"[You've] got to pull so many strings tonight to make sure you're in that top 10," judge Nigel Lythgoe warned the contestants Wednesday. But not all of them were given the opportunity to shine.
Some routines, like Sasha Mallory and Alexander Fost's paso doble, were choreographed as showstoppers. Others, like Jordan Casanova and Tadd Gadduang's "Out Tonight" routine, left guest judge Sonya Tayeh saying, "I know your abilities and I didn't see them."
"Choreography plays the ultimate role in this competition," Casanova said. "But even if you're not comfortable with it you just have to go out there and show them you love what you're doing regardless."
Fortunately for those who got the short end of the choreography stick, all the couples performed twice.
After faltering with a hip-hop routine that was deemed "too conceptual" by the judges, Caitlyn Lawson and Mitchell Kelly came back to wow the panel – and the audience – with a "naughty" Travis Wall jazz number.
"Even though we got some wishy-washy comments, we know that we gave 100 percent and we just hope America sees that and picks up the phone," Lawson said. "We want to be in the top 10 so bad. We just want to be on the tour."
One couple that bucked the trend of lackluster choreography were Melanie Moore and Marko Germar, who were blessed with a passionate tango followed by a memorable contemporary number that has already been nicknamed by guest judge Jesse Tyler Ferguson as "The Moth Dance."
"It's so surreal," Moore said of being part of a routine that could become as iconic as "The Bench Dance," a favorite of hers since watching it on season 2. "To have something like that that could be someone's favorite is kind of amazing."
With 12 routines in just two hours, America had plenty of chances to judge their favorite dancers before voting three couples automatically into the top 10. Results will be announced Thursday (8 p.m. ET) on Fox – and we'll know which