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‘SYTYCD’ judges expand finalists group to 11

With so few slots, we know some spectacular dancers are not going to make the cut, and let’s face it, that stings. We’ve just barely met them, and now we’re kicking most of them to the curb!
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It’s time for the final ten to be announced, whoo hoo! But I’ve got to say, I’m a little iffy on this new method of leaping from Vegas directly to the final ten. Granted, it certainly solves some problems the show has had once the final twenty were decided. When we had double eliminations and competing dancers were paired with one another, a so-so dancer could easily skate through to the finals on the strength of his or her partner.

I also like the idea that we get to see some familiar faces back on the show and that they’re all dancing to their strengths — each returning dancer will be paired to their specialty as opposed to a specific dancer, making it even less likely viewers will be voting for a favorite couple.

But are we ready to cut to the final ten so soon? The level of talent is already pretty damn high, and just one bad moment, much less one bad dance, could eliminate a talent who might have surprised by emerging as a winner in a past season.

With so few slots, I just know some spectacular dancers are not going to make the cut, and let’s face it, that stings. We’ve just barely met these dancers, and now we’re kicking most of them to the curb! Waah!

But really, none of this compares to the new cheesefest starting tonight — the judges are going to be breaking the good (and bad) news to the last group of dancers. In their homes. While they’re surrounded by hopeful loved ones. As they sob into the family sofa. I kind of hope someone’s parents are a little nuts and try to beat the hell out of one of the judges when they deliver bad news, just so the producers won’t try this again. For starters, it’s sadistic, plus it drags out a simple process for the purposes of doubling the length of what should be a one hour elimination episode and, finally, it smacks of “The Bachelor,” which is not a good thing. Ever.

Anyway, let’s get down to business. Time to see the final 58. And say good-bye to most of them. Uh, yay?

Ida Starkey doesn’t dig Broadway dancing. She postponed college to appear on the show. But she’s been sucking in Vegas. So, she’s dropping out. Ida seems nice enough, I guess. But again, I don’t remember seeing her before, so I can’t say whether this is a great loss to the program or, again, a time filler. I’m going with time filler, as Ida seems like she’s making a pretty rational, well-considered decision. Sorry, producers, nothing to see here.

Toasty Oreo choreographs the Broadway routine, which only proves he can do everything anyone else can do but better and we should send him to Louisiana, because he probably can get the oil out of the gulf and save all those sad little pelicans, too. No, not really his skill set, but he couldn’t be any worse than BP.

Ida tries to drop out. And Nigel goes for the throat. Then Adam piles on. Ida nods soberly but doesn’t dissolve into tears or brattily talk back. Disappointed, Nigel tells her she can’t take criticism, and then scowls at her and lets her get off the stage. Ida doesn’t seem like a whiner or a quitter, so I’m inclined to believe that she’s had a rough day, her heart isn’t in it and she just knows she isn’t going to do well. Ida may be far too together for a reality TV show, just saying.

Next, everyone’s split up into groups of five, given a CD and informed they need to choreograph routines. This is usually prime backstabbing and catfighting territory, so let the games begin.

The first group is dancing to “I Want To Know What Love Is.” And, amazingly, they make a horrible song interesting, so hats off to them for pulling off some nice choreography. Mary Murphy liked the passion. Nigel tells them that everyone is on his favorite list, so they can all go to the pool to celebrate.

The next group doesn’t look so lucky. The African dancer butts head with the hip-hop dancer. And they didn’t sleep. This won’t go well. And it looks pretty muddled, as not everyone is in synch. Adam thought it was uneventful, Mary was uninspired and Lil’ C didn’t think it was buck. So, African dancer is staying. Chris, the hip-hopper is almost a no but makes it just under the wire. And then the whole group gets good news. They’re all staying! You know, I hate it when the judges know they’re going to be keeping dancers, but try to make them cry before they save them from what seems like certain termination. I know, tears make better TV, but I do wonder when we’ll have the first “SYTYCD” coronary.

