Movie night was not kind to many of the final eight on "American Idol." Despite raves from the judges, the general consensus outside the IdolDome was that there wasn't a whole lot to cheer for and that Randy, Steven and Jennifer hadn't learned the harsh lessons of ToscanoGate, i.e., they were still treating all the contestants like they were already superstars and giving each one a gold star for effort.
One of their favorites among a group of favorites, picker-and-grinner Paul McDonald, went down on Thursday night's (April 14) elimination show, marking the first time this season that a man has left the program and the exit of yet another apparent front-runner whose commercial prospects seem brighter than a number of the remaining contestants. McDonald, who seemed a bit off his game and looked as if he might be ready to leave while performing Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll" on Wednesday night, took the news in stride, saying "it's OK, it's OK" when host Ryan Seacrest said he was bummed to see the Nashville native go.
The show opened with Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina singing a duet on Grammy-winning country trio Lady Antebellum's "American Honey," once again making sweet, down-home music together. Also sounding nice together were Casey Abrams and Haley Reinhart, who gave one of their best efforts to date on the jazz standard "Moanin'," with both of them working out their best scatting and growling action.
After an impressive 53 million votes — clearly viewers got the message that they needed to show up for their favorites — all four came center stage to hear the results. Sudden front-runner McCreery was waved to safety, as were Alaina and Abrams, while Reinhart made another trip to the bottom three, continuing the march of female contestants to the danger zone. Reinhart was done in by a shouty cover of Blondie's "Call Me" that earned some of the only negative remarks on Wednesday night.
The remaining four boys — Jacob Lusk, Stefano Langone, Paul McDonald and James Durbin — played a medley of Simon & Garfunkel's "Sounds of Silence" and a chipper "Mrs. Robinson," (in)secure in the knowledge that two of them would be in the bottom three.
Even with his wild-and-crazy cover of "Heavy Metal," Durbin was safe once again, while Langone was sent back to the bottom three after yet another sappy performance, this time of Boyz II Men's "End of the Road." After landing in the bottom three last week, Lusk was ushered to safety, while McDonald's spirited "Old Time Rock and Roll" just didn't connect with voters.
Breaking the cycle of four female eliminations in a row, Reinhart was sent to safety, while McDonald got the short straw. The cool dude in a loose mood kept smiling and was more than happy to sing a request, as J.Lo asked for one more run through Rod Stewart's "Maggie Mae." In his inimitable style, McDonald worked the stage and gave America one more taste of his raspy voice and unique rag-doll dance moves, slapping hands with the remaining seven as the curtain came down on his "Idol" run.
The show also featured a performance from original "Idol" Kelly Clarkson and country singer Jason Aldean, singing their platinum-selling duet, "Don't You Want to Stay" as well as Rihanna, who sang a dramatic rendition of her ballad "California King Bed."
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