'American Idol' Recap: Without a Net

Another elimination shocker as seven cut to six

american idol
Michael Becker/FOX
Colton Dixon performs on 'American Idol.'
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Hear that? That’s the sound of millions of tween hearts breaking. Thanks, American Idol.

The drama surrounding Jessica Sanchez’s near-elimination last week is so, well, last week. Now there’s a new shocker in town, making this season more worrisome than ever.

After never having been in the bottom three (like Jessica before him), Colton Dixon winds up getting the boot, amid a collective gasp-and-boo from the audience. Having used their one-time save on Jess, there’s nothing the judges can do but shake their heads in disbelief.

But the judges really only have themselves to blame. When they constantly ooh and aah over every single performance, then deliver harsh words to just one particular contestant, they’re basically telling viewers not to vote for that person. And last night they singled out Colton. (The only singer seemingly impervious to the negative super-powers of the judges so far is Hollie Cavanagh.)

During Wednesday night’s double performances of music from Now and Then, the Idol hopefuls belted out contemporary No. 1 hits and classic soul tunes. While the judges gushed about "brilliantly awkward" Phillip Phillips and thought Hollie finally let loose and nailed her songs, they were hot and cold on Colton.

Photos: 'American Idol' Season 11
While Colton kind of dazzled them with his rendition of Lady Gaga’s "Bad Romance," he completely fizzled in the second half with a somber reworking of Earth, Wind & Fire’s usually upbeat "September." Meanwhile, mentor Jimmy Iovine thought Colton got it all "completely wrong," even down to his "1985 Billy Idol meets Spider-Man on Broadway" outfit. Ouch.  

After a season high of 53 million votes cast, there are no more saves, no more second chances. But before tween girls collectively screech in agony at the news of Colton’s surprising ouster, the night kicks off with the weekly group number. This time the contestants tackle Martha and the Vandellas’ "Dancing in the Street," during which Jessica’s mic craps out while she and Hollie take last night’s weird pants trend to a whole new level with one-piece short shorts. Who’s the costume consultant, Hillary Clinton?

The hour is stretched with the weekly Ford plug and a moving pre-recorded tribute to the late Dick Clark, plus performances by season eight winner Kris Allen (’memba him?) and pop flavor-of-the-moment LMFAO. Host Ryan Seacrest intermittently breaks things up with his signature fake-outs when it comes to telling the sweaty-palmed contestants whether they’re safe or in the bottom three.

Things we learn during this week’s results show: Joshua Ledet almost didn’t make it to Hollywood because anxiety and claustrophobia set in before the plane ride there. Elise Testone thinks Jimmy and the judges are harder on her because she’s older than the rest of the competition (and you can almost hear her losing votes with every syllable uttered). Yet Jimmy is willing to take a bullet for 16-year-old Jessica’s shortcomings, admitting the songs being chosen for her are "too old" for someone her age. You don’t say.

When all is said and done, Hollie and Elise find themselves rounding out the bottom three alongside Colton. The two women have been circling the drain for a while now, narrowly escaping elimination week after week, which initially makes me think one of them will surely be sent packing. But nope, it’s another fake-out, as first-time bottom feeder Colton gets the bad news. What’s that all about, America? Give us some warning at least!

Even Hollie, who brings up the rear right behind him, seems shocked that she’s safe, spending the rest of the show sobbing in relief. Also visibly pained are teary-eyed judge Jennifer Lopez and last-heartthrob-standing Phillip, who will probably sail into the finals after collecting all of Colton’s lovesick voters.

But Colton leaves the show "a class act," apologizing for not bringing his A-game while looking toward the future. And with that, his reprise of Lifehouse’s "Everything" finally earns him the standing O he’s been craving all season . . . well, almost. For some reason, his biggest cheerleader, Steven Tyler, remains seated. Maybe it’s not just tween hearts that are broken?

Last episode: Try a Little Tenderness

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