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American Idol Recap: Paul F. Tompkins on the Elimination Kanye West Stopped By For

Here we go. Another contestant will be banished tonight. I hope that’s how America thinks of it, too. I hope when those tween girls are texting their votes for Scotty over and over and over again, they are saying, “I banish thee, all ye who are not Scotty! Away with ye, to a dark place, where the gate shall seal behind thee!”*

The judges and Ryan engage in some interminable banter that defies science and terminates, and we at last begin. Ryan announces a group number; Haley, Lauren, Stefano, and Jacob will jam on Train’s “Hey Soul Sister.” The song is apparently out of everyone’s range, somehow managing to be simultaneously too high and too low. The gang can’t save it with some low-impact choreography, and the result is rather thin. There are still a few more chances to open the show in an exciting way, producers! Don’t lose heart!

Ryan, when introducing this week’s Ford Music Video, intones, “Here is one of their last appearances together as a group.” Well, even if these guys don’t perform together anymore, there will still be more Ford Music Videos, right? RIGHT? Come on! You can’t hook me on these things and then just take them away! Make the folks from Bones get off their high, bony horse and include Ford Music Videos in their show! This week’s FMV is very conceptual. The gang gets out of their Fords in the middle of a sun-baked desert, where they proceed to lasso clouds and move mountains — literally! (not literally, it’s special effects) — and create a wonderful lakeside paradise. It’s a perfect world. Some contestants get to canoe, and some get to watch canoeing. Win-win! I do have a quick science question: We need deserts to have a whole Earth, right? So scorpions have a place to live? Are we declaring eco-war on scorpions? Just let me know. I’ll start shaking my shoes out over a vat of acid.

Next, Scotty, Casey, and James sing Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida.” Scotty sings the first line and … it is not countrified! He’s just singing the song, following the original arrangement! It actually sounds good! Was that so fucking hard? The three guys trade off verses and sing the chorus in unison. Let’s just say the verses sound better than the choruses. Because the choruses don’t sound good at all. That’s why I am asking you to join me in saying the verses sound better than the choruses; I wasn’t sure if that was clear. At one point, the three go to join hands, and for whatever reason, Casey misses it. But perhaps there is power in this mistake, as the song starts to sound better after that. Aw, too late! Over.

With everyone back on the couches, Ryan allows Jacob a chance to respond to the previous night’s allegation that he, Jacob, is a diva. This is only fair. After all, it’s been all over the papers and people won’t stop talking about it. Jacob assumes the “diva” characterization refers to his vocal stylings, but still swears revenge on all who characterize him thus. Jacob then informs Ryan, “We all love each other.” Hm. Let’s move on! Scotty has some news from home — Garner, North Carolina has named a cupcake after him. This elicits excited squeals from a sizable portion of the audience. Are you wondering if this kid is going to win this thing? Go back to wondering school, you need more lessons. Casey shows us a picture a fan made for him.Casey painting1.jpgIt’s a painting of an upright bass that features a painting of Casey and a dog on it.. I guess Casey has a dog. Or this person thinks Casey should? The important thing is, the dog and Casey are the same size. I only wish this could have been a painting of a painting of an upright bass with Casey and a dog painted on it, and also that I enjoyed drugs. Maybe that could be the subject of another painting.

You can (and will!) have nightmares about that painting later — it’s time to dim the lights! Ryan calls for Casey to stand — right there in the couch area! Then Jacob! No one has to walk center stage! They’re just right there in the safe zone of the couches, getting results! This home invasion is like a nightmare out of The Strangers, and Ryan might as well have an old flour sack on his head! At Ryan’s prompting, Casey reveals his original intent the night before was not to kiss J.Lo at the end of his performance, but rather to simply breathe in her face. I know he is trying to be funny, but boy I wish I had not heard him or any person say such a thing. Like, I have a wife and nieces and sisters and such, you know? Ryan asks Jacob to explain more about his issues with the in-ear monitor. Jacob explains that there was a drum track playing in the monitor that should not have been playing in the monitor. The monitor that was in his ear. Hey, American Idol, you know what they say: It takes a good ten years to work out production kinks on a hit television show. Season eleven should be flawless! Anyway, I thought this issue had been covered. It’s now covered and smothered. Hey, let’s go to Denny’s! Casey is safe; Jacob is in the bottom three

American Idol season seven winner David Cook drops by to sing his song “The Last Goodbye,” which requires playing a gigantic white guitar. Wait — is David wearing an in-ear monitor? How many unnecessary drum tracks is he hearing!? Who is this Phantom of the Studio, who puts drum tracks in all the in-ear monitors? I cannot concentrate on David’s song because I am too distracted by something on his jacket that may be a pocket square coming out of his pocket or may be a stitched design that merely looks like a pocket square coming out of his jacket. I am watching this thing like a cat watching a laser pointer, and finding it just as elusive. Toward the end, I think I see the thing move independently of the jacket. DIAGNOSIS: pocket square. David Cook’s mom, Beth, is in the audience, and she is permitted/forced to get up and hug Steven Tyler. As Steven puts his arm around Mother Cook, it looks for one second as if he is about to grab this lady’s ass while her son watches from the stage. It’s hard to tell if it’s supposed to be a joke or if Steven had to fight against a special muscle memory that only creeps have.

