After American Idol viewers cast 34 million votes — the most so far this season notably came with Adam Lambert's return to the show this week — Andrew Garcia and Katie Stevens were eliminated last night. Garcia's exit came as little surprise, and his last words were grateful: "You guys let me experience something that I've never experienced." Stevens' ousting seemed to surprise the judges (Kara DioGuardi sat fixed with a tight smile on her face) as well as the Top Eight, who openly wept as the teen ran through her last song on the Idol stage, an emotional, off-key rendition of the Beatles' "Let It Be."
The episode featured a ridiculously poorly lip-synched Elvis Presley medley, a Ford commercial set to the Polyphonic Spree's "Light & Day/Reach for the Sun" (wha?), footage of former hopeful Elliott Yamin and DioGuardi's journey to Africa to set up next week's Idol Gives Back extravaganza, and Brooke White and Justin Gaston duetting blandly on "If I Can Dream." But the real reason viewers turned in — and the crowd showed up, based on their shrieks — was Lambert's return to the Idol stage.
Singing a song Ryan Seacrest repeatedly referred to as a "hit record," Lambert belted "Whatya Want From Me" from his debut For Your Entertainment silhouetted against green swirls of light. Though the production featured lasers ("I wanted to do something a little different"), Lambert strove to keep the focus on his vocals, stretching the song's intro elaborately and concluding on one of his signature pitch-shifting screams. (The AMAs, this was not.) In the end, he told Seacrest he was honored to come back to the show that launched his career: "I owe this show everything, thank you."