Mike Ruiz/Fox
Adam B. Vary
June 11, 2009 AT 05:56 PM EDT

From the Foxtrot to the samba, the hip hop to the contemporary, and the non-crash-test-dummy jazz to the Bollywood, there was a lot about last night’s Top 20 performance episode of So You Think You Can Dance that makes me want to lift the show up and gleefully swing it round in the air like Brandon twirling Janette. A quick sampling of the non-partnered-dancing highlights: Brandon’s jaw-dropping opening mini-solo, in which he lifted himself up from a full split using just his legs; Cat Deeley accusing Jeanine and the Chbeeb of ”schnucking” at the end of their number, a word that’s kinda covertly X-rated when you think about it; Mary Murphy brilliantly redeeming her why-is-that-gonzo-woman-screeching-at-me inanity the moment she exploded in guffaws after admitting she can’t raise an eyebrow anymore thanks to Botox — she may be ca-razy, but that’s good TV right there; and, most intriguing of all, the producers and judges slyly attempting to absolve themselves by actively pimping almost all the dancers that had, in Nigel Lythgoe’s hilariously disingenuous words, ”somehow slipped under the net.”

Seriously, it really felt like Nigel, his producing partners, and his fellow judges realized they’d ignored almost half their top 20 in the preceding auditions episodes and were determined to make it right. To wit, they partnered perhaps the most pre-pimped male and female dancer this season (that’d be Phillip Chbeeb and Kayla Radomski) with two of the very least (that’d be, respectively, Jeanine ”You’ve Never Seen Me Before, And Now The First Thing I’m Going To Tell You Is That I Don’t Have Amazing Legs” Mason and Max ”I Truly Think Wearing a Vest Without a Shirt When It’s Not 1977 Is A Good Idea” Kapitannikov), guaranteeing the Chbeeb and Kayla’s lesser-known partners would be protected by their popularity. In the Chbeeb and Jeanine’s case, it certainly helped that their took-a-while-to-really-get-cooking Tabitha and Napoleon lyrical hip hop number was lauded to the high heavens by the judges. In Kayla and Max’s case, it certainly helped that they delivered an Adam-Shankman-face-melting, Mary-Murphy-hot-tamale-train-crazy-screaming Samba routine that ended the two-hour episode in a dizzying explosion of undulating electric pink fringe.

Max and Jeanine weren’t the only audition M.I.A.-ers to get the producer/judge love, either. Even though Karla ”I’ve Been On Broadway” Garcia and Jonathan ”I Started Dancing Thanks To SYTYCD” Platero were saddled with an underpowered Tony Meredith cha-cha routine and forced to dance it against Lady Gaga’s jarringly wrong ”Poker Face,” they still received the full-tilt-boogie lighting treatment, and the judges heaped gobs of over-praise their way. Even with all that ballyhoo, however, Karla should be grateful Jon’s nonthreatening adorableness is such obvious cat-nip to tween girls, because that’s ultimately what I think is gonna keep these two out of the bottom three this week. Meanwhile, Melissa ”I’m A Naughty Ballerina Trying My Best to Pretend ‘Seasoned’ Isn’t a Totally Depressing Euphemism For ‘Old”’ Sandvig and Ade ”I Truly Think Wearing A Pick Comb In My Hair When It’s Not 1987 Is A Good Idea” Obayomi fared much, much better. They brilliantly executed Mandy Moore’s contemporary routine, which got Adam all misty, got Mary screaming (er, screaming louder), and got Nigel talking about looking forward to the couple’s future in a way that made it obvious they’re not going to be on the judges’ chopping block any time soon.

NEXT: Janette and Brandon trot out the goods

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