American Idol: Brooke White

FOX

American Idol just got a little less sweet 'n' simple.

After a miss and a hit on Neil Diamond night, Brooke White was eliminated from the competition Wednesday, leaving David Archuleta, Jason Castro, David Cook and bottom-two battler Syesha Mercado to keep on fighting for that chance at Idol glory.

"I just want to say thank you. It's going to be terrible for me, I know," the often prematurely apologetic White said, referring to the encore she knew she would be called upon to perform. As if she knew what was coming, she choked up as Ryan Seacrest went through the goodbye motions and then sobbed on Mercado's shoulder after hearing that the majority of 45 million-plus people had cast their votes elsewhere.

Despite the tears, the 24-year-old nanny from Arizona knew enough not to start and stop while taking on Diamond's "I Am...I Said" one last time.

Although it was arguably White's time to go, it meant Castro got to stay, even though he hasn't been that great since he took us "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"…where he apparently peaked.

But so went the dreads-sporting pretty boy—with the sweet-yet-unversatile voice—into week nine.

Well, at least the fall of White meant the rise of Mercado—all the way to the final four after seemingly being earmarked for elimination weeks ago. To her credit, the theatrical songstress never gave up and even upped her game over the past few shows, perhaps taking advantage of her long-shot status to finally unleash her fetching personality.

And then there's Archuleta and Cook, neither of whom has ever faced the bottom rungs. Both were ushered to safety tonight, despite the great sea that separated their performances.

Cook continued to proficiently do the rocker thing on the Diamond tunes "I'm Alive" and "All I Really Need Is You," the latter of which was particularly good, but Archuleta went with the sing-along standards "Sweet Caroline" and "America" and ended up diving off the karaoke deep end.

"Amateurish," Simon Cowell deemed "Sweet Caroline" afterward.

But the ladies (and girls who can't feasibly be called ladies yet) just love the 17-year-old stud, so on he goes, without even an inkling of what being in the bottom two (or three, or seven, or nine) feels like.

Before any of the dramatics got underway, however, Seacrest took an opportunity to address Abdul's judging gaffe last night—largely just to refute the more vicious gossip out there, including speculation that the singer was less than "Straight Up" when she started to comment on Castro's second song before he'd sung it. (An interview with Abdul earlier in the day revealed the slipup was one of those rehearsal-versus-live-show confusions.)

With that cleared up, it was on with the show, which included performances by Diamond and British popster Natasha Bedingfield.

And we knew, if we waited long enough, that those viewer-submitted questions would finally unearth something interesting. (That's a lie—admittedly, we never thought they'd get interesting.)

Tonight, a pleasant-sounding woman with a British accent phoned in to ask Cowell whether he most fondly remembered a kiss he shared with Paula on camera or the one he had with her "at the bottom of your garden when you were 9 years old."

A stunned Cowell asked, "Is this Tara Miller?"

And it was! Miller, being both Cowell's first crush and first kiss, really had called in to say hullo.

"I've had a lot of therapy, so I'm doing very well," she said when Paula asked whether she'd kicked the rabies yet.

Anyway, it was a very sweet, fun moment, capped off with Ryan's reminder to all the kids watching at home: "Nine years old is too young to kiss." (Note: He didn't say 9 is too young to vote.)

Next week, the final four will once again sing two songs apiece, tunes that helped shape or otherwise inspire rock 'n' roll as we know it today. Maroon 5 and Bo Bice will perform Wednesday.

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