Inside the SYTYCD Judges' Deliberations on Who to Send Home
"The all-stars could have taken all of the thunder and stolen all the light, but that wasn't the case," judge Mary Murphy told PEOPLE after the show. "We had a lot to celebrate tonight in the fact that [the contestants] held their own.”
But the celebrating came to an end when host Cat Deely announced the bottom two boys and bottom two girls: Witney Carson, 18, Audrey Case, 18, George Lawrence II, 19, and Cheyon Wespi-Tschopp, 23.
"It was a really tough call," Murphy said about having to choose which boy and girl to send home. And for the first time in season 9 the decision was not unanimous between the judges.
"At first it was really Audrey [staying], but by the time things were done it swung over to Whitney," said Murphy of the flip-flopping that took place before the decision to send Case home. "I think there have been more moments in the show that we have said, 'You are a star' to Whitney."
Factoring into the decision was Carson's well-reviewed jazz routine with season 1 winner Nick Lazzarini earlier in the evening.
"I couldn't have asked for a more perfect pairing," Lazzarini said of working with Carson. "From the first week of the show I thought, 'This girl is amazing.' "
Yet Murphy was quick to note that Case had been a deserving member of this season's Top 10.
"She has amazing legs and feet and she can use them," Murphy said. "She's just the cutest little girl, but I think that is the thing – there is just a little bit more of a maturity level in Whitney's performances."
Deciding which boy to send home proved slightly less contentious for the judges.
"They are both fabulous dancers," Murphy said of Wespi-Tschoop and Lawrence II. "Except Cheon's solo, my god."
Murphy, along with judge Nigel Lythgoe and guest judge – and Black Swan choreographer – Benjamin Millepied (a.k.a. Natalie Portman's husband) ultimately decided to save Wespi-Tschoop.
'He was like a dance warrior tonight," Murphy said of the ballet-trained dancer. "I looked over at Nigel afterwards and I was like a little kid, 'Wow, did you see that?' It was a lot of fun."