorite Dancer, and I really do like Evan and think that he is more talented in his own style than other people’s choreography allowed him to demonstrate, but after five seasons of this show, I have come to choose my favorites based on their versatility. Versatility here is key. In the first season, the final four were winner Nick, Melody, Ashlé and Jamile. I fucking hated Jamile. Why? Because that d-bag couldn’t do shit out of his own style. He only made it to the Top 4 because it was the first season, people didn’t know better then and he was a pretty great popper. However, I really resented his inclusion in the final four over other, more versatile dancers . . . like my beloved Artem, ousted in week five of that abbreviated eight-week season. Of the season 2 finalists (Benji, Heidi, Travis and Donyelle), I liked Heidi the least because I thought she was the least versatile, but I never hated her like I hated Jamile. In season three, the final four didn’t present a problem of a dancer lacking versatility, so I couldn’t hate anybody, although I was awfully tired of both Neil and Lacey by the end of the season. As for last year, the fact that Courtney made it to the Top 4 over the much more talented and versatile Chelsie Hightower was a constant thorn in my side. This year, I thought that Kayla, Brandon or Jeanine were all equally deserving of a win, and even though I do adore Evan as a person and as a dancer, I’d probably have been upset had he won because he simply hadn’t shown me the versatility that the other dancers in the Top 4 had. With all seriousness and respect to him, though, I want him and his brother to have their own stage show where they can show off their talents in a venue and manner conducive to their creativity. Surely, someone with money must also want this. I’d produce it myself, but I don’t really have the wherewithal to solicit money from people to fulfill my old-timey theatre daydreams.

With only two dancers remaining in contention for this year’s title, Nigel revealed his pick for a routine to see again: Mia Michaels’ addiction contemporary for Kayla and Kupono, set to Sara Barielles’ “Gravity.” I once again got some serious misty eyes and chills watching this piece, especially in the crescendo segment where Kupono starts throwing Kayla around. I already loved that song, and its single-take music video. But now associate it just as much with Kupono’s malicious sneer as I do with Sara Barielles herself walking toward the camera as the world, filled with lights, pulls away from her. Certainly, this was the most effective piece in the season for me, and it definitely goes on my list of all-time favorites.

Following this, the Rage Boyz Crew performed and I waited with eager anticipation to see them toss that little dude across the stage. I adore watching Cat interact with children, and I’m glad adolescent boys find that tall English glamazon attractive enough to paw at her, give her their sweet-ass jacket and allow her to be “in their crew.” I hope she has lots of adorable English babies someday, but I don’t know if I couldn’t handle that much cheeky cuteness.

Our jidges: singular sensations.

Our jidges: singular sensations.

Tyce asked for a repeat of Doriana Sanchez’s super-speed disco for Janette (whose name I’ve finally decided to spell correctly) and Brandon, followed by a repeat of Tyce’s cancer contemporary for Melissa and Ade, which took on special significance last night with the announcement that the friend for whom Tyce created that routine was officially cancer-free. The gang then repeated Mia’s A Chorus Line piece about the hellish work of being a professional dancer, with special hokey guest appearances from our jidges. I have to say it was mighty ballsy of Tyce to even appear in A Chorus Line-related number, given the fantastic ass he allegedly makes of himself in the documentary Every Little Step. (The documentary is about the casting of the most recent revival of ACL, from which Tyce was denied a role. I cannot wait to see it.) Brandon and Janette were then asked to repeat their final number from Wednesday night, Louis Van Amstel’s industrial goth Paso Doble and there, clad in vinyl, she and Brandon stood to find out which of them would be crowned America’s Favorite Dancer. The voters, it seemed, favored goofy, graceful and incredibly talented Jeanine, making her only the second female winner in five seasons.


I’m very happy with Jeanine as the winner, as she proved to me all season that she was an extremely talented dancer with a great personality. She was second only to Brandon as a soloist, and I think she’ll go very far. She’s said her alternate career is to be an actress, and I can only hope that someone (maybe someone named Rob Marshall!) will make a movie musical that will feature her in a dancing-acting role like the great ones once created for the likes of Cyd Charisse, Leslie Caron and the fabulous Ann Miller. As for the rest of our Top 4, I have some unsolicited career advice for them, too. I’ve already mentioned my dream stage show plans for Evan, but I’d like to see Kayla find her place on the stage as well. I think she has a lot of opportunities ahead of her in a number of performance-related fields, but she’s a perfect choice for Ivy Smith if there’s ever an On the Town revival (and, yes, I think Evan would make a fine Gabey). As for Bradon Bryant, he needs to join Alvin Ailey’s dance troupe immediately. He is perfect for them. And barring that, even though he is not a ballet dancer, I’m sure Desmond Richardson’s company could find a way to utilize his grace and athleticism. I really wish all of these talented, talented kids well and hope that they have long careers ahead of them.

