The episode featured some of the best routines choreographed by three-time Emmy winner Mia Michaels. “I was very honored. It was cool as an artist to be celebrated like that,” Michaels told PEOPLE after the show. “It’s the most amazing feeling ever. It is actually better than any gold Emmy statue.”
But while some dancers soared with their recreations of past numbers, others couldn’t recreate the magic of the original performances from seasons past.
“It was a slaughterhouse to be honest with you,” Michaels said about the judges’ critiques and comparisons. “Tonight just wasn’t it and I was disappointed. But the dancers did the best they could.”
The night grew emotional when Janelle Issis and Dareian Kujawa danced “The Bed Routine” only days after Issis broke off communication with her boyfriend of eight years – but it was not enough to wow the judges.
“This is Mia Michaels at her best. These are not just dance routines, you are asked to be performers as well,” Lythgoe told the couple after what he considered a lacking performance.
But not every dance was a watered-down version of the original. Michaels gave her “Bench Routine” a “facelift,” and it resulted in a glowing review from the judges for Whitney Carson and Cheyon Wespi-Tschopp.
“I was really pleased with this,” Lythgoe said. “You had the technique and the performance.”
After seven routines, six dancers were placed in the bottom based on America’s vote from the last live show. Issis and Kujawa joined George Lawrence II, Amelia Lowe, Lindsay Arnold and Matthew Kazmierczak in the group facing elimination. And for the first time in season 9, all six dancers were asked to “dance for their lives” before the judges decided which boy and which girl to save.
Ultimately, the judges saved Arnold – who had “won the night,” they said earlier, when she danced “The Addiction Routine” – and Lawrence II.
“We did feel that it was between Amelia and Lindsay,” judge Mary Murphy said after the show. “We went back and forth on that, and I think Lindsay had the luck of the draw by drawing ‘Addiction.’ It is my favorite Mia Michaels routine.”
Murphy was surprised that Kazmierczak was in the bottom and eventually sent home.
“It was shocking to me,” she said. “When we were on the audition trail I saw him possibly being in our top four. But as the weeks went on, he lacked the performance level of some of the others.”