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American Idol Recap: Paul F. Tompkins on the First Big Elimination

The show begins! Let’s get ready for the placement of some products! The judges enter. Steven Tyler is dressed like Murphy Brown dressed like Ichabod Crane. Ryan explains that someone will be going home tonight, and mentions The Save. Oh my God, I forgot about The Save. The judges have the power to save just one contestant that America votes off, and that contestant gets one more week on the show before America says, Maybe you don’t hear so good, and that contestant has insult added to their injury by being voted off twice.

Before we go further, a bit of housekeeping: In my last recap, I noted Naima’s use of the word “overstand,” and how it seemed like it was definitely on purpose. People wrote to tell me that this is a Rastafarian term, meaning “understand.” Now that I know that, I am wondering why Ryan Seacrest just let that go. I’m supposed to believe Ryan Seacrest is conversant in Rasta idioms? I guess my point is, you should all feel free to Google anything I don’t get.

Back to the results show: The contestants emerge from the traditional wall of graphics, and we are told that Casey is back in the hospital for his previous, undisclosed illness. Or maybe a different undisclosed illness. Maybe he has a beard virus. Why can’t we know what is wrong? Or at least just be told that it’s none of our business? If Ryan said, “Casey’s in the hospital. Why? Oh, he’s allergic to nosy creeps like you,” I would accept that.

PRODUCT PLACEMENT THIS SEGMENT: Ford
We are treated to some lighthearted B-roll of the kids moving into their mansion, and it’s one of those mansions where thirteen people have to share two bedrooms. I don’t get what is up with that, on every show like this. It’s a mansion. What happens in all those other rooms? Is it dirty Eyes Wide Shut stuff, or creepy The Shining stuff? You don’t see any weird beaky masks or a guy in a bear suit, but there is a pool table with the Ford logo.

Back to the studio. The kids sing a Michael Jackson medley, and they sound just godawful. I mean, it is like high school, the high school that some of these kids are still in. Scotty is clearly just mouthing it at one point. By the time they arrive at “Man in the Mirror,” it actually starts sounding pretty good, and then it’s over. Thus they all continue their streak of starting songs poorly, even as a group.

PRODUCT PLACEMENT THIS SEGMENT: Ford, again.
The kids do a music video for Ford, and they all lip-synch around some cars. I don’t know if it is a real song or a jingle. Casey is nowhere to be seen in the video! Maybe he’s faking an illness to get out of product-placement videos. Well, he can’t hide from all of these integrated ads; Coca-Cola comes to us all, the peasant and the king alike, and we each must dance to her carbonated call.

Back to the studio. Hey, actress Amanda Seyfried is in the audience, just hanging out, catching a live results-and-product-placement show! Maybe she lives in the neighborhood or
PRODUCT PLACEMENT THIS SEGMENT: Red Riding Hood
We are at the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, where the contestants have been invited/instructed to attend the red-carpet premiere of Red Riding Hood. There is a wonderful moment where Gary Oldman says to the kids, “Hello, how are you? I know who you are.” Now, perhaps Gary Oldman is losing his marbles and doesn’t want anyone to know it and is doing a terrible job of covering. But who cares? Why not greet people this way all the time? Not just people you recognize from television, but people you’ve known for years! What a wonderful affirmation! Amanda Seyfried gives red-carpet advice to the contestants, which will probably be useful to maybe three of them at most.

Back to the studio. Ryan calls forth Stefano, Jacob, and MySpace’s Karen Rodriguez. He is sad to say that MySpace’s Karen Rodriguez is in the bottom three. She must go and sit away from everyone else, a light, temporary shunning that may or may not become more serious.

PRODUCT PLACEMENT THIS SEGMENT: American Idol
season eight Vice-Idol Adam Lambert returns to his old alma mater to sing an acoustic version of “Aftermath.” It’s weird to hear someone singing a whole song on this show. I’ve been watching Idol for enough weeks that I am now conditioned to expect truncated versions of songs. Halfway through Adam’s performance I start to get antsy and it takes me a moment to realize why: I have been institutionalized. Whatever, it’s just my mind, who cares. After Adam’s performance, the segment ends with a discussion of The Dougie. I am thrilled that I know what this is and do not have to look it up. I am even more thrilled that some young people on the show do not know what it is! I still have some fight in me! Go rent The Lion in Winter, you utter children! People who do not know what The Dougie is: Steven Tyler, Adam Lambert, Paul, Pia, Thia, Scotty. People who know what The Dougie is: J.Lo, Randy, Jacob, Stefano, Ashthon, Naima, Lauren, James, Haley and … Ryan. Ryan is actually the one who brings it up! Maybe he did overstand “overstand.” Yes, Ryan Seacrest, I and I together by the rivers of Babylon. (Not pictured: MySpace’s Karen Rodriguez.)

After the break, Ryan summons Lauren, Ashthon, and Haley to the stage. Lauren apologizes for her performance the night before, then cries about it. The judges look at her with cold passivity. Ryan informs Ashthon and Haley that they are also in the bottom three. After they trek to the Shunning Stools, Ryan forces the remaining, safe contestants to celebrate, ordering them to stand up and act happy. They are not into it, maybe because they like the people who aren’t safe, and they’re sitting right over there. Also, one of their friends is in the hospital. But Ryan knows a lot about cognitive behavioral therapy, and he’s just trying to help.

PRODUCT PLACEMENT THIS SEGMENT: Diddy Dirty Money and his “Coming Home” tour
Diddy Dirty Money (dumb name, Sean) performs with Skylar Grey, his own personal Dido (every rapper has one). In the song, DDM name-checks some songs he hates and wonders what life is all about, concluding that he is a pretty good guy. I think Skylar Grey is wearing what Steven Tyler was going for when he put together his outfit this evening. Ryan asks DDM to impart some wisdom to the hopefuls on the stage, and he does and who cares. Time for results.

RESULTS: MySpace’s Karen Rodriguez is safe! Haley is safe! So I was wrong about Haley, I guess! Ashthon must now sing for her life, and chooses the same goddamned Diana Ross song that she botched the night before. Lesson non-learned! Tonight’s rendition may even be worse than night before’s was. Ashthon cries when it’s over and probably knows she blew it. Painful all around.

THE SAVE? No. J.Lo says, "Not this time, baby.” Then adds, “And it was unanimous.” J.Lo, you’re not in a court of law. You didn’t take an oath. You could have left that part out. We are treated to Ashthon’s journey in clip form, then we are treated to Ashthon watching her own journey in clip form, and crying.

Then my TiVo cut the episode off. What happened after the crying?

You can listen to Paul F. Tompkins's podcast here, or subscribe on iTunes. He is also on Twitter as @PFTompkins.

Photo: FOX