'American Idol' Finale: It's Lee DeWyze Vs. Crystal Bowersox

Casey James eliminated after a rough performance night.

Nearly a year after their journey began, Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox took one giant step closer to the promised land Wednesday night (May 19). The two singers, whose paths to next week's season-nine "American Idol" finale at times felt preordained, survived Tuesday night's 47 million votes as the sand ran out for Cool, Texas' Casey James.

The good ol' boy with the Guess model looks and the bluesy bar-band style was pegged early on as eye candy by judge Kara DioGuardi — who made him take his shirt off at his audition — even as the panel frequently praised his earthy sound and guitar skills. The focus on his sex appeal to the cougar set sometimes became annoying, but James never let it distract him from attempting to deliver solid, heartfelt performances week after week while trying to not seem annoyed by the constant jibes about his looks.

In the end, as it often is for "Idol" finalists who flame out before the finish line, it came down to song choice, and James blew it by going with the obscure "OK, It's Alright With Me" by Eric Hutchinson and just wasn't able to do enough with the judges' choice, John Mayer's "Daughters." His friends think he's gonna be just fine, and James seemed all right with the result as well.

"I'm so thankful for the opportunity," he said after host Ryan Seacrest delivered the bad news, a look of disappointment shining through his winning smile. "It's been an amazing, amazing journey, and I'm just so honored that I'm here. It's amazing." Looking around at he big "Idol" stage one more time, James, bathed in hot-pink and blue lights, hugged and slapped hands with some screaming female fans and sang to his #1 supporter, DioGuardi, before lifting up a little girl from the audience and sitting her on his lap while singing a mostly solid version of "Daughters" again.

Just moments before, Seacrest had waved former paint-store clerk and high school rebel Lee DeWyze through, followed by Ohio booster Crystal Bowersox, who seemed confused at first and asked the host to clarify what was going on. "I'm safe?" she asked, dumbfounded. "I'm safe?" she said again before going over to DeWyze and surprising him with a full-body hug.

And so, just like last year's Kris Allen/ Adam Lambert showdown and the David Cook/ David Archuleta face-off the year before, the two early favorites, neither of whom ever hit the bottom three, will go head to head Tuesday for the "Idol" title.

The show featured a performance from gossip blogger Perez Hilton's latest obsession, Travis Garland, whom he claimed is a better singer than Justin Timberlake. Speaking of eye candy, the boy-band-ready singer sang his bubblegum first single "Believe" accompanied by a trio of percussionists and a troupe of overly dramatic backup dancers. Running all over the stage and set, the former member of boy band NLT's high, thin voice sometimes appeared to be swallowed up by the song's techno-gospel arrangement.

There were no such problems for globetrotting teen wonder Justin Bieber, who easily hit his marks on the doo-wop ballad "U Smile" and then swaggered just so behind his signature mop-top 'do as his male backup dancers shimmied all around him during his smash "Baby." He even took a break near the end of the song to show off his skills behind the drum kit, ending with a flourish and a smile.

The two-part "Idol" finale kicks off Tuesday when DeWyze and Bowersox will have one last chance to impress America before a winner is crowned the next night.

What did you think of Wednesday night's elimination? Did you call it? Did Casey deserve to go home? Leave your comments below.

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