Ah, group round. Even when it's pretty good, it's still kinda bad.

Ninety-six hearty souls prostrated themselves before Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi, Randy Jackson and the pleasantly prickly Ellen DeGeneres, who not only enjoys a good performance, but also likes amusing herself, Seacrest-style, by watching the contestants squirm.

From the debacle that was any performance involving Gwen Stefani's "Sweet Escape" to the more satisfactory treatments given to tunes like Ne-Yo's "Closer" and Alicia Keys' "No One," group day on American Idol was tough going for everyone involved.

No one—even the 71 hopefuls who made it out alive—was at his or her best, whether because they pulled an all-nighter, bickered to exhaustion or guided their wives through labor via video phone. (Congratulations, Michael Lynche!)

But amid the travesties, there were a few promises of great things to come...

"Straight Up" guy Andrew Garcia kept kickin', for one, as did Katie Stevens, Casey James, Mary Powers, Todrick Hall, Charity Vance, Ashley Rodriguez, Thaddeus Johnson, Tim Urban and Jermaine Purifoy.

Same with Jermaine Sellars, although he informed us after barely surviving, "I am not meant to be in no group," and 16-year-old Haeley Vaughn, even though she was in one of the four-person "Sweet Escape" pileups.

Next Tuesday, the remaining contestants will sing one more solo (in their own style, as the folks on SYTYCD would say) for a chance at making the top 24.

Ellen, start your engines.


Did you read about the other bit of good news Ellen got today?

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