Kristy Lee Cook, American Idol Season 7


It was Kristy Lee Cook who got Carey-ed away this week.

While the 24-year-old horse trainer from Selma, Ore., hung in there far longer than originally expected thanks to her sweet nature and savvy song choices, her American Idol journey came to an end Wednesday after a night devoted to Mariah Carey tunes separated the best from the rest. 

"Thank you America for voting for me, this is a huge dream come true, and I couldn't have done it without you," Cook said before belting out her countrified version of "Forever." 

"Can I go ride my horse now?" she added, referring to the prize pony she had to sell in order to afford travel fare to her Idol audition in Philadelphia. 

Not "Vanishing" yet, meanwhile, was Syesha Mercado, who found herself in the bottom three again alongside Brooke White, whose acoustic performance of "Hero" Simon Cowell compared to ordering a hamburger and getting a bun with no meat inside. 

But although Wednesday's dismissal was about as unshocking as last week's was relatively mind-blowing, it was not without the usual Ryan Seacrest-supplied drama.  

Less than a week after catching hell for needlessly upping the stress factor for Aussie heartthrob Michael Johns, Seacrest was back in good form, separating six of the remaining finalists into two groups of three and then asking wee David Archuleta to join which trio he thought was on the safe side. 

The disconcertingly ingenuous teen—who had already sailed on through to safety on the power of "When You Believe," a feel-good ballad that was in no way a stretch for the 17-year-old wunderkind—promptly plopped down on the floor and refused to budge. 

He finally started to move after Seacrest nudged him in the Carly Smithson-David Cook-Jason Castro direction. 

Smithson, for one, may have been lucky to steer clear of danger this week after a powerful yet uneven rendition of Carey's smash-hit single "Without You." 

Randy Jackson, who has always been quick to remind contestants who take on Carey songs of his past collaborations with the pop star, appreciated that Smithson had challenged herself, but Simon still accused her of "overthinking everything," with the overall message being, once again, loosen up. 

Castro, who blew 'em away last week with his ukulele-infused "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," had an easier time of it, even though Jackson likened Tuesday's performance of "I Don't Wanna Cry" to the music you hear coming from somewhere in the distance at a "weird beach luau." 

Both Simon and Paula Abdul said they would have been happy to hula with Castro, however. 

But ultimately it was David Cook who turned "karaoke hell into a breath of fresh air," according to Simon. 

For all the talk of authenticity and definitiveness (thanks, Paula) this season, it was Cook's original arrangement of the 1996 Carey hit "Always Be My Baby" that may go down as one of the most successfully creative performances in Idol history. 

The 25-year-old rocker, whose brother Adam is battling brain cancer and was in the audience for the first time this season, had tears in his eyes as the emotion of the evening kicked in. 

Performances by Carey and season-five finalist Elliott Yamin rounded out Wednesday's elimination show, which heralded the end of the Cook-Cook conundrum. 

Next week, the remaining six contestants will meet with prolific Broadway composer Andrew Lloyd Webber on the set of Phantom—The Las Vegas Spectacular, and Leona Lewis will perform her single "Bleeding Love."

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