Viva Jeanine!

Viva Jeanine!

It’s been a blasty blast writing about dancey dance for you guys this season. (And, by the by, I officially beat every EW staffer and placed 129th out of 3535 players in the EW.com SYTYCD game. I will take these braging rights with me into my regular life and pretend they mean something.) I’ve hope I’ve provided you with commentary that is both insightful and, at times, irreverently funny. Thank you all for reading, and I hope you’ll join me again in the fall for season six!

The Wife:

I’m going to do things in bullet point format this week, as I have only a few things to say about this week’s results show/100th episode spectacular:

  • While I wasn’t surprised to see Kayla and Jeanette in the bottom 2 (because Melissa and Jeanine were in two of the most highly praised dances of the night), I was surprised to see Evan escape being in the bottom two, sending Brandon there in his stead. I really love Evan, but I really think he’s outclassed at this point. That said, we aren’t looking for America’s Most Talented Dancer, but America’s Favorite Dancer. It’s sort of a Mark Kanemura situation, but I promise not to turn on Evan like I turned on Mark.
  • Jason and Jeanette went home, and I think these were the right choices. Jason may be a slightly better dancer than Evan, but I think he lacks the sheer personality and liability that Evan possesses. Jeanette just had a bad week this week, landing with two dances that weren’t high-scorers and a confusing solo. All of the girls left in this competition are so good that all it really takes is a single bad week to give one the boot, despite her being the judges “favorite, favorite, favorite.”
  • I’m replacing Jeanette with Jeanine in my Top 4 picks. Now: Jeanine, Kayla, Brandon and Ade.
  • Jeanette, I’m glad you realized that you love dance and are really good at it, but please, please finish your finance degree. You’ve only got one year left! You can totally pull a Troy Bolton and choose dance and banking.
    Katie! Katie! Katie! Does Judy! Judy! Judy!

    Katie! Katie! Katie! Does Judy! Judy! Judy!

  • The Mia Michaels routine to “One” from A Chorus Line: mocking Tyce’s usual Broadway work, or criticizing the heartbreaking, soul-taking, back-breaking work of being a professional dancer on Broadway, forced to conform to someone else’s idea in an overly synchronized, cookie-cutter fashion without any individuality or, if I’m to believe her robotic, toy-like choreography here, life? I mean, what else could those broken mirrors mean? Any way you slice it, it was an interesting play on the original concept from the show and deconstruction of the original choreography.
  • Somehow, the Bench dance seems simpler now that I’ve seen some of Mia’s more challenging work (uh, hello assisted run in “Hometown Glory”!), but it’s still moving and beautiful. Truly, that number’s a classic. The part where Travis melts down the bench is just as thrilling as it was the first time I saw it.
  • Watching the Hummingbird routine again actually made me wonder about some of the chatter I’ve been reading about the “overpraise” for Tyce’s cancer piece. I have to wonder: are the producer packages ruining some of the effect of the dancing for us, by explaining the conceits instead of letting the work speak for itself? Did some people immediately tune out of the work simply because they saw the headscarf (as I did and openly mocked it) and heard the producer package? Is that why so many people loved Mia Michaels’ Daddy-Daughter dance more than they should have? (Listen, it’s pretty, but that’s not her best work, even if it was her most heartfelt.) It was clear that the dance was about disease and dying without the package that explained it to us, just as the Hummingbird routine is absolutely clear in concept from the dancing alone. Which is as it should be.
  • Another thought on the “overpraise” comments, courtesy of Magen: She says it isn’t so much that the piece was about cancer or the overexplanation, but that the judges didn’t discuss the dancing at all, but merely the issue, which makes their weeping praise unfounded. I can get behind that assessment, but bear in mind that simply because something is overpraised doesn’t make it any less good.
  • By the way, I still love that Hummingbird piece. It was so uniquely created just for those two dancers, and could be developed into an excellent short ballet.
  • Speaking of Wade Robson, seeing him dance in “Rama Lama” was just about the hottest thing I’ve ever seen. Seriously, I am super in love with him now.
  • Wade was apparently replacing a dancer I DO NOT REMEMBER AT ALL from season two, even though he was Heidi’s partner until the Top 10. Do you guys remember Ryan Rankine? I just looked through a list of all the dances he performed with Heidi, and I don’t remember any of them. I vaguely remember the dance to “Bye, Bye Blackbird” he did with Allison, but I don’t remember him in it. I just see her in my head. Wow. I feel bad for the guy. If I don’t remember him, chances are other SYTYCDers don’t either. Maybe that’s why he didn’t come back!
  • The Katie! Katie! Katie! Does Judy! Judy! Judy! segment wasn’t bad. Katie hoofed it pretty well, for what dancing was required of her. (Mostly posing, a little light softshoe, some lifts.) As for her “singing,” it really would have been more convincing that she was singing live if they hadn’t shown that stupid pre-taped and highly unnecessary introduction. (Although the white suit she has on in the intro is fibbity fab fab.)
  • Still, my ideal version of this routine would involve Rufus Wainwright waiting backstage in full Judy drag, taking Katie Holmes offstage with one of those old-timey Shepard’s crooks and performing the number himself, just as he did during his 2007 Release the Stars tour.
  • Also, when Katie was younger, I always thought her cheeks made her looked like a withered apple, sliding off her face and aging her before her time. Since she married Tom Cruise, I can only say that she’s gotten prettier, and, for some reason, her cheeks now appear to be in the correct place. They’re also bonier. Did she get cheek implants just to appease me? And how much did she look like Cameron Diaz to ya’ll now that her cheeks could cut glass?
  • Cat wore a dress with a cat on it. I sincerely hope it’s Bob Mackie Wearable Art.
  • Why didn’t I get to see a shot of the show’s 100th episode cake? I love 100th episode cakes!!!!

