To open the show, we get a Top 20 group routine that is as children's playroom-themed as it is sepia-toned. Both these things being strongly reminiscent of Tyce Diorio's circus/Water for Elephants routine a few seasons ago, it's easy to peg this as his. There are still too many dancers for a routine like this to offer any standouts, but it's a lovely piece.
THEN, after Cat introduces jidges Nigel, Mary, and Christina Applegate (I believe this is her third stint in the guest judge chair), Cat says we're going to get to the eliminations before the routines. This is a change from last season, and it means that once the eliminations are announced, the eliminated boy and girl will each have to go and perform their scheduled partner routine as essentially a dead man walking. That is rough. Cramming the elimination into the end of the episode wasn't ideal, but I'm not sure this was the fix. Also, Nigel asks the bottom six if they are cool with that setup, which: I'd have loved it if someone said no and fucked up his results show.
Anyway, we race through the elimination segment, with Alan, Carlos, Jade, Brittany, Makenzie, and Mariah. So the judges-maligned Alexis and Nico escaped danger. Nigel immediately sends Makenzie and Alan to safety, leaving the other four to perform their solos. Afterwards, Nigel says those solos were not good enough, because they almost never are good enough. Nigel is just perpetually imagining a solo that does not exist. Anyway, just looking at the bottom four and you can guess who's going to go. No way they're getting rid of a distinctive girl like Mariah (the only hip-hop girl) to keep generic Brittany; and while I could see them dumping Jade and just moving forward with the other two animators, Carlos is clearly the dead man walking of these two. And indeed, it's Carlos and Brittany who are leaving. Mariah, the poor dear, seems to be taking it harder than Carlos is.
On to the partner routines!
Hayley and Curtis: Jazz (Ray Leeper)
Once again, the theme is that Hayley is some kind of sexual dynamo, with Curtis left to keep up with her. He doesn't do nearly as good a job at it this week as he did last week. The whole routine seems to be an excuse for Nigel to perv out over Haley, which he does, repeatedly. He calls the routine "sensational," which is overstating the case quite a bit. Mary calls Curtis a "giggle-bucket," which is a double-edged sword of personality for him. He's got one ... but it's "giggle-bucket."