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American Idol, Cheerio Mate

For the first time in weeks, I am truly surprised at the results of American Idol.

In fact, Michael Johns' elimination might be the biggest shocker for me so far this season.

Frankly, I was bracing for Kristy Lee Cook to get the boot, despite the fact that I think she had the top performance Tuesday night. Or maybe Syesha Mercado or Brooke White. I even thought Carly Smithson had an outside chance.

But Michael Johns? No way. I'd never have guessed it in a million years.

Michael's rendition of Aerosmith's "Dream On" wasn't the best performance Tuesday night, but it sure wasn't the worst. I wouldn't even put it close to the bottom three. Unfortunately, for the ascot-wearing Aussie, the voters did.

It's hard to tell how Idol viewers are treating this season. Last year, it really felt like people were voting for the best singers on a week-by-week basis. And ultimately, I do believe that the most talented singer won. Jordin Sparks was consistently either the best or second best performer week after week.

But this year's show feels a little more like a popularity contest. David Archuleta

survived on a week when he actually forgot the lyrics to a Beatles song -- an error that should have cost him more dearly. Some think Kristy Lee Cook should have been eliminated weeks ago. I'm already hearing some people refer to her as this year's Sanjaya. And just based on this week's performances, I think you could argue that David Cook

or Carly Smithson should have gotten their walking papers.

But all those singers seem to have a strong fan base who vote and text enough to keep them in the running, whether they perform strongly or poorly.

Was Michael Johns destined for the finals? Or even the top three? I'm not sure. He had certainly found new confidence over the last few weeks, and seemed like he was really starting to settle into a groove. But Michael ultimately sufered the same fate as Asia'h Epperson, Chikezie Eze

and Amanda Overmyer

before him. All gone before they deserved to be.

A few other Idol notes:

Thank goodness we were spared the viewer calls this week. I guess there wasn't time. They'll probably be back next week, but at least we got a brief respite from the most insipid element of the program.

Jordin Sparks performed her newest song, a duet with Chris Brown. They seem like a good musical pair.

Ryan updated us that Idol Gives Back has earned $60 million so far. They're still aiming for $100 million. Good luck! Between my preview

and my pseudo-review, I think I'm spent on Idol Gives Back. I'll need all 364 days to rest up to cover the next one.

So, it's bye bye to the Aussie hottie, as one of my female friends calls him. So long Michael. Good on ya. Now it's down to seven little Idol-ites. It's starting to get hot. We'll see who can stay in the kitchen.

Ethan Morris: "Not always right, but never in doubt." Go ahead and write me.