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American Idol Recap: Tears and Omelette Making, Not Necessarily in That Order

Results show! Results show! It’s only an hour! You’re the best, results show! Let’s get into it! The judges are here, good! Ryan Seacrest endures! Okay! Steven Tyler has a book he pretended to write! You can’t bring me down! Bring on the top five! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! I may not be capable of genuine emotions anymore!

The remaining kids kick off the show with that classic by the Turtles, “Happy Together.” It’s a good thing I’m assuming all of the original members of the Turtles are dead, because I would not want them hearing this. The performance invokes neither happiness nor togetherness. The kids all trade off lines to start, and they’re all pretty shaky, but when they come together for that first chorus, the harmony is so cacophonous I assume they hadn’t gotten that far in rehearsal and they figured some sort of instinct would take over. Everyone marches around on the stage for a while, bringing to mind a rehearsal of a Tim Burton dream sequence — you know, before the cameras roll and everyone puts on their crazy wigs. All of the kids seem just barely one second ahead of the lyrics. They finish up by sitting down on some steps, and everyone sounds winded. They just sang and walked. Kids, start exercising now. Trust me, it does not get better. And there we have it: another opening number, imploded on the launching pad.

Back from break, Ryan tells us that auditions for next season start soon, while right next to him, James comically mouths along to what Ryan reads through his TelePrompTer. This gag really holds up. Before Ryan can smite James for his sacrilege, it’s Ford Music Video Time! This week the theme is “stuff that’s hard to do,” I guess, as the various kids are juggling, throwing cards into a piece of foam-core, doing bike tricks, and … parallel parking?! The most impossible trick of all! Unless you have this new, sentient Ford Focus, that is! It parks the car for you! And maybe whispers your name when you turn on the blinker, but no one else ever seems to hear it, and you’ll never be entirely sure!

Back in the studio, we watch a video package of the top five visiting the set of what we all think of as American Idol’s sister show, Hell’s Kitchen. The kids slouch there among the pots and pans, wearing aprons and such. James, sporting a do-rag, looks completely at home and appropriate in this environment. Maybe his true calling is a reality show cooking competition. There, his self-satisfaction, martyrdom, and roiling emotions would make perfect sense. He would be so much more enjoyable to watch on Top Chef. Famously rude and rudely famous restaurateur Gordon Ramsay, best known for calling Stefano’s mom’s red sauce a bowl of rancid garbage, tells the kids they are going to enter an omelette-making contest! Are you staring blankly at the words I just typed? Then it’s like you were there! Some of the kids don’t even know how to make omelettes. Well, those kids are about to enroll in the school of hard-knock omelette making! One by one, they serve their omelettes to Chef Ramsey, who does his beloved “British asshole” character (maybe Idol would consider adding something like this) and says sarcastic things about each one’s cooking skills. Lauren’s omelette actually looks delicious. I am assuming she is expected to serve her parents breakfast in bed every day. Well, all that Cinderellament paid off, because Lauren won! Jacob’s omelette was second best. That was quite a cholesterol-filled roller coaster ride! My emotional triglycerides are off the charts! Then! A graphic appears on the screen, telling us this non-story is TO BE CONTINUED. I feel they are trying to evoke in the viewers the same delicious anticipation felt in 1859 London by the subscribers to All the Year Round who had just finished this week’s installment of Mr. Dickens’s latest serial A Tale of Two Cities and positively could not wait for the next!

In the studio, chart-toppers Lady Antebellum sing a song, trying to keep us all from thinking about that damned omelette contest. It’s not working! I genuinely need to know how this omelette story could possibly be continued! I notice that Lady Antebellum’s consort, Lord Antebellum, is wearing an in-ear monitor that looks like the same ones they use on the show. It strikes me that an in-ear monitor is kind of a … personal item. Is this sanitary? Beware of MRSAs, m’Lord! Ryan throws to a commercial. What!? OMELETTE!

Back from the break, Ryan prolongs our collective omelette anxiety (don’t act like you’re not feeling it) and throws to a package on song choice. Hey, this might actually be interesting. The kids talk about the process that goes into choosing the songs they end up singing on the show. Haley says, “You have to figure out what you want, what the judges want, and what America wants at the same time,” and she seems genuinely frustrated by it all. I wonder if this was recorded the other night, after “You and I” and before “House of the Rising Sun.” The kids abruptly get off that topic when off-screen people start throwing jackets and hats at them. Now they’re talking about the outfits they wear on the show. What? What happened to the song-choice topic? It almost got interesting! The kids all try on hats for a while, and in the end it turns out to have been a covert ad for Bing. Out on the street, Verbal Kint’s posture gradually improves and he is soon walking normally. An automobile glides up beside him. He steps inside, and like that — he’s gone. Like Bing will be.

With that “accomplished,” Ryan asks for a classic light dim. James is called forth. As he did last week, Jimmy Iovine weighs in via video, the coward. He says James needs to control his emotions to be a great performer. This is some type of Star Wars advice, sounds like. Ryan asks James to “start a group on the far side of the stage.” I almost feel sorry for Ryan, who is responsible for creating the fake drama every week, but then I realize he loves doing it and I go back to scoffing at his awkward phrasing. Ryan calls up Lauren, and as he addresses her, there is a weird cyborg-type noise that no one acknowledges. I dearly, dearly hope someone else heard this, although it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if prolonged exposure to the music on this show has finally given me auditory hallucinations. Video Jimmy talks about Lauren’s Achilles' heel: fear. Video Jimmy says Lauren’s terror in the face of the high note of “Unchained Melody” will put her in the bottom three. The crowd boos! But Jimmy don’t care! He’s on video, fools! He’s only some light and sound; you can’t hurt Video Jimmy! Ryan asks Lauren to stand on the near side of the stage. What is this weird blocking? Ryan points out their positions on the stage and asks, "What does it all mean?” then throws to commercial. I get excited — maybe Ryan has cracked and is about to do some crazy Howard Beale stuff!

