TV Article

For the Love of Benji

In the season finale of ''So You Think You Can Dance,'' after two hours of reminiscences and reprises, Ameriker's choice is revealed

BENJI JUMPING The winner (left) proved he could dance anything, and with anybody, as shown by his hip-hop duet with Travis
BENJI JUMPING The winner (left) proved he could dance anything, and with anybody, as shown by his hip-hop duet with Travis

''So You Think You Can Dance'': We have a winner!

It's been a long, strange journey full of screaming wars, shirtlessness, and mysterious terms like ''lyrical,'' ''the U.K.,'' and ''lines.'' Well, Ameriker has spoken, and the person to come out on top of the second season of So You Think You Can Dance is...Nigel!

Just kidding. It's Benji, who got treated to a hailstorm of thick-cut confetti and a laughable video message from Celine Dion, who, among other things, hopes Cat is doing well.

I had no idea how the producers were going to freshly squeeze out a two-hour spectacle when all most people really cared about was the announcement of the winner. The answer should have been obvious: rehashed dances and Ciara lip-synching in front of a wind machine! Duh.

The final four dancers chose their ''favorites'' from the season to perform again, and many of the jidges yapped fondly about other dances until those, too, magically unfolded onstage like the puppet scenes from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Dance, puppets...dance. Mary introduced the only new number with what was apparently supposed to be the juicy news that Dmitry and Natalie had ''sparks'' on and off the dance floor. Really? I wasn't feelin' that. If she meant the sparks igniting inside Nat's leg as little bits of knee bone split off under that severe brace, I suppose I'd buy it. Hey, show, give a girl a rest.

After all the talk about the return of the top 20, half of them didn't get more than a few seconds of screen time, which worked for me because then I felt less guilty about not remembering names. (I'm better with a face: It's a map of the world, it's a map of the world.) Shane's group opener was a hit, if only because Stas had to hip-hop. Oh, and right after that, Cat attempted to not say ''jidges.'' The word was about three syllables long and came out ''jee-ah-jiz.'' A valiant effort, but why censor a running joke on the last night? That'd be like running out on stage in a purple, velvet, leopard-print disaster after an entire season of fun and classy outfits. Can you imagine?

Somehow, among all those partner dances, Cat found the time, and the absolute worst timing possible, to eliminate Heidi and then Donyelle. It was pretty awful how they suddenly had to leave, especially since in Heidi's case, Travis hadn't yet danced his favorite (with Heidi!) or his solo. Both women stood there making awkward just-end-it faces as Cat repeated the same line about ''Ameriker's favorite dancer'' (my vote for the most haunting phrase of the summer) and then blurted out, ''It's not you.'' Cat! At least say, ''It's me,'' directly following that, to lessen the blow of the break-up. Not that she wrote these lines herself, but still, that delivery was way harsh. I think even Mia could have let them down easier with a couple of long-winded stories. (I couldn't wait to hear how the one about the burning sauce turned out. Did she ever get to eat dinner?)

The frustrating lady booting was topped by the way Leopard teased Benji and Travis by clawing into their envelopes and then announcing that they would have to wait through 17 million commercial breaks for the results. Anyone could have guessed this already, as there was nearly an hour left in the finale. Still, you have to wonder how much Tranji wanted to smother Fergie during her performance of ''London Bridge,'' which sounded a bit like crap but at least sounded live. Travis and Benji should have filled in as the two guardsman backup dancers to blow off some steam.

Back to the kids, or Cat's ''babies'': As the final two, Benji and Travis performed hip-hop for their last dance, last chance for love. Afterward, Cat put on nerd glasses and loudly asked three times if she could be in their ''gang.'' They were like, no way, you're a girl...open the envelope.

Tranji's back-and-forth swaying was supremely cute if not hypnotizing, and the jidges made some kind and surprisingly lucid farewell comments to both of them. Finally, Cat called Benji's name — a word that launched millions of fan-based ''awwws'' while a father, his son, and his electric sign wept in unison.

[Read Jessica Shaw's interview with Benji.]

Folks, it was almost as beautiful as Nigel Lythgoe.

What do you think? Are you happy with Benji as the winner? If not, who should have won? And was the finale too long, or did you enjoy the journey?

Originally posted Aug 17, 2006