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American Idol Recap: Paul F. Tompkins on the Double Elimination

Which two of these three went home? And really, which ones would you actually miss?

Okay! I am so excited! Two contestants are going home! This is the “fall back” side of the daylight saving time seesaw that balances out the “spring forward” of the Judges’ Save. Did you follow that? Please let me know in the comments. Also, let me know if you have any good deals on handbags or other fashionable items.

The countdown to Elimination Christmas begins with the abolition of group numbers, for one episode anyway. The standard opening group awkwardness is whittled down to two awkwards, as Lauren and Scotty sing a duet. Since Scotty’s involved, it’s a country song. Am I crazy, or was there a time on this show when Idol made the kids sing songs outside of their own preferred genre? This particular nondescript country song is called “I Told You So,” and it is so boring it gets a standing ovation from the judges. If I were the other contestants and I saw everyone standing for this, I would think, This night is gonna be caaaaake. Okay, the show had to start somehow, and now that it has, Ryan asks that the lights be dimmed. This convention is so dumb. Just dim the lights. Why does he need to give the “official” cue? Is it more respectful or something? He’s not presenting a war widow with a folded-up flag. When the lights come back up, Lauren and Scotty are both safe — boring.

PRODUCT PLACEMENT THIS SEGMENT: Ford. It’s always Ford now.
Oh, good news! It’s another Ford music video! This time the gang are superheroes. Some of them. The rest of them are weaklings who need to be saved from falling things and fires. The only one who doesn’t need saving is Scotty, because he has a Ford car! After we witness many superpowered rescues, Scotty saves his own Ford car from a falling lamppost by getting into the car, starting the ignition, driving forward two inches, and letting the lamppost fall harmlessly behind him. So if you are skeptical of buying a Ford, be sure to take into account its “forward motion” feature.

Back on the couch, Ryan confronts Casey about the hirsute youngster’s defiance of Rodney Jerkins’s edict that Casey shave his beard. Casey shoots back that Rodney is okay with the trim. Now who’s the jerkins, Ryan? Casey is always two beard steps ahead! James shows off a wrestling belt. Which the people at wrestling made for him, I think. Who cares? I am a grown man with a wife and a career; wrestling is beneath my notice. American Idol, please stop talking about wrestling. It’s an inappropriate tie-in. Wouldn't Twilight have been a better fit? It just feels like it would, for some reason. I don’t know; sort your business out.

Time for another duet! Ryan introduces Naima and Jacob, singing “Solid” by Ashford & Simpson. Will Naima reimagine it as a Daft Punk polka? No. She and Jacob do it just regular. Only it isn’t exactly a duet, because they both sing to the audience and the camera and barely sing to each other. The effect of a duet is not just the combining of forces; there’s supposed to be some sort of connection. Lauren & Scotty sang to each other and I was kind of glad they left me out of it.

No time to judge them for this performance, it’s time to judge them for their previous performances. Naima is in the bottom three and it’s off to the stools with her. Jacob will live to put more songs through the Abu Ghraib that is his throat.

Back from the break, we are visited by season-three AI winner Fantasia, who … hey, has her voice always been that high? I kind of remember her from back then; did she have a throat surgery I never heard about? Fantasia helium-barks at the audience to get up on their feet, addressing “everyone in the building.” So presumably, security guards and people in the payroll office stand as well. I will say, Fantasia tears it up on her song, “Collard Greens and Cornbread,” and I like how insane she looks. She has jumped ahead a few decades and has fashioned herself into a retroactive forgotten legend, replete with her dentures-y pronunciation of “collard greensh.” Here’s what I do not like: She tells Steven Tyler that she loves him. What is this thrall he holds over all people? Is there some aura about this dude that simply must be experienced in person to be truly felt? Because it is not coming through the screen, any screen.

Enough Idols past, how about more potential Idols future! Haley, Thia, and Pia perform Katy Perry’s filthy anthem “Teenage Dream.” Haley starts it off, singing as if she knows it’s a dumb song. I am into this attitude. But as the song continues, I am embarrassed for Thia, the actual teenager who is forced to sing this song. Pia is pleasant. I really have nothing against her; she’s just pleasant. It’s neither an insult nor a compliment. The song ends and the lights are dimmed! Pia is safe. Haley is safe. Thia, already humiliated from singing “put your hands on me in my skintight jeans” in front of her family, is shunted to the stools.

Back from the break, we are treated to a little behind-the-scenes package showing us the kids’ glamorous lives. This includes B-roll from a Ford music-video shoot and footage of the kids talking about the rain. WOW. I mean, have little kids send in drawings and show those on the air. People like that sort of thing, if you’re looking to just kill time. It gets briefly interesting when we see the aftermath of Casey’s save from last week, which involves some doctor telling him it’s okay to cry. I don’t know a lot about stomach ailments, so maybe crying is a dicey activity for stomach patients.

Hey, let’s hear more songs, I guess. Paul, Casey, Stefano, and James have apparently formed a band at the cramped Idol mansion. This is the kind of thing that should be exciting and fun, but I just know it won’t be. And it isn’t. They all play and sing “Band on the Run” by Wings. It’s just awful. I mean, I know these guys are on the show, and the whole point of the show is to watch them sing, but this number feels weirdly indulgent. Maybe it’s the fun they had at rehearsal that is not translating to performance and is not coming across on-camera. Maybe they all hate each other. At one point, we can glimpse Thia and Naima clapping along from their perch of exile on Stool Isle. When the song mercifully ends, Ryan asks Steven what he thinks, because Steven is, ostensibly, connected in some way to rock music. Guess what? Steven likes it! He says the fellows’ bandlet can be the opening act on the next Aerosmith tour. Good, this guarantees I’ll never see them perform together again. Ryan abruptly starts giving results. Come on, can’t they enjoy their post-gig rush? No? They shouldn’t? Agreed! Casey is safe. James is safe. Stefano is safe! Paul is in the bottom three for the first time. And hopefully the last. Get me? As we go to break, Ryan threatens us with an appearance by Will.I.Am and Jamie Foxx. Why? What did we do? Show us the vegetables and we’ll eat them!

Back from the break, Ryan makes good on his threat. Jamie Foxx and Will.I.Am perform some garbage song to promote their voices in the new animated film Rio. This is honestly one of the worst messes I have ever seen on television. Thirty seconds in, the tempo slows down to a crawl. Why? What is going on with this show slowing songs down? I’m pretty sure even the American Idol theme is slower than it used to be. Jamie and Will.I.Am’s Auto-Tuned, somnambulant performances are not aided by the approximately one million other people they have brought onstage to bang drums and jump around like mental patients. This is one hundred percent crass, cynical, artless trash. Oh, and the song is called “Hot Wings.” BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

Well, no time to enjoy that, because it’s time for results. Also, because the universe will collapse in less time than it would take to enjoy that utter shit.

RESULTS: Paul is safe. Thia and Naima are done. I am not sorry to see either of them go, but for different reasons. I got so tired of hearing the judges tell Thia to do something she was incapable of doing during the competition: have five to ten years more life experience. I felt bad for her. And I just got tired of Naima. Maybe I felt betrayed because I liked her early on. But eventually Naima started doing enough Naima-liking for the both of us. I overestimated you, Naima. And not in a Rasta way, where I underestimated you. I overestimated you. Just regular.

And then there were nine! See you next week.

Photo: Michael Becker/FOX