It’s time for the top twenty to duke it out, and I have to say this season is going to be tough. Tougher still is going to be sorting out who deserves your votes and, conversely, who deserves the boot. This season might just have to come down to a popularity contest, so I guess the goofy little intros each dancer films are going to be even more important than they’ve been in the past. And by the way, if you’re competing in the HitFix “So You Think You Can Dance” Fantasy League, I think it’s truly anyone’s game to win with a cast this good.

First up, we meet our dancers again. Extra credit points for anyone who can memorize the name of each dancer (not that you need to; two are going home soon anyway): Ashley, Alexander, Caitlynn, Chris, Clarice, Jess, Iveta, Marko, Jordan, Nick, Melanie, Ricky, Miranda, Robert, Missy, Tadd, Ryan, Wadi and Sasha.
 
Of note: Ryan, Wadi and Sasha all get a lot of applause. But maybe that’s because they were at the end of the intro. I don’t feel like anyone got passed over.
 
Our judges are Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy and… Megan Mullally? Who knew she was in a ballet company? She had more to say about her dance experience, but tornado warnings in Chicago cut the feed briefly. Stupid weather!
 
First up we have Jordan Casanova. Instead of the usual relaxed intro, each dancer gets eight seconds to impress us. This is actually really cute – we get a funny rundown of what they’re saying and we get to see the clock tick down. Nice improvement, “SYTYCD”! She wants to be a Pussycat Doll and she talks FAST. She’ll be dancing with Tadd Gadduang who was a dancing taco and almost died doing Bollywood. Okay, now I actually want to learn more and that rarely happens after watching one of these intros. Very cute idea.
 
They’ll be tackling African Jazz with Sean Cheesman. The number is inspired by the lava of a volcano. They’re going to shake the floor and erupt. This should be fun!
 
It’s nice to see Jordan do something that isn’t, well, Pussycat Dolls-worthy. It looks like there’s a bit of a struggle with some of the lifts, but this is a fierce, fun number and a great way to start the night strong. Tadd’s a B-boy and I’m impressed he can really handle not only a partner but a completely new style.
 
It’s Jordan’s birthday today! She’s nineteen. Nigel thinks she exploded on the stage (that’s a good thing). He thought they both had great power. Nigel thinks Jordan was outstanding. He thinks Tadd can go a long way if he keeps picking up the styles the way he has. Mary says the whole place was shaking. She’s amazed Tadd’s a B-boy. Megan likes it, too.
 
Next couple! Funny, but I think the little dance routine to introduce each dancer is about as long as their eight seconds. Shasha Mallory likes purple and she’s 23. Alexander Fost is 20 and he’s from Alhambra and speaks Spanish. They’ll be doing a contemporary routine by Travis Wall. Sasha kicks the crap out of Alexander in rehearsal, which makes me think this is going to be pretty kick ass.
 
I thought Sasha would steal this, but Alexander is good, too. Still, it’s hard to take your eyes off of Sasha. Even without her sister, she’s magnetic. She does kind of beat the hell out of him, but in a good way. I don’t entirely feel like they’re dancing together, though, but that could be me.
 
Mary loves Sasha’s extensions and her stage presence. She says she didn’t feel the connection between Alexander and Sasha. Megan says Sasha is going to stay a favorite and she says she’s an actress. She felt a disconnect between Alexander’s face and his body. Nigel calls Sasha a modern day Amazonian princess, but he needs more emotion from Alexander.
 
Next couple! Clarice Ordaz’s eyes change color. Jess LeProtto is from Jersey, makes noises and says poopy. I get the feeling Jess is someone you can only take in small doses, but he is an incredible dancer.
 
Toasty Oreo (Tyce Diorio) puts together a Broadway routine for them. Clarice tells us Jess has been on Broadway three times. This should be a lock. And in rehearsal, they’re awfully cute together. He lifts her effortlessly, which is amazing not because she’s so tall but I think he’s a little shorter than she is. Jess is all kinds of amazing, I have to say and, as good as Clarice is, it’s hard to focus on her with Jess around. Cat declares them pocket size perfect.
 
