I've got some ersatz formalist tendencies, so Phillip's elimination is not salved by his inclusion on the tour for reasons both philosophical and practical. Practically, while he gets to on tour -- which is a boon for him, certainly -- we've been deprived of any further potential magic that he could've performed on the show, which he also acknowledges: "I was really excited to see if Wade and Mia could use the way I move and pull something out of it and make something beautiful." Actually, then, his elimination has rendered my practical objections metaphysical, a transformation which goes against nature, I think.
Philosophically, I remain peeved at Chbeeb's elimination because the moral judgments involved in reality tv aren't easy to shake. Remember, reality tv is essentially a process (i.e. the means to an end, or in some cases, multiple ends) by which to work out competing notions of morality, and its justice is measured in different varieties of worth -- a rational mechanism that's usually motivated by irrational feelings. In this narrow case, I see Chbeeb as bringing way more flavor and upside to the show than, say, Jason, who adds only marginal value to the show as its third- or fourth- best contemporary male dancer.
("You gotta get Cat's / Dirt off your shoulders...")
But to step back to stake a wider view, a reality program is its own moral universe that parallels the outside world but might never intersect with it. Reality tv's moral universe is, of course, vastly reduced to simple, often zero-sum moral judgments and dynamics, especially compared to the real world which has the benefit of not being a teleological narrative (ask me when you're older). In the real world, the rules and moral dynamics of reality tv no longer apply, but likewise, the benefits of the real world don't always weigh upon how we perceive a given reality program. Given, then, how things shook out, I see Chbeeb as having been wronged with justice being out of whack in a fundamental way within the context of the show; and although he's on the tour, it operates in a different world and has its own set of morals that don't quite interact with the what happened on the show. So seeing that Chbeeb gets to go on tour is little more than a moral pittance, because this glaring injustice of Jason outlasting Phillip remains permanently on the books. (Unless, of course, one of the guys pulls a Jessica King and has to bow out of the competition.) In a higher profile example, think of the reaction to how Adam Lambert didn't win Idol. His fans took little immediate comfort in his brighter, post-Idol career prospects because what happened on Idol was broken justice.
Both of these instances are examples of reality tv form. A contestant accumulates injustices and moral wrongs (which they either perpetrate or are victims of) over the course of a season, and the manner in which rights and wrongs occur, how a show treats its contestants -- in short, its form -- constitutes the form and/or style of the show. And thus, the way that Phillip circuitously ended up on the tour illustrates the condescending attitude Nigel et al have towards hip hop this season. In keeping Jason over Phillip, they demonstrate that they don't want a hip hopper to compete in the top 10, but they do want his ability to draw fans onto the tour. We pretty much all knew Chbeeb wasn't final four material, so all that was left was to see how the show treated him. The answer: with poor style.
Plotzing, a new name for Oreo, and the return of the well-read PONO'S POMO CORNER after the jump.
All that said, the performances this week have been the best of the season. Although I didn't think that the performances were all ace from top to bottom, three routines stood out prominently.
Chronologically first, Mia's, which will go down assuredly as SYTYCD's most violent routine ever. Different people will have their own reactions, but for me, this number was painfully, brutally frank in its emotional desperation, and not something I can lightly return to very often.
Clear on the other side of the universe are, DUN DUN DUN, Brandon and Janette, a power couple if I've ever seen one. Just like Katee and Joshua did last year, they're making me reconsider my profound apathy for ballroom -- that Argentine Tango would've earned attention just for Janette's obscenely committed sex face:
Not to mention their leg action which could slice concrete. Unconscious! (Thanks be to Nigel for punctuating easily my favorite ballroom routine on this show with the audaciously corny, cliche, and attention-seeking slow-clap into a standing ovation.)
A-a-and then, as if the producers had peered into my brain and tailored the episode exactly to my hopes, teaming Brandon and Janette with Wade? Welcome to Plotzville. Population: ME. (That is "me," not the abbreviation for Maine.) I grinned like a big idiot when I heard that they'd be performing a Wade piece, and I grinned like a bigger idiot when I watched the finished product. Where Kupono and Kayla's performance for Mia was the quintessence of pain, my beloved Brandette via my beloved Wade performed the ultimate in impishly joyous fun. (All descriptors of Randi and Evan's jive should be shorn of the word "fun" compared to Wade Wunderkind's piece.) I'd really like to see any other routine try to top this -- we're talking greatest of all time here.
One complaint, though, is that in the rehearsal package, we heard Wade describe Janette's character as the reckless thief, and Brandon's as the calculating one, but I didn't see these distinctions clearly in the actual dance, which nagged the first time I watched it. It's a substantive but awfully trivial critique. I guess I have another complaint: at this rate, Wade will finally finish choreographing to the entirety of Ruby Blue around 2012. But otherwise, he and Amanda are slaying me with their cuteness.
Singling out these three numbers doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy any others, if we broadened "enjoy" ironically cracking up at perhaps the most hilariously lame hip hop to date. Well, that's how I rationalize my fondness for SappyTabs Present: White On White, Part VII without threatening to jump the shark (though wait till you hear my unironic praise for the Russian kalinka), because I can hardly suppress a grin when I watch Randi and Evan's elbowing each other on the dancefloor. You know how "urban" is thinly veiled code for "black"? Let me introduce "charismaless," which is thinly veiled code for GOD EVAN CAN YOU BE ANY WHITER?
