Once again, America voted ... and decided they weren't quite ready for a rocker to win "American Idol." During an oldies week when she should have struggled a bit, Gina Glocksen turned in a solid performance of the standard "Smile" on Tuesday, but it wasn't good enough to keep her from joining the likes of Bo Bice and Chris Daughtry on the list of rock-leaning singers who failed to take the top prize.
And, once again, despite a showy, mostly off-key performance that was more notable for a cheek-to-cheek dance with judge Paula Abdul than for any musical merit (see " 'Idol' Recap: LaKisha Crosses Tony Bennett; Gina's Headed Back To The Mall"), the seemingly unstoppable Sanjaya Malakar managed to avoid the bottom three.
Glocksen, 22, whose infectious smile, tongue ring and flaming-red-striped hair made her one of the this season's most interesting contestants to watch, was joined in the bottom three by repeat offenders Haley Scarnato and Phil Stacey.
Host Ryan Seacrest found yet another way to make the nine contestants sweat it out first, though. Dividing them into three groups of three at the beginning of the show, Seacrest at first made it seem as if one from each group might be pulled out to take the long walk to center stage. But after sending two full groups off, Glocksen, Scarnato and Stacey were left standing.
As they awaited their fate, instead of a song from this week's mentor, singing legend Tony Bennett — who was a no-show because of a reported bout of the flu — the audience was treated to an affected performance of "Call Me Irresponsible" by Sinatra-esque Canadian singer Michael Bublé.
When Seacrest returned and asked the judges if they were surprised by the bottom three, Randy Jackson at first said he was ... and wasn't, Paula Abdul said the bottom three should be proud of themselves and Simon Cowell was his usual brutal self and declared that he was not at all surprised.
And though Cowell called Stacey's take on "Night and Day" dark and dreary and could only summon a compliment for Scarnato's "nice legs" after her somewhat manic take on "Ain't Misbehavin'," it was Glocksen who faced the ax. Even though Jackson praised her take on the ballad "Smile" as "nice" and "controlled," in what Seacrest called a record tally of 33 million votes cast, it was her time to go.
Glocksen broke down in tears at the announcement and left the show in one of the most poignant moments so far this season. After a clip montage in that ended with her saying, "I'm so comfortable on that stage ... I don't want to go home," Glocksen pulled it together enough to sing "Smile" one more time.
In a moment producers couldn't have scripted better, Glocksen smiled through tears as she sang the lines, "Smile though your heart is aching/ Smile even though it's breaking ... Although a tear may be ever so near/ That's the time you must keep on trying."
As the camera cut to shots of her family and fellow contestants shedding tears, Glocksen ended her run with a big group hug at center stage.