Megan says it was perfect and declares Jess a natural born performer. She says Clarice was sexy and had beautiful legs. Nigel tells Clarice she needs to work hard to keep up with Jess. She needed to finish her last hand clap. Jess outdanced her. But Jess is one of his favorite guys already. Mary thought Jess’s animation was perfection. She doesn’t think Clarice has anything to worry about. But if everyone’s this good, doesn’t she?
 
Next! Ryan Ramirez is a Sagittarius and loves Mexican food. She’s paired with Ricky Jaime. He’s a Florida native and loves cheer music. Christopher Scott will be guiding them through a lyrical hip hop routine.
 
This is seems so sad, and yet Ryan’s grinning the whole time. But I don’t get the sense she’s doing it unwittingly, so that means it’s part of the choreography (or at the very least Christopher said it was okay by him). So is she a happy ghost or a memory? I still think it’s a little jarring. But good routine.
 
Nigel loves the piece. He loves Christopher Scott. C’mon, get to the dancers! He wasn’t sure what it was about and why Ryan as so happy. But he loved the dancing. He thinks Ricky did it justice and they should both be pleased. Mary thought Ricky stayed in character and think Ricky was one of the best guys on the show and thinks Ryan is one of the strongest. But yeah, she was confused, too. Ryan explains why she was smiling. She was a happy memory.Well, that makes sense, but I wish she didn’t have to tell us. Megan thought there was a great sense of urgency. She was confused but now she gets it.
 
Caitlynn Lawson is from an itty bitty town and likes green. She’ll be dancing with Mitchell Kelly. He’s allergic to onions and his favorite color is orange. They’ll be dancing jazz with Sonya Tayeh. In rehearsal Mitchell is very sweaty. But Caitlyn loves him anyway. And he’s sitting this one out because he has an elbow injury. Robert from season 7 will be taking his place.
 
Boy, good stuff. Fierce and I feel a connectedness between her and Robert, which is impressive given they got paired late. Mitchell is in the audience and looks happy for Caitlynn but still sad, which makes perfect sense. Poor guy.
 
Mary thought it was whooo. She says Caitlynn’s extensions are spectacular and loves the synchronized leaps. Megan thought it was very impressive that she was able to show so much power. Nigel would give her ten across the board.
 
This season is going to be HARD. So far, everyone’s been scary good.
 
Next! Miranda Maleski is from Pittsburgh and sleeps with a nightlight. She’ll be dancing with Robert Taylor Jr. is the Woo Man. he’s from Brooklyn and likes to cook fried chicken. They’ll be doing Latin with Jason Gilkison. In rehearsal, Robert does an Urkel impression. Miranda likes being sexy but isn’t good at it. Well, it’s probably a little tough finding the sexy if you keep thinking about “Family Matters.”
 
Robert’s wearing Urkel glasses, though they are cool Urkel glasses. On the bright side, it makes him memorable. But I think he’s memorable enough as a dancer that he doesn’t need wardrobe shtick. It’s almost distracting.
 
The dance itself is pretty adorable and they pair well. Robert is a little flat-footed here and there, but it doesn’t matter as he’s got energy to burn, lots of personality and they’re a very watchable couple. I like this one. I’m wondering if the show can get him some contacts, though, so he doesn’t become the funny guy with the glasses, which could hurt him with voters.

Megan says you’d have to be in a coma not to like it. She likes Miranda’s goofy quality. She says Robert is her top twenty crush. She loved it. Nigel thinks Robert has the biggest personality of all of the dancers. But he warns him the woo thing could get annoying. He has to learn how to point his toes. The dance technique wasn’t there. And Miranda needs more confidence. Mary thought it was fun, fun, fun. She thought Robert stole the show and Miranda was clean and sharp. She woos at him.
 
