'American Idol' Recap: Shock and Awe - Rolling Stone
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‘American Idol’ Recap: Shock and Awe

Judges’ darling must sing for the save

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Jessica Sanchez is saved from elimination by the judges on 'American Idol.'

Carin Baer / FOX

“Expect the unexpected.” Ooo. Those ominous words flash on the screen during the opening montage of this week’s American Idol results show. There are hints this could be the first “shocking” elimination of the season – but host Ryan Seacrest is quick to remind us that the judges still have their one-time save. It hasn’t been the most exciting season so far, so you can almost hear the show’s producers popping champagne corks backstage in anticipation of a headline-grabbing night. And they got it . . .

During Wednesday night’s terribly titled Music from 2010 to Today theme show, the hopefuls sang a mixed bag of contemporary songs – mostly obscure, with a few mediocre hits thrown in to keep us from tuning out. Aside from some harsh “it’s seriously time for you to go home” criticism for Hollie Cavanagh, it was mostly a gush-fest from the judges, who gave Joshua Ledet a standing ovation and practically tripped over each other to come up with the most generic compliments for the rest of the contestants. 

So get ready to gasp (or not) when you hear who America decided to give the boot: Jessica Sanchez. Yup, despite being the judges’ darling all season long and never having been in the bottom three before, the pint-size diva garnered the least votes last night for her rendition of a virtually unknown song (“Stuttering” by Jazmine Sullivan). Perhaps people fell asleep during her performance and missed the voting window? Well, now they’re wide awake, as the theater erupts in “shock and awe” and the judges’ jaws drop in disbelief.

But for Team Jess, all hope isn’t lost. There’s still that coveted save Ryan has mentioned about a zillion times. So she gets to sing for her salvation. But before I get to that, let me back up and tell you what went down during the other 55 minutes, in case you’re dying to know.

Photos: ‘American Idol’ Season 11

The show kicks off with an awkward, off-key rendition of Pink’s “Raise Your Glass” by the top seven contestants, in which Joshua falls (probably on purpose) and Elise Testone misses her cue (definitely not on purpose).

Then there’s a rockin’ performance from season 10 alum James Durbin, the weekly pre-recorded plug for Ford, a ceremonial Reading of the Tweets and Ryan’s presentation of a mysterious snail-mail invitation to prom that Colton Dixon obviously doesn’t want to share with the world. (Did some delusional girl send him dirty pics?! We’ll never know.)

Finally, Ryan divides six of the seven hopefuls into two groups – Hollie, Colton and Phillip Phillips in one and Joshua, Jessica and Elise in the other – then tells Skylar Laine she must pick which group she thinks she belongs in. Awkward!

Class act that she is, she refuses, so Ryan drags her next to Colton (of course) and tells her she and the rest of that group are safe. Wait, what? But Hollie’s in there! That girl’s middle name is Timex, ’cause she takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’. Or is Teflon a better analogy here? Whichever, you get the point.

That means Joshua, Elise and Jessica are the bottom three. Who’da thunk? Well, not to toot my own horn, but I did. Yup, I saw Jessica’s Pia Toscano moment coming a mile away. (Yay me?) Only time will tell whether people didn’t vote for her because they assumed she was safe or because they refuse to drink the same Kool-Aid as the judges. Honestly, I’m hoping for the latter, because the girl just lacks that star quality that screams American Idol. Sorry, Team Jess.

As an aside: In a sheer stroke of luck for the producers, Jessica’s would-be elimination coincides with season three alum Jennifer Hudson returning to the Idol stage to perform “Think Like a Man” with Ne-Yo. J.Hud just so happened to get eliminated this very same week – and has gone on to become the only Idol contestant ever to win both an Oscar and a Grammy. Taking that into consideration, perhaps Jessica would be better off if the judges let her go, since J.Hud’s done a lot better than some winners (think: Taylor Hicks and . . . Lee DeWho?)  

Anyway, once the grumbling dies down in the theater, Jessica must “sing for the save.” But just a few words into Deborah Cox’s “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here,” she’s interrupted by judge Jennifer Lopez, who dashes up onstage and grabs the mic out of her hand. “This is crazy! Yes, we’re using the save!” J.Lo shrieks. Following right behind her are Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler, who send Jessica back to the couch with the rest of her peers. Then Randy literally begs America to vote for Jessica in the coming weeks. My vote, my choice!

After learning she’s been saved, Jessica admits she’s not surprised she was almost eliminated. Hey, if nothing else, at least the girl’s got honesty going for her!

Last episode: Live for Today


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