What's the use of having a "save" card in your pocket if you never pull it out? That was the question some "American Idol" fans might have been asking on Wednesday night, when one of this season's most beloved contestants, Arizona's Scott MacIntyre, 23, faced elimination. But, once more, the judges said this was not the week to use the one-time-only reprieve after the good-natured visually impaired singer failed to impress them with another weak performance.
With only three more weeks left to employ the save, it's becoming clear that the judging panel is holding on tightly to it, just in case they're presented with a Chris Daughtry/ Jennifer Hudson-style surprise.
Before breaking the bad news to Scotty Mac, the show opened with the latest burst of passive-aggressive teasing between judge Simon Cowell and host Ryan Seacrest. Seacrest capped off his jokes about Simon's age by introducing a special guest appearance from legendary 1950s crooner Frankie Avalon, who came out at the top of the night as part of a tribute to the year Simon was born, 1959, singing his signature hit, "Venus."
That was followed by the the weekly group number. The remaining eight contestants performed Kylie Minogue's "Can't Get You Out of My Head," which came out the year the American version of "Idol" was born, 2002.
Adam Lambert was the first to stand up, and for the first time, his fate could have been put in jeopardy when Tuesday's show went nearly eight minutes over, causing many viewers who recorded the show to miss his stunning performance. He was joined by Kris Allen and Anoop Desai. Lambert wasn't standing long, though, thanks to a stunning performance of Tears for Fears' (via Gary Jules) "Mad World," which drew what is believed to be the first-ever standing ovation from Simon Cowell in the show's history. Also sitting down was Kris Allen, safe despite a harsh rebuke from Simon for his funked-up cover of Don Henley's "All She Wants To Do Is Dance." Desai then made the walk to the bottom three once again, after the audience decided his cover of Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" didn't wash with them.
The next to stand up was Danny Gokey, who made it through another week with a decent response to his cover of country singer Mickey Gilley's version of the Ben E. King classic, "Stand by Me." Also safe was Matt Giraud. But it was another trip to the bottom for MacIntyre, who got his first universally bad marks for a truly shambolic, off-key stumble through Survivor's "The Search Is Over."
It seemed a safe bet that teenager Allison Iraheta would skate through after the judges rained more kudos on her for a mature, powerful version of Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me," and she did. The news was not so good for one-time front-runner Lil Rounds, who got bashed for her karaoke-like take on Tina Turner's "What's Love Got to Do With It," landing her in the bottom three for the first time.
With the time running out on the judges' save, Cowell looked at the bottom three and said, "I don't think it mattered before, but I think this is the first week where it probably does matter," adding that the judges would definitely consider saving one of the bottom dwellers.
Rounds was sent back to safety, at which point Seacrest noted that 34 million votes came in on Tuesday night and that the bottom two vote-getters were separated by just 30,000 votes. Once Desai was spared again, MacIntyre was left to sing for his "Idol" life. With no electric guitar in hand this time, MacIntyre reprised the turgid power ballad, pouring his heart into the cliché-ridden lyrics, but hitting a truly bum note near the end that appeared to seal his fate in the competition.
Paula and Kara were on their feet cheering him on, and when it came time to render a verdict, Simon admitted that the panel was split. Following more deliberation, Simon shrugged his shoulders and said, unlike last week, when he had no qualms about sending home Megan Joy, this decision was tough.
I really, really like you, Scott," Cowell said. "I'm looking over there, and I think there's a bunch of talented singers, so this decision isn't just based on you. It's whether I think somebody, or we think somebody, is more talented over there."
After another awkward pause and some hemming and hawing from Paula and Kara about how Mac had gotten it right in the past but had made a poor song choice this week, Seacrest pressed Cowell for a definitive answer. "You want me to make a decision?" Cowell asked the rest of the panel. "You want me to make it? Scott, someone's got to make a decision here, and I'm going to say it's the end of the competition. Sorry."
Seacrest and the rest of the cast gathered to give MacIntyre a hug as the show's first visually impaired contestant was sung off, but not before Paula told him, "You've been an inspiration to the entire world through your commitment, through your talent. And we all watch 'American Idol' so that we as an audience get to witness unique and gifted artists as you, Scott. ... You are one classy gentleman. God bless you, we love you."
Season-five sixth-place finisher and country sensation Kellie Pickler returned to the show on Wednesday to sing her current single, "Best Days of Your Life," co-written by good pal Taylor Swift. The spunky blond singer had some fun on her return trip, stopping by the judges' table to do a little playful flirting with Simon and Randy as she worked the crowd.
The show also featured the "Idol" debut of rapper Flo Rida, who performed his #1 hit single, "Right Round." Flanked by a female back up singer, a hype man and four female dancers in spangly booty shorts and tank tops, the rapper sang an unedited version of the tune, which, depending on how you choose to interpret it, is either about watching a stripper slide down a pole or receiving oral sex from a woman, or both. Either way, the song is about as far as the family-friendly show has ever pushed the musical envelope.
Next week promises a return to G-rated territory, when former "Idol" cast-off and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson makes her long-rumored return to the show, which will also feature a performance from Miley Cyrus and guest mentoring from avowed "Idol" fanatic director Quentin Tarantino for the week's " 'Idol' at the Movies" theme.
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