‘American Idol’ Recap: David Archuleta Bounces Back, Michael Johns Brings The Sexy On Dolly Parton Night

David Cook soars on his own; Jason Castro identifies with she-males (sort of).

On Tuesday night “American Idol” squeezed into a corset and pretended not to be 90 years old in honor of this week’s guest mentor, Dolly Parton.

Now don’t confuse my snark for haterade because I’m actually quite fond of the music legend. I literally jumped for joy when Seacrest announced that the top 9 would be singing songs from Dolly’s illustrious career, as opposed to just country music in general. (I was in no mood to hear Kristy Lee Cook sing a Toby Keith song.)

Before I get verklempt again about Mama Yamin’s passing, let’s talk about the performances.

Brooke White
Song: “Jolene”
Verdict: White stripped

Brooke White’s first impression of Dolly Parton (“She’s a tiny gal, but she’s huge!”) left me wondering whether the nanny was referring to the legend’s lady lumps or career. Either way, Dolly was all “golly!” after hearing Brooke rehearse. Miss White stole “Jolene” from David Cook (you just know he was bound to get praised for his completely original White Stripes cover of the song), but when it came time to sing it live, the rhythm escaped her as she rushed the tempo with haphazard guitar-playing. Performance-wise, Brooke attempted her best Tyra “fierce” eyes to accompany the desperation needed for the brilliant song, but instead came off looking like she had a stomachache. (Obviously, she needs to take Desperate 101 from Carly Smithson.) Brooke’s segment wasn’t all for nothing, however. It prompted Paula Abdul to deliver a critique crazy enough for a Bellevue patient. “You. Are. Brooke. White.” Hey, Paula, Vanna White’s in the audience. Maybe you can buy a vowel. Or, better yet, a clue.

David Cook
Song: “Little Sparrow”
Verdict: Still soaring

In the night’s first fake “real” moment, Ryan and David Cook “chatted” about where the rocker finds all his arrangements, thus quieting all the hullabaloo surrounding the contestant and effectively shutting up Doxology’s four fans. (I guess this means Blake Lewis now has more time to badmouth Sanjaya.) As an added bonus, David Cook said he’d be rocking his own arrangement of “Little Sparrow,” although I’m fairly certain that Mr. Mister rocked out to this song on their ’88 Kyrie Forever! Tour. (Joking, but now that I mention it …) When all was sung and done, I wasn’t sure which surprise left me happier: David’s new haircut, or the debut of his gorgeous falsetto. (Cook was reportedly rushed to the hospital after the show, but is now “doing fine,” according to reports.)

Ramiele Malubay
Song: “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind”
Verdict: Small blunder

Dolly drank the “Ramiele Is Short” Kool-Aid the judges have been sipping and spent the entirety of their rehearsal talking about how tiny she is. I guess there isn’t much else you can do when it comes to Ramiele, whose performances leave me less inspired than a “Police Academy” marathon. Sorry, Malubay fans (who have taken to leaving copious comments on my recaps), I’ve given the girl a chance (or seven), but she has yet to blow me away. And since her die-hard support group manages to keep her out of the bottom three, why should she try harder? In fact, her underachieving became especially evident when Randy rated her performance a 6.5 out of 10, and she responded, “No, that’s good!” Actually, Rami, a 65 is an F, the first letter of a word I often scream on Wednesdays when you somehow evade elimination.

Jason Castro
Song: “Travelin’ Thru” (a.k.a. the theme from that movie in which Felicity Huffman pretends to be a tranny)
Verdict: High times

Dolly proved herself to be a quick-witted wordsmith when she told Jason Castro, “I would dread to have to do those locks!” Ha! But I imagine she’ll be putting her (stiletto-heeled) foot in her (collagen-enhanced) mouth after the transgender community gets a load of what she said when she found out that Jason picked the song from “Transamerica”: “He’s kinda funky looking … so I thought it was a natural, perfect little piece for him.” I guess Amanda Lepore isn’t heading to Dollywood anytime soon.

The song did actually end up being a “perfect little piece” for him. After getting knocked by Simon last week for not trying very hard, the lazy (and cough cough hazy) singer stepped up his game and responded with a strong performance that found him cooing, “I’m out here on my journey, trying to make the most of it. I’m a puzzle, I must figure out where all my pieces fit.” Somehow Jason was able to take lyrics about extraneous man parts and apply them to his “Idol” narrative. Kudos!

Carly Smithson
Song: “Here You Come Again”
Verdict: Watch your back, Celine

Carly had the nerve to pick a song that Dolly didn’t write. (Are you really going to tell me that out of the 3,000 songs available, you chose door number 3,001?) But she qualified it by saying, “It was a song that [Dolly] had picked to further her career.” We get it, Carly. This is your last chance at stardom. Now can you please put the kneepads away?

