"American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest opened Wednesday's episode by saying Tuesday's buzzed-about pre-critique of Jason Castro by judge Paula Abdul might not have made for the strangest show in "Idol" history, as Simon Cowell had stated, but it certainly was one of the most hectic in recent memory. Things were much calmer during the elimination episode, which ended the long, tear-stained run of Mesa, Arizona, native Brooke White.
Her elimination almost seemed like an afterthought given the previous night's gaffe. Not surprisingly, while the two-and-a-half-minute recap of Tuesday night's performances did show Cowell berating the male contestants for not stepping up and showed Abdul furiously rummaging through her note cards, it conveniently left out the bizarre bit where she pre-judged Castro's second performance before it happened. It was that incident that set off a firestorm of postings from "Idol" fans on Wednesday morning, with many suggesting that it was proof that the judging is not on the up-and-up, despite multiple post-show interviews in which Abdul explained that she was simply confused due to the last-minute format change.
Seacrest did finally deal with the elephant in the room, admitting 12 minutes in that "last night the judges were thrown a curveball on the air, which is just part of a live show, but it sparked a lot of gossip about Paula," he said. As Abdul looked on, wearing a look of pouty sadness, Seacrest added that he'd read some of the reports about the incident and forcefully refuted, "The rumors, they're not true. She's part of our family, and we love her." Abdul even got a hug and a kiss from Cowell as a show of support.
But there were tears a short time later, as emotionally fragile former nanny Brooke White, 24, got the bad news that she would be going home. After several trips to the bottom three, she was finally done in by her version of guest mentor Neil Diamond's "I'm a Believer," which judge Randy Jackson called a bit karaoke, and Cowell dubbed "a nightmare." White, who shed many a tear during her "Idol" run, embraced Seacrest as she loudly wept and hugged fellow frequent bottom-finisher Syesha Mercado after the verdict was read. With her slightly raspy voice, infectious smile and elegance at the piano, White at turns charmed and frustrated the judges with her vulnerable, erratic performances throughout the season. And when it was time to sing her way home, Seacrest dabbed her tears away as White said, "I just wanna say thank you. It's gonna be terrible for me now, but thank you."
Perhaps she should have scrawled the lyrics on her palm again, though, just in case. The finalist whom singer Carly Simon recently picked as her favorite forgot the first line to the song and again broke the cardinal rule Abdul warned her of last week: There are no do-overs. Smiling through tears, she soldiered on through "I Am ... I Said," surrounded by her fellow contestants. In a season when several contestants have struggled to deliver their final goodbye, White's last bow was the most emotional, ending with her voice cracking as she turned her back to the audience and attempted to leave the stage.
Given her frequent trips to the bottom, it was not the most shocking conclusion to this dramatic week — especially once Dreadheads who thought Tuesday night's show was proof of a conspiracy to boot Castro got to breathe a sigh of relief at the top of the show. Their man was the first one waved over to the sofa, despite a night of singing that nearly all the judges agreed was pretty weak.
David Archuleta made the early passage to safety as well, helped, no doubt by his rousing rendition of "America," a song choice Cowell called "smart ... clever," putting the teen sensation another step closer to the David vs. David showdown many "Idol" watchers have been predicting. He was followed by the man Abdul has already predicted will be the next "Idol," David Cook, who said that he hoped he did not fall victim to the same fate as last week's eliminee, Carly Smithson, who had joked that she was done in by the curse of Cowell's high praise. No worries, though, as Cook was helped by some of the 45 million people who voted Tuesday night.
It was then down to Syesha Mercado and Brooke White, who both had to wait to hear their fate until after Natasha Bedingfield sang "Pocketful of Sunshine" and the judges handled a few viewer questions. One of the questioners actually managed to make Simon blush a bit, when the woman who had given the acerbic judge his first kiss at age 9 called in to ask whether she or Paula were the better kisser. The show also featured Neil Diamond's performance of his new single, the acoustic mariachi-tinged ballad "Pretty Amazing Grace."
Next week Cook, Archuleta, Castro and last-woman-standing Mercado will each sing two selections from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's list of 500 songs that shaped rock and roll. The following night will feature performances from Maroon 5 and former "Idol" finalist Bo Bice, as the show steams toward the crowning of this year's "Idol" on May 21.
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