By the end of this episode, we'll be down to twelve dancers, which doesn't seem like a lot, does it? The good part about fewer dancers, however, is the opening number looks less like a riot out of "World War Z" and more like, well, dancing. And when the opening number is choreographed by Sonya Tayeh and Dmitry Chaplin? Well, then it really, really looks like dancing. 

Less smoke! But otherwise, this opener is a fabulous piece. I love the use of the stage, especially because we don't just see the dancers cycle through solos while everyone else performs in unison (and really, haven't we seen that enough already?). There's an architectural element to this that's really remarkable. And was that Malece on the swing? Loved it!

Cat has to start the show with bad news. Curtis wasn't in the opening number because he damaged his shoulder, so he won't be performing this week. Does that mean he's out of the competition? I think this means the judges are just going to give him the boot, but we'll need to milk the tension for two hours.

Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy (I love that her Twitter handle is @HOTtamaleTRAIN) are joined by actress Anna Kendrick at the judges' table. Cat accuses Anna of geeing out earlier. Stop it, Cat!

Time for our bottom six.  Cat calls out Jasmine, Alan, Alexis, Curtis, Makenzie and Nico. They are in danger.  No, not Jasmine! 

Nigel dismisses the boys, as he doesn't want to see any solos from them and no one is being saved. But Nigel decides to save Makenzie, so Jasmine and Alexis will be performing their solos. 

Alexis - I'm tempted to say she needs to go home just because of those pants. It's a nice tap routine, but it is tap. I think her time is up, really.

Jasmine - She does have the killer extension. As far as who I'd prefer to see going forward, I definitely say Jasmine. 

Did you take part in National Dance Day? No? You were too busy sleeping? Well, some people got their asses out of bed and danced and screamed and stuff. Expressive clip montage of people who get up early on weekends! 


Jenna & Tucker

The Background: This week, the "personal moment" for each dancer is them telling us about their first dance performance. This is going to be endlessly cute and not that important if you care about the dancing more than the personality factor. Jenna's first dance performance was adorns and she wore a lollipop on her hat. Tucker wore a large white suit and later found out he was too slow to keep up with the boys. Anyway, they will be doing a hip hop routine. 

The Dance: Did this work? I think it worked. Did it work extremely well? No, but I felt it was a really good effort for two dancers who aren't hip hop dancers. 

The Judges: Nigel found it unconvincing. He didn't think they believed in it. Mary thinks Nigel was a bit harsh. It wasn't a slam dunk, but she felt they attacked it. She thought Jenna was fabulous, though. Anna thought it was a little cute, but she didn't hate that. She thought they were lovable!

The Verdict: Not a great start to the show, so I'm a little worried for them.


Alexis & Nico

The Background: Alexis loved dressing in little girly girl outfits. Nico was a hyperactive kid, and for his first dance he was a clown. But who cares, because they get a Sonya Tayeh routine!

The Dance: I don't think anyone's ever screwed up a Sonya routine, because she has some miraculous ability to get something remarkable out of anyone. This is no different. I was ready to pack both of their bags and send them home, but if this is what they can do, I'm rethinking that. All sorts of wow. 

The Judges: Mary loved it, and felt it was fearless. Anna is sad they're in danger, as this showed so much range. Nigel thinks they both gave a great account of themselves, and Sonya brought out their emotion. 

The Verdict: This was really good, but Nigel's response was muted. Not sure what's going to happen to these two at the end of the show.


Curtis (well, Curtis substitute) & Hayley

The Background: Curtis was easily distracted and during his first dance he couldn't keep his hat on. Hayley was an ornery kid. This week, they're dancing the Argentine tango. And… who is dancing for Curtis? Oh, and they laughed too much during the rehearsal.

The Dance: Hayley is dancing with Leonardo, to answer that question. This is sexy, it's intense, and she's got the footwork down. It helps to dance with Leonardo instead of Curtis, I'm thinking. 

The Judges: Anna defers to Mary for the ballroom critique, but she thinks she's an emotional dancer and she's sexy, too. And she wants her body. Nigel thinks she nailed everything. Mary is impressed. 

The Verdict: I think Curtis is going home, but Hayley has to be safe after this. 


Makenzie & Paul

The Background: Makenzie grew up in a performing arts family and she sang "These Boots Are Made for Walking" in an adorable little leather suit. Paul first performed at  a Latin ballroom competition when he was 18. The important part? They're doing a jazz routine with Sonya. 

