Eeek, it’s time for the final cut from 31 to the top 20. The worst part about this stage in the competition is that no one has actually screwed up. All of these dancers are good enough to proceed, but there are only twenty spots and someone doesn’t get a cookie. It’s really kind of a depressing night, even though it’s exciting to finally meet our official top 20. And the good news is that this season we’ll be spared the tiresome home visits which always felt uncomfortable when the news was bad (“I’m sorry to tell you you won’t be joining us. Gotta hit the road. Where’s your bathroom?”) and will instead get dancing. Sounds good to me!

Cat Deeley pumps up the crowd and informs us that we will be treated to nine electrifying routines by our top twenty dancers. Whoot! Our judges, who aren’t really judging anything tonight, are Robin Antin, Lil’ C, Tyce Diorio (Toasty), Mary Murphy and Nigel Lythgoe. Robin cannot wear her hair this way again. She looks like Jigsaw.
 
Nigel explains that he listened to viewer feedback and we’ll be getting a top 20 (instead of a top 10) with All Stars also coming in to mix it up. I love that this show is constantly getting tweaked based on viewer feedback. All I need is for Nigel to come to my house and offer my caramel corn and a foot massage and everything will be perfect. But he probably only does that for Nielsen homes.
 
Cat tells us that the dancers must make the longest walk of their lives to learn their fates. They’re not being executed, Cat. Although that would be some twist. Not only are you not making the final 20, we’re shooting you in the head.
 
Before we start, I hope someone has informed the dancers over and over again that, if you made it to this point, you’re an amazing dancer. This is just casting. They want certain characters, certain looks and a mix of genres. It really isn’t about your ability anymore. That probably doesn’t help, though. Yeah, this sucks.
 
Ricky is feeling confident. It’s always good to think positive, although that and thirty-five cents will buy you some gum. Nigel asks him what he felt was the hardest part of Vegas week. He hated seeing people he liked leave. Aw, Ricky, you are just a bundle of sunshine. More importantly, he’s in! Whoot!
 
Miranda is really nervous. Nigel admits to her that it’s tough giving bad news. Oh no, bad news? But no bad news for her! I swear, the judges are just cruel in how they tell people they’re getting on the show. Next season I wonder if the judges will have paint ball guns that they can fire at people at random, just to add another element of torture.
 
Melanie, who looks like Ginnifer Goodwin, moves quickly into the top twenty, too. Not a lot of bad news so far. Oh, wait. Abigail gets cold when she’s nervous. Not that the judges care, because she’s getting the boot. Bye, Abigail. Katie is also getting the boot. There’s lots of crying in the waiting room.
 
The Mallory sisters are up next. Nigel says they knocked him out all through Vegas week, but he’s going to split them up. Only one is in the top twenty. And it is, predictably, Sasha. I absolutely understand why this had to happen. One, Natalia probably needs to take care of her diabetes. Two, pairing her with other male dancers might have presented the same problems it did in Vegas. And yes, she didn’t have quite the extension her sister did, even if she was fun and vibrant and wonderful in many other ways. But it’s still kind of a drag, only because it would be so different and unexpected. Not that Natalia’s falling apart, mind you. She takes it like a champ and is just happy for her sister.
 
Dancing! It’s a Stacy Tookey routine featuring Ricky, Miranda, Melanie and Sasha. What I can see through the fog is pretty remarkable. I wish I could say one person stood out, but they were all pretty damn exceptional. Wonderful technique. Nigel agrees. Toasty thinks it was great choreography, great dancers and great passion coming together in one place. He is not wrong. This season is looking good already.
 
Natalia gets a shout out in the audience. I imagine it’s hard for her, but she has a lot to be proud about given her sister’s performance.
 
Seven street dancers made the top 31. Chris has gone through all of this before. Mary has seen improvement. She tells him to never be discouraged when a door shuts. She’s gearing up for bad news. But this door will stay open. He’s top twenty. For crying out loud, the slap and tickle routine has to stop. Wadi gets through and Tadd does, too. It’s a good year for hip hop.
 
