Before tonight's show, Twitter was atwitter with news that Ryan Seacrest was ill. Nikki Finke even tweeted "American Idol Scrambling to Find Substitute for Ailing Host Ryan Seacrest" while Seacrest was actually already on the air, doing his job. Like a professional. Well, a professional who has no qualms about spreading his Ebola-like virus across Idol's top six performers and their devoted judges. Somewhere Jimmy Iovine is chortling in his safe room.
Queen is back on Idol, but since the band barely exists without Freddie Mercury, they spend a lot of air time convincing us that watching the drummer and guitar play the hits while the Idol Top Six sing is a reasonable facsimile. The medley of songs isn't nearly as bad as it could have been. Mostly because the producers wisely focus the cameras and vocals on Elise Testone and hide Hollie Cavanaugh off in the corner, possibly turning off her mic.
It is wildly incongruous to hear little Jessica Sanchez sing, "Mama, I just killed a man." But I think we all know that this is not sweet little Jessica singing, but instead her alter ego. For some reason (maybe because The Voice did it earlier this week?) the segment begins in black and white. But The Voice didn't have three floating Jessica heads, so we now clearly know which is the superior singing competition. Jennifer Lopez thinks Jessica's singing was good, but because Jessica traded her stilettos for sneakers, J.Lo both wanted and expected her to be doing laps on stage to justify the fact that she's a girl in tennis shoes during primetime.
Ryan makes sure to spread his cooties to Skylar Laine by chit-chatting about how ridiculously long this show is now. (Just guessing!) Skylar's performance of "The Show Must Go On," which she should have dedicated to Ryan, is so good that Randy Jackson calls her "dude" and J.Lo gets goosebumps. That's right, Goosies Count: One.
I couldn't figure out which song out of the Queen pantheon would suit Joshua Ledet best. He has the range to sing Freddie Mercury, but Queen is a far cry from the church choir anthems he usually goes for. He finds a happy medium in "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," which gets the judges on their feet. Randy calls it unbelievable. Four checks for performance! Four checks for character! Four checks for charisma! I don't know what the checks are, but it sounds like Randy just made a killer Dungeons & Dragons character.
Elise Testone seems much more comfortable in the classic rock iteration of Idol than she has in recent weeks and the judges love her version of "I Want it All." Elise admits Idol has helped her realize that rock is her milieu, so I guess she'll give up singing in the barbershop quartet now.
Phillip Phillips is singing "Fat Bottomed Girls," but when he mouths the titular lyrics he looks more than slightly embarrassed about so publicly declaring his love for the big-arsed ladies. Maybe that's why the vein in his forehead looks extra poppy. Regardless of his humiliation, his guitar-free Southern rock version of the song is well done. Steven Tyler says that he likes watching Phil-Phil run out of breath, which is a weird thing to say, but for the fact that it's Steven who said it.
There is no excuse for the wardrobe department's decision to dress Hollie like a mini-me Celine Dion doing a turn on a holiday telethon, and yet there she is in a red satin pant suit with oversized estate jewelry. Also, Hollie singing "Save Me" sounds like a desperate and craven plea for votes. The judges don't even bother critiquing her, because she is critic-proof, like a bad restaurant that is always crowded. Not that she's bad, she's just so darn boring. Jennifer begs her to have a good time on stage, because people are watching and OH GOD SMILE ALREADY.
Buy a round for the house, because Fox still has a gaping hole in their prime-time programming and needs to kill time, so we get another round of songs by the Idol finalists. Yay?
Jessica curries some votes by saying that her father is a soldier and is about to be deployed . . . to Singapore, but that doesn't matter. He's a soldier, he fought for his country, and she deserves your votes. She dedicates "Dance With My Father" to her father, because it never hurts to be as literal as possible on this show. Luther Vandross was J.Lo's personal friend, but Jennifer thinks Jessica's version is the best she's ever heard.
Skylar picks up a guitar, finds some extra twang under the couch and sings a song about drag-racing pickup trucks that I do not recognize, but the Internet tells me is called "Tattoos on This Town."
Josh Ledet may have a messy room, according to Hollie, but his performance of "Ready for Love" is downright neat. The judges are on their feet, and Steven even turns around to encourage the crowd to cheer. Randy claims that he doesn't even know what to say anymore that Joshua's performance has rendered him speechless, yet he still manages to ramble on for a solid five minutes.
Between performances the Idol contestants all talk about each other. Well, mostly Skylar and Hollie talk about the other contestants. It's all good clean fun, until the slightly mean-spirited critique of Elise Testone, who has probably had it up to HERE with these whippersnappers. The judges think Elise screwed up by choosing a slightly obscure Jimi Hendrix song called "Bold as Love" . . . and she probably did.
Giggling, the girls all admit that Phillip Phillip is cute, until he opens his mouth to sing and starts twitching and writhing. Phil-Phil doesn't care what they say – he storms on stage to sing a Dave Matthews song flanked by two women, one with a sax and one a fiddle. It's a strangely compelling performance for being Dave Matthews run through a Dave Matthews soundalike. While Steven thinks it was very entertaining, very off the wall – very Phillip Phillips – J.Lo thinks he was too outré and artsy for Idol and wishes he would perform some normal songs, goddammit.
Ryan must be looped out on cold medicine, because he notes that his girlfriend, Julianna Hough, is backstage, and she thought Phil-Phil was yummy. Ryan then publicly warns her that they are going to have a serious talk after the show.
Hollie finally appears on stage dressed in something vaguely age-appropriate (if Gossip Girl chic is appropriate for a 16-year-old from Texas) for her performance of "The Climb." The judges give her a standing ovation because she is confident, holds her tone, and for once doesn't looks like she is actively dying. This song was strong enough to keep her here another week.
So who is probably going home? Maybe Phillip, now that we are all openly talking about the fact that he looks crazy half the time, or maybe Elise, because she has to go sometime and it may as well be now.
Last episode: Without a Net