The Dance: Woof. This is just a strong, fierce routine, and they're both diving in big time. Excellent work. Why don't people vote for Makenzie? Seriously, I don't get it. 

The Judges: Nigel thinks they were both brilliant. He can't understand what America isn't seeing in her each week. He thinks Paul is going a long way. Mary feels the same way. She thinks Sonya brought out another side in Paul this week. Anna thinks Paul is an MVP and thinks Makenzie was so powerful it was great. 

The Verdict: I'd like to say they're safe next week, but voters hate Makenzie. Why? 


Jasmine & Aaron

The Background: Jasmine danced when she was a kid, Aaron danced as a kid. This is very, very cute, but I really prefer to see dancing. I know, America's favorite dancer, not the best, so I should root for whoever's cutest or nicest or something. They will be a tree and a guy trying to get an apple or something. 

The Dance: I want to throw that apple at something. I think it's more of a distraction and an impediment to them really showing us what they can do. This choreography is rotten to the core, and Aaron and Jasmine deserve much better. 

The Judges: As Cat says, never work with animals, children or apples. Mary says she felt as if the apple was part of Jasmin's body and thought she handled it perfectly. She thinks Aaron is a great partner. Anna thinks that Jasmine is so graceful she'd be happy to watch her eat a bowl of cereal. She's also rooting for Aaron. She wants a piggyback ride. Nigel tells the story of "The Giving Tree." He feels Aaron and Jasmine have unconditional love as a couple. 

The Verdict: I think if voters can get past this stupid apple, they'll be fine. They're lucky to have a devoted fan base, and the good part is we already know they're talented, thank God, because this routine did them no favors. Poor ducks. 


Amy & Fik-Shun

The Background: Amy was seven years old but tiny and went insane on stage. Fik-Shun performed at his high school. Yada, yada, yada.

The Dance: I don't love this. Honestly, it's pretty boring. But, of course, they're great. Except for the part when Anna falls down, this is very well done. I just think it's a crappy routine. Why is the tail end of this show falling apart? 

The Judges: Anna thinks they're just so cute. Nigel thinks the one thing that worries him is they're always similar characters. He wants to see them do something else. Mary thought it was spectacular and she wanted it to go on and on. 

The Verdict: Amy and Fik-Shun are unstoppable. Even saddled with a so-so routine, they're fun to watch. I see Amy going to the final two, and Fik-Shun seems to be handling the technique problems fairly well. 


Malece & Alan

The Background: She peed her pants backstage she was so frightened before her first performance. She's totally embarrassed to talk about this, but I think it will only endear her to people. Alan was a cute little ballroom dancer at age 8. This routine is going to have lots of tricks. That's what happens when you get a former "SYTYCD" competitor as a choreographer!

The Dance: This is so fast! I think Malece and Alan do a pretty darn good job, although I think this choreography is just too extreme. 

The Judges: Nigel thinks it was well-danced and Alan was really strong. Malece was sucking air a bit, but he understands why. Mary thought it was an insane number, and she was impressed they were able to pull it off. There were lots of yummy rhythmical movements up there. Anna wants to take lessons and have an affair on a tropical island watching that routine. And she wants Malece and Alan to have a baby.

The Verdict: Alan keeps ending up in the bottom two, so I'm not sure even a great ballroom dance will save him. Malece, however, is fine. 

Now, the dancers are divided into two groups. The first, it's a Spencer Liff dance with pool cues. It's… okay. Nigel tells Malece she seemed uncomfortable (but was probably just winded from the last routine, so he forgives her) and Mary tells Nico he wasn't very strong, though he was dancing with Spencer (who stood in for Curtis), so the forgives him, sort of. 

The next dance is about bullying, and it is far, far better. Mary thought everyone was strong, and what Fik-Shun lacked in technique he made up for with heart. Nigel says the same, basically.


Time for the bad news. Waah-waah. Alexis and Curtis step forward, and they're both going home. So Aaron is the only tapper left. As much as I like Curtis' personality, I'm never sad when a tapper gets sent home. Maybe Wayne Brady can adopt him, though.


What did you think of the performances tonight? Are you sad to see fewer tappers on the show?

Liane Bonin Starr is an author, screenwriter and former writer for Her byline has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Variety and a lot of other places. Her last book was called "a scandalously catty, guilty pleasure" by Jane magazine. Expect the same from Starr Raving.