It was nice (barely) knowing you, Curtis Finch Jr.
Yes, the lumbering 24-year-old St. Louis native was the first American Idol hopeful to bite the dust this season, as the top 10 was narrowed down to nine on Thursday night. (Things that make you go hmmm: Could the last-minute revelation that he was convicted of stealing from his church have contributed to his early exit?)
Devin Velez narrowly skirted elimination as the prevailing half of the bottom two before Finch was forced to "sing for the save" that we all knew he wasn't going to – and didn't – get. (The judges get one save this season, and the vote must be unanimous, and there was no way they were busting it out this soon in the competition.)
As Finch took the stage one last time to give a stankface-filled performance of R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly," judge Nicki Minaj was so appalled by America's clearly ludicrous decision, she threatened to walk off the show. For a brief moment, we got really giddy that this might actually happen, considering she barely even bothered to show up the previous night. But, alas, she was bluffing. (Better luck next time.)
While some may be mourning the loss of Finch, we were actually more interested in the format changes the show revealed. For the first time ever, the top three contestants that viewers voted for were revealed. While they were not ranked, the remaining contestants were told where they stood in the rankings. It's a twist rival show The X Factor busted out during its sophomore season.
And apparently America be loving the ladies, with Candice Glover, Kree Harrison and Angie Miller sitting pretty atop the proverbial pedestal. The estrogen-heavy turnout proved just how skewed this season is toward a woman (finally) winning again. (Men have won the past five seasons, with Jordin Sparks – 'memba her? – being the last lady to win, way back in 2007.)
Falling in line behind them at number four was, surprisingly, Lazaro Arbos, who didn't do so well during his performance but clearly won the sympathy vote for the night. In fifth place was Amber Holcomb, followed by Janelle Arthur and Burnell Taylor, who acted like he had just been asked to "come on down" on The Price Is Right even though he's now technically a bottom-dweller.
Bringing up the rear in the bottom three, alongside Finch and Velez, was Paul Jolley.
Also part of the new format was host Ryan Seacrest rattling off weird, useless factoids about the results. Like how Velez received more that 25 percent of the votes in Puerto Rico, making him the top act there. Uh, OK.
In another twist, the show brought back one guy and one girl who fell short of the top 10 to compete for viewer votes to nab a spot on this summer's live tour. The returning hopefuls were oddball Charlie Askew, who sang original song "Sky Blue Diamond" in a grating chalkboard-like falsetto, and a classy looking Aubrey Cleland, singing the more pleasant "Out Here on My Own" by Irene Cara. The results will be revealed next week, and it basically comes down to whether viewers want to punk ticket-buyers by throwing Askew into the mix or not.
Rounding out the night were performances by Bon Jovi and Phillip Phillips, who sang "Because We Can" and "Gone, Gone, Gone," respectively. Afterward, Randy Jackson presented the reigning Idol champ with a quadruple-platinum plaque for his breakout hit "Home." Four million copies later and the kid still can't afford to buy a bottle of Visine to wipe the pesky red out.
Previously: Nicki Minaj Arrives Late for Top 10