Whoo-hoo, it's the top ten and things are crazy on "SYTYCD." The good news is that Debbie Allen is back on the judges' panel, and hallelujah for that, because I love me some smart and sassy Debbie Allen commentary. Let me just say that the great thing about her is that she manages to be absolutely honest but still say slightly soul crushing things in a way that doesn't sound so bad, which is just the right tone for this show (and Mia Michaels, something to think about, just saying).

[Full recap of Wednesday (July 15) night's "So You Think You Can Dance" after the break...]

Anyway, Cat wore another odd dress (one dark green asymmetrical stripe? Um, okay, was that to cover an unfortunate grease stain or something?) and the judges tried to put a happy face on the fact that, now that the voting is determined by lunkheads across the nation, they've been rendered powerless. Nigel admits to being a control freak, but gets all executive producer-y and says that a bunch of dumbass Americans who know nothing about dancing are the best judges for the contest, even while inside he weeps a little.

Mary points out that the new partnering system, in which dancers get stuck with new dance buddies according to the luck of a hat draw, is going to be extremely difficult, which is the understatement of the year when you see some of these leggy gals and pint-sized guys (but more on that in a moment).

Then, Debbie helpfully lets Mary and Nigel know that she's thrown ice cream at her TV set based on some of their commentary, but makes them feel a little better by telling them that her top three girls and top three guys have all made the final cut, so they don't suck entirely. See how Debbie does the soul crushing but nice thing? That, my friends, is talent.

To kick off the show, Nakul Dev Mahajan choreographed a saucy Bollywood number for the girls, which seemed to be much better than Caitlin and Jason's floppy routine in week one, but I'm not entirely sure, because a TV Guide channel directory flipped up on my screen for no apparent reason and I missed everything after the goofy mask-on-the-back-of-the-head bit. But I'm sure it was, like, rockin'.

So, let's get to the good stuff – the dancing.

 

Kayla and Evan

Choreographer: Tony Meredith and Melanie Lapatin, Viennese waltz

Verdict: Amazingly, it didn't suck!

First thought: Oh ma God, this is going to be bad. Like car wreck bad. Have you seen Kayla? She looks like she could wear Evan as an earring. Of course, Kayla, being sunshiney and sweet, says it's going to be "cool to have a partner who isn't like what anyone else is like." Which is apparently code for itty-bitty. Evan doesn't beat around the bush and immediately points out that the height difference is going to blow. Even choreographer Melanie admits she "doesn't like the level change" and has Evan put on Kayla's heels, which STILL doesn't eliminate the height difference. This is going to be like watching your kid brother dancing with mom at a wedding, but more awkward.

But by some little miracle, it doesn't suck. Kayla, as usual, looks like a floating angel, and Evan pops her up over his head like she's a feather pillow. Sure, Evan seems to be out of his element, but his lines aren't bad and it mostly works. The weird thing is that he and Kayla are the same height, and ultimately we see that Kayla's barefoot and he's in shoes which you just know have MONSTER lifts in them.

After slamming Tony and Melanie for the Americanized choreography, Nigel says that the lifts were beautiful and what could have been a nightmare didn't suck at all. Mary, however, takes off the gloves and says that Evan just wasn't good enough, and his feet plopped along, but he got points for the good lifts. Kayla, of course, is perfect as usual and gets a big, nasal "FABULOUS." Debbie says Evan handled his big woman, baby, which is why I love Debbie Allen. She calls Kayla white lightning and Evan Gene Kelly, and you can just see both of them get all choked up and excited, which is just cute.

 

Solo: Brandon

The guy frontrunner busts out an exuberant solo that halfway through suddenly consists of him jerking and twitching himself across the stage, but it kinda works for him. And apparently it works for the girls in the front row of the audience, who get all manner of worked up and slobbery, which will probably result in votes and/or stalkers for Brandon.

 

Janette and Ade

Choreographer: Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo, hip hop

Verdict: Funked up in a good way

Janette and Ade, being positive, smiley happy people, are super excited to be partnered up, so even the producers' usual editing tricks can't make this seem like a potential doomsday scenario. While choreographer Tabitha tries to hint that Janette doesn't have the funk, we so know she does, because there is literally nothing the girl can't do.