Now that I have seen the cake, I am not impressed.

Now that I have seen the cake, I am not impressed.


What did you kids think of the 100th episode spectacular spectacular? I pass the floor to you.

The Wife:

I am so glad auditions are over because the Vegas callbacks on So You Think You Can Dance are where the real magic begins. 172 dancers were brought to Vegas, and by the end of this episode, only 32 remain in the competition. Tonight, six boys and six girls will be cut, leaving us with our Top 20. This episode was rather surprising and rather brutal as I watched a few of my early favorites falter and get cut, a couple of whom were so loved by the judges that I just can’t believe they got cut at all. But that’s the difference between SYTYCD and American Idol: here, the producers’ intentions for packaging and selling a contestant mean fuck nothing if they don’t impress Mia Michaels during Vegas week. I love the bitch, but she was fucking ruthless in Vegas. To wit:

“You know me. I’m a cutter. And I will cut you.”

That coupled with her comment to the “beautiful, disastrous weirdo” last week make her my favorite person on reality television at this very moment. But great Mia Michaels moments aside, I can’t tell you how much it hurts to see great dancers get cut on this show. The Vegas callbacks are, in some ways, very much like watching a real life version of A Chorus Line, only here there are no weird songs about dancing with Indian chiefs and the entire cast of 172 that begins the show won’t be around to dance the final production number. We get to know these dancers through their movements and the producer packages, we latch on to their hopes and dreams and when those dreams are dashed? Well, that hurts quite a bit.

Vegas Week began with the contestants performing solos before the panel of Nigel, Mary Murphy, Mia Michaels, Lil C, Adam Shankman and the legendary Debbie Allen. We got to see two solos from people we hadn’t yet seen in earlier episodes: a beautiful ballet piece from Miami ballet dancer Alex Wong and a comedic hip-hop routine from the ill-named Tony Bellissimo. I adored Alex Wong and immediately was angry that we’re only getting to know him now, but Tony Bellissimo? I don’t get it. Sure, his performance was funny and cute (he put pictures of Nigel inside his props and danced to “Somebody’s Watching Me”), but I just didn’t see much dancing or technique in it. I thought: really? This late in the game you’re going to do something clever that isn’t backed by hardcore technique? Even Ryan Kasprzak knew better than that, tapping his ass off and accentuating the sounds with that whoopee cushion like Gene Kelly did with a newspaper and a squeaky floorboard in Summer Stock.

Nigel then announced after a solos montage (in which we briefly saw Megan Kinney one again) that some people would be cut after their solos, pointing out that while they were strong in their audition cities, they were not quite so when culled together with 172 of the best dancers in the country. Among the 45 cut were Chimezie Nwosa, Travis Prokop (he of the football coach father) and widow Talia Rikards, which pleased me only because I now never have to hear Cat Deeley say the phrase “widow Talia Rikards” again and I feel justified in noting that Chimezie didn’t land either of his flips properly in his audition.

TabNap in yo face.

TabNap in yo' face.

After those cuts, the dancers were asked to perform a hip hop routine with Tabitha and Napolean Duomo and here I witnessed my first major disappointment of the night: my beloved carney Gaby Rojas has absolutely no sense of musicality. She got woefully lost during this performance and couldn’t hit a single step on time. Fortunately for me, the judges gave her a free pass on the strength of the solo she’d performed earlier and she was allowed to continue on. 37 dancers were cut after the hip hop round, and I have to admit I found it very strange that the montage of cut dancers from this round included only African-American dancers. Was FOX trying to make a point? If so, what?

