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So You Think You Can Dance's Nigel Lythgoe: I Let Go a Favorite Dancer

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Frazer Harrison/Getty

So You Think You Can Dance judge Nigel Lythgoe said it best even before the cameras started to roll: “This is going to be a sad show.”

Following a night of emotional and entertaining dances by the top 20, tears once again flowed on Thursday as the bottom three couples – Missy Morelli and Wadi Jones, Iveta Lukosiute and Nick Young, and Ryan Ramirez and Ricky Jaime – were announced.

“Ryan and I are really close. She’s such an amazing person and she is my best friend in this competition so just to be in the bottom with your best friend is really hard,” Missy told PEOPLE of having to dance for her life against Ramirez.

By the end of the night, Missy, Iveta, Nick and Wadi were sent packing.

RELATED: Blood, Sweat and Tears (and Stitches!) on SYTYCD

The judges told reporters they had intended to save Iveta and Nick, but as the 30-second performances continued over the night, the judges changed their mind and decided to keep Ryan and Ricky instead.

“[Nick] tapped his buns off when he did his solo in Las Vegas, I didn’t feel that was the same tapping routine tonight. I didn’t feel he was tapping for his life on this show and with Ricky, he gave us that,” judge Mary Murphy said.

“Without question, Ricky [shined],” Lythgoe added. “It was the best we’ve seen him dance so far. So, knowing that, I had to let one of my favorites go, which was Nick, but I couldn’t support him in light of Ricky’s performance.”

And while the judges agreed that none of the girls had amazing solos Thursday, they looked beyond the night’s performances when deciding to keep Ryan.

“Right now [the dancers] don’t have that much history so we have to depend on that solo, but we’ve seen her dance a solo before when we first met her at the audition that was mind-boggling,” Murphy said.

And while she said “going home first is the hardest,” Missy is happy for Ryan to remain in the competition and will be voting for her to win the season.

“I love her and I’m glad she got to stay because she deserves it,” Missy said.

RELATED: So You Think You Can Dance: At Home with the Top 20

Also at peace with being eliminated is Wadi, who told PEOPLE after Wednesday’s show that he was confident in his solo would “impress” the judges only be eliminated the next day.

“I feel good about my solo, I don’t know what they wanted me to do. Climb up the rafters and flip off?” he said. “I went out and did me and I felt comfortable.”

Putting behind them this quadruple elimination week, the judges have one silver lining for the rest of the elimination episodes.

“From here on out,” Murphy said, “thank goodness it will only be two every week.”

Wadi Jones and Missy Morelli (left) and Iveta Lukosiute and Nick Young
Adam Rose/FOX (2)