American Idol Recap: Milwaukee's Best!

Tonight’s episode of American Idol — straight from the cheesehead state of Wisconsin (city of Milwaukee, to be specific) — played out like a light and breezy Jennifer Lopez rom-com with 15 minutes of harrowing emotional drama (think Requiem for a Dream or Precious or Winter’s Bone) grafted on at the end.

Yeah, okay, as Michael Stipe (and yes, reality TV scholars/Idoloonies, Lee DeWyze) would have us believe, everybody hurts. But not all pain is equal, as we learned from meeting 26-year-old Chris Medina, a curly-haired fella whose fiancee, Juliana, suffered a traumatic brain injury and was confined to a wheelchair just months before their wedding date, and Emma Henry, 15, (along with her hair, 47), who wept openly at the prospect of being withheld from her destiny of becoming the female answer to Justin Bieber.

Oh, Emma, this is exactly why Idol shouldn’t have lowered its minimum age limit to 15 this year, but instead raised it to 18. (And this is why I give a slow clap to J.Lo for being the only judge brave enough to give you the gift of “No.”) You see, Emma, life is hard. Sometimes it’s downright brutal. And while your “True Colors” had a sandpapery beauty to it, until your understanding of the human experience expands beyond what you picked up in the latest copy of Weekly Reader, until you realize that the world doesn’t owe it to you to redeem coupons containing the words “but I really want this to happen,” you should not attempt to become a recording artist, a reality TV star, or anything other than the child you currently are. You want something to cry about? Chris Medina (pictured, top left) can give you something to cry about.

Because whether or not you appreciate how Chris’ back story was handled — I’ll admit I have mixed emotions, and I’m sure you’ll be sharing your own opinion in the comments below — it was impossible to not be moved by it. This is a man living out the most painful possible twist on “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health,” a man who refuses to walk away from a love that may have to sustain itself on memories alone.

What’s haunting to me is the way Idol‘s producers kept hidden the full extent of Juliana’s injuries. That the beautiful young woman suffered severe physical effects from her 2009 accident was clear from one glance: The larger question, of course, involves her mental state. How aware is Juliana of her surroundings? Did she knowingly consent to the Idol cameras capturing her in this fragile state? I’m temped to guess “yes,” but it could just be the optimist in me wanting to believe Juliana was knowingly waving Chris’ Golden Ticket in the air as they exited the audition room, that she did indeed whisper to him that she knew he’d get that trip to Hollywood.

In any event, thank heavens for Steven Tyler, whose genuine warmth — leaning into Juliana’s ear and telling her “that’s why he sings so good, ’cause he sings to you” — came right through my TV screen and neutralized the creepy way the judges had been pumping Chris for information just moments before. Idol‘s bottom-line message may be that the cost of possible dream fulfillment is making your private pain a very public one, of not just telling the world that your fiancee is confined to a wheelchair but making sure the cameras let the viewing audience see it for themselves, but Mr. Tyler made the moment about pure human connection. Well played, sir!

But enough about Chris’ back story. An audition should be rated on vocals, and I’d give the guy a solid B/B+ for his cover of The Script’s “Break Even.” I appreciated Chris tackling a number with a little bit of rhythm, and J.Lo was spot-on in offering up a silent-but-enthusiastic clap for the guy’s lilting falsetto. The problem is that now, after a few hours have passed, I remember the details of Chris’ tragic past far more than I do his actual voice, and that lack of distinctiveness could well plague him the rest of the season.

Chris and Emma (and her Amanda Overmyer hair) weren’t the only study in opposites tonight.

NEXT: Grown-ass women FTW!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. I feel for Chris Medina — I really do. That’s a tragedy nobody should have to endure, and he’s incredibly admirable for sticking with her.

    But I was sickened at how his fiancee was paraded out. It was distasteful beyond measure.

    Who sells the love of their life out for a chance on a karaoke TV show that, if current trends continue, won’t pan out to much of a career, anyway?

    • Michael says:

      He sold her out? I don’t think that we need to question the character of someone who stayed with a partner who was physically and mentally altered by a car accident. 99 out of 100 people would have left. The kid is a good human being.

