Here's the thing about Norman Gentle, the showboating, sparkly shirt-wearing, short-pantsed "American Idol" contestant who has somewhat inexplicably continued to survive cut after cut: He is either the most annoying contestant in the show's illustrious eight-year history, or the most brilliant. It's not exactly clear which just yet.

See, Norman isn't even real. He's the brainchild of Nick Mitchell, a 27-year-old something-or-other (entertainer?) from Brookfield, Connecticut, which makes his success all the more impressive. It's difficult to think of a fictional character that's made it further on "Idol" than Norman has (well, maybe Jason Castro). And it's hard to think of a contestant who's appeared to care less about actually winning "Idol" than Mitchell. At least, one who has made it to Hollywood Week.

What's infuriating about him (and also what's ingenious about him) is that Mitchell can actually sing, as evidenced by the version of "Amazing Grace" he pulled out of thin air during the New York auditions. He just chooses not to whenever he pulls on the Norman Gentle headband.

For example, on Tuesday night's show, when he positively had to sing for his very life. Anyone else on the planet would've played it straight, gone up there and bleated their way through "I Hope You Dance" (like the 375 other Hollywood Week contestants did). But not Mitchell. He went out there in character as Norman, vamped his way through "Georgia on My Mind" and somehow survived again.

It was an insanely brilliant — if not brilliantly insane — move. It proved that Mitchell has no aspirations of actually winning, and that he has cojones the size of grapefruits. It also proved that Mitchell is a genius of self-promotion, because whenever he finally does get the boot from "Idol" (which, if you believe the Internets, might be Wednesday), he will be probably be inundated with offers from agents. He'll be booked for cabaret shows in every town in America. He will get to cut comedy albums and make appearances on daytime talk shows.

In short, he will have succeeded in making Norman Gentle a national brand (for the next 15 minutes, at least), which is probably all he ever hoped to get out of "Idol" in the first place. He is like Sanjaya minus the aspirations.

And that's certainly more than you can say about Tatiana Del Toro, and she's an actual human being.

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