First the good news: More than 60 million votes came in on Wednesday night for the highest vote total so far this season on "American Idol." Of course, even with that avalanche of support, someone had to go home after the up-and-down "now and then"-themed performance episode.
As always at this stage of the competition, there was an unexpected twist, as gutsy high-schooler Lauren Alaina landed in the bottom for the first time all season. But when the tears were mopped up, it was gospel crooner Jacob Lusk who was sent to the showers, after a pair of performances that split the judges and drew low marks from mentor Jimmy Iovine.
"I got to share the love with America and I think America fell in love with me," Lusk said with a smile upon hearing the news as Alaina wept with a mixture of relief and shock in the arms of the remaining three finalists. "And now I can go home and put out that good-feeling R&B music that worships Luther [Vandross] or reminds you of those old singers."
The twisty path to the top four had the usual allotment of drama. Before Lusk learned of his fate, James Durbin took the hot seat after scoring a hit with a 30 Seconds to Mars cover and bringing tears to his own eyes with the emotional ballad "Without You." That landed him on the far side of the stage, where he looked genuinely nervous. Alaina had opened with Carrie Underwood's "Flat on the Floor" and then nailed it again with her folks' favorite song, "Unchained Melody," performances that sent the scared-looking teen to the opposite side of the stage, confusing the audience about who was in jeopardy.
After a train-crash solo duet on "No Air" and an even screechier "Love Hurts," Lusk seemed destined for the bottom and he soon joined Alaina. Haley Reinhart had a seesaw night, with so-so notices for her take on the yet-unreleased Lady Gaga tune "You and I" and raves for "House of the Rising Sun." She joined James on the far side of the stage, with Scotty McCreery the last man standing after a pair of ace performances of Montgomery-Gentry's "Gone" and Elvis Presley's "Always on My Mind."
He was the first to be declared safe, and Seacrest pulled his cruelest trick by asking McC to pick which group he belonged in. "I can't do that," Scotty demurred, as Seacrest led him over to the safe group featuring Durbin and Reinhart. Alaina burst into tears as she realized she was in the bottom for the first time, and Lusk looked stone-faced awaiting the news about who was going home.
When Seacrest pulled the short straw for Lusk, Alaina could barely contain her emotions, bursting into tears as she made the long walk back. Lusk took the hit like a champ, going out with a reprise of Vandross' "A House Is not a Home," which was a showcase for his soaring falsetto and wild verbal gesticulations. He was joined by his four musical soul mates center stage, as he smiled his way through a playful scat-filled gospel finish to the tune.
The episode also continued the season-long self-promotion from the judges and mentor Iovine, with Tyler getting a plug for his new memoir, "Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?," and another for his debut solo single, "(It) Feels So Good."
Lopez also got in on the action, performing her smash "On the Floor" from her just-released Love? album. Wearing gold Hammer pants and a spangly bikini top, she stomped across the stage surrounded by a group of precision dancers during a high-energy performance. She also played a clip of her new beach-blanket bump-and-grind video for "I'm Into You."
Also on the show were Grammy-winning country trio Lady Antebellum, performing their new single, the low-key ballad "Just a Kiss."
Do you think Jacob deserved to go home? Let us know in comments below.
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