The first three slots of “American Idol” season eight’s top 12 have been filled. And while two of the picks seemed like no-brainers, the third was slightly more shocking.
Alexis Grace, who wowed judges with her powerful take on [artist id=”7622″]Aretha Franklin[/artist]’s “I Never Loved a Man,” and Danny Gokey, who handled [artist id=”976″]Mariah Carey[/artist]’s “Hero” with ease, both breezed into the top 12. Both seemed like foregone conclusions after Tuesday night’s live performances. But it was oil roughneck Michael Sarver — who struggled slightly with [artist id=”1235201″]Gavin DeGraw[/artist]’s “I Don’t Wanna Be” — who grabbed the final spot on Wednesday night’s results show, leaving several “Idol” favorites on the outside looking in.
Anoop Desai, Ricky Braddy and Tatiana Del Toro were all sent packing, due to the new elimination process “Idol” implemented for season eight. Expanding the semifinal field from a top 24 to a top 36 meant that contestants were broken up into groups of 12. From each group of 12, only the top male and female vote-getters from each group — plus the next highest vote-getter, regardless of gender — will be moving on.
And show producers played the drama to the hilt on Wednesday night. Non-contenders like Casey Carlson and Stephen Fowler were booted early in the broadcast, just before Grace was announced as making it to the top 12. After eliminating Braddy and Jackie Tohn, “Idol” host Ryan Seacrest then called Desai and Sarver to the stage to read the results of the viewer voting. To the surprise of pretty much everyone — himself included — it was Sarver who moved on, though Seacrest pointed out that fewer than 20,000 votes separated the two contestants.
With Sarver on his way, it meant that there was just one spot left in the top 12. It wasn’t going to go to Ann Marie Boskovich, David Brent or Stevie Wright, who all failed to varying degrees on Tuesday, and they were quickly eliminated, leaving only two contenders for the final spot: Gokey and fan-favorite Del Toro, whose dramatics — and voice — made her a contender.
Both were summoned center stage by Seacrest, and after some stretching of the moment, Gokey survived, leaving Del Toro in hysterics. As Gokey took a victory lap with a second performance of “Hero,” Del Toro sobbed wildly and had to be consoled by her fellow contestants.
Of course, all those tears might be for naught. Desai, Braddy, Del Toro or the other castoffs could still grab one of three “wild card” spots in the top 12. After the next two groups of 12 perform, “Idol” will run a special episode that will feature the judges’ favorite contestants battling it out for a shot at the finals. The episode is scheduled to air on Thursday, March 5.
Get your “Idol” fix on MTV News’ “American Idol” page, where you’ll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.