A day after she was hospitalized with what "American Idol" producers would only describe as "medical issues" and after a full day of drama about whether she'd even show up for Wednesday night's (March 3) "Idol" telecast, Crystal Bowersox not only performed, she brought the house down. And, in the process, she may have established herself as the girl to beat in season nine.
At the opening of the show, as host Ryan Seacrest was introducing the 10 remaining female contestants, he paused, put his arm around Bowersox and asked her how she was feeling. "I feel good," she said. "I'm a tough cookie."
And she wasn't kidding. Bowersox showed no signs of being under the weather, leading off the episode with a soulful version of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "As Long as I Can See the Light," which showed off her powerful pipes and earned a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience and a whole lot of praise from the "Idol" judges.
"That is pure, raw, natural talent. ... There's nothing forced, there's nothing pushed, it is just raw, natural talent," Ellen DeGeneres told Bowersox. "And I am so glad you are here today. I was so scared for you. So please stay healthy. We need you here. You are amazing."
Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi raved too, but the highest compliment was paid by none other than Simon Cowell, who praised Bowersox's toughness and compared her to one of the all-time "Idol" greats, Kelly Clarkson.
"I know how sick you were, actually, over the last 24 hours. ... It wasn't just like catching a cold or something. You really were ill, and I didn't know whether you were going to back here this week," Cowell said of Bowersox's complications due to diabetes. "What's great about you is that you didn't play the whole sympathy thing, you chose a great song. I have to tell you something, Crystal: I completely underestimated you last week, because for you to come back this week with that song, that performance ... I promise you, this was like the moment we realized with Kelly Clarkson that we've got a serious artist here. And I think we've got a really serious artist with you."
Bowersox smiled and thanked the judges, and then was asked by Seacrest if, in the hours leading up to the show, she was worried about her health. As it turns out, she was more anxious about something else. "I was just worried I wasn't going to be here," Bowersox smiled.
It's a good thing she made it. Earlier in the day, "Idol" producer Ken Warwick had told Seacrest on his radio show that if Bowersox didn't perform, she'd be booted from the show. But just before "Idol" went on the air, she calmed her fans' nerves by tweeting that her " 'beetus is under control. Thanks for all your well wishes ... can't wait to perform tonight."