‘American Idol’ Shows Michael Sarver The Door

Matt Giraud, Scott MacIntyre round out the bottom three.

The [url id="/news/topics/a/american_idol/"]“American Idol”[/url] judges are being awfully stingy with their one-time save. Another night, another “sorry, see ya,” as the competition got pared down to nine finalists Thursday night after a record vote resulted in Michael Sarver clocking out of the competition. The lovable Jasper, Texas, native was done in by Motown week and, more likely, judge Simon Cowell’s comment the night before that the oil-field worker with the surprisingly sweet voice simply couldn’t win the singing contest.

But before Sarver sang his way home, he was joined in the bottom three by a pair of newcomers, previous fan favorites Matt Giraud and Scott MacIntyre.

As usual, the show kicked off with a group sing-along, this time to a Diana Ross medley of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” “You’re All I Need to Get By” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” And now that the cat is out of the bag, it was very obvious the contestants were lip-synching to a pre-recorded track .

Before the bad news came down, season-two winner Ruben Studdard was back at center stage, singing his new Stargate-produced single, the silky smooth “Together.” The show also featured mentor Smokey Robinson singing “You’re the One for Me” with Joss Stone, who brought her signature hippie soul vibe to the slow-grind duet, and there was an unannounced special-guest medley from Motown legend Stevie Wonder, who soared through “My Cherie Amour,” “Superstition,” “Overjoyed” and “All About the Love Again.”

When the results finally started coming in, Adam Lambert easily scooted through thanks to his stunning performance of “Tracks of My Tears,” but the news was not so hot for Giraud, who made his first trip to the bottom three despite relatively good marks for his take on Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” Kris Allen, who was told on Wednesday night that he needed to gain some confidence, again assumed he was on his way to the bottom when told to stand up, but he was wrong. Despite a surprisingly less-than-stellar performance , Lil Rounds skated through, while Sarver made the long walk to the bottom three again.

Teen sensation Allison Iraheta avoided the bottom two weeks in a row, while Anoop Desai advanced despite the male judges saying he was a bit boring. And even after his first truly off night, Danny Gokey also passed to safety. That left MacIntyre and Megan Joy awaiting judgment after both got poor marks, and, for the first time, Mac had to be escorted to the all-male bottom three. That was the one true shocker, considering Simon had told Megan Joy that she might have punched her ticket to oblivion with a disappointing version of Stevie Wonder’s “For Once in My Life.”

It wasn’t a long trip for MacIntyre, who was back in the safety zone just moments after getting a taste of the bottom. Asked if Giraud or Sarver might be subject to the judges’ save, Simon said they were there because the public didn’t like their performances, but that whoever got the nod might be able to save themselves with a good second performance.

After more than 36 million votes — what host Ryan Seacrest said was the highest vote total for a top 10 in the show’s history — Giraud took a seat and Sarver was left singing for his life. He growled and skittered through, fittingly, “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” only to face a panel of judges who had not yet made up their minds. After an agonizing, frenzied additional round of deliberation, Simon announced simply, “Michael, you’re going home, sorry.”

Sarver, 27, smiled broadly watching his montage, shedding no tears while scoring the season’s first group hug as he told his family he was coming home.

“Idol” is back to its usual Tuesday/ Wednesday schedule next week, with last season’s winner, David Cook, scheduled to drop in for the elimination show to perform his new single, “Come Back to Me,” as well as a visit from dance diva Lady Gaga, who will sing her hit “Poker Face.”

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