‘American Idol’ Recap: David Hernandez Sent Packing, Perhaps Due To Strip-Club Scandal

Was it news of his exotic dancing past or a weak Beatles performance that caused the early frontrunner to lose support?

And then there were 11.

At the conclusion of Wednesday evening’s “American Idol” results show, 24-year-old contender David Hernandez — who’d been one of the competition’s earliest frontrunners, along with adorable 17-year-old David Archuleta — was banished to the annals of “Idol” lore, in what was one of this season’s first real shockers.

Hernandez, who hails from Glendale, Arizona, became this year’s token sex scandal last week, when it was revealed he used to work at a male strip club . Reports claimed that Hernandez, in addition to dancing at the club, also provided lap dances to its customers.

“Honestly, things happen for a reason,” Hernandez said after host Ryan Seacrest revealed the results of the 29 million votes. Hernandez himself was visibly surprised, even mouthing the word “wow” as he hugged Kristy Lee Cook, who’d just avoided elimination. “I think we all have a plan. This isn’t it for me.”

On Tuesday’s performance show , when contestants were permitted to tackle Beatles tunes for the first time in “Idol” history, Hernandez performed “I Saw Her Standing There,” which the judges characterized as “not strong enough.” Of course, we may never know whether it was Hernandez’s performance or the scandal that ultimately ended his “Idol” run.

As with previous contestants, who’ve seen aspects of their past come back to haunt them (see Frenchie Davis , Antonella Barba ), Hernandez didn’t survive the bad press beyond a second week, after being spared during last week’s ouster.

The show’s usual parting montage, chronicling Hernandez’s “American Idol” ride, was capped with an image of Hernandez staring into the camera, saying, “That’s a wrap.”

Wednesday night’s elimination episode featured surprise appearances by season-six finalist Sanjaya Malakar (four words describe what’s he been up to lately: Long Island bat mitzvah!) and actor Jim Carrey (on hand to promote his “Horton Hears a Who” flick) and a performance by Katharine McPhee and musician David Foster. It was the first episode during which Seacrest, the judges and the contestants fielded live questions from viewers who called into the show — an experiment that almost worked, but felt more like unnecessary filler.

Joining Hernandez in the bottom three were Kristy Lee Cook, a 24-year-old from Selma, Oregon, and Syesha Mercado, a 21-year-old from Sarasota, Florida. When asked if the viewers got it right, judge Simon Cowell said he believed “America got this absolutely spot on.” When Seacrest told Mercado she’d escaped elimination, she expressed genuine shock.

This week’s best performances were turned in by Carly Smithson (who sang “Come Together”), Brooke White (“Let It Be”), David Cook (“Eleanor Rigby”) and Chikezie (“She’s a Woman”). Favorite Archuleta — whose cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine” drew unadulterated praise two weeks ago — avoided being relegated to the bottom three, despite forgetting the lyrics to “We Can Work It Out” at least three times during the song.

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