'American Idol' Recap: Big Time - Rolling Stone
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‘American Idol’ Recap: Big Time

The judges, not the voters, send ’em home

american idolThe Top 13 perform in front of the Judges

The Top 13 contestants perform in front of the Judges on 'American Idol.'

Michael Becker / FOX

It’s results night, meaning all the contestants are either on the edge of their seats or harking back to their middle school musical acting lessons, pretending to be on the edge of their seats and humble. Who will stay? Who will go? There’s so much tension in the air it’s like the series finale of The Sopranos, except no one is singing Journey.

But before we get to the kicking-off portion of the program, we get the first group performance of the season. The group rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “As” is rough around the edges, because the contestants still think there’s an “I” in team. Still, it’s nice to see Heejun Han and Jeremy Rosado given center stage. Well, half of them, anyway.

Tonight is also the first product-integrated commercial. This time the Idol wannabes sing Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time” blown up like giants (except for Jermaine Jones, who is just regular-sized), crashing through a miniature city filled with Fords. Like if Godzilla sang Adele songs instead of blowing fire.

Before anyone gets kicked off, Jimmy Iovine wants to remind America that God mass-produced millions of humans, which is why none of the girls can sing Whitney Houston’s songbook. She was just too good and too hard to live up to. So why did they choose Whitney Houston songs, exactly?

Ryan Seacrest calls for Jessica Sanchez, Elise Testone and Hollie Cavanagh to join him at center stage. Since Elise faltered in her performance, Hollie was excellent and Jimmy thinks Jessica’s performance was the best he’s ever seen on Idol, it’s not hard to call the results. Jessica is safe, and Elise is in the bottom three girls. Ryan bungles the tell, though: Hollie is told she is safe as a sort of afterthought, and she just wanders off toward the risers with no applause.

Heejun, Jermaine and Colton Dixon are called next. From his safe room, Jimmy announces that if he was recording an album with Heejun, the last thing he would do is give him a Stevie Wonder song, because it just shows off all his flaws. I love Heejun, but I keep thinking that Simon Cowell would denounce his performances as karaoke. Maybe he’ll improve next week, because he is safe. Then, for the second week in a row, Seacrest tries to trick Colton into thinking he’s been kicked off by saying, “America didn’t like what they saw.” He waits a beat or two, then laughs: “Ha ha, they loved you!” I hope Ryan does that every week until Colton punches him in the face. Jermaine Jones is in the bottom three boys, which isn’t a surprise. His voice isn’t poppy, and while he seems sweet, he has very little telegenic charisma.

Lauren Alaina returns to the Idol stage to fulfill her contractually-obligated duty to help the producers kill time. Ryan beckons the remaining three women for judgment. Despite wowing the judges and nailing her song, Erika Van Pelt is in the bottom three. Joining her is Shannon Magrane, who disappointed the judges, herself, and apparently America with her lackluster performance. Plus teen girls probably hate her for being prettier, taller and more talented than they are. That means that Skylar Laine is safe to sing another country-fried pop song next week.

Finally, the last four boys – Jeremy, Joshua Ledet, Phillip Phillips and Deandre Brackensick – are called to the firing line. Jimmy thinks Stevie Wonder ballads are custom-made for people with Jeremy’s voice and that Jeremy failed to deliver, which has to be the final nail in Jeremy’s coffin. Even Jennifer Lopez’s tears can’t save him now! Phillip and Deandre are safe, meaning that the bottom three boys are Jermaine, Joshua, and Jeremy. Just when it looks like we’re going to commercial, Ryan leans over to Joshua and Erika and tells them, “You’re safe! And you’re safe!” They look shocked as Ryan crows, “Anything can happen on Idol!” The contestants don’t look a gift horse in the mouth; they run to the safe side of the stage. Elise and Shannon don’t look thrilled by this turn of events.

After the commercial, Mary J. Blige performs her new single, “Why.” Out of all the celebrity mentors on this show, she did an excellent job giving helpful criticism and technical advice, so everyone go buy her album right now. I’ll wait.

The bottom four contestants face the judges, because for the first time in Idol history the judges, and not America, will choose who goes home. Jennifer doesn’t like it when Ryan asks Steven Tyler to pick a contestant who should go home, but Steven doesn’t balk, choosing Jeremy. Jeremy looks like a poster child for the next round of It Gets Better videos as he glumly accepts the verdict. Ryan tries to whisper in Jermaine Jones’ ear that he’s safe, but there’s a solid two feet from Ryan’s mouth to his ear, and it just doesn’t work. Doesn’t matter – he’s safe!

Following him to safety is Shannon Magrane. That means the judges must choose between Elise Testone and Jeremy Rosado. Idol Thunderdome! Bring Mary J. back out to sing “We Don’t Need Another Hero”! The judges deliberate while we watch J.Lo commercials. When we get back, Jennifer seems to have spent the break figuring out that the nicest way to tell Jeremy he is out is by telling Elise that she is in. As we say goodbye to Jeremy, we watch a mini-montage of his voyage so far set to a Scotty McCreery song, so they don’t have to pay royalties.

Come back next week when Idol tries to find even harder songs for the women to sing.

Last episode: Whitney vs. Stevie


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