Back from the break, just as I’ve gotten onboard with the notion of a Seacrest freak-out that culminates with a live execution, we return to the omelette show! Dear Reader, you will recall that Lauren and Jacob had the top two omelettes. Now our heroes must submit to a blind taste test to determine who won. I thought Lauren already won. No one mentions this. Okay. Time must be filled. I remember now. Chef Ramsay has Jacob and Lauren eat different foods and guess what they are. Not different varieties of the same thing to detect subtle differences, just different foods to see if they can be identified. The first food is beef. Come on. Lauren and Jacob are both disgusted by tofu. USA No. 1. The last item is a hot dog. Jacob says “sausage,” but that’s not close enough. Lauren “wins.” I am now ten minutes closer to being dead.

In the audience, Randy, Steven, and Ryan are ready to watch J.Lo perform “In the Room” live, settling in with a big bowl of popcorn. You know, like you don’t. As J.Lo’s video plays on a big screen, her old buddy Pitbull comes running up to the stage, stopping by some people in glass cages wearing bondage shrugs. J.Lo enters, leads everyone in some aerobics, and rhymes “Ibiza” with “Africa.” Eh, I still love her. At the end of her performance, Ryan dumps the big bowl of popcorn on Steven Tyler’s head. I have to say, this makes me sad. All of a sudden Steven seemed old and frail and some jerk was dumping food on his head. I guess it’s one thing if a man wants to surrender his dignity and another if it is snatched from him by a callow carnival huckster. Hey, do I have any beer in the house? I don’t? Will you remind me to get some for next week? Love you.

As J.Lo is off changing her outfit, we get to see a teaser of her next video. It’s her rolling around on a beach, and it's not unlike the vanity video Heidi Montag made a couple of years ago. I’m not saying J.Lo stole the idea, but clearly there’s an influence. J.Lo has added Mayan ruins or some such crumbly history buildings, so in your surgically altered face, Heidi! Well, that was just enough time. J.Lo’s back and Ryan catches us all up on where people were standing before. He does it with the air of a local thespian hamming it up at a murder mystery dinner theater. Ryan has Jacob stand, then walks him down memory lane to the corner where it intersects with criticism alley. Video Jimmy says Jacob was off with both of his songs last night and that everyone knows Jacob has lost confidence. Video Jimmy rates Jacob a 6 for performance. He doesn’t say out of how many, though. If I were Jacob, I’d assume the best and that Video Jimmy’s scale does not pass 7. Jacob is sent to join Lauren and Haley is ordered to her feet to hear the prerecorded gospel of Video Jimmy. He takes full credit for Haley’s risky covering of the Lady Gaga song. Video Jimmy admires Haley’s fearlessness and says Haley won the night last night. He says if Haley’s confidence continues, she’s a lock for the finale. In the studio, Haley mouths, “Thanks, Jimmy.” This is somewhat different than what she said out loud after last week’s VidJim critique, which I believe to have been “What the fuck.” Haley is told to join James, and Scotty is asked to please rise for Video Jimmy. VidJim says Scotty did great with his first song, but fell short with his other song. So what, Jimmy Iovideo? Scotty is going to win. Go make out with Max Headroom or whatever. Ryan informs me of something I already knew: Scotty has never been in the bottom two. And that includes tonight. Ryan tells Scotty that one group on the stage is safe, the other group is not. He orders Scotty to go stand with the group Scotty presumes to be safe. I find something about this to be really gross. Maybe I should have asked this before, but are we supposed to like Ryan? I mean, he’s the host of the show, right? Traditionally, the intended function of such a role is to be a likable presence. Have I been reading this wrong? Is Ryan supposed to be a “guy you love to hate” who conjures up unpleasant Sophie’s Choice associations? Scotty refuses to take part in this charade. Oh, so maybe this was designed to play up Scotty’s loyalty and integrity? I sense the diabolical hand of Iovine in this! Ryan shoves Scotty over to Haley and James. The three of them are safe; it was a safety shove. Jacob comforts Lauren, who has been crying since, I think, the second part of the omelette video. We go to commercial to let things breathe and drag out a little.

Back from the break. The lights are dimmed. A group of girls yells, “We love you, Lauren!” Oh, groups of girls, what untold power their yells do yield! That extra love worked.

RESULTS: Jacob is going home. The judges give him a standing ovation while the rest of the idols comfort … Lauren, who is barely surviving and may have lost too many tears to still be alive. Can you become dehydrated from crying alone? I hope someone gives her a glass of saltwater. She looks devastated to still be in this competition and I am feeling sorry for this kid. This should be fun for her, right? Ryan asks Jacob what memory he will take away from this experience. Jacob replies that he “got to share with America and I think America fell in love with me.” And that’s when I notice Jacob’s eerie physical resemblance to Glenn Beck. It’s been there the whole time! I just needed to hear him say something extra-nuts to see it! All jokes aside for one sentence, Jacob takes it like a man and is very composed as it all winds down for him. Jacob takes us out with “A House Is Not a Home” and ends it with so much joyous gospel vocalizing they run out of show.

As I watched Jacob’s “In Memoriam” package, I realized I forgot all about the crazy energy Jacob used to display so regularly on the show in its early days. His enthusiasm must have dissipated so steadily that maybe Jacob himself wasn’t even aware that it was happening. I know how you feel, Jacob.

See you next week.

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