American Idol Recap: Good-bye, Stranger

American Idol
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All day, I’ve been thinking about this old Bloom County strip from the early ’80s. I felt a lot like Opus today. In my last couple of recaps, I’ve kind of turned ape on this show, and I started to think I might have been a little too harsh. And then I remembered that this week’s performance show included long shots of Dexter sleeping and CJ vacuuming, and I realized I haven’t been harsh enough. So I’m exactly like Opus in that Bloom County strip, just without the last panel.

I honestly don’t know what went wrong here. These kids definitely have talent, but they aren’t growing. I assume they have a desire to succeed, but they don’t seem to want to be here. They lack charisma, and nobody’s trying to coax it out of them. There was such promise a couple of months ago, and now … well, tonight’s show opens with a highlight package of last night’s performance show that includes all of the judges’, Demi Lovato’s, and Ryan’s shenanigans, but not any of the actual performances. That tells you everything you need to know.

Kevin Bacon Seacrests it up at the top of the show, stealing Ryan’s patented “This … is American Idol,” and then is never heard from again. Speaking of never being heard from again, where is Paula Hunt? The military lady with the wheelchair-bound mother and the gorgeous, aching voice? Did they just put her directly into the finals? Will we see her again in six weeks? Can you imagine six more weeks of this?

The judges all look good. Is there such a thing as a microdress? Probably, right? Jennifer Lopez is wearing a microdress. Harry Connick Jr. is slick in a black suit. The era of the graphic T-shirt will never be finished for Keith Urban.

Another week, another dinner in a silent, empty restaurant for the Idols. Over sliders, the gang discusses the unique thing Alex does with his leg when he performs, glossing over the fact that it is identical to the unique thing Phillip Phillips does with his leg when he performs, which is identical to the unique thing Dave Matthews does with his leg when he performs. Also, Jena actually says this, and appears to mean it: “I THOUGHT IT WAS REALLY COOL HOW WE GOT TO TWEET DURING COMMERCIAL BREAKS.” We now have confirmation that these kids would rather be doing anything else than performing on this show.

Hey, it’s the Ford Mustang’s 50th birthday! In yet another Ford Non-Music Video, the Idols are asked: “What would you do if you had a Mustang for a day?” Here’s a fun idea: When you have a bunch of kids who look like they’re being held hostage, maybe don’t ask them what they’d do if they had a getaway car.

And then it is time for the official Randy Review of Dexter, Alex, and Jena. Randy says the following: Dexter should take some chances, Alex knows how to do small things and make each song his own, and Jena is the one to beat. In each case, Randy simply repeats the spirit of what the last judge said. Jena is safe, Alex is safe, Dexter is in the bottom two. Zero emotion is shown.

Randy then Reviews CJ, Sam, Jessica, and Caleb: CJ needed to nail everyone with a coda. Jessica needed to go there, so it’ll be interesting to see how the votes go, Sam showed a connection to the song, and Caleb gets an 8 because suddenly we’re doing numbers. Caleb is safe, CJ is safe, Sam is safe, leaving Jessica to join Dexter in the bottom two! She looks none too pleased. If Jessica were ever to look any too pleased, I think we would all be startled to death.

Aaaaaand leaving us tonight is Dexter, who, of all the remaining contestants, probably has the brightest commercial prospects. Think about it: He is pure hillbilly, he has the chunky wholesomeness of a Riverdale High linebacker in an Archie comic, and country-music A&R people will give pretty much anyone a chance. I will remind you: Bucky Covington has had several hit singles.

Ryan asks him “Dexter, how many memories since we saw you at that audition,” which is a question I can’t begin to imagine how to answer. “Seventy-one, Ryan. Seventy-one memories.”

He goes to sing his farewell song, “Lucky Man,” misses his cue, and has to wait for a few long measures, and it’s deeply uncomfortable. But it’s something! It’s drama! Can you imagine saying good-bye to Dexter if this show had stopped trying to be cute, wasted less of our good will, given him some mentoring, and otherwise gotten out of his way so that we could actually care about Dexter?

Six more weeks until the final headshot is darkened. I just pulled out my own headshot and it’s actually getting dimmer.