My bad -- I shouldn't make this a thing about race, because while he may have some non-threatening cuteness, but in other telegenic categories, he's pretty empty. Evan brings to mind the old aphorism, because when we saw him audition last season, he was an enigmatic presence, this '50s anachronism without explanation. His aura was enhanced by the fact that we never heard him speak -- but then there was a reason for that, because he's shown this year that his elocution is confined to echoing whatever his interlocutors say or speaking in unremarkable banalities (in which case we see that Evan's dependence on his brother isn't limited to choreography but also to speech, how prescient of me besides).
And Randi, who, for a Mormon, is so easily scandalized by teenage pregnancy.
OK, I officially jump the shark here because the Russian folk dance (too folky Nigel?) was not half the disaster that everyone claims it was between Jeanine's opening salvo of turns and Phillip's hybrid breaking/turnover that bookended the routine. At least it was something new, as opposed to Melissa's lethargic disco (Doriana: disco done wrong is cheesy? Heaven forfend!), or Caitlin and Jason's forgettable lyrical jazz, which left no impression on me whatsoever.
I'm getting broken up over Brandon and Janette's impending split because in the past three weeks they have been coming into their own and tearing the floor to pieces with their fire.
Brandon, of course, is the season's pretenatural prodigy, but Janette has been nothing short of delightful. I'll buy that she's been keeping up with Brando (the greatest of his generation!), but in addition to the dancing, she's got miles and miles of character and pizzazz as well. As if her snap-crackle-pop personality wasn't awesome enough, Janette apparently pulled Brando out of his shell, which is kind of an amazing feat because given how we've seen his goofy effusiveness in the packages, you'd hardly think that he was shy at all.
If Cat ever decides to hang up the heels and leave the heinously awesome fashion in the closet, I'd want Janette to take up the bedazzled mic.
(Our spicy Cuban needs to watch out for a particular ballerina, though, who seems to be adopting some of our kitten's mannerisms for herself.)
Those size-41s would be a monster to fill, of course, since Cat has perfected her hosting duties to the point where the microphone can pick up her thoughts.
In any case, Cat looked, as usual, smashing, but I felt the black dress was too under-accessorized -- a belt or a small necklace could've brought the right accent to her look. A for effort (and the courage to bring off such a minimal look), B for execution. The Thursday night Egyptian necklace/tunic getup was more intriguing, though I was certain that she wore the exact same outfit in the past. I couldn't find it, of course, so there goes my "Even Cat's feeling the recession" joke.
Seriously, though, did she recycle that dress from a previous show?
I'll second/third/fourth/fifth the plaudits for Joey Dowling if only to minimize the amount of frenetic cheese that passes as the Oreo's Broadway routines, which in fact should become his new nom de tybe.
Cat got in on the act, too, of devising new nicknames for
Call me old-fashioned, but a DJ's place is behind the decks, not trying to coattail on Kelly Rowland's mojo to get some cheap attention.
Caitlin finally went home, which takes care of one of my bete noires this season, but which also eliminates the opportunity for the Sleater-Kinney puns I should've been making during her stay.
Did you know: Kayla has freckles! She usually is overly made up, but she ought to consider going sans fards more often.
Can I say that Randi's leopard print dress evolved from Cat's season 3 ostrich dress, or would that make me a dirty Darwinist?
The group routine was so nicely stylized and used the set so expansively and exploited camera angles in a particularly savvy way that I bet my life that the force behind it was Wade, not Napoleon and Tabither. (Which means I'm typing this up from the Great Beyond. The Big Guy? Perfect teeth, nice smell, a class act all the way.) I am chastened, then, from my otherwise dour opinion of the duo; when they do middle-aged white people hip hop, I leave far more than I take, but when they feel boldly and inject a little, as Nigel would say, urbanity into a routine, hey, it's engrossing and watchable! Which goes to show, when the duo set their mind to it and consciously avoid sentimentality (and stupid bendy glowsticks), they can crank out perfectly decent choreography.
Results night also served as a subliminal showdown between the two male frontrunners, Ade and Brando, where each tried to outleap the other.
Which brings me to Ade's virtuosic solo, which didn't grab me quite so much as others -- I think his choice of music was a mistake because it doesn't lend itself to showcasing any musicality, either with that computer alert sound collage in the beginning, or the sub-Prefuse 73 chopped up beats later. If he's the music geek that he presents himself as, then this was a classic example of showing off one's taste to one's detriment.
The choreographers for the Argentine Tango -- Leonardo Barrionuevo and Miriam Larici -- were the same duo who were the special guest dancers in the first week. What I didn't like about them -- him, actually -- was that he blew a kiss and then winked at Janette after they were finished with their Tango. Icky.
The return of PONO'S POMO CORNER!
Sources tell me that he spent the last two weeks (more like an entire afternoon) working on some artwork inspired by the show, and you can tell me whether or not that time was well spent:
Indie rating: Massive Attack - "Five Man Army"