Please allow me to insert one note of positivity. I like the moments with Ryan and the Idols from seasons past. Ryan always seems genuinely glad to see them again and happy for their successes. There appears to be real warmth between Ryan and each of the previous Idols. There. The end.

Time for another produced package. In their downtime, the kids went to a Dodgers game, where we discover that the wave is still a thing that people do. Then the gang goes bowling. I guess it’s marginally more interesting to watch someone bowl than to watch someone watch a baseball game. But not as interesting as looking at a painting of a painting of a painting! Haley points out that since there are only a handful of them left, they can now do fun activities! Yeah, those other chumps were weighing Haley down! Sorry your dreams got crushed, losers, but Haley has hot dogs to eat! I bet this is what it’s like for families with a ton of kids. So watch out with those fertility drugs, future Gosselins! In real life, it takes 16 to 18 years to get people voted out of the house! Bowling demonstration accomplished, the kids are off to a spa. Okay, this is turning into work. For me. They all have fun at the spa getting a bunch of greases smeared on their faces. The package ends with all of us having seen it.

More results — Ryan asks for James, Lauren and Stefano to come center stage. See? You never know where Ryan will make you listen to results! You better make your peace with God! Stefano is in the bottom three; James and Lauren are safe. Not terribly surprising, I guess. Well, that’s it for results for a while OH NO IT ISN’T. Haley and Scotty are summoned! There is one stool left in Bottom Threesport. Haley, of course, will be in the bottom three. And one second later, she is. Scotty is going to win this stupid thing. It will come down to Scotty and James, but Scotty will win. I have made predictions before, and all of them have been wrong, but this one I stake my life on. Unless it turns out to be wrong. You are not allowed to murder me if Scotty doesn’t win American Idol. Sorry, murderers! Bet you thought I gave you a free pass! Rules are rules!

Ryan then walks over to the stools, muttering, “I always hate this part.” He then whispers (through his microphone) to Haley that she is safe. What is happening? Haley asks, “I’m safe?” Ryan confirms this and sends her over to the couches. I am confused. Did Ryan make a mistake? I truly hope so, because if that was a fakeout, it was absolutely the most artless fakeout this whole season, and that’s a huge statement. So just to be clear, that fakeout went like this: “You’re off the show.” Beat. “You’re not off the show.” Not exactly Deathtrap, but it did kill some time! Don’t forget that Ryan comes from radio, where killing time is the prime directive.

Katy Perry is here to sing her song “E.T.” Exciting! I mean, you’re all children, right? The performance opens on a screen with Kanye West in some sort of Superman-type Phantom Zone (thanks for videoing by, Kan), and then Katy herself is carried onstage by some dancers who are dressed in outfits that suggest Slim Goodbody trapped in the Tron world. Good news! Katy’s costume lights up! She will definitely go down in music history as someone who spent a lot of money of effects. Is there a Hall of Fame for that? Wait, don’t answer my fake question — Kanye was not actually trapped in the video world! Here he is in person! Kneel before Zodnye! Flesh-and-blood Kanye strides out onstage wearing a fur vest that represents him thinking about wearing some sort of costume, then deciding a vest was enough. Katy and Kanye then compete in my heart for the title of “Who Cares.”

After that performance, Ryan has a quiet moment backstage with Jacob and Stefano. Just checkin’ in, chattin,’ talkin’ bottom-three stuff, you know.

Back from the break, it’s time for results!

RESULTS: At last, it’s Stefano. In recounting Stefano’s amazing journey from auditions to finally being remembered by me, Ryan mentions Stefano’s life-threatening accident — oh my God, I forgot all about that! The mysterious accident! We still don’t know exactly what that accident was. Stefano, did it almost kill you? Or was it another’s life that was threatened, by your actions? Whatever happened, however lives were changed and whatever perspective it gave you on mortality, I am grateful to that accident if it led you to this moment, because as you watch your own ostraciziation package, there’s a clip of J.Lo in the green dress and the Veronica Lake hair from back in February. So it was all worth it. Stefano says good-bye with the Stevie Wonder song “Lately.” Out of respect, I almost give it my full attention.

Six left.

* Get it?

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

Photo: Michael Becker/FOX