TV Recap

Twenty Questions

On ''So You Think You Can Dance,'' the judges pick their favorite 10 boys and 10 girls, and we try to guess who's going to rise or fall

HOK UP The hip-hopper made the cut, but he's going to have to stretch
HOK UP The hip-hopper made the cut, but he's going to have to stretch

''So You Think You Can Dance'': The top 20

So I guess we now know what happened to Phillip Chbeeb, Brandon Norris, and Ashley Simpson. Cut, cut, and cut — but when, I have no clue. I had hoped that we'd been prevented from seeing their progress because they'd made it all the way to the end and Nigel Lythgoe, who also directs these early shows before the production moves to live TV, wanted to spread the screen time around to some other contestants. Yeah, not so much. In fact, quite the opposite.

Yet again, Nigel was fast and loose with the editing, always favoring the juicy story over just letting us watch the frickin' dancing. Yes, Faina Savich fainted after her final solo routine, but did we need to get all twitterpated over a run-of-the-mill case of dehydration? Even the medical staff didn't seem too worried about her condition. And though I agree with Nigel that Janet Bombard's spirit and story are tear-worthy, the cynic in me began to wonder if we were only seeing more of Janet because Nigel wanted to show off his softer side. (Though, my goodness, Nigel, for someone who relishes temper tantrums as much as you do, you certainly are skittish about a wee bit of eye watering.)

Stranger still was the decision to spend so much time showcasing some of the judges' favorite dancers, only to cut them. The logic of this escapes me; if they're good enough to be put on TV, and good enough to be a ''favorite,'' then why aren't they in the competition? It meant that we'd essentially never seen or heard from nearly half of the dancers who did make the top 20 until they got the good news from the judges and got a three-second clip of their dancing in the final-credits montage.

It also meant that I had to shelve my plan to handicap the top 20 going into next week's first live show. So some of the following summaries are well-thought-out opinions based on the copious footage we've seen of individual dancers; others are snap judgments pulled right outta my patoot.

THE GOOD

Ricky Palomino From what I've seen, as far as talent is concerned, Ricky is the one to beat. Sure, Nigel thinks he's strange. Sure, he blurts out things like ''I don't know the type of strange I am.'' Sure, he has a slightly frightening thing for Cat Deeley. But all that stuff only makes him more interesting to me, and I've not seen a dancer this season with as much expression and skill who also manages to make it all seem so damn easy.

Danny Tidwell I'm going to take Nigel and Mia's word that Danny's one of the best dancers the show has ever seen, since we were only granted glimpses of his dancing last night, but I don't really think the producers like him very much. The bulk of his segment was spent on Danny's apparent ego problem — note how he referred to SYTYCD to the judges as ''your competition'' (emphasis added) — and on Shane's ominous proclamation that they'd live to regret even placing him in the top 20 (i.e., another Blake McGrath situation). Of all this season's ''legacy'' contestants, Danny is also the only one we first met in Vegas; I'm already kinda dying to know the circumstances behind how he became season 2 runner-up Travis Wall's adopted brother. Now that's a backstory I'd like to see.

Jesús ''Chuy'' Solario The winemaker seems to have some real versatility up his sleeve, and though we've seen his progress since his very first audition, he truly is flying under the radar. Which, at this point, may be a good thing; it means he has a better shot at surprising us.

Jessi Peralta I'm still not quite a fan, though I did warm to her vulnerability after Shane's wicked uncool fake-out. By far the female with the most screen time, she just needs to drop the check-me-out inward self-satisfaction that keeps her movement from ever taking off.

Anya Garnis The judges put her through without any of the reservations they threw at her ballroom partner, Pasha. That's gotta be a good sign, right?

THE IFFY

Pasha Kovalev Mia laid into Pasha's limited range as a dancer, and the show backed her up with some seriously janky clips of his non-ballroom routines. His longevity on the show will all boil down to the luck of the dance-genre draw and how much personality he can bring to the stage.

Dominic ''D'Trix'' Sandoval Another dancer with versatility issues, but he got the biggest backstage group hug after he'd been picked for the top 20; as long as that comes across to viewers and he gets a good partner, he could last a long while.

Cedric Gardner He clearly has something that blows away the other judges, but Nigel is afraid he's going to screw over a female partner. Plus, his legs freak me out.

Faina Savich It doesn't bode well when Mary delivers the good news with ''so I'm sad to say...you are in our top 20.'' What's more, Faina seems to suffer from the same passive personality as her brother, and he was the first dude sent home.

Lacey Schwimmer It was a foregone conclusion Lacey would make the top 20 after she was put up against a dancer I don't think we'd seen take a single step, though even she seemed a bit shocked that she'd made it, shouting that great profanity dodge, ''Shut the front door!'' Of course, like his sister, Benji was told he had barely made the top 20 too, but he also never sported Ashlee Simpson and Blake Lewis hand-me-downs in the same outfit.

NEXT: The wild cards and whatziznames

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