The night turned emotional early on, when, with his Swiss parents in the audience for the first time, ballet dancer Cheyon Wespi-Tschopp took to the stage for his solo. "You have to remember these dancers are kids who have dreamed of doing this their whole life," guest judge Jesse Tyler Ferguson told PEOPLE after Wednesday’s show. "They grew up far away from L.A. and then are transplanted here. I think it is overwhelming for them."
The tears continued to flow when jazz dancer Tiffany Maher received a standing ovation from the judges after her routine with all-star Ade Obayomi. "Her back was to us until she turned around and could not believe [what she saw]," judge Mary Murphy said of the reaction to their praise. "She is the sweetest, most humble girl. She absolutely deserved it."
But emotion peaked when Witney Carson, Lindsay Arnold, Will Thomas and Cole Horibe were announced as the bottom four. "I sort of extricated myself from it," Ferguson said of the judge's debate about whom to send home. "I honestly could not pick a name. It was like Sophie's Choice for me tonight. They are all so good this year."
But a decision had to be made.
"We adore Will but I felt like Cole had more memorable moments on the show so he edged out Will," Murphy said about ultimately deciding to save the martial arts fusion dancer.
Deciding which girl to save proved far more difficult for the judges panel, which was rounded out by head judge Nigel Lythgoe. "You couldn't get a dollar bill between [Witney and Lindsay]," he said. "But we've always said we think Whitney is a star. Her performance tonight was ridiculously good and she stole us with that."
And while Carson was ultimately saved, Murphy was quick to note the journey the two life-long friends have made together: "I never dreamed it would be those two standing [up for elimination] at the same time," she said. "It has been a great experience for those two and, of course, they are going have a blast on tour together."
Mike Yarish / FOX