And, of course, she delivers the funk with a side of hip hop while Ade looks the most animated and excited I've seen him since the start of the competition. He does have the hair pick going on, which I kind of hate, but I wonder if that's the secret ingredient and maybe it's a Samson and Delilah thing. In which case, he needs to keep rocking the pick.

Apparently Nigel agrees with me, because he goes a little crazy and starts sticking pencils in his hair in a bout of pick envy, then threatens to try to talk Mary out of her clothes, which not only results in unfortunate donkey-like braying but grosses me out a little. But Nigel does calm down long enough to declare both dancers in possession of the funk, and Mary cuts the crap to also declare it all equally funky. She credits Ade for getting down with his chicken legs, which is something I apparently missed, and calls Janette a fireball. Debbie then sums up her fellow judges' slightly crazypants excitement by saying the children wore her out, and tells Ade to stay away from her daughter, which is actually a compliment.

 

Solo: Randi

A little frantic, a little leapy, but it's Randi and she's just so cute. She looks like she's having a grand old time, even if she does appear to be wearing enormous white granny panties, and you just can't not root for her, really.

 

Solo: Kupono

Dressed like a "Survivor" cast-off, he does some odd thrusty moves and stomps around a bit, but I always like Kupono a lot better in couples' dancing. On his own without choreography, he lets a little too much of his freak out.

 

Jeanine and Jason

Choreographer: Travis Wall, contemporary

Verdict: Star quality

Boy, I am so excited to see Jeanine dance with someone who can, like, dance. And Jeanine and Jason seem pretty excited to dance with one another, since they're friends and Jeanine also admits Jason isn't hard to look at, which sort of suggests there's some more-than-friends chemistry going on, so yeah, this should be good.

And holy crap, it's better than good. Travis Wall makes a pretty impressive leap from show competitor to choreographer, and Jeanine and Jason sell this dance with red hot passion and a whole lotta lifts.

Not surprisingly, the judges all give them a standing O, and Debbie cries out, "Touchdown!" which adds a sporty vibe to the proceedings. Nigel gives props to Travis, then points out that tonight was the first time Jeanine had a partner that could keep up with her (duh) and declares both of them stars.

Mary is actually speechless, which is a nice change, and then also tells them they're both stars and gets weepy about Travis growing from a boy to a man or something like that. She also offers to pinch Jason's puppydog face, tells Jeanine she has a big future ahead of her, and puts them on the hot tamale train. Debbie says something moving but tangential about this experience being a conversation connecting a community of dance around the world, then remembers this is not a lecture series and tells the dancers she wants to buy a ticket to see them perform the routine live on the road.

 

Solo: Melissa

The girl keeps rocking the toe shoes, which also have an added bonus of slowing her down. After an evening of solos that looked a bit like electroshock therapy, seeing calm, cool and beautifully composed is a nice change of pace.

 

Solo: Evan

Hot damn! Evan comes out rocking the Gene Kelly vibe and man-oh-man, if I was feeling a little eh on him earlier in the show after the dance with Kayla, I'm not now. It probably helps to have an older brother who's a choreographer, but in just a few seconds he really puts on a show. Bravo, Evan. See you next week.

 

Solo: Kayla

As usual, she looks beautiful and graceful, like the perfect Barbie you wanted for Christmas but never got (if you were a girl, or just liked dolls as a kid, which I guess doesn't have to be gender specific, really). But I worry about Kayla. She regularly ends up in the bottom three no matter how good she is, and I suspect it's because she's a little dull in the personality department. But man, she's a good dancer, poor thing.

 

Randi and Kupono

Choreographers: Tony Meredith and Melanie Lapatin, paso doble

Verdict: Blah

Kupono is really excited to get his little pocket-sized dancer, and Randi, well, she's a little less excited, and I suspect she misses Evan, who perfectly matched her energy and personality. The dance they get stuck with, the paso doble, does not look promising for them, either, since Randi's a cape or a shadow and Kupono just looks uncomfortable with the whole macho thing.  

