We're down to the top ten, and this season is getting much, much harder to read due to the level of talent this season. Usually there are a few dancers squeaking through on great backstories and arresting person style (mohawk, cough, cough, ear plugs, cough). This season, even the remaining tap dancer and hip hop dancer are strong in other styles. Of course, having too many favorites is a problem I can handle.

We kick things off with a creative Chris Scott routine, Debbie Allen is our guest judge (yay!) and we've got All-Stars, people! All-Stars! 

All-Stars that we'll see soon enough, I guess, because first we're getting a time wasting montage. Really? 

Now, the bottom four. Tucker is automatically at risk of going home, since he was out sick. Makenzie, Nico and Jenna are in danger. Nigel wants to get on with the show, so no solos. Eeek! 

 

Amy and All-Star Brandon

The Background: It's the first disco of the season! And you know this will be brutal, as disco always is on this show (brutal and awesome, might I add). Doriana has created a brand new move - the disco location. 

The Dance: Not as frantically fast as some past discos, but still, wow, the lifts are insane. Nigel isn't wrong -- Amy is a beast. 

The Judges: Mary seems more excited about Brandon than anything else, but she does say Amy is spectacular. Debbie Allen thinks Amy's a little spitfire. Nigel thinks Amy is vivacious and stands out more than the disco ball. He tells Amy she's a lot like Melanie, who, uh, won. Nigel isn't shy about dropping hints about which dancers he wants (or at least expects) to win. 

The Verdict: Even if Amy didn't bring in the votes, you know Nigel would save her.

 

Aaron and All-Star Kathryn

The Background: This is a Stacey Tookey contemporary about her husband, and how he gives her the strength to get through anything. I think Aaron is the right guy for this routine.

The Dance: Can you believe Aaron almost didn't get onto the show? He has really proven himself to be much more than a tapper, and this routine is just exceptional. It's emotional, well-executed, pretty close to flawless. 

The Judges: Standing O from the judges. Debbie Allen thinks he has raised the bar of the competition. Nigel loved the fluidity of the movement, and he could see how proud of Aaron Katherine was. Mary agrees with everything that's been said, and she thinks it was one of the most touching routines she's seen. 

The Verdict: He's so strong, I can't imagine him in the bottom. 

 

Fik-Shun and All-Star Melanie

The Background: It's a Mandy Moore jazz routine. There are jumps, kicks and flying jazz splits, so stand back!

The Dance: A few missteps here and there, but another standing O from the judges. I have to think some of this is for Melanie. Fik-Shun is definitely improving, though, and he's hugely fun to watch. 

The Judges: Nigel thinks they got the style. It was fantastic. He thinks Melanie is a beast. She already won; give Fik-Shun some notes! He's proud of Fik-Shun for keeping up with Melanie. But he thinks he's growing and checking on his work, and he's having a fantastic journey. Mary thinks Fik-Shun is growing every week. He's starting to get it! Man, these judges and the backhanded compliments! Debbie Allen thinks it was real and she never even thought about technique. 

The Verdict: Fik-Shun has a lot of personality, and I don't think he needs to worry. 

 

Paul and All-Star Witney

The Background: It's a cha cha! Two ballroom dancers! This will be a monster, I suspect. 

The Dance: And it is a monster. This is what Paul does, so hello, it's more than solid. Sometimes I think Paul gets a little plastic, but obviously, no one can question his ability in this style. 

The Judges: Another standing O. Mary is so happy for Witney and her new movie and "Dancing with the Stars." Okay, what about Paul? Yes, he can dance his patootie off. She thinks his footwork is clean and precise, and he creates more volume than he did earlier in the season. She puts Paul and Witney on the hot tamale train. Hey! Debbie expected Paul to soar, and she thought it was beautiful and seamless. Nigel thinks Witney and Paul were born for each other. Nigel thinks he's going to make it a challenge to win this competition. So… he could win this competition? I think that's what he's hinting. And it's Paul's birthday today. He's 22, so vote for him in lieu of a gift, I'd say.

The Verdict:  As long as Paul looks like James Franco, he will have votes. 

 

Hayley and All-Star tWitch

The Background: It's hip-hop! And it's tWitch! Is Hayley up for this?

The Dance: What happened with the music? Tech glitch, I guess. But it's… fine. I don't love the routine, but I think Hayley makes the best of it. 

The Judges: Debbie thought it was theatrical, and it was great to see tWitch, and… he kind of pulled focus. She enjoyed it, though. Nigel talks about how great tWitch is. And Hayley… he loved that she had a funky hip-hop routine. It was fun. And she's a dark horse. Mary thinks she's great. This is all very faint praise, honestly.

The Verdict: She's never been in the bottom -- but this time she might be.

 

Jenna and All-Star Neil

The Background: It's a break-up or not break-up-themed routine from Mandy Moore. This will be good, of course, but poor Jenna. She's always strong (so is Hayley, mind you), but she ends up on the bottom every damn week. What is going on? 

