He'd never been to the bottom three before, and he'll never be there again. "American Idol" hopeful Michael Johns, the soulful Australian pretty boy with an affinity for ascots, watched his dreams collapse in what was nothing if not a complete shocker of an elimination episode. Johns drew the least votes following his Tuesday-night performance of Aerosmith's "Dream On."

Johns stood center stage — pensive, preparing for the worst — next to Irish lass Carly Smithson, who seemed absolutely convinced it was she who was gonzo, and Syesha Mercado, who exuded the confidence of someone who'd been to the brink of extinction three times before and survived every time. He stared hard at the floor as host Ryan Seacrest said he was the one going home Thursday night. No one appeared more astounded than Smithson, who waved "Goodbye" and mouthed the words "It's me" before one commercial break, when the faux-hawked one asked America, "Which of these Idols will be going home tonight?" (Find out who our panel of Iraq war soldiers thought should go home, in the Newsroom blog.)

Kristy Lee Cook, a bottom-three three-timer, was spared, as was Jason Castro, who faced elimination two weeks ago, but will sing again next week thanks to a bold song choice.

Judge Paula Abdul was shocked, too, and told the singer she was "a fan" of his. The dismissal was met with an immediate wave of booing from the audience, where Johns' friends, family and legions of female fans reacted to the news. Brooke White was bummed, David Archuleta seemed bored, and David Cook looked as though he'd just found out his dog had died. And perhaps the most surprising reaction came from stoic judge Simon Cowell, who broke character and told Johns he'd miss his presence on the show. Having prepared herself for bad news all night, Smithson clung to Mercado for comfort when she realized she'd won a second chance at stardom.

"It's a song about dreams," Johns told Seacrest about whether the Aerosmith song was the right song pick, shrugging off the pain. "If there's a song to go out on, that's not a bad one." For "Idol" fans, it was one hell of a week, with some stellar and surprising performances, an inspiring (at least to some) telethon — which has raised $60 million in pledges thus far — and something to talk about all weekend long.

Following last year's "Idol Gives Back," the final three were all spared elimination — something Seacrest pointed out before telling Johns that they weren't doing it this year. And for those who tried to avoid Wednesday's star-studded fundraiser, there were plenty of leftovers scattered throughout Thursday's episode, including pre-taped speeches from the three presidential candidates, Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, which had been bumped from the benefit broadcast. Michael Chiklis, portraying Vic Mackey, his character on FX's "The Shield," even sent in a tape, threatening to come knock down all our doors if we didn't chip in a buck or two.

Thursday's show also included a performance by Chris Brown and last year's "American Idol," Jordin Sparks, of their hit, "No Air." Sparks was then presented with record plaques commemorating 1 million downloads of that track, 1 million of her single "Tattoo," and 500,000 in sales of her self-titled debut album.

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