‘So You Think You Can Dance’ recap: The final 4 dance and Nigel shocks everyone

Wow. After the last few moments of the show, I feel I need to rethink everything I saw in this episode.  I’m simply not sure how I feel about what happened, as I felt that what was said was the honest truth — but absolutely calculated to change what happens as well. But let’s not skip ahead just yet. There’s a lot of show to talk about first, complete with compelling performances and arresting solos. And truthfully, those are happier to think about anyway.

Last week I had pretty much accepted that Cyrus will be one of the two winners picked next week. As a friend pointed out to me, Cyrus has the most Twitter followers of any of the four finalists (and beats them by thousands), and as we know, those who tweet, vote. I absolutely understand why he has such a following — he’s a nice guy. He is a hugely talented animator. And, despite a total lack of formal training, he’s done remarkably well. That being said, it’s still hard for me to root for someone like Cyrus when Chehon is still in the game. Cyrus is doing well despite a lack of training — but I suspect Chehon has done nothing but train from a very, very young age. I respect that. And while it does speak to privilege (I doubt dance lessons were in the budget for Cyrus), it also speaks to incredible determination and hard work. Chehon is a remarkable dancer — and, unlike Cyrus, he’s worked toward that for most of his life.

Cat informs us that we will get five opportunities to see each dancer perform. Well, if you’re wondering how they’re going to fill two hours, there’s your answer.

Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy and director/choreoprapher Rob Marshall will be our judges for this evening. Not that the judging matters, unfortunately.

Eliana and Cyrus
The Background: They’ll be doing a paso double by Jason Gilikson. She’s going to be the matador, and Cyrus will be the cape. I thought it was a matador and a bull? Is this the PETA friendly take on the paso double?
The Dance: Eliana is, of course, incredible. And Cyrus isn’t bad, but he never seems to be able to catch air during a leap — it’s like his legs are sewn together.
The Judges: Nigel thinks Eliana has secured her place in the industry. Nigel tells Cyrus he deserves to be here, but he needs to lower his shoulders and straighten his legs. Mary thinks Cyrus delivered passion and drama while Eliana was on fire. Rob loved that Eliana could throw away technique and just tell story.

The Background: She’ll be dancing a Sonya Tayeh routine with season 4’s Will. Tiffany owes Sonya for inspiring her and pushing her, so this is a little emotional for her.
The Dance: I know I’ve been so wowed by Eliana, but man, Tiffany is amazing as well. She has incredible extension and is just a joy to watch.
The Judges: Mary thinks she’s the epitome of a star dancer. Rob thinks she’s so beautiful and amazing to watch. Nigel thinks her lines are amazing and she’s more than the girl next door. I think the judges are always reminded of how good she is, too.

Eliana and Chehon
The Background: The ballet dancers will be dancing ballet! Wow!
The Dance: This is so beautiful. Just beautiful. The sad part, though, is that this routine (I think it’s from “The Nutcracker”?) is, like so much of ballet, about the girl. Chehon has to lift, which is an undervalued skill. And judging from seeing the two of them together, Eliana is not a delicate little flower. Chehon makes it look like she’s a teensy little thing, and that’s clearly not the case.
The Judges: Standing O. Rob is amazed by their versatility. Nigel says the choreographer was a principal with Kirov Ballet. He’s thrilled by it, but notes it doesn’t show off Chehon. Mary thought it was a triumph for the show and gets choked up. No one mentions that Chehon had a bigger ballerina to lift than he may have been used to, which is probably for the best as it wouldn’t make Eliana feel too great.

Nigel wants to tell Californians about a license plate that will fund art in the schools. Find out more about it at fox.com/dance. Plug, plug!

Cyrus and Tiffany
The Background: Tessandra Chavez has a lyrical hip hop routine for the pair. It’s about young love. In the story, Cyrus has broken Tiffany’s heart, she’s moving on, and he feels lousy about what he did.
The Dance and The Judges: I have no idea, as my Internet connection crapped out. I’m sure it was charming.

The four finalists come together for a cutesy routine that involves ripping up some sheet music while dancing to classical music that’s been remixed with some “Star Wars” sound effects. This isn’t really about showing off any new skills and it doesn’t look all that impressive, honestly.