The 97 dancers who made it through the hip hop round where then asked to try their hand at ballroom, dancing a waltz with Jean-Marc Généreux and his wife, France. I got another bit of vindication during this round when a limber-limbed Phillip Chbeeb was sent through, but his far less talented partner Arielle got cut. Some featured dancers who got through this round include samba dancer Maksim Kapitanikov, Auska, Ricky Sun, Kayla Radomkulous and Priscilla Marrero. Nobuya Nagahana gets sent through, too, although I do not understand why. Maybe my issue with him is that his height makes his center look wrong, but Mary seemed to go gaga over his arm extensions, so what do I know. Maybe they were distracting enough to take away from the fact that he didn’t create good lines anywhere else. 16 dancers (including Arielle Coker) were cut from the ballroom round.

Next up, the remaining dancers were put through jazz with Sonya, and many of them injured or maimed themselves or others during the rehearsals for this piece. One fellow kicked himself in the face, noting to camera whilst holding an icepack to his temple, “This is what happens when you get kicked in the head by yourself.” Noted, sir. Noted. Because of the number of dancers that struggled with her piece, Sonya asked Natalie Reid and Brandon Bryant to perform it one last time so that everyone in the class could see what it should look like. “Hooray!,” I thought. “Brandon and Natalie are doing so well! ” But then Natalie performed, and she wasn’t as good as she was in rehearsal and a terrible, terrible thing occurred: the girl who should have had Katee’s spot last year, the girl who made Sonya cry in Denver . . . got cut. I don’t understand exactly why or how this happened, especially when people like Tony Bellissimo and Nobuya Nagahana get through. Sure, Natalie didn’t kill that piece like she killed it in rehearsal, but if they gave Gaby Rojas a chance, why not Natalie? I was shocked and deeply saddened, and so was Brandon Bryant, who lost his best friend in the competition when Natalie got cut. I told you kids this shit was brutal.

In fact, Natalie’s departure only got more brutal when Gaby Rojas again completely failed to follow the music in any way, shape or form during her turn at Sonya’s piece. The judges asked her to dance for her life, and she whipped out an amazing solo (set to a great song about the blackness of her skin and the strength of her back, etc. etc.), earning six yeses and the chance to continue on. Natalie didn’t mess up nearly as badly as Gaby did, so for Gaby to get two chances and Natalie to get none seems slightly unfair. What I gleaned from seeing the respective failures of both of these dancers is this: Natalie might lack a little stamina, but at least she can actually learn choreography quickly. Gaby had no issues following the music during her solos, which proved to me that her issue wasn’t so much musicality as it was with muscle memory. She simply can’t learn routines in a single day. It doesn’t make her a bad dancer, it just makes her totally wrong for a show in which you basically have 2-3 days to perfect a routine. If you can’t pick up choreography quickly, you can’t be on SYTYCD. I love Gaby deeply because I desire to do what she does in the realm of circus arts, but after watching her fail, I’d rather Natalie have been given her chances.

Even Brandon Bryant got beat up on during this round. For some reason, Mia Michaels just doesn’t see how amazing he is and makes a point to tell him that she’s disappointed that he isn’t living up to his reputation. But, despite Mia’s protestations, he continues on, which is good, because I don’t know if I could have handled losing Brandon Bryant again. Eight dancers, including popper Sammy Ramirez, were cut during this round, leaving 73 contestants to fight on through the next day . . . but first . . .

Just when they’d hoped the day was over and they’d get to rest, Cat Deeley corralled all the dancers on stage and told them that they’d be put into groups and asked to choreograph a piece to a randomly drawn CD. Their dance would be performed for the judges the next morning, meaning they’d have to work through the night to get it right. While I definitely see the value in asking dancers to try their hand at choreography, I’m not entirely sure I see the value in forcing them to stay up all night to do it (same regarding the “group vocal arrangements done overnight” during Hollywood Week on Idol), other than that sleep deprivation makes good television. I just can’t imagine a situation in which staying up all night to work on something you’re going to have to do the next day actually produces good work. But that said, I like watching people attempt to choreograph for two reasons: it shows you how well the dancers work with other dancers, which indicates how well they partner and collaborate, and it also demonstrates how well a dancer can recognize the strengths and weaknesses of those he or she is working with, as well as their own, and incorporate those into a performance.