Virgil is hopeful. He thinks it’s his time. Nigel thinks he has one of the best personalities of the season. But he’s not making the top twenty. So much for the good year for hip hop. But Virgil keeps smiling. He’s glad he made it to that point. Yup, one of the best personalities, because it takes strength of character to put a happy spin on that moment.
 
Robert and Bryce have big personalities. And catch phrases. Bryce says “indubitably” and Robert says “whoo.” Bryce gets the boot, but Robert is making the top twenty. I guess “whoo” is a catchier catch phrase. I love his suit, by the way.
 
Chris, Wadi, Tadd and Robert do a hip hop routine. I love that Robert is doing a hip Urkel thing. I can now overlook the incessant “whoo”ing. They aren’t always perfectly in sync, but who cares? Love this routine. These guys are strong. Lil’ C says it is indubitably a chorus line of buckness. He thinks it’s a nice hip hop soufflé. Oh, Lil’ C and your colorful sayings. Robin needs bangs says they have character and it was as light as a feather and sexy. Please go cut some bangs during the commercial break, Robin. Or grab a hair curler. Or a hat. Please.
 
Two ballroom dancers are left in the competition: Lenny and Iveta. Lenny isn’t nervous. He believes he can make it. But when he faces the judges, Mary isn’t looking at him. Uh-oh. She’s going to break a couple hearts. Including his. Maybe he should have been nervous. But he just shrugs it off. Good for him.
 
Iveta knows this is her last chance. It’s her third time trying to crack the top 20, and she’s at the age limit. Mary is crying. Everyone admires her so much. She’s one of the world’s best ballroom dancers. But sometimes Mary has to do things she doesn’t want to do. Are they seriously giving her the ax? No, they aren’t. She’s top twenty! Good fake out, Mary!
 
Iveta dances with Pasha. This is, of course, insanely good. Mary gets out her hot tamale train hoot. She then tells us that Iveta is a world ten dance champion in cha cha, samba, rumba, fox trot, jive, waltz, quick step, paso doble, tango… Wait, that’s nine? Either I missed one or she did. Either way, it’s impressive. Nigel hasn’t been as excited since Pasha and Anya danced. He loves her humility. I have to say, I’m impressed Iveta wants to do this show. I’m surprised “DWTS” hasn’t snapped her up.
 
We now have Clarice and Bridgette. It’s crunch time. Mary tells Clarice she looks stunning. But they’ve had so many stunning jazz dancers! Anyway, she’s top twenty. The judges are SO mean. Bridgette gets axed. Okay, let’s move this along. I don’t know how many more little sad faces I can stand.
 
Marko is the guy who survived an armed robbery and has a bullet in his shoulder. Toasty tells him a lot of dancers could learn from him in terms of his energy and what he brings to the stage. And he and his bullet are going to be in the top 20.
 
Jordan is sexy and Debbie thinks she has a powerful presence. She’s in. Missy is afraid she won’t get in because she’s a sexy jazz dancer, too. But she’s going through, too.
 
Jordan, Missy, Clarice and Marco will be performing a Sonya Tayeh routine. Love Sonya routines, love, love. But they’re not easy and, while this one is very good, it’s not quite as fierce as I hoped it would be. Her choreography isn’t an easy get, though, and I wouldn’t expect these dancers to nail it right out of the gate. But Tyce thought it was amazing and that they killed it. Robin thought it was so hot they were like caged animals. And it was sexy. Robin thinks lots of things are sexy tonight.
 
Jess and Nick are the only two Broadway dancers. Nick is a tapper. Jess is a grumpy Broadway dancer. Nigel tells Jess he has fabulous Broadway style but his other styles, not so good. Plus, he seems arrogant. But he’s top 20 and Nigel was just screwing with him, He falls to the floor, then gets up and does a happy dance.
 
