The super-politically correct — or at least super-coached — contestants on "American Idol" often say it's anyone's guess who's going home each week, but is that really the case?
Last week, for instance, Brandon Rogers said he "absolutely knew" he would be eliminated (see "Brandon Rogers On Being Voted Off 'Idol': 'I Knew What Was Coming' "), and others have echoed similar sentiments. While some singers believe eliminations are in fact impossible to predict ("They make it a point that nobody knows behind the scenes except for the top dog, so I don't think you can interpret anything," season-five finalist David Radford insisted), others have shared their strategies for beating Ryan Seacrest to the punch.
Here are the three most convincing clues:
"Nobody actually says anything about it, but when you're sitting up there, you're definitely wondering, 'Oh, who am I sitting next to?' " season-five finalist Lisa Tucker said of the results-show seating.
How Seacrest moves through the seats changes from week to week, so it's more about who you are sitting near than where your seat is (although middle seats tend to be safer). If you are placed next to a singer who had a horrible performance but is widely popular, there's a good chance (for dramatic effect, of course) that you're going to be sent on your way. This season, the spot next to Sanjaya Malakar has been that unlucky chair (see "Is Howard Stern Behind Sanjaya Malakar's Staying Power On 'Idol'?").
"When it was down to me and Sanjaya, I knew," Rogers said. "Despite how hard the judges had been on him, I just knew he was a really early favorite and had a huge fanbase that supported him."
Earlier this season, Nick Pedro suspected his departure when he was sitting in the same seat as the previous week's castoff. "I was even joking around with AJ [Tabaldo], who was next to me, and I said, 'Man, if they do that same trick where the whole top row is safe, I could be toast,' " Pedro said. "Come to find out, both of us went."
The fact is, at least a few of the producers know who is being eliminated before the show tapes, so if you happen to bump into one of them, better hope it's a normal conversation.
"They purposely stayed clear of me," season-five success story Chris Daughtry said of the execs on his elimination day. "I guess 'cause they didn't want to lead anybody on to what was going on, but in hindsight I realize why they were blowing me off that day."
Patrick Hall, who was eliminated in the semifinals a year ago, noticed a few "weird glances" on the day of his demise, but agreed it was about the "look-aways." "They gave me a little bit of an indication earlier on," he said.
Of course, those in the know choose their words wisely, but there are ways to figure out what's behind them.
"I wasn't really surprised to find out I was leaving," third-season finalist Jon Peter Lewis said. "John Stevens and I were standing in the bottom two, and Debbie, the stage manager, came up to us during the commercial break and was like, 'Whoever is going, go out and have a lot of fun.' But she said it like she meant something more. And I knew that John Stevens' song was slow, so that's pretty much the time I figured it out."