But not everyone is good at choreography, or working with others, as the first group to perform on Day 2 proved. Tapper Eric “Silky” Moore’s group just didn’t get along, with Silky himself doing the majority of the refusal to listen and collaborate, and they decided to call it a night and sleep rather than working through to make their dance not suck. I really don’t know if a few extra hours would have been much of an improvement, but, man, their piece really, really sucked. From a visual standpoint, it just didn’t make any sense. There were no formations, no repetitions and no one ever danced in unison. After being panned by the judges, cute shorthaired mystery girl Paula Van Houten cried and said she should have stepped up and been a good leader and forced her group to keep working rather than going to bed, and the judges let her continue on based on the strength of her dancing during that shitacular routine, as did some mysterious ballroom dancer we’ve never seen before but showed up in virtually every shot in this episode. Androgynous Megan something-or-other got cut, as did some other poor girl, while Silky himself was told to stick around and dance for his life at the end of the day where he would, mercifully for me, get cut.

The morning continued on with a montage of groups that failed the choreography challenge, until Branden Bryant’s group came along and produced an Alvin Ailey-esque routine to “My Life Would Suck Without You” in which the dancers started to move as a connected circle, broke apart, came back together and ultimately ended up as two pairs (Branden and some chick, and two chicks together), rejecting the other male dancer in the group. I was so refreshed that someone actually managed to tell a story and choreograph well, and so were all of the judges except Mia, who delivered the line I quoted above about cutting in Branden’s direction. Everyone in Branden’s group goes through, and the remainder of the performances we’re shown are well-choreographed and good, especially Ryan Kasprzak’s group, who dress up as nerds and call themselves Nerdography, which Ryan describes as the precise moment in which a nerd both gets up the nerve to talk to a hot chick and hears a great song. Could I be any more in love with the Brothers Kasprzak? I think not. His routine was funny, cute and brilliantly choreographed – a mix of Dan Karaty and Shane Sparks at his silliest. (See Travis and Benji’s final two routine from season two. Tranji comin’ atcha below!)

The dancers who passed the choreography challenge were then put through one of the most brutal tests a dancer can endure: a contemporary routine by Mia Michaels. The dancers had no problem telling us how difficult Mia’s work is, as though fans of the show were not already aware. That Tony Bellissimo fellow I’m not fond of was asked to perform Mia’s choreography again, as he was not quite in time with the music, but probably hit the moves better than many others in his group did, which was pretty surprising. Amanda Kirby Whose Dad Has MS got cut, as did Nobuya Nagahana. Megan Kinney got through, but her sister Caitlin had a lot of trouble with Mia’s choreography and was asked to dance for her life, after which she received enough votes to go through. Former Miss Washington Paris Torres, the token Latino kid whose name I don’t know, Phillip Chbeeb and that Tony Bellissimo fellow also got through.

With all the emphasis on the Kasprzak brothers and the Kinney sisters, as well as the other sets of siblings during auditions, it became pretty clear to me that SYTYCD was going to have a set of siblings competing against one another in the Top 20. The Brothers Kasprzak seem to be aware of this, too, and the producers put together an adorable little package of them discussing the epic battle that could be between them, laid over a sweet ska track (because I guess Ryan’s sweater vest and driver’s cap equal ska? Whatever, he is having a good time). Both Brothers Kasprzak did Mia’s choreography beautifully, and I shared no more a joyous and exciting moment all night when Mia asked Evan to move on in the competition by doing a round of flea hops across and off the stage. Flea hop! Flea hop! Flea hop! HE IS SO GODDAMNED ADORABLE!

By the end of the Mia Michaels round, there were 54 dancers remaining, and they returned the next morning to perform a Tyce Diorio Broadway routine. For the first time, the dancers were split into groups by gender to perform two separate pieces from West Side Story. The ladies, clearly, performed “America,” while the gentlemen were asked to perform “Cool.” I can’t fault Tyce for his work on these, because he was basically doing justice to the original Robbins choreography (and, really, that’s just kind of how you do West Side Story – it’s wrong to do it any other way). I also have to give Tyce props for asserting that something is very wrong with you if you’re a dancer and you don’t know West Side Story and Jerome Robbins. That’s like being a model and not knowing who Twiggy is. (Looking at you, Salome!) We saw a number of girls get cut during the West Side Story number, including Bianca Revels the “best female tapper,” who needs to realize that when she was told she was the “best female tapper,” it meant that the male tappers were much better than she was. Also cut were Megan Kinney, Priscilla Morerro and, not-so-sadly, carney Gaby Rojas. I had pretty high expectations for professional/semi-professional dancers to be able to accurately do the Jerome Robbins choreography for West Side Story because I know for a fact that the current Anita on Broadway, In the Heights‘ Karen Olivo, is not a dancer, and she worked her fucking culo off to be able to do that choreography and do it well enough to be nominated for a fucking Tony award. (You go, Karen! I’m rooting for you this Sunday, even though you’ll probably lose to Haydn Gwynne for Billy Elliot.) If Karen Olivo can do that choreography (and you can check her out below), a professional dancer should be able to.

