To just about anyone who tuned in to this week's "American Idol," Erika Van Pelt's exit was a shocker, to say the very least, especially since her performance of "New York State of Mind" was one of the highlights. But also because, you know, Heejun Han is still on the show.
Rather than using her three minutes to goof off, Van Pelt genuinely seemed determine to put her best foot forward on Wednesday night, whether it was listening to "Idol" judges' previous advice to minimize her onstage movements or taking designer Tommy Hilfiger's hairstyling tips to heart. Oh, and then she delivered a sultry, soulful version of the Joel classic, all of which seemed to guarantee she'd be safe ... for at least another week.
But, as it turns out, that wasn't the case, and on Thursday night's results show, it was Van Pelt who was sent packing. And immediately after her ouster, let's just say Van Pelt was still trying to figure out what went wrong — though she's got a pretty good idea of where to start.
"I felt confused every week, I'll be honest," she told MTV News. "I felt there was a lot of contradiction, and as an artist and someone who takes their singing very seriously, it's hard for me to take critique of my work, period, and then when you feel like you sorta have people telling you one thing and then telling you something completely different the week after, it's hard.
"Because constructive criticism to me is something I can go home, work on, fix and come back and say, 'Here, I fixed it.' I feel what happened to me in this competition was I would take all the advice, I'd work on things, I'd bring something different to the table, and they'd tell me the complete opposite. It's been really hard for me, I can admit that."
And to that end, when asked which judge or mentor actually provided her with the best guidance, Van Pelt took a diplomatic pause and then answered rather truthfully: none of them.
"This might sound really weird, but I feel like my fellow contestants taught me the most," she said. "We have this inner-working where we all help each other, we all offer up our advice ... it's all about throwing these ideas out and never telling someone what they should do; it's about giving them suggestions."
Of course, she did add that, ultimately, her "Idol" exit was of her own doing. "I will never blame anyone for misleading me in any way, shape or form; I'm a grown woman," she said. And she's grateful for all the opportunities the show has provided for her, chief among them being that, for a while at least, she doesn't have to go back to her day job as a wedding DJ.
"I don't think I'll be doing any DJ'ing for a while," she laughed. "To be totally honest, I need to sleep!"
Get your "Idol" fix on MTV News' "American Idol" page, where you'll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.