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American Idol Recap: Paul F. Tompkins Judges the Final Thirteen

Narrowing the contestants down. Shit. We’re still only narrowing the contestants down.

Tonight’s the night! We go from the arbitrary top 24 to the familiar and understandable top 10! With maybe some extra people! There’s some “wild card” business that’s gonna go down tonight, and I’m not sure how many additional contestants will make it through by the grace of the judges. I hope it’s fewer than fourteen.

The show opens with a montage, as every episode now does. The assembled cliplets show us the scope of the journey we’ve all taken to get here tonight, not counting you sons of bitches who haven’t started reading these until two nights ago.

And then the top 24 enter. Scott gets arguably the biggest hand of them all. I have always, still do, and probably will always underestimate the size of the country-music audience. Seriously — now that America is voting, you can count on me to be continuously shocked each week that Scotty makes it through. Promise.

Randy explains the “wild card” process, which goes like: Of the fourteen people eliminated, the judges pick some they’d like to hear from again. Each of these people will then “sing for their lives” in order to earn a wild-card spot. Then the top ten will become the Top Something Else. That’s what I gathered. I don’t know why they can’t just stick to ten people. People like the decimal system; it’s comforting.

We watch some more clips from the last two nights, Ryan chats with the contestants, there is an interview package with all the guys, and then it’s time for something to happen, maybe.

Ryan summons two contestants front and center: door lockin’/light lowerin’ Scotty, and Robbie, the “doorframe-accessorizing” contestant (you know what I mean). Scotty makes it into the top ten. And I am surprised! See? I told you! This is how it’s going to be.

Then we move right along to a three-fer: Clint, Jordan, and Jovany move center stage. As Clint listens to Ryan recite some of the judges’ critiques, Clint almost folds in on himself like the house at the end of Poltergeist. When asked, Jordan says if he had to do it all over again, he’d sing a John Legend song. The judges seem to agree this would have been a good idea, and their tone implies that we will not be hearing any John Legend songs tonight. Jovany says it’s been a great journey so far. He seems very fatalistic. Ryan sets it up, and … Clint and Jordan have not made it into the top ten! I thought Clint was a lock, but perhaps he rubbed too many people the wrong way with his betrayal of sweet little Jacee back on Group Night. You: “What’s ‘Group Night?’” Me: Oh, it’s an episode of this show that I WATCHED. For YOU.

After a break, we watch a montage of girl moments from last night. After that finally ends, we see the girls being interviewed. Any other montages we need to see? No? Okay. Time to welcome some girls to the chopping block: Pia and Lauren Alaina. It does not take long to reveal that Lauren is in! And! In a non-surprising un-upset, Pia is also in! But! No time to celebrate! Ta-Tynisa and Julie are up next. Ta-Tynisa is ejected and, consequently, dejected. Julie is also not top-tenned. They cut to her dad in the audience and he looks extremely wealthy. I mean, he’s just wearing a sweater, but still. I can tell.

We move on to Kendra, Ashthon, and MySpace’s Karen Rodriguez. Ashthon and Kendra are out, MySpace’s Karen Rodriguez is in! Her status is “In the Top 10,” and her mood is “accomplished!”

Jacob, Casey, and Tim are up next. Good-bye, Tim. The results haven’t been revealed yet, but I will take the chance I will not have to delete those two words. At Ryan’s prompting, Steven Tyler suggests that Tim perhaps should have performed a song by “Jason Moran, or John Mayer, something more ‘alt.’” Okay, (1) Jason MORAN? and (2) Jason Mraz and John Mayer are more “alt” than Rob Thomas? Jacob, of course, makes it through, hugging the other two guys and screaming into their shoulders, making crazy enough noises that after a few minutes I think he may be biting them. Maybe it doesn’t seem that way to anyone else; I have a slight zombie obsession. Casey also makes it though, as he should. As for Tim, [see above].

Thia, Naima, and Lauren Turner are next. Lauren is not in the top ten. Naima is not in the top ten. Thia is in the top ten. Her family accepts the news stoically, not even getting up out of their seats. One guy shakes her father’s hand. It’s weird. There’s usually so much emotion from the families. But this guy is like, “Everything is proceeding according to plan.”

Red rover red rover, please come over … Brett and Paul! Brett miraculously manages to keep it together though all of this. I am proud of him, I think. I was starting to take on too much anxiety on his behalf, not just about this contest, but about life, and it was killing me. His newfound calm serves his well, as Paul is the one to make it through, on sheer quirk!

Ryan calls Haley and Rachel center stage. Haley makes it in, Rachel doesn’t. Rachel tried something different. America didn’t like it. Let that be a lesson to all!

Stefano and James are next. Big surprise, James is in. It rankles me a little every time he makes it through. I cannot get over his crying about not having enough money to support his family while entering a TV singing contest. And on top of that, so far he’s actually making it work. And I don’t like his singing style. Anything else? Oh, the scarves. I bet that’s it, just let me check … de-da-de-da-deeeee … Nope, that’s it.

After a break, it’s time for the wild-card drawing. The idea is explained more clearly this time, or just explained: The judges will select a certain number of performers to sing for them, and on the basis of those performances they will pick their favorites for the remaining slots. How many slots remain? Mind your own business, is the answer. That’s as many details as we get. So. The judges say they have chosen six performers, three boys and three girls. Let’s get it over with.