After the boys did their performance of “Cool” in which Branden Bryant and the Kasprzak brothers totally shined, 16 boys and 16 girls remained to take the long walk onto that stage tomorrow night. All I can say is that I better have Branden Bryant and both Kasprzaks in the Top 20, and I will power vote my little heart out for the three of them as long as they remain in the competition.

The Husband:

I hate to say this, but Natalie was cut because she wasn’t as hot as many of the other female dancers. Nigel really likes to fill the show with female dancers who are both great performers and are ridiculously hot. (Who you define as hot in previous seasons is, of course, entirely subjective, but I know that each of you male viewers has a good half-dozen in your head right now, contestants who, if you saw them on the street, you’d drop your Frappucino and run to them just to get a better look and maybe, just maybe, ask them out for yoga followed by a light lunch.) Nigel’s insistence as the show’s creator and executive producer is, of course, pretty much just the way Hollywood is, and sometimes we lose an even better dancer just because she’s not model hot. And, as Nigel declared before this season started that the Top 10 “girls” this season were the most beautiful the show has had, I unfortunately knew that Natalie was a goner. (Don’t worry – the principle is the same for male dancers, but far less so.)

And as a major fan of West Side Story, I can tell you (if I hadn’t already) that in my first post-high-school-graduate summer, I was in CCCT’s production of West Side Story, and those 16 performances over the July and August weekends before moving onto college was probably the most exhilarating experience of my life. But no, we didn’t really stick to Robbins’ choreography (it was, after all, a community theatre production), but I am also glad that our version of “Cool” wasn’t even close to as difficult as what Tyce prepared. Rough stuff, I tells ya.

The Wife:

I’ve been saving up these House posts for a number of reasons, primarily because there’s so much awesomeness on Monday nights now that House falls by the wayside for us, so there’s no sense posting something within a few days of a new episode. I know this will greatly disappoint Mary, our friend and massive Hugh Laurie lover, but on Mondays, I’ve got Chuck, Secret Life of the American Teenager, Big Bang Theory, Gossip Girl and How I Met Your Mother. I can’t even watch all five of those shows on a good day, so House gets pushed back, resulting in this clusterfuck of a post.

House aired its 100th episode with “The Greater Good,” in which a formerly brilliant cancer researcher (she’s still brilliant, just not researching the ol’ cancer anymore) falls ill during a cooking class. As she lays dying under House and his team’s care, they all wonder why she would give up cancer research – especially when she was so close to finding a cure for a certain cancer I can no longer remember – to live a selfish and self-fulfilling life. Shouldn’t she, as a doctor on the forefront of research in her field, be working towards the greater good? Meanwhile, Thirteen starts to get really sick because irresponsible asshole Foreman switched her onto the trial drug from the placebo. Bad shit goes down, like, losing her vision and developing small brain tumors. Side effects are fun, kids!

Ultimately, when the patient gets a final diagnosis of ectopic endometriosis (which she developed after some of her endometrial cells escaped into her body during her hysterectomy a few years back), everybody realizes that they probably shouldn’t do things for wholly selfish reasons, especially Foreman, who risked his girlfriend’s life because he wanted to keep her around. House and Thirteen, however, don’t get that upset at Foreman and won’t let him “torch his career” because he’ll do a lot more good for other people if he’s still a doctor, he just has to quit the clinical trial and throw out Thirteen’s study results. I get that this ending to the clinical trial mishap fits with the theme. Yes, one more doctor in the world saves the lives of however many people (and Foreman, though an idiot, is a good doctor), but it also doesn’t fairly punishing him for endangering Thirteen’s life, and the fate of that Huntington’s study. Because its TV, that study gets to continue and Tank Girl might have a chance of living for a few more years than she would have, but I think that in the real world, compromised results has a strong chance of removing that particular study from Princeton-Plainsboro altogether, and possibly put on hiatus for a long time, which isn’t helping anyone with Huntington’s.

Frankly, I wasn’t that into “The Greater Good,” especially because the two episodes that followed “Unfaithful” and “The Softer Side” were so much better (although I find the latter to be a little problematic). In “Unfaithful,” House takes a case from Cameron involving a drunken priest who hallucinated a stigmatic Christ. House takes this, hoping to prove that anyone who would put their faith in something unseen has something wrong with them, but as the case continues and the ailing priest and House have a few bedside conversations about the nature of believe and what it’s like to lose one’s faith, House starts to think that the vision of Christ has nothing to do with the rest of the symptoms which, during the priest’s stay, involve loss of gangrenous digits, blindness and numbness to pain.

Where the hell is Meryl Streep when you need her?

Where the hell is Meryl Streep when you need her?