Despite the judges faking people out only to save them, which is something I think kidnappers do to induce Stockholm Syndrome, eight more dancers get cut, and 34 survive. The judges know they have to send people home, right?

Ah, there’s one last group to perform. It’s full of judge favorites like Ryan Ramirez and Billy Bell. And the routine baaaaahlloooooooows. Egads, it’s bad. Adam hates it and calls it a disaster of epic proportions. Mary thinks it was blagh, which is my nearest approximation to the pukey, phlegmy sound she makes to express her disgust. Toasty says it should have been the best group, and Nigel said it was out-and-out crap.

The judges get together and huddle. And decide to keep everyone. Seriously, wtf? Not that I wanted any of these dancers to go home, really, but if they’re going to forgive a dismal performance like this, why did anyone get sent home during this cut?

Next, it’s time for contemporary with Travis Wall. The remaining dancers will hoof it in groups of three. Christina, the Latin dancer, is freaking out. When the music starts, she doesn’t look comfortable, but she toughs it out and delivers a competent contemporary performance. Nigel thought it was terrific and Mary thought it was amazing. She’s staying. I didn’t actually think it was that great, but maybe the other two girls were that much worse, I have no idea.

Next up, Gisele, the ballroom Broadway vet. She seems to be doing something pretty different than the other two dancers, which usually suggests a dancer is screwing the pooch. Plus, her hamstrings look so tight she can barely get through the routine. Nigel says no. Mary starts crying and tells her to work on her extensions. But she’s also a no. Adam is a no. She’s going home. Sad to see her go, honestly, because man alive, she burned up the floor during her audition.

Also going home, Nicole and her topknot. Whaaaaa? She was amazing in her audition, but oh well. So is the African dancer.

Anthony Burrell is the guy who pulled his hamstring. Damn, he’s still in this thing? Amazing. He must be in agony. He’s dancing with Kent Boyd and Alex Wong. But man, got to hand it to Anthony, he looks better than good and doesn’t even wince when he lands. Alex is a yes, but he still gets weepy that he isn’t doing his best. Nigel tells Anthony his dancing is exquisite and all the other judges love him, which makes Anthony cry, which is probably due to insane amounts of pain. Then, it’s Kent’s turn.

And it’s time for a commercial!

And Nigel loves Kent. Mary loves him. Adam loves him. Kent admits he’s hard on himself and when he tries hard he never gets results and then he says he really just came to learn and dance next to great dancers. Kent’s purpose in this show is to make everyone cry and say aw, shucks, I think, which means he’s going to the final ten. He breaks Adam’s heart. Lots of sniffling. Damn, he made Lil’ C cry. He begs Kent to believe in himself. The only person not crying is Kent.

Okay, 24 people are left. No more cuts until the judges can make their final decisions. And then travel across the country like grim reapers of dance, killing hopes and tapdancing on dreams.

As a treat for the final group, Grover Dale works with them for an hour. Grover Dale is a legend, and he worked with Fosse, so they should listen to him. Which they do. They all seem really, really excited, but I also think part of that is simple exhaustion and possibly dehydration, poor dears.

Before the dancers can go home, they have to dance one last solo and tearfully explain why they want to be in the final ten. This is called a last chance, or, to use a technical term, reality TV torture.

We get to see Lauren Froderman dance first. The judges are wetting their pants over Lauren. And yes, she is amazing. Anyone who can bring that much passion to the most tired wedding song in the world, “At Last,” deserves a standing ovation. Which she gets. Yeah, she’s top ten.

Then, we get a montage of weepy dancers. This is like watching people pleading to get life imprisonment instead of lethal injection. These kids are tired, sleep-deprived and physically worn out, so why not make them beg for their lives? It’s fun!

Time for home visits! I’ve got to think the judges are not fans of this idea, unless they just like traveling in the corporate jet or looking into the eyes of their victims to see the little flame of hope die just as they snuff it out.

