August 14, 2011

Reality Rundown: America's Favorite Dancer Is... Melanie!

Food Network Star Finale! So You Think You Can Dance

Food Network Star - The final 4 have done some hard tasks, but this week is probably the hardest: Iron Chef America. There are 2 battles and they have to prepare 3 dishes; when not battling, they have to do on-the-side commentary and also critique dishes. Since Jeff won the last challenge, he gets to pick his challenger and select Susie, which means the other battle is Mary Beth vs. Vic. Since everyone needs a sous chef, 4 ex-stars return to help; Jeff gets to select his so he picks Whitney. The other chefs draw names Vic pulled Jyll, Susie pulled Chris, and Mary Beth gets effed again by drawing her mortal nemesis, Penny.

Battle #1: Mary Beth vs. Vic vs. rack of lamb. Mary Beth makes the dud choice right away of all 3 dishes being lamb chops. Susie's commentary is corny and has no depth; Jeff rules and tries to outshine Susie, which he totally does and continues to turn on VP of Marketing Susie Fogelson. Penny is being an awful sous chef, going super slow, and the selection committee notices Penny's slowness, leading Alton to question her. What a total bitch. Vic's 1st course is a rare seared loin of lamb with an arugula salad. His 2nd course is a lamb-burger with a garlic mayonnaise and way over-cooked fries, but the burger is exceptional. Third course is a broiled lamb chop with a mint and Grand Marnier sauce, and the mint jelly makes everyone cringe. Mary Beth serves second with her theme of Sunday suppers over the seasons, starting with a wintery Israeli cous cous with grilled lamb. Her next dish is pan-cooked lamb chops with fall pears, but the lamb is overcooked and fugly on the plate, even if the concept is great. The final dish is the "umami explosion" with sun-dried tomato on the lamb, but it's another bit of overcooked lamb. So Mary Beth has great stories, bad execution, to sum it all up.

Battle #2: Jeff vs. Susie vs. lobster. Jeff is sticking to his sandwiches, with a bisque to show some versatility. However, Jeff loses me at putting walnuts in a lobster roll. You're ruining it!! Susie wants to make ceviche, stew, and an enchilada. Mary Beth is good at commentary because she has food knowledge and some personality (and some lame jokes). Vic is not good at commentary because ad-libbing is really not his forte. Jeff hits a speedbump when he plans a BLT variation using avocado and there isn't any in the kitchen; mayo it is, except Jeff also realizes all his courses contain store-bought mayo. Jeff presents first: a lobster roll is his first dish, and it turns out the walnuts was not an epic fail, and helps his Sandwich King POV. The second sandwich is a Baja style lobster taco, but the batter is too thick on the lobster. His final course is a lobster club sandwich with a lobster bisque shooter, which they like but wish there was a little lemon in that mayo. Susie then serves her first course: a lobster ceviche that really pops in a lime, lemon, and orange marinade. Second dish is a swiss chard stuffed lobster enchilada and the panel loves her creative spin on the dish. A lobster stew completes Susie's portion of the night and the selection committee is smitten, while Jeff is totally panicked that he lost.

Judging time. The committee acknowledges that Mary Beth's asshole sous chef handicapped her in the battle, but saw her panic when Alton Brown stumped her during commentary. Mary Beth is praised for being the best judge on the Iron Chef panel. The issue this week is her execution was off and if she's off, home viewers wouldn't get it right either. Vic made an amazingly successful dish (lamb-burger) but failed with that mint jelly crap. Vic's commentary was meh and he tried to be proactive, though he wasn't a very good judge since he was a little soft on the cruelty. Jeff cooked all his lobster superbly but is chastised for not using his own mayonnaise, especially during an Iron Chef challenge. Major props are given to Jeff for charming Alton Brown as well as sticking to his POV of sandwiches. Susie's three dishes were an overall smash, really honing in on her roots but making it even a little sophisticated. Her commentary was lacking in authority, though this is overlooked. In terms of the battles, Susie beats Jeff and Vic defeats Mary Beth; that means Susie and Vic advance to the finale. My 2 favorites, Mary Beth and Jeff are the final 2, and I don't even need to watch further to make the correct observation: Mary Beth is eliminated.

Finale! So You Think You Can Dance - Performance finale time! The top 4, Melanie, Marko, Sasha, and Tadd, will strut their stuff one last time before America selects their favorite dancer. To help guide our decision is the greatest dancer of our lifetime: Kate Holmes? They balance out her stupidity (she’s a fan of the show!) with director/choreographer Kenny Ortega, who directed Footloose the best movie ever. The 4 will dance routines with the All Stars and each other, so I’ll split my recap the same way.

