Melanie Moore and all-star Twitch opened the show with a Little Red Riding Hood-inspired hip-hop routine that left guest judge Christina Applegate saying, "You give me hope. You take us on a journey."
"I'm not a hip-hop dancer at all, so I was just so vulnerable in that state. Just to hear her give such nice comments – that's just what I wanted," Moore told reporters of being moved to tears by Applegate's comments.
Next up was an emotional contemporary routine featuring Sasha Mallory and season 6 finalist Kent that had both Mallory and the judges in tears.
"I'm actually trying not to cry," guest judge Lil C said before breaking down, as did Applegate and judge Mary Murphy, who called the number "intoxicating."
"It was a lot to take in. I didn't expect the response that I got," Mallory said after Wednesday's show. "It was really breathtaking. I was so honored."
Adding to the tear count were video packages of the contestants' parents gushing about their children.
"When I first saw her on stage I started crying," Mallory's father said in his video.
But the show took a more stoic tone when the performances hit a rough patch as the boys took to the stage.
Lil C felt Tadd Gadduang was "just going through the movements" during his Sonya Tayeh routine. And Applegate was compelled to tell Ricky Jaime that he does not "dance with the clearest intentions."
Even frontrunner Marko Germar could not break the trend. "You lost your footing from time to time," Murphy told him after his paso doble with season 2's Jeanette.
"When you're on stage nothing really matters, its just you and your partner," Germar said of the critique. "If ever there are mistakes you don't really remember."
But once the top 6 were paired together for routines in the second half of the show, everyone had a chance to shine.
"I don't think the waacking was lacking," judge Nigel Lythgoe told Mallory and Jaime after the first waacking routine in SYTYCD history. (Watch below.)
"I loved it. I really did not think it was going to be that fun," Jaime said of introducing fans to the Los Angeles-born dance style. "It was like learning ballet all in two days."