If the American Idol top 10 starts performing and Nicki Minaj isn't there to hear it, did those performances really happen?
Well, yes, only with less talk of obsession and faux British accents.
"Which one of you judges gave Nicki the wrong directions to the studio today? Who drained the fuel from her car?" Ryan Seacrest comically quizzed Keith Urban, Mariah Carey and Randy Jackson after explaining that there was some "congestion" on L.A.'s notoriously packed 405 Freeway.
"I thought it was the 101!" argued Randy.
The mock-confusion may have something to do with what E! News overheard Ryan saying backstage, that he would "have to make something up" when it came to Nicki's tardiness. But Nicki herself tweeted, "Stuck in traffic *sighs*," and then, "F--k u Malibu!!!!!!!!!!!! *moves to Beverly Hills*."
OK, on with the show, which featured the top 10 singing songs covered (or originated) by previous Idol winners either on the show or in their post-Idol careers.
"Excellent!" Keith started off on a high note in response to Curtis Finch Jr.'s take on Fantasia's "Believe," but Randy recommended that the big-voiced balladeer try something new outside of the inspiration/devotional genre.
Nicki, sporting sunglasses and a black hoodie with the hood pulled over her head, was back in time (sans explanation) to be underwhelmed by Janelle Arthur doing Montgomery Gentry's "Gone," which Scotty McCreery covered in season 10.
Keith liked her "Lee Ann Womacky runs," but Randy didn't think the song went anywhere.
Next up, Nicki disagreed with "every single thing" Keith said and thought the "complete opposite"—meaning, she adored Devin Velez's take on Carrie Underwood's "Temporary Home," while Keith thought it was the wrong song choice and not one of his better performances.
"Interesting judging today with you," Randy said to his colleagues before agreeing with Keith.
Angie Miller once again brought everyone together, however, with her stellar pipes.
Michael Becker / FOX
"You look like a billion dollars today. I am obsessed with that dress...Your legs are giving me everything I needed in life today...I love the way you walk in heels...You're just to me perfection, on any level," raved Nicki.
Oh, and Nicki thought Angie's voice was "flawless," too, on Céline Dion's "I Surrender," covered by inaugural Idol winner Kelly Clarkson during season one. "Stellar," was all Mariah had to offer in a rare one-word review.
Paul Jolley then had one of his best showings to date covering Scotty covering Lonestar's "Amazed"—and not just because Nicki said he "stimulated [her] sexual appetite" for the first time. "I"m not going to talk about the sexuality," laughed Randy, who loved the song choice.
Candice Glover absolutely killed "I (Who Have Nothing)," first sung by Ben E. King back in 1963 and then covered relentlessly, not least of which by Jordin Sparks on the Idol stage.
"You really worked that song out," Randy said, calling it one of the greatest performances of the season. "That song had everything and it was perfect."
The judges were once again unanimous in thinking that Lazaro Arbos, unfortunately, had chosen a song that was way too big for him in Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway." But Mariah was on the money when she said that people were also falling in love with Lazaro's courage, the 23-year-old's stutter having been very audible when Keith asked him to explain his song choice.
Inspiration was once again culled from Carrie Underwood when Kree Harrison covered Roy Orbison's "Crying" (What, no one wanted to follow in Taylor Hicks' footsteps tonight?) and we loved her version.
Inspiration was then culled from Randy when Keith informed Kree that she could "sing the phone book."
The judges were similarly in love with Burnell Taylor's take on Ruben Studdard's cover of Westlife's "Flying Without Wings," with Nicki appreciating the unique twist his voice gives to every song and Randy noting that Burnell was "trying to raise it up for the dudes!"
"Apparently the smoke has traveled from Vatican City quickly today," added Ryan.
Amber Holcomb closed the show by stepping into some extra-large shoes, those occupied by Kelly Clarkson's winner's single, "A Moment Like This." And, guess what?
Kelly's still the queen of that song, but Amber held her own.
"That last note was giving me Whitney, baby," praised Nicki. "You blew it out of the box tonight," added Randy. "Guys, the girls are killin' you all tonight!"
Alas, someone will be going home on Thursday's results show.
Who do you think is in danger of going home? And whose performance did you just love tonight? Sound off in the comments!