Ryan Seacrest opened Wednesday night’s “American Idol” elimination show with this irritating, heart-palpitating tease: “Prepare yourself for a surprise or two. Shocking results!” What, more bagpipes? Maybe a xylophone, a triangle, a tissue paper and comb, or some other odd instrument accompaniment? Another heckler bumrushing the stage, hopefully this time with “SOY BOMB” Sharpie’d across his chest? That I could handle. But the possible ousting of one of my favorites? That was the sort of shocker for which I was quite ill-prepared.
Well, it turned out I was especially unprepared that this week’s last-place contestant was someone who delivered what I thought was one of the best performances of this week: Michael Lynche. He was in the bottom three with the more deserving Aaron Kelly and Andrew Garcia–I, along with the rest of the “Idol”-viewing planet, had predicted Andrew would be cut this week–and I was crestfallen when Ryan told Andrew and Aaron to return to the safety of their stools. Because I knew if Big Mike left this show, he’d leave a big void.
I’ve always asserted that Mike is one of the few contestants this season who always seems like he’s really TRYING, always leaving his blood, sweat, tears, and other sundry bodily fluids on the “Idol” stage floor. So when Michael “sang for his life” Wednesday, he really seemed like, well, he was singing for his life. He brought it. He revisited his masterful interpretation of Maxwell’s “This Woman’s Work,” and it was definitely the no-holds-barred performance of a man who deserved to remain in this competition. A man who deserved that Judges’ Save, darn it.
But I feared the panelists would not give away their one Judges’ Save so easily–not when it was only down to nine contestants and they still had until the top five to use it or lose it. And my fears were only compounded when Simon Cowell, all stone-faced, told Mike, “We all wish you’d done something like that yesterday,” and warned him, “We only have one save in the competition, you know.” I was just about to suffer a massive coronary and subsequently file a multimillion-dollar personal injury lawsuit against Fox, when Simon revealed that Michael would in fact be saved after all.
(Not cool, Simon! Don’t scare me like that! I still might sue you for emotional distress.)
Of course, this nail-biter didn’t come until the very end of the show, the remaining dragging 57 minutes of which were filled with all sorts of other cruel, coronary-inducing fake-outs, like when Ryan called Siobhan Magnus, Crystal Bowersox, and Katie Stevens (surprisingly the only three girls left in the competition) down to center-stage and implied, just for a few horrific moments, that they were this week’s bottom three. Or when he separated the remaining six guys into two clusters–one with frontrunners Casey James and Lee Dewyze plus comeback kid Tim Urban, the other with dead weights Aaron and Andrew plus Michael–and made it seem like it might be the firstÂ group that was in danger. My mind immediately went back to that freaky Season 3 moment when Fantasia, Jennifer Hudson, and LeToya London inexplicably comprised the bottom three, before Ryan did a 180 and revealed that the Lee/Casey/Tim trifecta was actually safe.
(Ryan, I may sue you for emotional distress as well.)
And then there was the usual results-show filler: a lipsynched group Beatles medley; a ’60s-psychedelia-themed commercial featuring the top nine and some kaleidoscopic Fords; a reprise of Season 7 runner-up David Archuleta’s signature performance, “Imagine,” which was actually superior to several of Tuesday night’s Lennon/McCartney top nine performances; and guest appearances by Rihanna and Jason Derulo (because, you know, when I think “Lennon/McCartney Week,” Rihanna and Jason are the first artists that spring to mind).
Jason earned my respect, a little bit, for singing live (unlike the actual Idols this evening!), employing some very ’80s-arena-worthy pyro, and additionally employing Adam Lambert’s guitarist Monte Pittman, but Jason’s Lambert-style, spiked-shouldered jacket was a bit of overkill. Meanwhile, Rihanna–in studded epaulets, Frankenstein-footed platform boots, and an asymmetrical emo bob–looked like she was borrowing Lambert’s Kiss-performance outfit from last year’s “Idol” finale. Perhaps this was all subliminal promotion for Adam’s mentoring appearance on the show next week?
Either way, see you then–and get ready to party like it’s 2009, when last season’s breakout star returns and shows the top nine how it’s really done. It’s going to be an awesome week…except for the fact that because Michael was spared this week, two contestants will go home next Wednesday. And there will be no more Judges’ Save for either of them, if America gets it wrong again.