Robin thanks Nick for putting a spark in her. I am avoiding the obvious joke here. And that personality is putting him through to the top 20. Nick and Jess perform together, and it’s a charming routine with a bit of story that requires some comedic acting, too. And Jess is funny! Nigel loves that the boys can both tap. Four girls can tap, too, so there might be a tap dance assignment coming. Okay, let’s not get carried away, Nigel. Tap doesn’t go over so well with voters.
 
There are four girls left waiting to hear their fate. Caitlyn was Nigel’s favorite. Debbie tells her she’s in. They hardly even string her along. Ashley is in, too.
 
Ryan and Alexa are up for the final girl spot. Oh, wait, Mitchell is up on the box first. He’s in. Jeremiah and Alexander are fighting for the last guy spot. They go on the block together. Jeremiah is out and Alexander is in. Ouch! Jeremiah fell apart in the contemporary round a few seasons back, so I was hoping he’d make it. Sigh.
 
Back to Alexa and Ryan. Alexa wants her grandma to see her dance. Alexa was great in Los Angeles, but she started to become fearful in Vegas. But the judges love her! Alexa doesn’t make it but Ryan does. Go, Ryan! Sorry to see Alexa go, but Ryan came so close last time.  
 
The final finalists dance features Mitchell, Caitlin, Ashley, Alexander and Ryan. Interesting that Ryan takes center stage a bit longer than the other girls, but who cares when she’s so good? Still, I love this routine, love. Beautiful. Robin felt it was a celebration of dance by choreographer Travis Wall. Mary thought it was a beautiful fall breeze. She thought they were five well seasoned dancers.
 
I know Cat was a former model, but man, she’s tall or the dancers are tiny. The dancers look like little kids with their elementary school teacher.
 
Christopher Scott choreographs a hip hop routine for the top ten boys. But it’s not just hip hop – it’s also contemporary. Christopher wants to create the legion of extraordinary dancers.
 
Incredible. Incredible routine. My favorite of the night thus far. And the guys are so, so solid. Granted, with the suits it’s hard to tell who’s who, but I thought I’d be able to pick out the street dancers and the contemporary dancers during certain sequences, but they’re just too solid. Lil’ C thought the guys looked like an episode straight out of the series.  Ooookay. Nigel thought it was like “The Matrix.” Nigel warns the boys they’d better be unique because the women are beasts this year.

The girls get a Sonya Tayeh routine. Sonya thinks these are the strongest girls yet. I have to agree.
 
This is another good routine, but I wouldn’t want to follow the boys. I still think there’s a bit of a learning curve for the dancers when it comes to Sonya’s choreography, which is such a difficult blend of control and perfect awkwardness and so physically demanding. Mary doesn’t know if there’s enough room on the hot tamale train for all then girls, but she’ll have to make some room. Lil’ C explains how each letter in Sonya’s name stands for something, then tells the girls they epitomize Sonya. I’d go into detail, but let’s just say it’s very Lil’C.
 
Everyone so far is remarkably strong (from what we’ve seen, of course). So yes, this will be a great season. The problem is actually picking who to vote for (or decide on the strongest for the HitFix Fantasy League). Really, the dancers are that good this year.
 
Nigel says two go home next week: one male, one female. And this year for the first time you can vote online.
 
So our top twenty are:
Ricky (the confident dancer)
Miranda (the nervous dancer)
Chris (a second timer)
Melanie (who looks an awful lot like Ginnifer Goodwin)
Wadi (the amazing
Sasha (our surviving Mallory sister)
Tadd (a hip hop dancer)
Iveta (the 10 dance world champ)
Robert (the whoo guy)
Jordan (the sexy stripper, I mean dancer)
Alexander (he got the last guy spot)
Ashley (she hasn’t gotten nearly enough TV time)
Jess (the unhappy Broadway hoofer)
Caitlyn (Nigel’s favorite)
Mitchell (another guy who needs more TV time)
Missy (the other sexy dancer)
Nick (the happy tapper)
Ryan (the girl who finally made the top 20)
Marko (the guy with a bullet in his arm)
Clarice (a different sexy dancer)
 
Who is your favorite? Do you think this is the best season yet? Are you using your fifteen online votes?