A shocking Thursday night on "American Idol" began with an onscreen pledge to "Expect the Unexpected," and boy, did the show live up to that promise.
Because, for the first time in the unusually staid 11th season, there really is no clear-cut front-runner, as perceived favorites were relegated to the bottom three and one potential champion was left to sing for her life — almost.
After the final seven [article id="1682971"]sang the songs of this decade[/article] on Wednesday night's telecast, most assumed it would be permanent bottom-dweller Hollie Cavanagh sent packing, especially after the judges were left grasping for compliments following her performance of Pink's "Perfect." Instead, Cavanagh was spared elimination (and even a spot in the bottom three), and, after a few tense moments, in which front-runners like Colton Dixon and Skylar Laine were left twisting, it was revealed that, this week, the three on the chopping block were Elise Testone — no real surprise, given that she's been in this position before — and, amazingly, a pair of championship hopefuls: Joshua Ledet and Jessica Sanchez.
The judges were understandably shocked by the reveal — Randy Jackson even called the bottom three "ridiculous" — but the surprises didn't end there. Host Ryan Seacrest would first announce that Ledet was safe, leaving only Testone and Sanchez clinging for their lives. After ratcheting up the tension to the nth degree, Seacrest announced that Testone was also safe, meaning Sanchez, the prodigiously talented, supremely cocky diva, was the week's lowest vote-getter.
In a way, it was fitting that former "Idol" castoff Jennifer Hudson performed earlier in the telecast, because a potential Sanchez exit would have been the most shocking moment on the show since Hudson was given the boot all the way back in 2004. And as the crowd whistled in disapproval, Sanchez grabbed the microphone to sing for the judges' save — only to be interrupted by Jennifer Lopez, who shouted "Gimme that mic" and announced, along with Jackson and Steven Tyler, that Sanchez would remain in the competition.
"We are saving Jessica without any doubt," Jackson emphatically said. "This girl is one of the best singers in America ever!"
The obviously shell-shocked Sanchez was then allowed to finish her song, and as the show came to a close, the judges urged "Idol" viewers to vote for the best contestant going forward. But after the night's startling results — and without a judges' save going forward — the deck has certainly been reshuffled, and the stakes are higher than ever before.
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