Time for Eliana’s solo. But first, a look at her journey. She wants to enjoy every moment she has on the show. She owes a lot to Cyrus, because he introduced her to more fans. But she really loved dancing with Alex Wong. She thinks of that as the turning point when people really started to know who she was. Eliana very very nearly says Cyrus dragged her down from a dance perspective, but somehow she skates around it. She wants to win so bad! Anyway, her solo is ballet and, of course, very pretty.

The Background: He will be dancing a contemporary by Stacey Tookey with all-star Allison.
The Dance: They are so good together! Allison is a little bit of a scene stealer, I’ll say, but Chehon shows some emotions range here that’s nice to see. And the dance itself is remarkable — Chehon has to do a one-handed lift. Whoa.
The Judges: Standing O from the judges. Mary screams. She thinks it was all about freedom and thought he was incredible. Rob couldn’t believe it. Nigel thinks Allison should be an actress, and thinks with Allison, Chehon came alive. He says, “Wow, young man. Wow.” I couldn’t say it better myself. It was definitely wow.

Eliana and Tiffany
The Background: Eliana and Tiffany will be doing a Broadway routine by Ray Leeper. And it will involve a pole.
The Dance: The work on the pole is, of course, incredible, and I guess this was a nod to Rob (who directed the movie version of “Chicago.”) But I really hate this song, and the choreographer doesn’t wow me once Eliana and Tiffany get off the pole. This is not Fosse, not by a long shot.
The Judges: A standing O. The judges are just getting so much exercise this week, what with all the standing and sitting. Nigel is called on first but passes. He’s too overheated. Whatever. Rob tries to envision Queen Latifah doing it. But he thought it was fierce. Mary thinks both of them are extraordinary and thought it was fun and sassy and the last scene on the pole was crazy great. Nigel says the last time he saw something like this he was with Randy Jackson, but he isn’t elaborating.

Time for Cyrus’ solo. He wanted to be a basketball player, and he didn’t get into dance until he was 15 or 16. He never expected to get this far on the show. Yeah. His lowest moment in Vegas was doing Sonya Tayeh’s work and worrying he wasn’t doing her piece justice. He thinks being famous is crazy. I bet he’s the only dancer in the final four who will mention being famous. I will say I love his animation routine. He is truly talented in his genre.

Cat promises us that Tiffany’s off the pole and back for a solo. Pretty sure I haven’t heard that exact phrase on this show before.

Anyway, Tiffany (as promised, off the pole) has a package before her solo. She went into choreography before she got to Vegas and was the only person in the top 20 who had to do that. Wow, I’d forgotten that entirely. She had to fight her way to Vegas. She wasn’t even expecting to make the top 20. She’s fought anonymity from the beginning. She’s a fighter. She dances her ass off, as usual, and I have to say I like her even more based on this little segment.

Cyrus and Chehon
The Background: They’ll be dancing a Sonya Tayeh routine. Sonya admits it’s a struggle for Cyrus, but she’s not dumbing down her routine.
The Dance: I love this. And remarkably, I think Cyrus keeps up pretty well. But yes, Chehon nails it.
The Judges: The judges… remain seated. Nigel thinks they really came up a level. He thinks Cyrus has improved phenomenally on the show. And he’s proud to know him. And he’s an inspiration. He’s his favorite PERSON on the show. Chehon has also grown as a person on the show, but he didn’t need to grow as a dancer. He is his favorite DANCER on the show. He’s inspired. And Jennifer Beals is in the audience! And she was an inspiration to a generation! She didn’t do her own dancing in “Flashdance,” people! I think Jennifer Beals is probably mortified. But Mary was inspired. Rob was inspired. Lots of inspiration.

Next we get a performance from international B-Boy sensation Jean Sok, who doesn’t have a left leg. Wow, I have never seen anyone do such amazing things with crutches and without a leg, or possibly even with a leg and no crutches. Wow, wow. Wow. I have to say, this is one of the most memorable guest dances we’ve seen on the show.

And now we watch a very, very long promo for “The X Factor.”