And, no surprise, it's not a great routine. Randi comes out in a wig that makes her look like Kelly Clarkson, and Kupono floats through a routine that demands a lot of smoldering and stomping and macho posturing. Randi tries to add some sass but, faced with a big pillow of a partner, no such luck. The music was pretty fiery, though. At least something worked.

Nigel, making a frowny face, doesn't think the dancing was as good as the choreography and notes that Kupono wasn't strong enough. Mary said it fell below the line and the song was more powerful than the dancing, which is dead on. Debbie has to agree with the other judges, but keeps our poor sad dancers from crying by commiserating with them, noting they would have been a lot better if they'd had time to build trust.

 

Solo: Ade

Okay, dude, it's "Unchained Melody," don't have a freakin' fit. Way too much going on in this dance, and doing too much to one of the great slow songs, well, that's baaaad, my friend.

 

Solo: Jeanine

She busts out the sexy vibe, and it's actually a pretty good routine that makes excellent use of her time. She apparently learned from other peoples' crap routines that stuffing your dance full of spastic gymnastics is not a good idea.

 

Solo: Jason

Um, huh? It's interesting, but man, it can't be easy to dance to an old blues song, and Jason just shouldn't make his life more difficult than it needs to be. Nice suspenders, though.

 

Melissa and Brandon

Choreographers: Tyce DiOrio (Toasty Oreo), Broadway

Verdict: Groovy, man

Brandon says Melissa is amazing, and Melissa, being older and wiser and a practical girl is also excited about Brandon but worries about the height difference and is already thinking of ways to shrink.

I'm not sure about anything "Hair"-related, but Melissa, like Janette, seems incapable of not doing anything perfectly and Brandon is a super trooper, so hey, as long as no one wears a dumb fake afro or pretends to get high, I'm fine.

Even though I kind of hate the routine, because it is all hippie dippy, I can't deny Brandon and Melissa are gorgeous together, and they look great despite being dressed in Goodwill castoffs, which is really saying something.

Nigel loves Toasty Oreo, then natters on about white girls and black guys and politics but ultimately thought it was great, then admits he had a flashback, but not a druggie one. Mary thought it was unbelievable in a good, shrieky way, then she and Nigel start getting all "Laugh-In" and do Goldie Hawn imitations. Debbie says they really exemplified the harmony of the 60s, which stops the weird grade school theatrics to her left, thank God.

 

Solo: Janette

She gets all salsa on our asses and, even though it gets a little stripper-y at times, you can't deny Janette is a hot tamale with a solid chance of winning the whole thing.

 

Finally, the guys do a group African dance choreographed by Jeffrey Page, who promises a routine that will show off masculinity, which makes Evan uncomfortable because he's not African, and Kupono uncomfortable because he's not masculine (sorry, babe, but that paso doble sucked). The end result looked pretty spazzy, but the lighting designer wisely put on a strobe light, so we were distracted from the fact the dancers looked slightly less skilled than the guys you'd see shaking it at a themed buffet dinner in a faraway land. But Evan, who stood out like a big, white thumb, was easy to watch, as he actually glowed in the dark. Next time, somebody spray tan the dude. Seriously.

Nigel welcomes Jeffrey Page to the "SYTYCD" family, then calls him mean for subjecting the poor boys to such a hard routine, then tells Evan he looks like a dancing milkshake, but says everyone looked pretty good. Mary adored the dance, then gave Evan a pat on the head for holding his own, and says she's thoroughly entertained. Last but not least, Debbie gives us a history lesson about how African dance was the mother of jazz and all other dance, and she was proud of them for training and said the guys passed her test, which was really very nice considering they were completely out of synch and looked wildly uncomfortable. But sometimes it's nice that these dancers get points for trying, you know?

It's hard to pick anyone to go home this week, especially since the weakest dance included one of my favorites – Randi. I hate to say it, but she may be the weakest girl in a terrifyingly strong field. I will admit, though, of the guys Kupono is looking like dead meat. It's hard to imagine trimming the herd from this point forward, though. Everyone's just too good.

 

Do you think it's time for Kupono to pack his bags? Which of the girls do you think is the weakest? And don't you just love Debbie Allen?