While House has never had any faith at all in a higher power, the priest began to lose his joy in the priesthood after an accusation of molestation moved him from parish to parish, making him a black sheep amongst the members of his various flocks. Though he denies molesting the child, Taub feels he should believe the claim of the victim, especially when the team diagnoses the priest with AIDS, and sets out to find the boy the priest allegedly molested. The boy, Ryan, visits the priest on his deathbed and asks him for forgiveness, which to me says that the allegations made against the priest were false. But that’s just me. Much like Doubt, it’s a situation where you aren’t given the whole truth and should decide for yourself. (In Doubt, by the way, I’ve decided that since we know the little boy had some homosexual tendencies, Father Flynn, who joined the priesthood because he also has homosexual tendencies, merely befriended the boy, without any other ulterior motive.)

Once House rules out the hallucinations, he realizes that the priest doesn’t have AIDS at all, but Wuska-Aldridge, an auto-immune deficiency that acts a lot like AIDS, but his hereditary, non-communicable and non-life threatening.

This episode also added a third element to the theme with the organization of Cuddy’s daughter’s naming ceremony, which House refuses to attend based on the principle that anyone who doesn’t practice their religion to the letter is a hypocrite. Thus, because Cuddy doesn’t keep the Sabbath, pretending she’s more religious than she actually is by having a naming ceremony for Rachael is hypocritical. Cuddy doesn’t really want House to go, though, but Wilson fucks it all up by convincing House to at least put in an appearance. In the end, everyone attends the service but House, who stays at home, playing traditional Jewish music on his piano instead. (Know what I love? Hugh Laurie playing piano.)

And then there’s “The Softer Side,” the patient of which my husband noted is like an alternate version of last week’s Private Practice, but fast forwarded 13 years. Much like Anyanka and Sgt. Scream’s baby, the patient of the week is a 13-year-old “boy” with genetic mosaicism. “He” has both male and female DNA, but his parents chose to raise him as boy even though we learned on Private Practice that 70% of genetic mosaics end up identifying as female. Jacksons parents have lied to him for years, socializing him as a boy and pushing him to do masculine things like playing hockey and basketball, even though, like one Billy Elliot, all he’s ever really wanted to do is to dance. He collapses at one of his basketball games with pelvic pain, and his parents immediately demand that House and his team give Jackson an MRI to look for a blind uterus. Strangely, House concedes to this procedure, even though when Thirteen suggests it, Foreman (continuing the lie they established in the last episode that they had broken up) mocks her for the suggestion, because surely every single one of the kids previous doctors had thought of that.

Consenting to the MRI, as well as asking to eat his bagel before doing so, alerts Wilson that something is wrong with House. He thinks maybe Cuddy slept with him, which Cuddy denies, but when both of them go to check up on House, they find him sleeping in his office . . .  and not breathing. Foreman gives House a bitching titty twister to wake him up, and House insists that he just passed out because he took one too many Vicodan.

Shhhh! He's sleeping!

Shhhh! He's sleeping!

Jackson only gets sicker after the team takes him off his “vitamins,” which are testosterone shots, fearing the T might be causing some of his problems, so House sends Foreman and Thirteen to investigate the kid’s house for environmental factors. In his room, which has posters for So You Think You Can Dance, Godspell, Rent, A Chorus Line and The Wizard of Oz, Thirteen finds a poem that she believes is a confession of Jackson’s state of mind, potentially indicating suicide. She brings it to his parents, suggesting that he knows he’s different than other kids and may have developed some suicidal feelings because of it. She tells Jackson that his vitamins aren’t vitamins, and that he should ask his parents about them. This causes the parents to finally tell their son that he’s intersex, and Jackson gets so upset with his parents lies that he refuses to talk to them. Jackson’s mom is furious at Thirteen and wants her off Jackson’s case, but Cuddy intervenes and tells Thirteen that she has to be the person Jackson trusts now.

The bisexual doctor and the intersex boy have a nice heart-to-heart about Jackson’s feelings about his gender identity, wondering if his homosexual feelings towards a friend on his basketball team and his predilection toward dance exist simply because he was meant to be a girl. And that’s where I find this episode to be a little bit problematic. Granted, this is an hour-long show that’s barely skimming the surface of the complexities of gender identity, especially for intersex children, but Jackson’s words here and Thirteen’s lack of correction lead me to question the rigid construction of gender that seems to frame this argument. Knowing what I know about genetic mosaicism, I would argue that Jackson’s parents made the wrong choice in aggressively gendering him as male, but other than not liking basketball, Jackson doesn’t seem to exhibit any other issues with having a male gender identity. No one ever scolded him for wearing his mother’s clothing often because he didn’t do it. He doesn’t express feeling as though he should be developing breasts or otherwise show any signs of a gender identity disorder He feels male and constructs his identity as male. How much of that feeling comes from the fact that his parents aggressively gendered him as such, I don’t know, but he does seem to like being male. He just doesn’t like to play sports. And there’s nothing un-masculine about dance at all, and the fact that his parents assert otherwise just tells me that they’ve a.) never watched So You Think You Can Dance with their son and b.) they need to be punched in the face, repeatedly.