We move on to Chehon’s solo. He wanted to explore his horizons. He wants to be himself, not a ballet slave! Stacey Tookey believed in him, which helped him so much. He doesn’t care if he wins; he’s just grateful to have been able to open up. This is actually wonderful, as I suspect he isn’t going to win — but the truth is, he has a long work career ahead of him (barring injury). He doesn’t need this win. I don’t know what will happen to Cyrus, though, which makes the idea of him winning a little more palatable. Chehon’s solo is good, of course, but what’s most remarkable is how happy he looks. He really has gotten what he wants out of being on the show already.

The Background: She’ll be dancing a Travis Wall routine with Alex Wong from season 7. Eliana, Alex and Travis are goofballs together. That’s what Eliana said, promise.
The Dance: They’re dancing to Harry Nilsson’s “Without You,” and so beautifully. I love these guys together. Truly, I wish there had been a season when Eliana and Alex were paired together through the whole thing. Actually, I’d just be happy to pay to see them dance somewhere.
The Judges: Another standing O. Rob thought it was poetry. Nigel says it was his favorite routine of the night. Oh, and Eliana is his favorite dancer of all time on the show. Mary is so happy Alex is back, and she thinks Eliana oozes passion.

Tiffany and Chehon
The Background: They will be doing a rumba, which requires chemistry.  As Chehon says, “So awkward! ” Dmitry Chaplin choreographs it with a little backstory about falling in love in Italy.
The Dance: Sweet, though not sexy Latin dancing at all. Which is actually fine. There isn’t real chemistry here, unfortunately. I guess Chehon was being honest. But it’s still beautifully danced.
The Judges: Mary thought it was absolutely beautiful. She thought Chehon’s partnering was great, but he chemistry wasn’t there yet. She thought Tiffany was fabulous. Rob thought it was sexy and he saw a connection. Nigel thought it was sexier than the pole dance.

The Background: This will be the first all-star animation routine with Twitch! Christopher Scott will choreograph, and Cyrus is just so happy he wants to cry.
The Dance: This is all kinds of fun. I love it when we do get to see Cyrus do what he’s good at, because it’s just a reminder that he is talented and he does have a very refined and developed skill set. And Twitch, well, I always love Twitch.
The Judges: Another standing O (yes, the judges are working those quads and gluteus) and the crowd goes wild. So short! Rob thought it was crazy. Mary loved it. She thought they stole the show. Nigel thinks they’re both world class — and Christopher Scott does, too.

And then, Nigel keeps talking. And this is the thing I mentioned at the start of this recap.

Nigel says he loves Cyrus, he thinks he’s great and blah blah blah — but he isn’t going to vote for him. He’s not voting for Cyrus because he’s a dancer and he has to vote for Chehon, because he has to give credit to the strongest, most well-trained dancer.

As Nigel is saying this, Cyrus is looking at him with this flat expression. I think this is officially the first time I haven’t seen the guy smile. At all. For a while. At the very end of Nigel’s rant, he seems to remember himself and pulls out a grin. But this has to be one of the most awkward, uncomfortable moments I’ve ever seen on this show.

There was no real reason to say this to Cyrus. Truly,  Nigel seems to be dropping a massive hint to the viewing public — DON’T VOTE FOR CYRUS. I wonder if this will only fire up his fans to vote more, or will convince people to think twice about voting for him. In the end, it doesn’t matter. Nigel’s made it clear that if Cyrus wins, he thinks that’s unfair. And yes, I’ve said I’d prefer to see Chehon take home the prize for the guy division, but I also didn’t say it to Cyrus’ face while he was on stage in front of a live television audience. I think that’s what I find most disappointing. Cyrus told me in our interview that his hope throughout the season was to convince the judges that he was a dancer — that they’d eventually say he was good, period, not good in spite of his lack of training.

Clearly, that day is not coming. Whatever nice stuff Nigel spouted about loving Cyrus’ bones and thinking he’s a fabulous, inspiring person all came down to — and you’re not trained. I get it. It’s true. But I’m not convinced saying it was very sporting or very supportive. And I thought, at this point in the game, that’s what the judges were supposed to be.

What did you think of Nigel’s statement? Who do you think will win? Did Nigel’s comments influence you either way?