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American Idol Recap: Sinatra Takes Another Man Down

Sinatra's crooning proxy, Harry Connick Jr.

On his radio show before last night’s episode of American Idol, Ryan Seacrest promised the evening's impending elimination would “raise a few eyebrows,” and for once he did not mislead the trusting masses. Not to say last night’s casualty was a season-nine favorite, but the egregious musical offender from Tuesday somehow miraculously escaped the bottom two.

After his hammy, inept, and all-around irritating version of “Blue Skies,” Casey James emerged from the burning wreckage of his performance completely unscathed, like an Abercrombie model version of the T-1000. Perhaps the unanimous drubbing the judges gave Casey rallied his fans to vote for the boy with hair like a lion and a neck like a tree stump.

Michael Lynche and Aaron Kelly, however, felt the sting of Idol’s viewers’ indifference last night — it was the man with the newborn child versus the man who looks like a newborn child. Of the two, young Master Kelly was sent home; after the show ended, the judges hopefully packed him a bag lunch for the journey home and made him promise to call the moment he got there.

Aaron took his leave gracefully and reprised “Fly Me to the Moon” for his swan song — hey, if you’re gonna go out, why not play with Harry Connick Jr. one more time? Perhaps tellingly, his post-elimination performance was one of his best; for the first time this season, his singing felt shaded with real bittersweet emotion. That bodes well for his future: Aaron technically has a good voice, so maybe with some more years, a few mistakes, and a broken heart under his belt, he might actually become a compelling singer.

One thing worth mentioning is that Casey didn’t even scrape the bottom after going vocally Goat Boy Tuesday night, indicating viewers have pretty much settled on who they’re voting for in spite of what happens. So unless Mike sings next week while cradling his infant in his burly arms, it looks like he’ll be the next to go.

For a guest song, Idol brought in Lady Gaga, easily this season’s biggest and most relevant guest performer. Her royal craziness performed her new single, but opened by softly singing the refrain to “Bad Romance” like it was a lamentation. Gaga then segued into the Latin-tinged “Alejandro,” which starts off with a mournful violin solo that brings to mind Frau Blucher pied piper-ing the Monster in Young Frankenstein (although the song itself is more akin to Ace of Base or Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita” than any Mel Brooks musical number).

Wrapped in a black funerary veil and covered in barbed wire–like leaves, Gaga prowled around her graveyard-esque set surrounded by shirtless hunks. So, you know, it was pretty much what you’d expect from a Lady Gaga performance. Not to sell her show short, though: The world of pop is clearly better off with her artfully overblown perspective.

Harry Connick Jr. also performed last night, singing the Beatles’ “And I Love Her” and playing piano while the top five sang a non-embarrassing medley of his tunes (the Frank Sinatra medley is a matter best forgotten, on the other hand).

Connick’s continued above-and-beyond involvement with the Idol singers was refreshing and laudable, but just like on Tuesday night, his backstage banter with them was unbearable. We saw additional footage of Harry’s high jinks with each contestant during rehearsals, and again he came across as that popular senior dude-bro from high school: the guy who spent about as much time fathering sophomores into the “in crowd” as he did demeaning them.

Other evening highlights:

• As inadvisable as it was to bring back the group performance for Sinatra, it was priceless to hear Aaron Kelly singing the words, “When I was 17, it was a very good year.”

• We learned that during dress rehearsals, a panel of look-alikes stand in for the actual judges. Randy’s body double even mocks the Dawg’s array of clichés and basically offers as much insight.

• Lee DeWyze apparently never lets himself enjoy any victory. “I could have done better,” he said about his performance last night that left the judges licking his feet. “I try not to let [praise] get me really pumped up … it’s how I drive myself to be better.” That dude must have sold a helluva lot of paint back in Illinois.

• Harry Connick Jr. told a fun story about he and his wife, Victoria Secret model Jill Goodacre, following Frank Sinatra and his wife into an elevator on the Voice’s 75th birthday, only to have Ol’ Blue Eyes ignore Connick and plant a wet one on Jill. Although upon further reflection, the anecdote did make Sinatra seem out of it and gropey.

• When Ryan announced that Mike was safe, Lynche enveloped the dispirited Aaron in a lingering bear hug — and you could tell Mike’s emotions came from a real place because he didn’t lift the 17-year-old off the ground and swing him about like a rag doll. Even if you weren’t an Aaron Kelly fan, it was hard not to get a bit misty-eyed.

Next week, Jamie Foxx will mentor the top four as they tackle the songs of the cinema, whatever the hell that means.

Other Recaps:
Entertainment Weekly's Michael Slezak noted that "Aaron made it remarkably far into the season — chugging along through 10 consecutive results-show telecasts — without once looking like a legitimate threat to take a confetti shower at the Nokia."
The AV Club's Claire Zulkey asks, "Remember when Jamie Foxx was the mentor and he wasn't very helpful and he used the next night to perform his AutoTune-enhanced song? Well it's happening again next week."

Photo: Michael Becker/FOX