The good news is that Carly blew me “out of my socks” with a divalicious, nuanced performance that literally caused Paula to have an orgasm on live TV. And as Carly pointed out herself, the super-intense singer actually looked as though she was having a good time this week! But her smile faded once Simon bashed her outfit: “You need to have a word with whoever’s dressing you.” Low blow!

David Archuleta
Song: “Smoky Mountain Memories”
Verdict: On top of old smoky

As soon as Archuperfect opened his mouth, Dolly turned to goo, “It’s all I can do to keep from crying and keep these false eyelashes in place!” (Wait, those aren’t real?) And I have to admit that Season Seven’s Eventual Winner was back in the zone this week. His voice shined brighter than Michael Johns’ face after a tennis match. My one quibble has to do with his phrasing. This week, Archucutie pushed too hard at the top of each line and swallowed the last few words in order to grab a breath. As pure as his tone (and as flawless as his pitch) was Tuesday, he came off as an amateur because of this. But good news, ladies. No potential prom dates in his cheering section this week. Just ArchuStageDad, a creepy old dude, and, uh, Michael Kors? (For those of you keeping score at home, this isn’t the first time “Idol” and “Project Runway” have caused my brain to melt by crossing paths.)

Kristy Lee Cook
Song: “Coat of Many Colors”
Verdict: More like a cloak of invisibility

OK, fans of talent. I think we can finally rest easy. It appears that Kristy Lee Cook is on her way out. She didn’t sing one of Dolly’s “For the Soldiers and/or God” songs, so she won’t have the patriotic-sympathy vote. (Read what our “Idol”-watching Army correspondents had to say about her in the Newsroom blog.) She said she’d rather impress Dolly Parton than her mother, so she won’t have the mom-jeans vote. And she sassed Simon in a severely unpleasant way, so she won’t have the Southern high-society vote, either. Nope, the only demographic Kristy has in her pocket is the foot-fetishists contingent, but as we know from Paul Kim’s fate, they don’t have enough pull to keep the barefoot performers around. For the rest of us, Kristy’s “Coat of Many Colors” was just one color: forgettable. I think it’s safe to say that this season’s supply of suck will be riding off into the sunset on Wednesday. Here’s hoping it’s not too late to rescue that horse she sold to the glue factory.

Syesha Mercado
Song: “I Will Always Love You”
Verdict: She should have stayed Whit-less

As predictable as Seacrest’s lame April Fool’s joke that opened Tuesday’s show, Syesha picked the crown jewel of the Parton songbook, “I Will Always Love You.” And — duh! — Syesha was swallowed by our collective memory of Whitney. The model/actress/singer started off with the right instinct, however, choosing the original restrained Parton arrangement instead of the one that made Kevin Costner swoon. But what started as a “wow” quickly turned into an “ow.” As soon as the key change and bass drum kicked in, I shouted, “Hell to the no!” while Syesha shattered all subtlety (and windows) with a never-ending saga of diva posturing. Like oil and water, Paula and logic, or Pete Wentz and penguins , some things are just not meant to go together. Syesha showed that the Dolly and Whitney arrangements should be added to that list.

Michael Johns
Song: “It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right”
Verdict: Hot down under

Michael warbled “It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right,” a song whose title very well could have been referring to the backup singer’s corset top. As the Aussie heartthrob sang the lyrics “I like your look, I love your smile,” I sang back, “But I hate your ascot.” But before long, Johns’ simmering bluesy take won me over … perhaps too much. By the end of the first verse, I was imagining myself on the cover of a romance novel with Michael. By the end of the chorus, I was dreaming that we were slow dancing together in soft focus. By the end of the performance, I was feeding him strawberries while he prepared hot oil for a deep tissue … uh. Never mind. So … yeah. Um. Football!

Hasty Predictions

This wacko season is getting harder to predict, isn’t it? Who knows who will end up part of the stool sample Wednesday night?

As I rambled on above in the Kristy Lee Cook section, I think there’s a good chance she’s finally isolated enough viewers to put her in harm’s way. Ramiele continues to bore beyond belief, but, like I say every week, she has a hopelessly devoted fanbase that will stop at nothing to see her win. Jason Castro’s charm ain’t what it used to be (as evidenced by last week’s “shocking” bottom-three placement ), while Brooke White opened the show with a shrug. Never a good sign.

What did you think about Tuesday night’s performances? How amazing did Dolly look? Did any other dudes question their heterosexuality during Michael’s performance? (Please, God, tell me yes!) And, for reals, what is up with Simon Cowell’s aversion to songs about birds? Comment me below!

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