SYTYCD Recap: Shocking Eliminations on Michael Jackson Night! Full Results & Pictures!

During his decade at the helm of "American Idol," Nigel Lythgoe beat the idea of theme weeks into a bloody, self-parodying pulp; from the much-maligned "Broadway Week" to the annual teen-favorite "Neil Sedaka Week." By the time he surrendered the reigns to Per Blankens, "Idol" was long overdue for a theme-week adjustment.

However, tonight, Uncle Nigel brought a theme to "So You Think You Can Dance" for the first time (as far as I can remember); and it is one that I could actually get behind. For tonight's Top-8 edition, each routine was performed to a Michael Jackson song; either one of his classics, or a single from his "new" album "XScape." Unlike "Neil Diamond Week" or "British Invasion Week," a "King of Pop Week" makes so much sense for a dance show that highlights varied styles. MJ's extensive catalogue lends itself equally well to Hip Hop routines, Contemporary numbers, Jazz pieces, and even Ballroom dances; so, I was completely behind an all MJ night. Unfortunately, I don't think that the SYTYCD choreographers rose to the level of Michael's genius tonight, but more on that below.

Rejoining Nigel and Mary Murphy at the "Jidges" Table was dancer and "Step Up" star Jenna Dewan-Tatum. As she was during Hollywood Week, she was a fairly vanilla judge, throwing out a lot, "I love you"s and "that was amazing"s. However, considering so many people hated Mistry Copeland for being to critical, I guess it is asking too much for every guest judge actually provide constructive criticism.

Below, you will find my thoughts on each number, so let me know what you thought on Twitter or in the comments below. I will add pictures of each performance when FOX makes them available.

Top-8 Performance
Choreographer: Travis Payne
Genre: Michael Jackson Can't Be Defined By No Genre
Song: "A Place With No Name" by Michael Jackson
Three-Word Review: Robot Pop Kings

The choreography in this number was like the answer to a prayer; I have always wanted to see Michael Jackson's signature moves reinterpreted by robots... oh wait. As a child who used to dance like Michael Jackson in front of a TV so that he could watch himself in the reflection, I loved seeing this Top-8 do those classic moves, but Payne, Michael Jackson's choreographer, didn't let any of the dancers show any of that raw passion that was the calling card of the King of Pop. I missed that. It was strong technically, but it lacked a true MJ feel.

Cat's Announcements: Cat told us that each dancer will be performing his or her solo, to which I audibly mutter, to no one in particular, "Finally!" Solos have been painfully missing this season. While some of the styles don't translate well to a 15 second solo routine, they remind us just how special each dancer is in his or her own style. So, I am very excited about this!

Tanisha's Solo
Three-Word Review: Somersaults, Sequins, Sexy

Ricky Ubeda and All-Star Jaimie Goodwin (Season Three)
Status: Safe
Choreographer: Broadway vet Travis Wall
Genre: Contemporary
Song: "Smile" by Michael Jackson
Three-Word Review: Like a Dream
Next Week's All-Star Partner: Anya Garnis

You know, for a little dude, Ricky is incredibly strong; whether it's lifts, or jumps, or tricks, there just doesn't seem to be anything that Ricky can't do, and this routine highlighted that wonderfully. The couple's technique was so fluid and seamless, that it looked like they were in an Agnes de Mille Dream Ballet. As with any Travis Wall routine, there was some really interesting and inventive choreography choices. As Nigel said, it looks like Ricky is transcending the choreography to a point where he looks like he is already an All-Star.

Zack's Solo
Three-Word Review: Fast, Fancy Footwork

Valerie Rockey and All-Star Ryan Di Lello (Season Six)
Status: Safe
Choreographer: Jean-Marc Généreux
Genre: Samba
Song: "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" by Michael Jackson
Three-Word Review: Missed Lift Baby
Next Week's All-Star Partner: Stephen "tWitch" Boss

I have to admit, I really like Valerie. She is just so darn adorable, I want her to do well. Tonight though, she shed her signature adorableness, and was sexy for the first time on the show. However, in exchange for being so, she seemed a bit clunky at times in this ballroom routine. Though I agree with Mary that in some of the more technical moves, she looked perfectly at home in the Samba, there were other times when she looked like Baby after she aborted the lift in her first performance with Johnny Castle. Now, obviously this is insanely out of her tap-dancing wheelhouse, but we're in the Top-8, you have to look proficient in every genre they throw at you, and Valerie did at times... but other times she didn't.

Casey's Solo
Three-Word Review: Spins for Days

Rudy's Solo
Three-Word Review: Like a Boss

Casey Askew and All-Star Comfort Fedoke (Season Four)
Status: In the Bottom Two
Choreographers: Pharside & Krystal "Phoenix" Meraz
Genre: Hip Hop
Song: "Xscape" by Michael Jackson
Three-Word Review: Givin' Funk Face
Next Week's All-Star Partner: Makenzie Dustman

This routine was a bit all over the place for me. First off, Casey was totally committed to giving as much "funk face" as humanly possible. However, some of the set pieces in the choreography just fell flat for me. The move where Comfort dropped from standing on his knee to in between his arms should have been a really cool moment, instead it seemed like a waste of an opportunity. That being typed, Casey was fairly believable in the Hip Hop number, though he was clearly outshone by Comfort.

Jacque's Solo
Three-Word Review: Yawn.... Solo? What?