      Let’s this chalk this up to a badly produced segment. It was forced and ugly even though it shouldn’t have been. It has nothing to do with the character of those exploited.

    • KWise1 says:

      Perhaps they shouldn’t have paraded her out like that, but it allowed me to glimpse a side of Steven Tyler that impressed me to no end. The warmth he showed her….his total comfort and ease talking with her….I swear, my opinion of Steven Tyler has gone thru a complete 180 these last 2 weeks, for the better. And I think the positive way the judges treated her is a lesson for people to see, in terms of how to talk to and treat a person with a serious physical/mental disability.

      • Suncatcher says:

        KWise1 – I totally agree with you about Steven Tyler! You stole my thoughts exactly! He is leading the way – dragging AI out of obscurity and into its new look. And JLo and Randy are totally onboard with him. What a treat!

      • Maj says:

        I also completely agree about Steven. 180 degree turn here as well.
        The segment w/ Juliana wasn’t produced well but the judges, esp. Steven handled it so well. As for Chris, you know seeing the comments before the actual show I thought he’d be worse. He totally deserved to go through. He sang well, has a good voice. He would have gone through even if he didn’t have a tragedy in his life.
        I liked the guy w/ glasses a lot too. He reminds me of some of my friends, a smart but “normal” kid. :o)
        My fave would be Molly, tho. I seriously hope she won’t suffer bc of her degree and internship – SUCH a good singer w/ a voice I’d die for.
        I also loved Jerome’s voice, would like to hear more from him.

        But I could have done w/o Gokey…

    • Cyndee says:

      I hope we learn something from Danny G’s experience. He didn’t promote his story – those around him did and to an excessive degree. He simply answered questions when asked, and I know from experience that those who have lost someone they dearly love tend to keep them alive by talking about them. At no time did I feel he was using his loss to further his career. (AI, on the other hand, used him!!) His was a touching love story that warmed our hearts …. and then over time and excessive reporting, seemed to harden them. I’m appalled and saddened by some of the tasteless, ruthless, heartless comments – even here below – about Danny. Pray the same doesn’t happen (over time) this year.

      • Michael Sacal says:

        “Who sells the love of their life out for a chance on a karaoke TV show that, if current trends continue, won’t pan out to much of a career, anyway?”

        Danny Gokey

      • cookie love says:

        Agree! And Slezak couldn’t resist some Danny hate. Get over it!

    • argo says:

      Of course. We should not have the disabled girl muddy up our TV screens. Who cares that this was a big moment for her and one she may never have again in her whole life. What’s really sickening and distasteful are those who want people like her shut away and never seen.

      • allie8 says:

        I agree – in fact, she has a facebook page and her family and friends posted about how touched and amazed they were about the AI experience. They are trying to raise $$ for a fund for her and raise awareness about TBI. Seems like this accomplished both beautifully.

      • ktwolf says:

        I think it was very brave of Chris, Julianna, and their families to bring her to the audtions. She is an important part of Chris’ life, and shouldn’t be tucked away in a forgotten attic.

    • MichelleR says:

      I’ve read people saying he should have declined to bring her in. Can you imagine him going out there and telling her that Steven Tyler and J LO wanted to meet her, but he thought it was best to, on her behalf and without consulting her, say no. Steven Tyler and J LO!

      I don’t see where he sold her out. That’s not to say AI didn’t manipulate the moment, but I have to believe this is her dream too and I have to believe that Steven Tyler, in particular, gave her a lovely gift.

    • Micaela says:

      I’m obsessing over Scott Dangerfield.. I think he’s absolutely awesome and cute… You don’t need a huge voice to make it in the industry.. Remember Kris Allen? I hope he gets far..

    • Micaela says:

      I’m obsessing over Scott Dangerfield.. I think he’s absolutely awesome and cute… You don’t need a huge voice to make it in the industry.. Remember Kris Allen? I hope he gets far.. Go Scott!!

  2. Sharon says:

    I love the title of your recap. I used to drink Milwaukee’s Best back in my college days… it was horrible beer. $4.99/case.

    I have to say I enjoyed this show a little more than the first round of auditions, and I’m really getting to like Steven Tyler as a judge. Maybe there’s hope for the show yet, but I’m not holding my breath.

