Kellie Pickler Canned From 'American Idol' Competition

Paris Bennett escapes elimination; five contestants remain.

There are no hard and fast rules to "American Idol." One week, you could be sitting comfortably on that infamous couch of security — off to the right of the "Idol" stage, with the rest of the show's survivors — and the next, you could be wondering what went wrong as host Ryan Seacrest informs you that your proverbial goose has been cooked.

Just ask Kellie Pickler, the naive 19-year-old who'd never been on an airplane before getting that golden ticket to Hollywood, the blond Southern belle who had never noshed on scrumptious calamari, and was, in a way, the show's answer to Jessica Simpson. She knows all too well that nothing's certain when it comes to "American Idol."

Before Wednesday night's elimination episode, the Albemarle, North Carolina, denizen had never known the threat of "Idol" obliteration, having eluded the perilous bottom-three throughout this season's competition. And while it's true that relegation to the bottom-three is typically a sure sign that you're days are numbered, that wasn't true Wednesday night.

Pickler's first brush with rejection wound up being her last, as the more than 47.5 million viewers who'd voted following Tuesday night's performance program — the highest non-finale vote total cast since "American Idol" began — sent the prior fan favorite packing, leaving but five singers in the running for the show's enviable crown. The winner's name will be called during the May 25 finale.

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The star-struck girl who judge Simon Cowell once tagged a "naughty little minx" received the fewest number of votes after delivering a performance of "Unchained Melody" that he'd characterized the night before as "bland" and robotic (see " 'American Idol' Recap: Chris Takes Taylor's Place, Paris Faces An Early Exit"). Cowell recently predicted Pickler would be among the contest's final three, but America apparently disagreed.

While most contestants sing one last time before the credits roll, Pickler rattled on with her thank-yous to the show's final second. She also commented that "after seeing my performance last night, I feel like I deserve to be here." Spared for yet another week was Paris Bennett, 17, of Fayetteville, Georgia, who escaped elimination to compete next week against Taylor Hicks, Elliott Yamin, Katharine McPhee and Chris Daughtry.

Wednesday's elimination episode featured a performance from the week's guest coach Andrea Bocelli, who belted out "Because We Believe" from his 2006 LP Amore.

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