Phil And Chris Exit In ‘Idol’ Elimination Two-Fer

Beatboxing Blake is the last man standing as powerhouse singers Melinda, LaKisha and Jordin stay safe.

One hundred and thirty-five million “American Idol” fans can’t be wrong, can they? Facing the show’s first double elimination for finalists, Blake Lewis emerged as the last man standing Wednesday night after his best “Idol” friend, Chris Richardson, and bottom-three veteran Phil Stacey were shown the door.

With no contestants eliminated last week due to the “Idol Gives Back” charity show (see ” ‘Idol’ Serves Up Charity-Night ‘Shocker’: Everyone Stays “ ), the doubled-up vote resulted in a final four that will pit beatboxing Lewis against a trio of powerhouse female singers: LaKisha Jones, Melinda Doolittle and Jordin Sparks.

(Watch “Idol” expert Jim Cantiello recap this week’s competition and elimination in 60 seconds flat.)

Though the results show was a typical padded-out hour-long affair — with the by-now familiar man on the street segment, a look back at the charity show, a performance from Robin Thicke, another by this week’s mentors, Bon Jovi, and some charity appeals from a trio of past “Idol” winners — this week’s show definitely moved along faster. In fact, “Idol” producers might consider expanding the top 12 and making every week a two-fer if it will make the usually interminable wait for the elimination this much more bearable.

The first 30 minutes flew by thanks to the half-time booting of Stacey, 29, the chrome-domed pseudo-country singer who stumbled early with judges, but whose countrified rendition of Bon Jovi’s “Blaze of Glory” was praised by Randy Jackson on Tuesday as his “best performance ever” (see ” ‘Idol’ Recap: Blake’s Brave Choice Is ‘Brilliant’; Jordin Is ‘Criminally Heinous’ “ ). That wasn’t enough, though, as Stacey stood center stage and watched as Jones and Doolittle were sent back to the couch and host Ryan Seacrest broke the bad news.

Stoic, and with his signature smile beaming, Stacey took the news well and misted up just a bit as he watched his clip sendoff. He exited like a pumped-up athlete, belting out “Glory” and slapping high-fives with the crowd, giving judge Simon Cowell a soul hug and joining arms with some of his Navy buddies as he ended his run with a group hug center stage.

After another 27 minutes, Timberlake-alike Richardson, 22, also smiled as he got the news, hugging it out with the man he called his best friend on the show, Lewis. “Thank you to everybody for keeping me in this long,” Richardson said with a shy smile.

And given how many past top 10 “Idol” finishers have become, if not stars, then at least blips on the media radar thanks to their runs on the show, it wasn’t surprising that Richardson’s walk-off performance of the Bon Jovi hit “Wanted Dead or Alive” had a certain swagger to it that suggested we haven’t seen the last of him yet.

The “Idol” finale airs live May 23.

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