Adam B. Vary
June 06, 2008 AT 10:33 PM EDT

Phillip Chbeeb. Everything that was infuriating about last night’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance can be summed up in one name: Phillip Chbeeb. Last season, if you’ll recall, the rubber-boned popper thrilled the judges and the home audience alike in the Chicago auditions, landed a ticket to Vegas, and then won exactly zero seconds of screen time during the Vegas episodes. So this year, when he came back to audition in Los Angeleese, charmed the judges all over again, and won even more up-close-and-personal screen time along with his novelty ticket to Vegas, I was certain that once we reached that stage of the show, at the absolute least we would get a single shot of the guy being told he wasn’t moving on. Just five seconds would’ve been fine. We wouldn’t have even needed to hear his name.

But, no. Nothing. Not even an inadvertent glance of the guy, from all my peepers could tell. And yet, in a way, it’s truly best that Chbeeb was denied any screen time. He could’ve had cameras poking their way into his every sleep-deprived outburst, sobbing fit, and last-minute reprieve — like Derrick ”Official Group-Round Diva” Spears, Jason ”Now I Have a Mohawk, Now I Don’t” Glover, Anthony ”Comeback Twin” Hart, or Bianca ”Tap-Dancing Fantasia Look-Alike” Revels — only to be cut at the final round.

Or he could have been an early favorite captured in reassuring glimpses throughout the Vegas audition process — like Kelli ”My Mom’s a Dancing God” Baker, Asuka ”Snagged a Ticket to Vegas While Deathly Ill” Kondoh, Markus ”I’m Dancing for My Mom” Shields, Evan ”Broadway Babe” Kasprzak, or Brandon ”Best First Audition of the Season” Bryant — only to be cut at the final round.

Or he could have simply opened his trap, said something absolutely, boneheadedly, senselessly stupid, and as a result either been sent home, like Lizz ”No, Really, I’m Not Stressed Out About Dancing, Really, Seriously, I’m Not, It’s Just That I’m Super on Edge About My Legs Seizing Up and Keeping Me From Dancing, That’s All” Plott, or walked into the top 20 with a massive home-viewer handicap, like Katee ”Do You Really Expect Me to Try Out for This Frakking Show for a Third Time After Getting Cut Right Before the Top 20?” Shean.

Or he could have been Robert Muraine and made the inexplicable decision to keep twisting his arm 450 degrees as Mr. Fantastic on his small patch of pavement in Santa Monica, Calif., rather than risk stumbling through some choreography as Mr. Could Use Some Professional Training for even one second on stage in Las Vegas. (Nigel’s sniff after his ”See you on the promenade — I look forward to it” kiss-off to Robert was especially choice.)

Really, the show did Chbeeb a favor.

Here’s what was most exasperating: In the cases of Bryant and Kasprzak especially, I really would have appreciated, you know, any footage of their Vegas auditions so I could have at least a smidge of context for the judges’ decision not to include them in the top 20. (Kasprzak’s 10 seconds of expertly aping Gene Kelly during Tyce Diorio’s Broadway routine doesn’t really count — and a shout-out to ”dancefan” on the message boards for setting me straight on the Kelly/O’Connor vs. Fosse score.) I know the finalists were selected before the season began, but even so, Nigel and Co. had to have known how much these two guys were going to resonate with viewers when they were deciding who to put in the finals. Why else would they have bothered to showcase Brandon and Evan’s initial auditions so prominently? And it’s not like these guys weren’t TV friendly, either; my goodness, were they easy on the eyes, and Brandon’s playful offstage charisma during the D.C. auditions was the definition of TV friendly. So what gives, Nigel? Why dangle these guys in front of us if you knew you were just going to rip them away at the last possible second — and then not explain why?

Before I dive into handicapping the top 20, I do feel I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the Vegas episode did at least provide two instant-classic reality-TV lines, both provided by Paige ”Elle Woods” ”Perma-Smile” ”Backwards Dress” Jones. I’m not really kidding about the perma-smile thing, either; did anyone else notice, during the brief moments Paige wasn’t smiling, that her cheeks seemed to have a permanent crease arcing along her smile lines? Anyhoo, line No. 1, which came right after the beauty-pageant contestant had been cut following her second attempt at Jean Marc Genereaux’s fox-trot routine, contained perhaps the best argument for the separation of church and state I’ve heard in a long time: ”I’m going to plead the Fifth Amendment, and I just want to say that Jesus Christ has a plan for me.” That plea didn’t last too long, however, as a tear-streaked Paige quickly topped herself with a maxim that could’ve come right out of the pageant mockumentary Drop Dead Gorgeous: ”You don’t fail. And if you do fail, you don’t cry. And if you do cry, you do it in your room by yourself.” Amen, sister.

NEXT: Sizing up the finalists

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