Tonight’s intro package tells us: “LAST WEEK, THEY WERE ON TOP OF THE WORLD. TONIGHT, ONE OF THEM WILL GO HOME.” We all knew how this worked, right? We’re eleven seasons in. Don’t get me wrong; I love the pointless ominousness. Also, I sort of wish the top thirteen were unfamiliar with the show and all assumed they’d be singing and doing Ford commercials together forever.
But their innocence must end tonight, and that process must begin with a group number, which tonight is Stevie Wonder’s “As.” I’m happy to report they sing it live, though it shows off all their flaws: Jeremy is sharp, Heejun is flat, Joshua is too shouty, Deandre is too high, Jermaine is too low and also has a mouthful of bread. The girls are pretty much all right on point, which is why it’s going to be bittersweet to watch Phillip win this thing. He and Colton close the song out, and the girls go batshit for them both. Phillip seems to have a bottomless drawer of pea-soup-colored T-shirts and not much else; he is in fact dressed exactly like Shaggy from “Scooby Doo,” my most hated figure in American history. And I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work.
On to the Ford music video! In which the kids cover Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time,” and lumber through Los Angeles like giants! Do you get it? I’ll explain: the song has the word “big” in the title, and giants are big people, so the joke was just too rich to pass up. And what do giants do when they come to the big city? Oh, they pretty much just look around at the buildings and do a lot of smiling and then line up by some cars. Pretty much what regular-sized people do. So basically the Ford music video is a success on every level. Good to have you back, Ford.
Now let’s spend an hour finding out which child we’re going to humiliate.
Before the bottom six get revealed, Jimmy Iovine pops up from his Idol bunker with a very special message of despair: “God mass-produces people. Too many, I think! But with Whitney Houston, he stopped and made one by hand.” That’s really his whole message! So remember, everyone who isn’t Whitney Houston: There are thousands of versions of you throughout the world, and there’s a decent chance you aren’t even one of the better ones. Thanks for stopping by, Jimmy. Next week’s mentors: Doug Stanhope and the lady who yells at you to sign the animal rights petition on Sixth Avenue.
First up for evaluation: Jessica, Hollie and Elise. We all know where this is going, but that’s no reason we shouldn’t take forever getting there. Indeed, it is Elise who is sent to the bottom three girls, and she goes there in a hat that is very Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles. Please believe me: if Phillip puts on the Jake Ryan party outfit, there will be an incident.
Heejun, Colton and Jermaine are up next. The highlight package shows a moment I missed from last night, in which Randy tells Colton that he’s spot-on “when he hits his power point.” There should be a theme week when the kids have to do a Powerpoint presentation, right? Let’s give these kids some applicable skills. Anyway, Heejun is safe, and Ryan says this to Colton: “America didn’t like what they saw from you last night.” Pause for effect. “They loved it.” Ryan is an ineffective punk’r, and Jermaine is in the bottom three boys.
And then Lauren Alaina does a contractual-obligation drop-in with her new single “Georgia Peaches.” As in: Girls are peaches and boys love to pick them. Oh, Lordy. It’s a list of southern-women cliches so hackneyed and obvious, ABC just optioned the television rights to it.
Erika, Shannon and Skylar are up for the last two spots in the girls’ bottom three. Jimmy says Shannon has potential but needs experience, which she underlines by claiming she just missed one note last night. Oh, Shannon. But Erika is the first of this group sent to the bottom three, which is some bullshit, and either she or Elise is caught on a hot mic saying “It’s just the old ladies.” (Erika and Elise are 26 and 28.) Shannon is sent down as well, as we knew she would be.
Phillip, Joshua, Deandre and Jeremy are the last of the boys, and there are still two spots on the Stools of Rejection. Jimmy comes up with some solid critiques of these four, including the unpopular but correct opinion that you can get tired of Joshua’s voice pretty quickly. Back in the studio there is some mild commotion over it, and Randy says: “We don’t always agree with Jimmy, you know. We have that thing.” Randy, may we see that thing? Can we incorporate that thing into the show somehow, so that your part of the show has a thing? Because the judges’ table parts of the show are pretty devoid of things, overall.
ANYWAY. Phillip is safe, Jeremy is not, Prankmaster General Seacrest tells Deandre “I’m sorry to say ... ” and then there’s a pause which every single viewer fills with “you are SAFE,” and then Ryan says “you are SAFE.” So Joshua is in the bottom six! Ryan then immediately says, “After the break, we’ll find out which of these six is safe, like Joshua and Erika!” It takes them a moment to understand what he’s saying, because it is truly clunky. But he’s delighted with himself about it. “On this show, anything can happen!” Really, anything? Even not eliminating the people who didn’t get the lowest number of votes?
Mary J. Blige serves up some serious Diahann-Carroll-on-Dynasty hair in her performance of her new single “Why.” It’s nice and all, but Mary needs another “Family Affair.” Let’s get on that.
So the bottom four are Jeremy, Jermaine, Elise and Shannon. Ryan asks Steven if any of those four deserve to go home. You know how the judges usually hem and haw and deflect this question? Steven has done too many drugs for that. “It’s Jeremy,” he says definitively. It’s a little harsh, and boy does this season need harsh. Ryan sidles up very close to Jermaine, because this show cannot get over the hilarity of discrepant human height, and tells him he’s safe. Shannon is too, which makes our bottom two Elise and Jeremy. And indeed poor Jennifer, who threw Jeremy a lifeline last week — when we were all on top of the world! — has to send him home. It was the right choice, but let’s not think too hard about the fact that we’ve sent a 19-year-old back to a job at an infectious disease clinic.