He made the most of his second chance, but Matt Giraud wasn't destined for the finish line.
The 23-year-old piano player from Kalamazoo, Mich., whom the judges saved from voter indifference two weeks ago, was eliminated from the competition Wednesday after a split-decision performance on Rat Pack night.
"I'll definitely remember being the cat with nine lives up there," Giraud, fedora-topped as always, said before launching into "My Funny Valentine" one more time. "It's definitely not the last time you'll see me. I want to thank Kalamazoo and Michigan for supporting me, and the judges for seeing something in me. I love you all, so I can't wait."
But this is where it gets interesting.
Before revealing anything whatsoever, Ryan Seacrest took on all five contestants at once, going through last night's critiques and making them stand stage right or left, prison-guard-style, before making the pitchtastic Adam Lambert choose which side he thought was safe.
He picked Allison Iraheta and Danny Gokey—who, in fact, were safe.
But Adam wasn't. So he had to stand with Matt and Kris Allen instead.
Considering the bottom three constituted the majority of the remaining contestants, it wasn't the most horrible place in the world for the arena (or Broadway)-ready rocker to be—but, as Natalie Cole sang before the big reveal, "Something's Gotta Give."
"This is crazy!" Paula exclaimed. "There are five bright, shining stars!" Etc., etc. "But someone's gotta go!"
Kris got to join Allison and Danny after a performance by Taylor Hicks but before Jamie Foxx's appearance, meaning Adam and Matt were stuck standing there—for utmost dramatic effect, of course— like a couple of guys feigning smiles while waiting for the bus to death row.
Then, Ryan had to tease Simon about being off his game last night (he called Matt's performance "brilliant" and thought Adam a cut above, as always).
Simon's allowed a blip or two, though. America, on the other hand... More than 47 million votes were cast and not enough were in Adam's favor to put him in the top three. Does that mean the genre-bending singer has to worry about not making the finale?
It's madness, we tell you! But at least it's the kind that makes things a little more interesting.
So, American Idol is down to its final four contestants after Seacrest presided over maybe the most heartstring-tugging elimination yet. Not because of tears shed, necessarily, but because these guys 'n' gal have come so darn far! And smashed cake all over one another!
The refreshingly talented remaining few will perform rock 'n' roll songs under the tutelage of mentor Slash next week, heightening their chances for a blistering Cowell critique—but also upping their chances of having their outfit complimented by Paula.
Daughtry and No Doubt perform on next Wednesday's results show.
(Originally published April 29, 2009, at 7:05 p.m. PT)