The thing about being a front-runner on "American Idol" is you never know when America's voters are going to turn on you. Unlikely bearded sex symbol Casey Abrams learned that lesson the hard way on Thursday night (March 24) when he made a surprise visit to the bottom three.
Actually, he was not only in the bottom three, he was the lowest vote-getter and, in the biggest surprise so far of the season, he had to sing for his supper to keep from being eliminated in one of the most chaotic finishes to an "Idol" results show in history. He ended up being bailed out by this season's one and only judges' save, but the scare was hopefully enough to teach all the remaining top 10 that nobody is immune this season.
In fact, after two weeks of all-female bottom threes, on Thursday night's show, not only did a male contestant almost go home, but the two bottom vote-getters were both boys, reversing the gender tide that had been building.
In the end, it was Abrams on the chopping block. He began singing "I Don't Need No Doctor," the song that got him on the show in the audition round, but he had barely begun when Randy Jackson cut him off and asked for the musicians to stop. The tension filled the air as a confused Abrams looked around to see what he might have done wrong to anger the judges.
"We were wondering when we heard the results, 'Why is Casey at the bottom?' We don't know. You deserve to be here," Jennifer Lopez explained, telling Abrams that when the judges heard the results, they knew immediately that they would pull the ripcord on the save.
[article id="1659686"]Casey, who has already taken two trips to the hospital[/article] to deal with a stomach ailment tied to stress, looked like he was going to be sick and was clearly overcome with confusion over the decision. "Are you kidding?" he said, visibly shaking as he went and embraced the judges, repeating the words, "I can't believe it!" He fell to his knees as host Ryan Seacrest embraced him then raced out to hug his mother as the rest of the contestants welled up with tears at the emotional moment.
"I thought that they ... I knew if there was someone that got cut tonight ... I thought they wouldn't use the save," Abrams stammered. "It's unreal ... I started singing and the fact that you cut it ... scared the stuff out of me."
Lopez said when the judges heard the results they were confused and they knew they had to act. "We just want you to get back to the musician that you are," she said. "No more antics ... you deserve to be here." Randy told Casey to cut out the growling and use his formidable skills and not lean on gimmicky tricks, such as his widely derided [article id="1660070"]emo-funk take on Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit"[/article] last week. What all the drama means is that two people will go home next week, but, as previously decided by producers, for the first time, 11 singers will go out on this summer's tour.
It was a wild cap to a night that never quite went the way many experts had predicted. Lauren Alaina, Pia Toscano and Scotty McCreery were the first trio brought out as Seacrest began building the bottom three early in the show. And, no surprise, all three made it into the top 10. The second group featured James Durbin and Paul McDonald, both of whom seemed like sure bets to make it through as well. And, of course, they were safe, though Durbin nearly had a heart attack when Seacrest called out the wrestling maniac's hero, Hulk Hogan, to deliver the good news, as well as a smackdown to Seacrest.
The third group was bound to feature at least one bottom-three dweller, but it was both Stefano Langone and teen Thia Megia who got the hook and headed to the cellar for the first time.
There was more bad news when Abrams, Haley Reinhart and Naima Adedapo stepped up. When Ryan said he was sending someone back to safety, Naima pointed at Casey, assuming he was the one escaping the bottom, but she was shocked to get the pass herself. And then things went way off-track when season-long favorite Abrams was sent to the naughty stools for the first time in the finals after [article id="1660558"]seemingly nailing "I Heard It Through the Grapevine."[/article] the night before.
Megia was the first one sent back to safety, and after three weeks in which the judges have shown him endless love, suddenly Abrams did not have as self-satisfied a look on his face and seemed like he was feeling the pressure of potential elimination.
It was a roller coaster of a night, all right, one that began with the top 11 wearing contrasting black suits and white sparkly dresses for a group sing-along to "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." But instead of the usual bland medley, none other than Motown legend Stevie Wonder came out to serenade them with his funky hit "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours." Wonder then called out judge Steven Tyler and serenaded him with "Happy Birthday" on the rocker's 63rd birthday.
The show also featured a performance of the country-pop ditty "Stuck Like Glue" by twangtastic duo Sugarland and a visit from season three [article id="1660645"]"Idol" finalist and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson[/article], who performed the first single from her second album, I Remember Me, the funky, dramatic ballad "Where You At?"
What do you think of the judges using their save on Casey? Did he deserve it? Let us know in comments below!
Don't miss [article id="1658897"]"Idol Party Live"[/article] every Thursday on MTV.com, following the "American Idol" results show, for analysis, celebrity guests and even some karaoke — get in the conversation by tweeting with the hashtag #idolparty! In the meantime, get your "Idol" fix on MTV News' [article id="1486475"]"American Idol" page[/article], where you'll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.