Next! Missy Morelli likes yoga and lipstick. And she wants to marry an Australian. She’ll be partnered with Wadi Jones. Wadi was born in Jamaica and loves the Japanese culture. And they’ll be dancing jazz with Sean Cheesman. They’re going to be sexy demons. He accidentally touches her boob. Poor Wadi!
 
Wadi looked like he was concentrating hard, but he’s a force to be reckoned with. He and Missy are really connected and he’s absolutely there for her. And then he’s tossing in some parkour. He’s good. And Missy is, as I’d expect, fierce. If I had to say who’s stronger in the sexy dance competition going on between Missy and Jordan, I’d go with Missy.  
 
Nigel thinks Missy is a beast (good thing). She has it all. Wadi gets props because he picked up a new style and he thinks he’s brilliant. Mary thinks they looked like sexy demons and thought it was a whoop ass can of dance. She tells Wadi she never knew he had that in her. She thinks his partnering skills are the best she’s ever seen. Megan thought it was insan. Not insane, insan. I think Megan should have just corrected herself instead of trying to create a new catch phrase.
 
Next! Melanie Moore is from Georgia and likes cookies. Marko Germar is from Guam and he likes to eat a lot. They’ll be doing contemporary with Travis Wall. They’ll be dancing statues.
 
This routine is beautiful. Beautiful. Friggin’ beautiful. Seriously, it seems unfair for anyone to get voted off this week. Yes, Marko’s feet wiggle in a few spots, but it doesn’t matter much. He’s completely in character, as is Melanie.
 
Standing ovation from the judges. Mary is choked up. She says this kind of routine only happens once or twice a season. She thought they had the judges at hello. Megan had chills. Nigel thinks it could be an Emmy nominated routine. He thought the chemistry was fantastic. He said there were little stumbles, but he was glad so it shows they have somewhere to grow. He declares Melanie the queen of the beasts. He thinks there’s never been a better girl dancer on the show. Whoa.
 
Next! Ashley Rich loves waffles and magenta. She’ll dance with Chris Koehl from Texas, He’s one of seven kids and likes ice cream. They’ll be dancing hip hop with Christopher Scott. Chris gets teary eyed, because it’s about cheating and he’s been cheated on.
 
I want this routine to be just a bit better. Ashley’s arms lack snap and are almost too fluid and graceful for a hip hop routine. However, her core and her back are totally hip hop. It’s really just her arms and hands that float when they need to flick. Chris doesn’t seem as emotionally in synch with her as I’d like, either. It’s a good routine, a very good routine, but I’m not sure it’s as good as some of the others.
 
Nigel thought it was a fun routine. He thought it was well done. Mary thought it was pure entertainment. She thought Ashley had all kind of vibe and Chris danced with heart. Megan thought they were great technically. The judges seem a little deflated, as if they don’t want to pan what’s a good performance but it’s just not as spectacular as they expected. I’m not sure if some of the cute, fun stuff is going to go over this season.
 
Next! Iveta Lukoslute is 30 and is from Lithuania. She wants a monkey. She’ll be dancing with Nick Young and he he has a fun personality. They’ll be dancing ballroom. Jason Gilkison will take them through a quickstep.
 
Am I imagining things or is Nick keeping up with Iveta? She’s perfect, of course, but he doesn’t look like the green kid in this equation. Isn’t he a tap dancer or something?
 
Standing O. Megan thought Nick was amazing, given that he’s a tap dancer. Nigel thought Nick had fabulous feet and he came up to scratch dancing with a world champion. Mary thought it had everything. Mary loves Iveta, as she should since she only gets one ballroom dancer on the show.
 
So, that’s everybody. But who could possibly be going home? Maybe Mitchell, but only because he didn’t get a chance to dance. As far as weak performances, the only one that really stood out to me (and it hardly stood out as lesser than the others) was Ashley and Chris’ hip hop routine, even though it was pretty cute. But it’s really splitting hairs, if you ask me. I hate the idea that anyone is going home after such a strong opening, but hey, there’s always next week for someone to mess up horribly.
 
Who do you think will win the whole thing? Which two dancers do you think are going home? And are you going to vote, online or otherwise?