Fun with All Stars! Sasha and All Star Mark (who dances for Lady Gaga now) dance a piece tailored especially for Sasha and the obstacles she’s overcome, choreographed by Sonja. It’s such a fierce, tough routine and Sasha is so badass; this is better than drawing stupid disco. Lil’ C finally choreographs and we get the return of season 4 winner, Joshua. Joshua and Tadd perform what is maybe the first routine I’ve liked Tadd in all season. It’s some grimy hiphop, a nice difference from the corny love stuff we get all season, though Tadd does smile a little too much. Stacey Tookey crafts a contemporary piece about unrequited love for Melanie and All Star Robert and as usual with Melanie, it’s wonderful because her emotions are so raw. Marko and last season’s winner Lauren dance another break-up routine (man, choreographers get dumped a lot) but with two powerhouse dancers you really get to see magic happening as they perform. I’d say it’s the best routine of the night.

The final 4 partner swap extravaganza. Marko and Melanie dance the season’s (thankfully) only disco number. Disco is so hokey and needs to go away, which I could’ve sworn it did when it died 30 years ago, and this routine doesn’t do either of these talents any justice. Sasha is a skanky diner who wants to bang her waiter in a Broadway routine and boy, is Sasha in it to win it. Marko is great as well but man did those nerd glasses throw me off. Tadd and Sasha dance the cha cha choreographed by Dancing with the Stars pro, Mark Ballas. It’s sexy and has a spanking like 10 seconds in, you know, for the kids, but overall it’s awkward and poorly danced. Tadd is a cheater caught by Melanie and the shoes (and clothes) come off in the process. I feel like the costume designers hate Melanie by putting her in high-waisted stretch pants when she has some curves down thurr. I don’t see the sexy in the routine and am bored by it, but the judges like the routine and the dedication to character. What a lackluster finale (and Nigel agrees). Melanie and Sasha bring their girl power again as housewives that breakfree from the clutches of their dull lives. The gray stage and bright costumes reminds me of Pleasantville and the dancing is stellar as you feel the build-up of sadness to jubilation in their quest for freedom, until reality sets in and they’re trapped. Great story, great piece. Marko and Tadd get a twist on normal hip hop: gumboot stepping from South Africa. Costumed as goldminders and dancing to “B.O.B.” by Outkast, it’s a fucking mess. Like the sloppiest dance I’ve seen all season and this supposed to be the best. Yikes.

The performance finale was no doubt the worst episode of the season. The choreography for the most part really let the talent down. There were some excellent pieces, but others were just dreadful (disco, gumboot stepping). I still believe it will come to Melanie and Sasha, and I’ve been Team Melanie since the beginning so I'm routing for her to win, but I could see Sasha sweeping in and getting the win.

The results are in but before the news can be announced we are treated to some of the best routines of the season. The judging panel, with extras in the form of Sonja, Lil' C, Robin Antin, Tyce Diorio, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, congratulate the four for a job well done this season. Nigel apologizes for being rude to the guys last night saying they couldn't win, so either he knows something we don't or he just has a guilty conscience.

Memorable routines of the seasons are performed and I was going to list them all, then realized that's so boring. My favorites that they performed again: Sasha/Kent dancing against the wall, Melanie and Marko's jilted at the altar hip-hop, Robert and Miranda's "Break Ya Neck" bird dance (forgettable dancers, fantastic dance), All Star Neil and Melanie's beautiful Mandy Moore "Total Eclipse of the Heart" piece, Marko and All Star Allison's contemporary routine that brought Lady Gaga and his mom to tears, Twitch's romantic hip hop with Sasha (and he's fresh from the Step Up 4 set!!), and of course, the statue routine by Travis Wall (my favorite of the whole season). Cat Deeley requested they re-air the top 8 circus routinesince it made her cry.

The winner of SYTYCD UK, tapper Matt Flint, performs on the show as part of his prize for winning. He performs in a trio with Jess and the tapper guy who got eliminated like week 2. Good thing my mom is missing the finale- she hates tapping. But the routine is pretty great. Later, the final 4 get to meet Naya Rivera, Heather Morris, and Henry Shum Jr. from Glee and go to the Glee 3D premiere.

At the beginning of the second half of the show, the final 4 are brought out to announce the 4th place dancer: Tadd. Not a surprise that he's 4th and I still can't believe he made it this far. I blame it on a mediocre group of male dancers this season. With 20 minutes left to the show, Marko is eliminated from the competition; my Melanie/Sasha final 2 prediction from weeks ago came true! Before the final results, Sasha and Melanie dancing their fierce Sonja jazz routine which shows how powerful they are and what an unstoppable force they were all competition. Time for the big moment. The winner of So You Think You Can Dance is... with 47% of the vote... MELANIE!! Won' lie, got a little verklempt as I maintain she's one of the best dancers this show has ever had.

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