Ashthon is selected first and sings “And I Am Telling You,” and it’s just … okay. She pours on the attitude, but she’s maybe too young, and just not big enough for that song. She also should have stayed center stage; you can’t sing a song of bold defiance while cautiously walking down a paltry three stairs as if you’re afraid you’ll break your hip.

JUDGES: Steven liked it! J.Lo says Ashthon deserves to be in this competition. Randy loves the attitude!
ME: I am hoping Ashthon goes home tonight, because I am sick of seeing the red spell-check line under her name as I type these recaps, and I refuse to commit her to my personal dictionary.

Stefano is selected next and sings “I Need You Now,” by Smokie Norful. He puts his heart into it, and although it’s not entirely flawless, it’s a rousing performance. Stefano starts to walk away as soon as he’s done, but Ryan reminds him he has to stand there and let the judges critique him. That’s right, Stefano. That never ends.

JUDGES: Steven likes it! Randy is happy about the song selection. J.Lo says she’s shaking, she’s so emotional about these kids.
ME: Steven Tyler also told Stefano, “You gilded the lily of your own passions.” That’s actually an insult, assuming you know what the expression “gilding the lily” means. Someone around here might not. Someone who is credited with writing songs and has made millions of dollars doing so.

The next wild-card hopeful is Kendra, who will perform the song everyone knows was written especially for American Idol, “Georgia On My Mind.” She starts super low so she can get up high on the chorus (See? I learned!) and points to her heart when she sings “on my mind.”

JUDGES: I guess we’re running out of time, because only Randy speaks. He really liked the oversinging. But when doesn’t he?
ME: I’ve liked Kendra’s previous performances, but the “singing for her life” aspect of the wild-card thing caused her to do so many runs and growls and yips that she rendered the song meaningless. I take back my previous likings!

Jovany is welcomed back to the stage. He seems crushed and broken. He has elected to sing “Angel,” by Jon Secada and dedicates it “to the one I once loved.” Man. Playing the pathos card. This is brutal. He sings and it’s nice enough, but boy oh boy. It’s not happening for Jovany.

JUDGES: J.Lo says, “You did a good job, baby. You did all you could do.”
ME: I would say the same thing to this baby.

For the next wild carder, Steven Tyler calls for “My own little Porgy and Bess rolled into one,” Naima. This guy does not know how to say things or what things mean. The selection of Naima means we are saying permanent good-byes to Julie, Rachel, Lauren Turner, and Ta-Tynisa. I’ll miss Rachel; I wanted to see more of her choices. And it’s especially too bad about Lauren; I think her performances would have been a consistent bright spot in the ongoing competition.

Naima sings “For All We Know,” by Donny Hathaway. It’s a little shaky. At the end she cries, and I think the emotion of the evening has gotten to her.

Judges: NO TIME KEEP GOING.
ME: Wha—uh, okay! I’ll meet you in the next paragraph!

The last wild-card candidate is Robbie, so that means it’s the bonest of voyages to Brett, Jordan, Tim, and, I am shocked to say, Clint. Clint must have really angered the judges as well as the rest of America. I never would have predicted they’d pick Robbie over him. I absolutely thought Robbie would have been the one passed over (you know what I mean).

Robbie sings Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word,” and it’s in tune, on key, and ultimately pretty bland.

JUDGES: Randy announces that the Robbie they fell in love with is back.
ME: I never fell in love with Robbie. I didn’t like Clint either, but he would have been a much more interesting performer to watch. Maybe I just wanted to see the rest of Clint’s glasses collection. It was like Jay Leno and his cars, you know? You hate the idea of them, but you still kind of want to see all of them.

Another break, and then it’s time to decide. But the judges aren’t ready with their decision! They’re asking for more time, but it’s live television! Hey, Ryan has an idea! How about we show the new Jennifer Lopez video? THANK GOD WE HAD THAT LYING AROUND! It’s like Eyes Wide Shut directed by McG!

Okay. Here it is. Time to announce the judges’ wild cards. The first one to make it through is … Ashthon! Okay, just one more! Wait, no. J.Lo says they have TWO more. Did I miss that? The explanation where they could just pick as many as they wanted? I guess they’re covered by their earlier deliberate vagueness. Stefano and Naima are in. Naima runs over to the rest of the gang, and Jacob aggressively hugs her in a way that makes me worry that she has bitten her own tongue really hard. Full disclosure: This happened to me once. Somebody hugged me kind of violently as he was acting out someone hugging him violently, and I almost bit my goddamned tongue off. Since then, whenever I see people run at each other and hug, I tense up and involuntarily brace my jaw. Never again.

So there will be some more ship-building for Jovany. Kendra maybe blew it with her song choice, I don’t know. I am relieved to see Robbie go, as I am now freed from the corner into which I had joke-painted myself with these past seven weeks of recapping.

Ladies and gentlemen, your top thirteen! Good night. Oh, pardon me? You have a question before I go? Oh, was that me you spotted in that Raising Hope promo? You bet your sweet ass it was.

Photo: Fox


See you next week.

Photo: Courtesy of FOX