Rock and Roll Hall of Fame night brought out the best in almost every contestant on American Idol.
And the fact that there was no obvious swan song on Wednesday's performance show made Thursday's elimination all the more...well, interesting! (Or was that due to the crack recommended by guest charisma coach Russell Brand?)
Did the voters close their eyes on Stefano Langone? Was Paul McDonald's slide into the bottom three the start of a downward trend? Is Pia Toscano really not perky enough to win it all?
After all, it only takes one wrong move—or one less vote, for that matter—to separate a contestant from the rest of the pack for good...
Wait, we were just kidding about Pia!
The stunning 22-year-old was inexplicably eliminated from the competition tonight, apparently after failing to connect with the voters with "River Deep, Mountain High." OK, maybe she shouldn't have gone up-tempo...
"No, no, no!" you could see Randy Jackson saying from the judges' table. (The camera panned away before he dropped an F-bomb.) Poor Stefano had to go back to the couch amid a chorus of boos, though he can be assured that they weren't for him, but for Pia's surprise ouster.
"I'm good," she said calmly when Ryan Seacrest asked how she was feeling.
When asked what she thought "was happening here," Jennifer Lopez tearfully replied, "I have no idea...I'm shocked, I'm angry, I don't even know what to say."
"I'm with Jennifer," Randy added. "You're one of the best singers in this."
Well, one of the best singers who was in this.
Maybe Pia was a little lacking in the showmanship department, but her voice was as clear as a bell and she was definitely more than a pretty face. Cruel beans, America!
Before the elimination reverberated through the theater, Ryan did Jacob Lusk a pretty rotten turn, telling him, "You will be leaving us...for the couch." The judges would've been shocked if he had been sent home, too, but we think most people would have been a tad more forgiving of that senario.
Paul more than rebounded performance-wise, but obviously you never really know what the voters are going to do. Proving that America hadn't gone totally mental, Paul was safe after his killer rockabilly rendition of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues."
Meanwhile, the resurgent Casey Abrams—"a gorgeous hairball of wonder," Russell Brand called him—has yet another chance to prove the judges right next week, as does comeback kid Haley Reinhart. Also safe without ever having had the pressure of sitting on one of those three sad stools off to the side were Lauren Alaina, James Durbin and Scotty McCreery.
The competition is down to eight—and not the eight that most people envisioned.
(Originally published April 7, 2011, at 6:05 p.m. PT)