To say that the "American Idol" studio audience was shocked by the news of Wednesday night's elimination is a dramatic understatement.
But no one was more stunned, perhaps, than "Idol" finalist Chris Daughtry, the big-voiced, follicly-challenged 26-year-old from McLeansville, North Carolina.
"Uh, I'm a little bit in shock," Daughtry, this fifth season's sole rocker, said upon learning he'd been given the old heave-ho by the show's voters. Daughtry, the supposed sure thing whom many — including judge Paula Abdul — had predicted would be the last singer standing at the conclusion of the show's May 24 finale, was visibly aghast.
Just minutes before host Ryan Seacrest delivered the grim news, judge Simon Cowell forecasted Katharine McPhee's demise, after he'd knocked her renditions of Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog" (mashed with "All Shook Up") and "Can't Help Falling in Love" as "shrieky," comparing her performances to a "desperate, manic audition" (see " 'American Idol' Recap: Elliott Comes Out Swinging, Katharine Fails To Connect").
But McPhee, who had the next-lowest vote total, was pardoned. She'll continue on to face off against Taylor Hicks and Elliott Yamin for the "Idol" title.
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The show's remaining contestants seemed dazed by the news — as did the judges: Cowell's mouth fell open, and Abdul's eyes welled with tears.
During Tuesday night's program, when the "Idol" hopefuls tackled selections from Elvis Presley's catalog, Daughtry's take on "Suspicious Minds" was soundly praised by the judges; Abdul even told him she'd see him in the finals. Cowell criticized the rocker's subsequent interpretation of "A Little Less Conversation" as "flat" and "not as good as the first."