The major rules twist Simon Cowell promised on Tuesday night's [url id="/news/topics/a/american_idol/"]"American Idol"[/url] was revealed right off the bat Wednesday night, but it wasn't enough to save two contestants from going home. Host Ryan Seacrest explained that the judges will have the ability to save one contestant from elimination, but they may only do it once during the entire season and only until the top five singers are left. If someone is saved, two have to leave the following week.
Seacrest explained that had the rule been in place in the past, such "Idol" standouts as Chris Daughtry, Jennifer Hudson and Tamyra Gray might have made it to the winner's circle.
But, save or no save, it was curtains for Jasmine Murray and Jorge Nuñez. Both got a chance to sing one more time in an attempt to earn the judges' lifeline, only to be told they were going home after nearly 33 million viewers reportedly voted, the highest total to date in this round of the competition. It was a harsh reality after the contestants were shown moving into their new digs, a mansion in Beverly Hills with an indoor basketball court, pool, hot tub, screening room, bowling alley and steam room.
Before the bad news came, the top 13 shimmied through the traditional show-opening medley, touching on the Jackson 5 hits "I Want You Back" and "ABC," followed by another elimination show staple, the cheesy Ford product-placement "music video," which found the contestants' faces superimposed on the Los Angeles skyline as they sang Queen's "We Will Rock You" and a Ford vehicle roamed the city's empty nighttime streets.
With that business out of the way, among the first singers waved into safety were roughneck Michael Sarver, followed by this year's youngest contestant, Allison Iraheta. Murray, who sang what the judges said was a too-old-fashioned-sounding cover of "I'll Be There" on the Michael Jackson-themed performance night, was not so lucky, and she was the first one to make the long walk to the center of the stage.
When Matt Giraud's name was called, he was sure he'd be in the bottom, so he began making the walk, only to be yanked back by Iraheta, joining Kris Allen in the safe zone. Though the judges didn't love her version of "Rockin' Robin," Megan Joy Corkrey didn't spend long standing next to Murray, as she was quickly whisked back to the safe chairs.
Murray sang "I'll Be There" once again as the judges deliberated her fate, and though the teenager put on a brave face, the disappointment in her eyes was clear.
Moments later, judge Randy Jackson gave her the bad news. Ryan gave her a pep talk as she teared up watching her montage set to Carrie Underwood's countrified cover of Mötley Crüe's "Home Sweet Home", this year's farewell song.
The show also featured Kanye West and his futuristic robot orchestra performing "Heartless," with 'Ye uncharacteristically dressed down in jeans, a denim jacket, a blue work shirt, black boots and a black Louie rag hanging from his back pocket.
The next group waved to safety included Scott MacIntyre, Alexis Grace, Danny Gokey, Lil Rounds and judges' favorite Adam Lambert. But the news was not good for Anoop Desai, who got universally bad marks for his herky-jerky rendition of "Beat It," and Nuñez, who got slammed for his "corny," soft-focus take on "Never Can Say Goodbye."
Nuñez and Desai had to wait through a commercial break and then one more segment as first-season winner Kelly Clarkson returned to the "Idol" stage, joking that she feared she was going to get judged all over again. Back where she started, Clarkson rocked it and showed this year's contestants what winning is like, ripping into her new single, "My Life Would Suck Without You," and giving the pop confection a Heart-like rock edge with help from a band that featured no fewer than three electric-guitar players.
Desai was sent back to safety soon after. Despite the new rule, the judges kept their get-out-of-jail-free cards in their pockets a second time: Puerto Rico's Nuñez got his walking papers after performing the apropos "Never Can Say Goodbye" one more time, a pleaded look in his eyes as he wandered around the stage.
When asked if the judges would use their save, Cowell, with his arms crossed and a stern look on his face, simply said, "No." At show's end, the contestants gathered for the traditional group hug at the center of the stage.
The good news for the remaining 11 — Sarver, Iraheta, Allen, Giraud, Desai, Rounds, Corkrey, Grace, MacIntyre, Gokey and Lambert — is that after next Tuesday's performance, only one of them will get sent home.
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