Once a season on “American Idol,” the judging panel can rescue an at-risk contestant via the Judges’ Save, a “Get Out of Jail Free” card of sorts. When the Save was implemented back in Season 8, it was inspired by past robbed contestants like Jennifer Hudson and Michael Johns, and it was supposed to be reserved for a truly shocking elimination night — for a finalist with a real shot of winning whose low vote tally that week was clearly just some crazy fluke. But “Idol” history has proven that the Save hasn’t always been used as intended. Last season, it wasn’t even used at all.
So on Thursday night, Sam Woolf became the fifth — and some would argue least deserving — recipient of the Judges’ Save. Where does Sam rank on “Idol’s” overall list of second-chancers? Read on.
5. Sam Woolf
Sam landed in the bottom three three times this season, and in the top eight week, he received the fewest votes after reprising his “Lego House” audition. “Lego House” was a performance that should have evoked nostalgia and helped reinstate Sam’s former frontrunner status, so this result was definitely a sign that he’s plateaued and America has grown tired of him. This, therefore, was not a proper use of the Save.
4. Michael Lynche
Honestly, Season 9 would’ve been a much better season if the Save had been in play during the top 16 week (basically the worst week in “Idol” history) and had been used on any of the following gone-too-soon contestants: Alex Lambert, Lilly Scott, Katelyn Epperly, or Todrick Hall. It’s also a shame that the Save wasn’t still up for grabs in the top six week, when it could (and should) have been bequeathed to Season 9’s arguably most interesting and unique contender, Siobhan Magnus. But while it’s surprising to remember that Big Mike was saved in ninth place, he did give a great “Eleanor Rigby” performance that week that absolutely didn’t warrant his dismissal, and he did make it all the way to the top four after he was saved.
3. Matt Giraud
This piano man will forever go down in “Idol” history as the first beneficiary of the Save. So even if Matt never does anything else with his life, at least he’s the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question, which is an admirable achievement and more than most musicians could ever hope for, really. Matt was never a frontrunner on “Idol’s” extremely competitive eighth season (he was a Wild Card to begin with, which means that over the course of his run, he technically got eliminated three times). And getting saved only bought him two more weeks. So it’s debatable whether this was a wise use of the Save. However, Matt’s overall solid body of work on the show earns him the middle spot on this list.
2. Jessica Sanchez
Jessica had been the Chosen One throughout Season 11; she’d never been in the bottom three before (and she was never in the bottom three ever again); and the week she almost went home, she’d delivered a wonderfully sassy performance of Jazmine Sullivan’s “Stuttering” that was actually one of her finest moments of the season. After Jessica got her second chance, she became the first (and, as of this writing, only) saved contestant to make it all the way to the finale. So this was “Idol’s” only truly legitimate, by-the-book use of the Save. So why isn’t Jessica number one on this list? Because Colton Dixon went home, Save-less, the very next week instead. If circumstances had been different, Colton surely would have gotten a reprieve that week.
1. Casey Abrams
The saving of Casey was controversial, since it was only the top 11 week and many viewers thought the judges had jumped the gun. (A mere two weeks later, when Pia Toscano shockingly went home, many of those same disgruntled fans blamed Casey for her exit.) But the mega-talented Casey deserved another shot, and Season 10 (and that summer’s Idol tour) would have been a lot less fun without him. And let’s face it, Casey’s pardon was worth it just for his knee-dropped, jaw-dropped reaction when the judges told him the good news — one of the greatest, strangest, realest live TV moments in “Idol” history.