‘American Idol’ Battle Of The Davids? Finale Could Come Down To Cook Vs. Archuleta

As contest winds down to May 21 finish, fan votes could make it a close one.

It wasn’t long after Hollywood Week that the fans, the media, and the Las Vegas bookmakers started calling it. Come May 21, when this current and seventh season of “American Idol” is scheduled to conclude, there would be two men (well, a man and a boy) standing … and they’d both be named David.

In one corner, sporting the comb-over and that sexy, trademark scruff, it’s David Cook , the 25-year-old Daughtry-esque rock dude from Blue Springs, Missouri. And in the other corner, it’s David Archuleta , the charming 17-year-old with the cherubic face who calls Murray, Utah, home.

At this stage in the competition, with just six contenders still in the running for the “Idol” crown, all indicators seem to point to a David Cook/ David Archuleta standoff for the “Idol” finale — barring any huge upsets, which, according to some “Idol” experts, is a very strong possibility. But chances are the Davids will continue to dominate.

“The thing that could make this season interesting is Jason Castro ,” said Michael Slezak, a senior writer for Entertainment Weekly, who has become known for his “Idol” coverage. “I don’t think we can count Castro out of the final two. I think it’s unlikely; I think he’s a long shot. But if anyone’s going to upset the all-David finale, it’s going to be Castro. His biggest problem might be surviving this week, because the judges were pretty brutal on him [Tuesday] night.”

The Davids are the contest’s sole participants who’ve never been relegated to the show’s bottom three. Week in and week out, the Davids have delivered rousing, spirited and unique performances, reinforcing their place as the “ones to beat” — while the rest of the “Idol” herd has slipped here and there. Even last year’s “Idol” winner, Jordin Sparks, is forecasting a Davids duel.

“I really like Jason Castro,” Sparks told MTV News recently. “I like his look, and I love his vulnerability. He goes out there, and if he messes up, he’s just like, ‘Oops.’ But I like David Cook too. I think the guys are where it’s at this year. I love you, girls — please don’t get me wrong — and I could be totally wrong, because the show is so unpredictable. [But] it’s going to be either David Archuleta or David Cook.”

Slezak, who said the results of a recent Entertainment Weekly reader poll favored Cook by 45 percent with Archuleta — whose father recently denied rumors that he’s a “stage dad” — and Castro each scoring 21 percent, feels that the Davids are the “Idol” producers’ favorites. He thinks “Idol” could end up with an all-male finale — the first since season two, when Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard faced off.

“They want an all-David finale, and the producers generally get what they want,” he said. “You know, David Archuleta completely missed a line [Tuesday] night, but no one called him on it. [Judge] Paula [Abdul] called it perfection. Randy [Jackson] continues to yell every week that he’s the one to beat, no matter what he does. The kid has a nice voice, but he certainly wasn’t absolute perfection, and probably belongs in the bottom three this week; he deserves that little bit of a scare. But the judges can see no wrong with Archuleta, and I have a feeling that the production, as a whole, wants him in that final two and they’re going to keep beating that drum until he gets there.

“Cook’s momentum has gotten so tremendous at this point, he’d have to bite the head off a bat during one of his performances to not make that final two,” Slezak continued. “In fact, maybe that wouldn’t even stop him. He has incredible momentum right now. He’s had one bad week in 10 weeks of live performances. That’s pretty amazing. Even the best of the Idols have had their ups and downs. But he’s super-consistent, super-interesting, and he’s gotten better to watch each week. He’s learned how to project his personality on the stage.”

The girls, he said, are pretty much out of the running at this point. “The women, no matter how well they perform at this point, will get nothing more than faint praise from the judges,” he said. “Not only are the judges not behind them, but it’s a little too little, too late. They don’t have the fanbases at this point. And when you’re down to the top six, people kind of already know who they like and who they’re voting for. The women are total nonfactors — they’re like the Dennis Kucinich of the ‘Idol’ race right now.”

But, as Jordin said, “Idol” is unpredictable, and shock eliminations — like Michael Johns’ — are still very possible.

“If David Archuleta really, really fumbles in the next couple of weeks, and goes through a Brooke White-style emotional meltdown, there is a chance he could go home,” Slezak said. “The pressure could get to him. Could David Cook experience a meltdown? Probably not. Archuleta? Maybe, but it seems unlikely. If that does happen, I think Jason Castro will be the one who benefits.”