Love was in the air last night, but it was hard to trust. One girl made a show of wanting to marry Ryan Seacrest. Nothing unexpected there, except she wept and carried on with a glint in her eye like maybe she’s in her high school improv troupe and this was a routine they dared her to do. She broadened the act at the judges’ table, mouthing “I love you,” at Steven Tyler, before airing two chicken impressions and a radio-friendly voice with “parts that are strong and parts with weaknesses,” according to J. Lo. The next camera hams were Jacqueline Dunford and Nick Fink, a besotted couple who met in the choir at junior college. They skipped through fields together in slow motion and made out sloppily at the water. It looked like a parody of a match.com commercial. Were they making fun of their “story”? Probably not? At the judges’ table, Jacqueline sang a Duffy song, and Nick, Maroon 5. Standard stuff for a girl and a boy, but Nick’s smile was extra manic while Jacqueline sang. “He’s loving this the most,” Steven Tyler said before handing over two golden tickets. At that, Nick’s eyes teared at the corners, and the American Idol magic machine started to whir. Their love seemed real after all!
There was talk of finding a cowboy, a “rough and tough” male specimen of the Texan variety, but the boy everyone fell for was more sweet and cuddly. You could practically see the cartoon dollar signs flashing in Ryan Seacrest’s eyes when they landed on him.
John Wayne Schulz (his real name) loves his mother so much he’s making good on the vow he took as she lay on a hospital bed fighting breast cancer (never fear, she won): Yes Mama, I will share my sweet voice and even sweeter personality with the world! To American Idol he loped, parents by his side, blue eyes sparkling keenly and his crooked smile doing its stuff. He wore his boots and a genuine cowboy hat. His mother pinned a round metal button of him in his football uniform on her lime green top. His shirt was the same exact shade, a button-down printed in white squares so faint, the camera would have to be tight on him to catch them clearly. And it was — oh my, was it ever. He sang a faithful version of “Believe” by Brooks & Dunn. J. Lo cried, Randy “felt him” and Steven called his mama in to tell her the good news. First, John Wayne is going to Hollywood! Second, and certainly not least: You’ve raised a fine boy. Watch out, America.