'American Idol' Recap: An Equal and Opposite Reaction - Rolling Stone
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‘American Idol’ Recap: An Equal and Opposite Reaction

Contestants perform Beatles songs on the Cirque du Soleil LOVE stage in Las Vegas on 'American Idol', February 23, 2011.

Ray Mickshaw / FOX

The two singers who’ve held on for all the wrong reasons finally got the shaft last night. Surprisingly, Ashley Sullivan’s exit wasn’t the train wreck.

Chris Medina was also sent on his way last night. Idol had a complex way of dealing with the two strangest, most moving contestants this season. Ashley, at least, got something resembling a last laugh. Instead of squandering valuable practice time during last night’s Vegas round by reading Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul, (which yes, she was reading, and yes, is real), Ashley checked out by getting married. As you do! She wore black pleather pants and picked the same Vegas chapel Britney Spears used, a fact she seemed to draw comfort from. This was definitely the best thing Idol producers could have hoped for. It saved us from what would otherwise have been a night of eating Kettle chips while watching a teenager have a psychotic break. Ashley, who normally twists her face into a likeness of Munch’s The Scream when she’s feeling mildly anxious, was totally cool about getting kicked off. Buzzed on the high of her wedding, she talked about how excellent it was that she’d come this far — and scored a Vegas trip besides, which had come in so handy.

The farewell to Chris Medina wasn’t nearly as easy. Where Ashley was strung along for reasons of “good” TV, the judges found it hard to treat Chris with anything like neutrality because his story was too tragic. He’s the kid with a paralyzed fiancee at home and all of America feeling for him. So Chris was continually pushed through, whether or not he deserved it (his voice isn’t bad, but it’s not great), until, during the totally unnecessary second hour of last night’s eliminations, Jennifer had to cut him. She made the right points. Everyone liked him so much largely because of Juliana and what a good, strong man he clearly is. But the fact was, he’d had good singing days and bad singing days. And here was the trickiest part: she didn’t want to stretch the goodbye out more than she had to. Chris was gracious about it. He told the judges that the day they met his fiancée is certainly the greatest current memory in Juliana’s life. He walked off dry-eyed. The cameras stopped following him after he got in a waiting van.

Jennifer, meanwhile, cried over whether she’d used the right words to explain why he had to leave. It was a key judges’ moment for this season: raw and surprising to watch. Jennifer said what Ashley said last week — that she, Jennifer, wanted to go home. Ryan put to us the dramatic question: Is this the end of Jennifer on Idol? The answer: No, definitely not. This is the unfortunate aftermath of keeping “characters” around until they either float off on their own manufactured bliss or you have to dump them.

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