It's an "Idol" given that if you hang around the bottom three long enough, your number will come up. San Antonio's Haley Scarnato learned that lesson Wednesday night when she was given the boot after a weak Latin night performance of "Turn the Beat Around" on Tuesday.
And though she admitted to having her feelings hurt by judge Simon Cowell's repeated comments about how her good looks and skimpy outfits carried her further in the competition than they should have, the 24-year-old can take solace in the fact that Latin night was hard on even the most promising "Idol" finalists (see " 'Idol' Recap: Sanjaya Is Stunning — Seriously; 'Skeletor' Stacey Is On His Way Out").
But Sanjaya escaped the bottom three again this week, after a croony performance of "Bésame Mucho" that even Cowell had to admit "wasn't horrible."
Viewers didn't find that out, however, until after they sat through nearly 45 minutes of filler that opened with a gang sing-along to "Bailamos," a trip to the Los Angeles Farmer's Market for man-on-the-street interviews by host Ryan Seacrest, the second performance on the show by Akon in three weeks, a montage of Cowell in Africa on a charity trip "criticizing" young girls' drawings of him, a fake bad-audition skit featuring last week's guest judge Tony Bennett ... you get the point.
By the time perennial bottom-dweller Phil Stacey earned his — by now expected — walk of shame across the stage for what Cowell called a "flat and unoriginal" take on Santana's "Maria, Maria," joined by a resigned looking, smiling Scarnato, the only surprise left was that beloved singer Chris Richardson joined them center stage.
Richardson, who performed a well-received cover of Santana's "Smooth," was greeted on his trip to the bottom three by a chorus of disapproving boos from the audience, who clearly thought he didn't belong. As he stood slightly apart from Scarnato and Stacey it seemed clear he wouldn't linger long.
But first, one last bit of business in the form of a montage of outtakes from guest judge Jennifer Lopez's stint on the show and a smoke-machine-overload performance of her latest Latin-language single, "Qué Hiciste." When asked what she thought of the judges' comments about the singer's performances, Lopez quipped, "I guess I come from the Paula [Abdul] school of criticism. ... Not that we don't need our Simon."
After what Seacrest said was the highest vote tally of the season so far, 35 million, it was Scarnato's time to go. When Seacrest finally announced the verdict, Scarnato simply smiled and gave Stacey a hug. She got misty during her farewell montage and ended her run with another hectic, mostly off-key rendition of "Turn the Beat Around."