Mary is off to visit Adrian Lee. He and his family are sitting uncomfortably on the couch. But they’ll have to wait a little longer, because the editors are going to jump around to make this as uncomfortable for viewers as it is for the Lee family. Yay.

Toni is visiting Cristina Santana. Her family is also sitting with her on the sofa. Toni walks in and starts asking interview questions. Cristina answers, but you can tell she’s ready to throw up. Toni tells her to be strong. Then tells her she’s really sorry... she won’t be able to practice with Pepe because she made the cut. Toni has a mean streak, and I think we may just go ahead and use Billy Bell’s nickname for her, Nazi Barbie, from here on out.

Back to Adrian Lee’s house. He seems like a nice guy, always positive, really upbeat. Mary walks through the door, lots of hugging, and yes, time to drag out the agony of waiting for the news. Then, Mary starts crying. He doesn’t make the cut. Whaaaa? Mary hopes he comes back. Adrian’s family starts crying. Even Adrian gets weepy, even though he’s really thankful. This is actually something of a shock, because this guy was good. And here we have one of the reasons I’m sorry we aren’t using the final twenty formula, as flawed as it may have been.

Oh, and not everyone gets a visit, by the way. Some people get phone calls. Nigel is too busy to visit, um, losers. Lexi Contursi gets a no phone call. That’s it for Lexi. We don’t even hear Nigel cut four more dancers. Ouch. It’s like getting dumped via text.

Next up, Lauren Froderman. She’s getting a call on her cute pink phone. But there’s no way she’s a loser, is she? Nigel is calling. And he reveals he’s actually outside! With Lauren’s postal carrier! Not sure what the mail lady has to do with anything, but okay. Nigel is here to tell her she’s amazing. Then tells her she has a bright future ahead of her. But she’s one of the final ten. Amazingly, Lauren doesn’t have a stroke or anything.

Then, it’s time for Mia Michaels to visit Anthony Burrell. He has got to be a yes. He’s just too good not to be. But he’s nervous like everyone else. He tells Mia his big toe won’t stop shaking. Then, Mia tells him point blank he won’t be part of the season. Are you KIDDING me? Mia begs him to try again. Thank God she doesn’t torture him with the stupid fake out questions. I’m shocked, really. This is a huge disappointment.

Toasty goes to Miami, while Lil’ C goes to Visalia, California. Lil’ C goes to visit Ashley Galvan, who I barely remember. Lil’ C does not look comfortable with this whole process, which I’m sure is almost as stressful for the judges as it is for the dancers. Lil’ C tells her she won’t be around for the next couple months... because she’ll be on the show. Okay. No real opinion about this one. Of all the final ten, I think we’ve seen the least of Ashley.

Nigel goes to Ohio to visit Kent. But first, he has to dump three more dancers over speakerphone. Nice. Obviously, Kent is making the cut. Kent, who is all of nineteen. Whereas Anthony is older and more seasoned. Yes, this makes perfect sense. But Kent makes the judges cry, and he’s just so super duper nice audiences will just cluck over him like happy little chickens. Yes, this is really about America’s favorite dancer, isn’t it? Yes, he’s great, but if the judges were honest about taking age into consideration, which is the excuse they used with Adrian, instead of playing for future ratings, well, I’m not sure this would be playing out the same way.

B-boy Jose Ruiz is waiting for his visit. Toasty comes to give him the news. He tells him his technique was a little lacking... but he made the cut. Uh, and Anthony didn’t? I’m really not okay with this. Again, Jose’s talented, but I think they’re trying to recreate the heartwarming B-boy makes good story of last season. Again, a play for ratings.

Mia goes to visit Melinda Sullivan, the tapper. Melinda feels alive. Mia says her contemporary was crunchy. But there’s something different about Melinda. So she’s coming to Hollywood. Honestly, I think there were other female dancers who were more multifaceted, but apparently we need a tapper for every season.

