RECAP: American Idol: You Give Me Fever

Before Dr. House hangs it up permanently at Fox, he might want to scoot on over to American Idol, where Wednesday’s scary faint + fall was just the beginning of the medical mystery.

Thursday’s hour of Idol did almost nothing to advance the story of this season, aside from a resolution of the Symone Black collapse that ended the previous night. And with so many people still hanging around (185 of the original Hollywood 309 – so much for the warnings that half wouldn’t make the first cut), there was only time to catch up with a few individuals.

Groups are enough of a cliché at this point that the singers realize what you need to do in order to create airtime for yourself. If you pick your group quickly, rehearse your song and choreography without drama, and get along with everybody, Idol doesn’t care. But if you fit into one of several stock categories – the timid youngster who can’t seem to find anyone who wants to join up with them, the lazy bum who doesn’t appreciate his or her opportunity and would rather party or sleep than practice, the tyrant who insists on micromanaging everything – congratulations, you’re going to be a star … at least on this one night.

Viewers were not quite surprised to learn that Symone Black was still alive, and had not even been hurt in her fall, a piece of good luck. A quick trip to the hospital revealed that she had simply fainted from the dreaded dehydration and nerves combo. And since she had easily sung well enough to advance, it was back to Idol Central, where she had to catch up with the already rehearsing groups. (Singers we had seen before who didn’t make it out of Symone’s audition line: Kentucky special needs teacher Lauren Mink, and St. Louis my-dad-is-in-rehab guy Ethan Jones.)

Just because Symone was OK didn’t mean it was the end of the evening’s medical issues. As groups were forming, we were reintroduced to Savannah auditioner Amy Brumfield, aka The Girl Who Lives in a Tent With Her Boyfriend. I had been thinking that couldn’t be the healthiest lifestyle in the world, especially this time of year, but it wasn’t until getting to her nice Hollywood hotel that Amy became ill with what seemed to be a stomach flu. She tried to rest backstage and worried that she might not be well enough to go on, while everyone else just hoped they wouldn’t catch whatever she had.

Amy eventually joined up with St. Louis police officer Alisha Bernhardt, who was convinced people were afraid to team with her out of some sort of anti-cop bias. The real issue appeared to be her blustery personality and refusal to compromise on her song choice. She was so difficult to work with that another duo that needed people eventually spirited Amy and another kid away, leaving Alisha on her own again.

As the night goes on, we see a few other kids getting as sick as Amy had been (one of them, Phillip Phillips, had been battling kidney stones for several weeks, which sounds like no fun at all). It’s unclear how much Amy had to do with any of this – aren’t they all staying in the same hotel, and eating in the same places? – but Ryan Seacrest starts referring to Amy as “Patient Zero” anyway. Call me crazy, but this does not sound like the beginning of a great Idol story. Amy tells us that the devil isn’t going to win here, and that she will make it with Jesus on her side.  Jesus + Imodium: always a winning combo.

One group got whipped into shape by Brielle von Hugel, who we saw audition and make it to Hollywood a year ago. She’s still a teenager, but as the veteran in the bunch (and participant in one of Season 10’s better groups), she had little trouble taking command.

Richie Law had no such experience, but that didn’t stop him from winning the Miss Bossypants Award for Group Night 2012. A country kid complete with the cowboy hat (imagine Scotty McCreery as a John Hughes villain), he sensed that since he was the only one in his group who knew anything about sophisticated concepts like chords and choreography, he had to become the leader: “Democracy’s beautiful, but it takes a really long time.” His cohorts, who included the ailing Phillip and Heejun Han, didn’t seem too enthusiastic but weren’t pushing back very hard either … at least not to his face.

If viewers remember anything about this night (and that’s a longshot), it will likely be Heejun’s sardonic running commentary about life with Richie: “That cowboy kid is crazy … I don’t know how they do it in Cowboy Town, but this is not how we break it down, man … we started out really rough. Phillip had a kidney stone and Cowboy had a brain stone – I don’t know what’s going on with him … now I have a very very bad perspective towards cowboys. Even Dallas Cowboys. Freakin’ cowboys … I guess I just have to do my thang, and let him do his thang, which is cowboy chaos.”

I would love to know how all this turned out, but the hour ended just as the first group was taking the stage, which meant this was a night of Idol without a single actual performance, just rehearsing. Far be it from me to question the strategy of TV’s biggest hit, but I’m thinking this might not have been the best idea for a show whose ratings are getting more iffy by the day.