Sanjaya, crawfish pie, me-oh-my-oh! It was Country Night on American Idol, which meant it was the night for The Sanj to get his Uncle Jesse on, wrapping a red bandanna around his forehead and wearing some kind of distressed-denim leisure suit. Jordin wore a nose ring. Melinda wore a "Southern Girl" tube top. Since this is the first Idol season without a single country singer in the coop, it makes you wonder why they bothered doing Country Night at all -- it just makes you miss Sundance Head, who could have given us a little version of "I'm the Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised," or maybe Antonella Barba could have sung Trisha Yearwood's "Down On My Knees"? One thing's for sure: Nashville's next superstar? Not in this crowd, since they couldn't hack country tunes any better than they handled the Miami Sound Machine songbook last week. Sanjaya, take the wheel!
Martina McBride was this week's guest coach; Ryan explained, "There was really only one choice," for those of us at home wondering how many country stars said no before they got to Martina. But hey -- who doesn't love Martina? The front-runners held their own: Jordin did a swell job with Martina's "Broken Wings," while Melinda did fine with "Trouble Is a Woman." Blake sounded suspiciously pseudo-Scandinavian on Ryan Adams' "When the Stars Go Blue," a hit for Tim McGraw, though I bet Blake was thinking of The Corrs' version. The judges hated Lakisha's version of "Jesus, Take the Wheel," but maybe they were just miffed she didn't sing "Before He Cheats" instead -- it's not only Carrie Underwood's best hit, it's the best hit ANY Idol alum has scored, even including Kelly C's "Since U Been Gone." Lakisha still sounded great, right?
Sanjaya, going his own way as usual, decided not to do a country song at all, since that would be too easy. Instead, he sang the loathsome "Something to Talk About," maybe the smarmiest, slimiest, most soul-crushingly awful soft-rock hit of the Nineties. Forget it, Sanji -- you can't make Simon love you if he won't. You can't make Simon's heart feel something it don't. Ryan stepped in to cut off Simon's tirade, starting another one of their delectable bitch fests, though at least Simon didn't call Ryan "sweetheart" -- Ryan hates that! True to his high-school drama roots, Ryan said, "Sometimes I think Simon hears different things because his head is so big." Right, Ryan! And sometimes I think his head is so big because it is so full of dreams!
In fact, Sanjaya might have played his last magic trick, since he was terrible in a pretty down-to-earth way; this was run-of-the-mill terribleness compared to the epic terribleness we've come to expect. But man, what was up with Chris? He came on to sing a Rascall Flatts song and squealed like a pig. He defended himself to Simon with the instant-classic comeback, "Nasally is a form of singing!" It sure is, Chris. Then he lurched into a desperate vote-scrounging plea to Virginia Tech, which might have sounded halfway sincere if he didn't save his best wishes until after he gave us his hissy-fit lecture in defense of the nasally community. Jesus, what a jerk. So is it Chris or Phil going home tonight? Hard to tell. Phil did a much better job on Keith Urban's "Where the Blacktop Ends," the kind of mainstream country ballad he should have been singing all along -- in fact, probably his best performance. But it wasn't the kind of thing anybody would remember an hour later, when the phone lines opened. So I'm guessing Chris's pinchable cheeks will get him the nod from the old-lady voters, and Phil will be going home. Unless tonight is the night that Sanjayamania hits a Bonnie-Raitt-shaped wall.