Tanisha Belnap and All-Star Nick Lazzarini (Season One)
Status: In the Bottom Two
Choreographer: Stacey Tookey
Genre: Contemporary
Song: "She's Out of My Life" by Michael Jackson
Three-Word Review: Clearly Best Girl

The directorial choice that Stacey made to have Tanisha begin the routine upstage and dimly lit, as if she was nothing but a memory, was exceptionally strong. As for the dancing, as the judges said, Tanisha is ridiculously physically strong. In fact, if there were still two winners, Tanisha would be so far ahead in the Girls' competition that it wouldn't even be funny. However, this routine only maintained her advantage in my mind, rather than distancing her from the field. While the dancing, as always with her, was beautiful, it lacked the emotional connection that makes these routines truly memorable. Perhaps that was because her character was the one being longed for, rather than doing the longing, but this routine was more of a technical marvel, than a complete routine for me.

Jessica's Solo
Three-Word Review: Best from Her

Rudy Abreu and All-Star Allison Holker (Season Two)
Status: In the Bottom Two
Choreographer: Ray Leeper
Genre: Jazz
Song: "Dirty Diana" by Michael Jackson
Three-Word Review: Adrenaline, Intensity, Danger

Damn! That was intense. As in most Jazz routines, there weren't a whole lot of tricks or technical moments for the majority of the number; instead it succeeded on the strength of the story and commitment of the dancers. For example the best early moment was when Allison had herself draped around Rudy, and she went into a fit of convulsions. That was really cool, but not all that technical. However, what everyone is going to be talking about is the ending trick where Rudy threw Allison up way above his head and she fell straight into a basket catch. That was one of those memorable moments that each dancer on this show hopes for.

Valerie's Solo
Three-Word Review: Smile Inducing Fun

Zack Everhart and All-Star Makenzie Dustman (Season 10)
Status: Safe
Choreographer: "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" choreographer, Spencer Liff
Genre: Broadway
Song: "The Way You Make Me Feel" by Michael Jackson
Three-Word Review: Not Zack's Fault
Next Week's All-Star Partner: Fik-Shun Stegall

Uggg... I feel like a broken record, but these Broadway routines this season have been utterly disappointing for me. Spencer Liff is a legit Broadway choreographer, but this routine felt lifeless and flat. As is always the case, dancers are, in part, at the mercy of their choreographer; so I don't blame this much on Zack. Considering that this season's winner gets a role in the upcoming revival of "On the Town," they could do a lot worse than him. He has a lot of regional theatre experience, and his tap skills would fit perfectly into this show.

Ricky's Solo
Three-Word Review: Ticket to Finals

Jacque LaWarne and All-Star Stephen "tWitch" Boss (Season Four)
Status: In the Bottom Two
Choreographer: Dave Scott
Genre: Hip Hop
Song: "Slave To The Rhythm" by Michael Jackson
Three-Word Review: tWitch Was There?
Next Week's All-Star Partner: William Wingfield (I think that's whose picture that was)

tWitch is one of those performers that demands your eyeballs to be on him at all times. However tonight, Jacque was in command of this routine. Yes, tWitch threw in some Poppin' that his partner didn't even attempt, but other than that, Jacque was the one my eyes were drawn to throughout the routine. She had all of the funk, dirt, and buckness that the Dave Scott routine required. I have a feeling that this will be her final routine on the show, but if it is, she has proven that she is able to be a capable commercial dancer.

(Post show note: So, I was wrong, she was not eliminated. So, I think this is another strong performance for her to continue to improve as a well-rounded performer.)

Michael Jackson Exclusive: Huh? Look, I get it, MJ's been dead for a few years, so people are mining this unfinished material to make a quick buck, but that was the best they could do for a new video? It looked like a bunch of shots of him standing around on the set of Janet's "Love Will Never Do (Without You)."

Jessica Richens and All-Star William Wingfield (Season Four)
Status: Safe
Choreographer: Mandy Moore
Genre: Contemporary
Song: "Earth Song" by Michael Jackson
Three-Word Review: Coulda Been Better
Next Week's All-Star Partner: Ade Obayomi

Look, this was a pretty strong number in a night of stuff that was just all right. Jessica has grown from the girl who was uncomfortably sexual in her audition piece into a performer that seems to be taking advantage of each opportunity they are given. The judges love to talk about how much competitors improve over the course of their time on the show; however, I'm not sure how much their physical technique actually improves, but I think the ones who survive are the ones that take advantage of working with some of the best choreographers and partners in the world, and I think Jessica has done just that.

(Post show note: With Tanisha now eliminated waaaaaay to early, Jessica seems like the front runner for the female finale spot, if they keep eliminate a boy and a girl each week.)

Control Freakz Dance Crew Performance
Three-Word Review: Poppin' Nutcracker Suite

Ok, that was pretty sweet. Their Poppin' was so intricate and precise that I felt like I was watching a Ballet-Hip Hop routine. So much of the conversation around Hip Hop on this show is about how "buck" it is, or how "dirty" it is, or how "fun" it is, but a piece like this reminds you just how technical of a genre it is. Even though I think it is a blight on the American television landscape, this is a group that would get me to turn in to "America's Got Talent." I wouldn't vote, but I would tune in from time to time. Seriously, how can three of the four judges on "America's Got Talent" be from somewhere other than America? I have no problem with foreign judges in general; I think Simon Cowell is the best judge in competition show history, but three of the four?

Eliminated This Week
Tanisha Belnap (What? I am totally not ok with this. Come on America, what's wrong with you?)
Rudy Abreu

Should be Eliminated Next Week
Valerie Rockey (tiny tear)
Zack Everhart

Best of the Night (one male and one female competitor routine)
Rudy Abreu and All-Star Allison Holker
Jacque LaWarne and All-Star Stephen "tWitch" Boss

Ok, do you think the dancers and choreographers did the King of Pop justice? Are you ok with Tanisha and Rudy being eliminated? What was your favorite number of the night? Let me know what you think in the comments below, or on Twitter @BWWMatt.

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From This Author Matt Tamanini

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