The Dance: This is so good. The rollover, wow. Really, why are people not voting for Jenna? 

The Judges: A standing O. Nigel makes a crack about Mary's age, but then gets on topic. He loved the fluidity of the movement. He thinks Jenna is one of the best all around dancers who came in as a ballroom dancer. Mary thinks it was melting and blending and amazing. She says the last lift was like caramel on her favorite ice cream. She's on a diet, by the way. Debbie Allen doesn't know what America sees, but she thinks Jenna is one of the most gifted dancers ever. She thinks she dances with the power of the ocean. 

The Verdict: I'd like to say Jenna is safe, but man, for some unknown reason she never is. 

 

Jasmine and All Star Marko

The Background: Jasmine and Marko -- I already like this!

The Dance: And now I like it even more. It's adorable, and Jasmine is always so solid. There's a Michael Jackson element to this, even if they're both dressed like Janelle Monae. 

The Judges: Standing O. Jeez, if you don't get a standing O this week, you might as well book a ticket home. Mary thinks no one has legs like Jasmine. She thinks the video for "Blurred Lines" needed the two of them dancing in it. Debbie couldn't keep her eyes off of Jasmine. Nigel thought it reminded him of Michael Jackson and says it was really cute. He wasn't sure if he was looking at one All-Star or two. He thought she was fantastic. 

The Verdict: Jasmine is in it to win it, and I think she could. 

 

Makenzie and All-Star Jakob

The Background: It's going to be sexy, this routine from Spencer Liff. 

The Dance: This is hot. It's too darn hot, if you go by the song. And Makenzie is nailing the routine -- I had to check to make sure I hadn't confused the dancers and she wasn't an all-star. 

The Judges: Another standing O. Debbie loved it. She thought of Cyd Charisse. Nigel is almost sick of passing compliments, because he doesn't know why America isn't getting it. He thinks they have the best pairs of feet he's ever seen in his entire life. He thought the dance was beautifully choreographed. Nigel thinks she was Rita Hayworth. 

The Verdict: I loved this, but I'm not sure if it isn't too late to save her. 

 

Nico and All-Star Comfort

The Background: It's a reptile hip hop from NappyTabs, and movements must be precise and explosive. I can't wait for this one -- there's been too little true hip hop this season. 

The Dance: Hey, Nico is getting it! Last time he did hop hop he was way too graceful. This time he's in the pocket most of the time. He's learned from past mistakes, and I hope he gets credit for it. 

The Judges: Nigel thinks the audience loved it more than he did, but he thought Nico really got involved with the quirkiness of the routine. He stayed in the creature comfort zone. Mary thought Nico got his freak on, and that he pulled it off. Debbie Allen really enjoyed it. She thought he got inside the character, and his isolated head moves were sharp. 

The Verdict: When Nigel doesn't love it and you're in the bottom, I think he's trying to give you a hint. But Tucker didn't perform last week. Not sure what to think.

 

Tucker and All-Star Robert

The Background: Travis Wall has created a contemporary routine about two brothers, one of whom has come back from the brink. And guess what? Both dancers have had near death experiences, so this is close to home. 

The Dance: I think Nico is going home. This is beautiful. And, of course, there is crying, because how could there not be? This is effectively a sucker punch. I loved it, but I'm a little unnerved by how this creates such an uneven playing field. Still, exceptionally well-danced and absolutely gut wrenching -- but how much of this is story that we, as the audience, are applying to the performance? 

The Judges: Standing O. Mary is weepy. She can feel the love. She's so happy to see Robert dancing again. She praises Tucker then passes the baton to Debbie Allen. She mentions that Travis was inspired by his own experience, and she thinks dance is the most amazing art in the world. She doesn't know how Tucker could be in the bottom, but to her he's in the top. Nigel thinks it's an incredible piece of television. Nigel never dreamt Robert would be back dancing, and all the stars aligned and it created this piece, which will always be remembered on this show. 

The Verdict: No way Tucker is going home this week or next. But… I'm conflicted, really. 

Who's going home? Nigel thinks both Nico and Tucker did a great job tonight. While America doesn't love the girls, all of the judges and choreographers are outraged they're in the bottom. So… Makenzie is going home, even though Nigel declares her his favorite dancer. Nico is also going home, which was obvious. I don't think that because of the way he danced (I love the lizard routine), but Tucker could have wandered absently through his routine and we all would have been moved (not that he isn't also great, Tucker fans). 

I suspect we'll be seeing more choreographers trying to pull from the dancers' experience where they can going forward, as the playing field is a lot more level than it has been in other seasons. Good for us as viewers, but man, it's gotta be rough for the dancers. 

 

What did you think of the eliminations? Why do you think the judges always save Jenna? How much longer do you think they will?