What I’m getting at here is that this entire argument constructs gender identity based on very antiquated terms, and I think Thirteen kind of points to this when she tells Jackson that she was a point guard on her basketball team. No one in their right mind would think their daughter wanted to be a man if she started playing sports, so why on earth would someone think their son wanted to be a girl if he wanted to dance? Baryshnikov gets all the bitches, that’s what I’m saying. The boy, though, is confused at this point, and who can blame him, as he wonders if he actually should have been a girl or if, perhaps, he is meant to be a gay man. (I vote gay man.)

So maybe, Jackson might be alright with the gender identity his parents chose for him, but should they have chosen at all? People have very different feelings about gender identity, and I’m really not for aggressively gendering children. I find that when children begin to socialize with other children, they pick out a gender identity for themselves and the degree to which they want to express that. I have a friend with a two-year-old daughter. My friend tried really hard not to engender her child in anyway, but this little girl, at only two, has expressed a great interest in wearing dresses and trying on mommy’s make-up and dance clothes. Without even encouraging her to do so, her daughter has begun to express a very feminine version of a female gender identity. This example points to the fact that society – the images about our gender that we receive from our peers and from the culture at large – will gender us unconsciously, so that even if we are not aggressively gendered by our parents, we may still choose to exhibit a more normalized gender identity. Of course, we may not. But isn’t it better to let a child choose than to saddle them with something they might not feel suits them, forcing a child to be like Tireseas, first one thing and then the other?

Just . . . I dunno . . . read Middlesex. It’s great. It won the Pulitzer. And it’s far more eloquent about these thoughts than I am, as well as a far better examination of an intersex individual than this episode of House does.

Private Practice-style lesson: You can't lie to your kid about giving him testosterone injections.

Private Practice-style lesson: You can't lie to your kid about giving him testosterone injections.

Back to House, the strangely complacent doctor begins to do more strange things, and now both Wilson and Foreman suspect him of being on heroin, so Wilson invites House to dinner and offers him a shot, knowing full well that if House drinks it, he could stop breathing again. House knows what Wilson’s up to, and defiantly takes the shot and walks out, only to vomit in the parking lot and bark at Wilson for knowingly nearly killing him. Wilson rails at his friend for being on heroin, and House admits that he’s actually on prescription methadone, which makes him feel no pain at all, but could kill him at any moment. Cuddy refuses to let House practice at her hospital under methadone, so he quits, choosing a pain-free existence over his job, only to return when Cuddy agrees to let him come back as long as she can supervise his methadone use.

When he does, he realizes that Jackson is sick because of the MRI contrast dye, which never got filtered out of his system when they took him off his T (something Thirteen figured out in his absence, after another fight with the boy’s mother when she realized his “suicide poem” was just a classroom assignment to write in the style of Sylvia Plath – what the fuck kind of English teacher assigns Plath to 8th graders?). When he first came into House’s care, he was just dehydrated, but House’s allowance of the MRI only made Jackson worse because he kindly gave in to the requests of Jackson’s family. Realizing that being pain-free clouds his judgment, House refuses to accept methadone treatment and returns to being the curmudgeonly Vicodin addict we’ve come to know and love, an end to the softer side of House.

I really liked “The Softer Side,” but I really dislike the implication that exhibiting a female gender identity is somehow soft.

The Husband:

Just as with the end of s2 – at least, I think it was s2 when House started feeling no pain and started skateboarding – I wish that Dr. Gregory House hadn’t been so willing to drop the methadone and go back onto the Vicodin, continuing to live in pain but being a “better doctor.” It was an interesting examination of his personality, and I could have used at least three more episodes on this subject. It’s what made the last episode so great – me, the one who hasn’t really been into any of the personal stories this season, thinks this to be so – and gave me the second episode in a row to actually captivate me and not just spark a small amount of medical curiosity.

But man, did I like “Unfaithful” like crazy. Not only was the priest played by the always-cast-as-a-creep Jimmi Simpson (Liam McPoyle on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia), who I think is pretty underrated as an actor, but I was actually invested in the mystery for once, eager to reach the conclusion of the episode just to know what the hell was going on with his disease and his past. Yes, it was like Doubt 2.0, and I was itching for some answers. The fact that we didn’t get all of them is fine, because for once the P.O.W. was a fully fleshed character and not just a pin cushion with a mouth and an attitude problem.