Haley Reinhart Sent Home On ‘American Idol’

Country crooners Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina will face off on next week's 'Idol' finale.

Regardless of who went home on Thursday’s (May 19) “American Idol,” the nation definitely did their part, as Fox announced before the show that a record-setting 95 million votes were cast after Wednesday night’s performance show . Not only was it the third-highest vote total in “Idol” history, it was the biggest vote tally ever for a non-final show.

It was nearly 50 minutes in before host Ryan Seacrest finally got around to reading some results, with all three finalists bowing their heads and holding hands in anticipation of the news. But, in his typically sadistic fashion, Seacrest cued up the line, “After the nationwide vote, I can now tell you … the results … after the break.”

When he returned, it was finally time to get to business as he revealed the result just about everyone expected, confirming that country teen Scotty McCreery would be vying for the title after a nearly flawless run through the finals. McCreery grinned, closed his eyes and threw his head back in relief, hugging his fellow finalists and taking his seat on one of the two golden stools.

That left nervous-looking, 16-year-old Lauren Alaina and 20-year-old blues belter Haley Reinhart clutching hands and wishing for the final spot. And when Seacrest called Alaina’s name, she smacked her hands together and jogged in place like a little kid on Christmas morning, a giant grin plastered on her face, in stark contrast to the blank, shocked look from Reinhart, who clearly wasn’t expecting that result. Moving in to hug her compatriot, Alaina hesitated as Reinhart stared out in disbelief, and, seemingly, anger. The two finally did embrace, but there was no mistaking the disappointment on Reinhart’s face , which telegraphed the feeling that her ouster after a strong, but rocky late run was the final insult.

She quickly recovered, though, smiling and blowing kisses to the audience, which was chanting, “Haley, Haley!”

“This is the biggest platform anybody can ask for, and I rocked it out. And I had a blast,” Reinhart said in her signature smoky voice. “And this is only the beginning.” She went out with another hip-grinding take on Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets,” swiveling her hips, daring to walk down the stage steps again in her high heels and doing a bit of playful lyrical improvisation. “Say, Randy and J.Lo, have you seen them yet? … B-b-b-bennie and Steven.”

“This ain’t the end of this … this ain’t the end of this dang shindig … see ya later,” she growled as her parents came in for a hug.

The show also featured footage of all three finalists visiting their hometowns last week and getting the star treatment as they met their new legion of fans and got a taste of what life might be like if “Idol” fame follows. There were parades, concerts in front of 30,000 screaming followers, tearful reunions with families and, for McCreery, a special cameo from his hero, Josh Turner, the original singer of Scotty’s signature song, “Your Man.” And while McCreery teared up at the sight of his old pals and schoolmates, it was the devastation wrought by recent Southern tornadoes that made Alaina burst into tears.

Italian popera trio Il Volo stopped by to sing a loungey version of the opera classic “O Sole Mio,” and “X Factor” co-host Nicole Scherzinger and 50 Cent worked it to the former Pussycat Dolls’ new single, the slinky “Right There.” Shaking it slow to the funky island groove while wearing a feather-draped miniskirt and skimpy bustier top, Scherzinger did a seductive hula as 50 added a brief, PG-rated rap interlude.

And so, next Tuesday’s final performance show will pit the two youngest finalists in show history against each another in what’s sure to be a country-fied dogfight of epic proportions.

What do you think of Haley’s elimination? Did America get it right? Let us know in comments below!

Don’t miss “Idol Party Live” every Thursday at noon on MTV.com 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’ “American Idol” page, where you’ll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.

Often guilty, never convicted. Serving 15 years to life at MTV News.