Nigel is still driving through Ohio. And getting lost. Nothing is more fun than dumb comedy. About getting lost in Ohio. Blurg.

Alex Wong is also waiting for word. If he doesn’t get a yes, he may be out of a job. Toasty arrives and tells Alex he wants to talk in private, which makes it seem as if Alex not only didn’t make the cut, but may have done something horribly wrong as well. Toasty tells Alex all of Nigel’s complaints, which are minor but still manage to make Alex feel bad about himself. Alex looks like he’s going to cry. But he’s going to Hollywood. Okay, that’s good news. Alex has all the markings of a winner. Of course, I thought that was true of Anthony, too. Whatever.

And... back to Nigel looking for directions. Oh dear God, can this agony never end?

Mia is going to visit Adechike Torbert. His mom runs a daycare, which his mom mentions apropos of nothing. Adechike is thinking positive. Mia asks him to relive the stress of dancing for his life. And we learn that he made the top ten. Pretty amazing comeback, Adechike. I think he’s going to have problems with ballroom, but have to admit his contemporary was beyond excellent. Mia starts crying because her mom died three weeks ago. So glad the producers thought it would be good for Mia to drag herself all over the country to face stressed-out families while she’s grieving. Good thing she got to break some good news at least.

And... back to Nigel. I’m so past caring about this. He gets pulled over for speeding. Shoot me now.

Toasty dumps Jocelyn, another dancer I don’t really remember.

Mary’s off to visit Alexie Agdeppa, while Lil’ C will be visiting Ryan Ramirez. This is Alexie’s fourth audition for the show. My God, let the girl through already.

Lil’ C is devastated that he has to drive a dorky ride. Um, the car humor? Not really working, period.

Mary sits down with Alexie. She reminds Alexie only five girls make it through.

Lil’ C talks to Ryan about how hard it’s been to choose. Oooh, who will be picked! Let’s cross cut over and over again until the viewers at home get headaches or say screw it and take bathroom breaks!

Mary starts crying and hugging Alexie. Then tells her she made it. Mary, you so naughty! Mary enjoys torturing the dancers too much, I think.

Lil’ C tells Ryan she didn’t make it. But he wants her to come back. Well, she’s got a good shot for next year. And it’s nice when the judge who thought you were amazing is the one to break the bad news at least. Ryan takes it well. I think her mom’s more distraught than she is, honestly.

Two spots left for boys, three guys are waiting for news. This is agonizing. And that’s just for the viewers watching it. Please, producers, drag this out as long as possible, because I don’t have an ulcer yet.

In New York, Billy Bell and Robert are performing together in a show. So Alan will break the news to the boys together. While he’s hobbling on crutches. I hope whichever guy doesn’t get picked grabs one of Adam’s crutches, just for kicks.

Nigel finally gets to Kent’s house. After four hours and a speeding ticket. Why didn’t he just ask Kent to meet him somewhere? Nigel tells Kent he needs to use his bathroom. Apparently it’s a number two, because Kent’s family is waiting for ages. Finally, Nigel emerges and tells Kent he chose a bad year to audition because there were so few slots. But... he’s going to Hollywood. Duh.

Finally, we cut to Adam in New York. Adam tells Rob he was a rock star. Except for contemporary. He tells Billy he made him cry last season, but he was disappointing this season. So Adam tells them that the last guy’s spot goes to... Rob. Rob is stunned. Adam tells Billy he’s awesome, so they added a sixth guy. Psych! And then the guys go outside and play the same trick on their friends.

So, that’s our final eleven. And it’s an excellent bunch of dancers. But I can already pick the group I would have had in the final twenty, honestly. I hope they all come back next year, but man, it must suck to get that darn close and fall short of the mark, especially when it seemed to come down to a popularity contest in a few cases. But congrats to the finalists, and here’s hoping the new and improved “SYTYCD” delivers.