Anthony Fedorov stumbled through the beginning of his final "American Idol" performance, singing the Gamble & Huff-penned soul classic "If You Don't Know Me By Now." His voice quivering as he got to the song's refrain, Fedorov was visibly crushed by the rejection delivered just moments before from the mouth of host Ryan Seacrest.
"Idol" sweetheart Carrie Underwood sobbed for her ousted competitor and pointed to him while mouthing the words, "I love you." But for others, Fedorov's Wednesday night elimination was a long time coming.
The youngest finalist still in the running, Fedorov had become judge Simon Cowell's preferred target in recent weeks. Though Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson praised Fedorov's take on his exit song when he performed it the night before, Cowell characterized the rendition as short on soul, even comparing the 20-year-old Ukraine-born college student to "Woody Allen trying to play the lead in 'Shaft' " (see " 'American Idol' Recap: Bo Knows Rock — And Country And Funk").
While "Idol" addicts divested themselves of seemingly more arresting and arguably more skilled songsters like Constantine Maroulis, Nadia Turner and Anwar Robinson, Fedorov managed to work his way into their hearts, netting enough votes each week to stay in the running. But with the contest winding down to its long-awaited finale (scheduled for May 24 and 25), there apparently was just no more room for the singer. Even if he'd survived Tuesday night's vote, it was tough to imagine Fedorov could pull off a win stacked against final-three contenders Bo Bice, Carrie Underwood or Vonzell Solomon.
It's doubtful that the show's latest voting snafu — the second for the series this season — had much to do with this week's results (see " 'American Idol' Gives Wrong Numbers, Calls For Revote"). During Tuesday night's episode, the same phone number — which viewers would use to cast a vote for Underwood — was displayed on the closed-captioning for all of the contestants. The correct numbers were displayed graphically, and Seacrest read the right numbers aloud during the show.
FOX issued a statement on Wednesday, saying, "The producers and network apologize to our hearing-impaired viewers for any confusion, and the situation was immediately corrected for our tape-delayed West Coast broadcast."