  3. Lyoness7 says:

    Michael so happy to have found you! An Idol Season would not be the same without your blogs. As usual excellent.

    This was the best group of talent we have seen. I liked so many of them I can’t remember names.

    I thought it was very distasteful of the AI Producers to wheel in Chris’s fiance. Yes it show’s us that Chris is a nice guy and honor’s his committments but did we really need to see that? I think not. This is the stuff AI does that makes me squirm.

    Also do we really need another KRISLEECOOK? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
    Showing that back story will have AI fans support Chris just because and if another Pop Rock Lite singer wins this AI fan will throw in the towel.

    • LiLa says:

      To be fair, Chris did say it would make her day if she could meet the judges and the moment with Steven Tyler was precious beyond almost anything else I’ve seen on reality TV. I choose to believe that Juliana was happy to have met them.

      • CMJ says:

        Its one thing to make her day by letting her meet the judges, but its another thing to put it on television. To me, it came across as in incredibly tacky….exploitive and in very poor taste.

        • PopVulture says:

          I disagree that it’s in poor taste to put someone in a wheelchair on tv. She’s no more or less camera-worthy than anyone else. I think Chris has proven he’s got her back. If she didn’t want to be on camera, he wouldn’t have allowed any of that to happen.

          I think it’s in “poor taste” to flinch away from another human being just because his or her struggle makes you uncomfortable.

          Best wishes to Chris and especially to his fiancee.

          • Owen says:

            Thank you!

          • Jay says:

            PopVulture I agree with you 100%. Juliana moved me when she gave Chris the thumbs up. She’s in there, and she is present. Just because she has a difficult time communicating doesn’t mean she CANT’T communicate. I think they are BOTH great young people and I’m happy they have each other.

          • Leila says:

            Well said. The fact that she has brain damage and multiple disabilities now doesn’t take away her dignity as a human being. If anything it shows her courage and will to survive.

            I think Steven Tyler was sweet but a little bit patronizing.

          • stevenjaba says:

            I don’t think the issue is whether or not it’s poor taste to put someone who is wheelchair bound on camera. I think the point is exploitation – whether or not her situation was being used by AI, or even her fiance, to get attention and/or increase ratings. Personally, I think the jury is out on that. If she is aware of her surroundings, as she seems to be, why wouldn’t she want to come and support her fiance? What an exciting opportunity for her, or anyone. Only time will tell what is really going on here.

          • betty says:

            I didn’t think about it before but u have a point. for sure AI producers and editors have exploited the moment but i am sure that the judges genuinely wanted to do sth kind. i am also sure that chris and his fiancé were touched by the gesture, and as we just learned they wanted to raise awareness and money to her condition, anyways.
            perhaps we all need to be more aware and definitely, we could all do with getting used to people in all kids of shapes and forms and disabilities.

      • Robin says:

        I am with you on this. As a speech pathologist, I have worked with many patients who have had a traumatic brain injury. There are varying degrees of severity, but most of them have been very aware of their surroundings and what is going on despite some major physical difficulties. It is very possible she knew what was happening and was excited for her fiance. Steven Tyler’s handling of this situation in such a sweet, real way without patronizing (and his overall performance as a judge so far) has moved up high on my list of celebrities worth caring about. He has been a pleasant surprise. I had very different expectations prior to the season beginning. Randy, on the other hand seems more cruel than ever. As Michael pointed out in the recap, he is the only still openly laughing at contestants who are doing poorly. Some may go into the audition hoping for that, but I would guess that most don’t, and don’t deserve it.

        • PopVulture says:

          I totally agree with you – and Randy’s junior high school-esque mocking is even more jarring now that he shares the panel with more engaged, respectful judges. Get with the new program, Randy!

        • Jeni says:

          Thanks, Robin. Well said.

        • Suncatcher says:

          Very well said, Robin! Steven Tyler & JLo have seemlessly bonded into a judging duo who are respecting the contestants for the first time in AI’s history. They are using their considerable talents, experience and naturally easy going personalities to give AI10 a brand new look and feel that it has never had. And for the most part, Randy is going along with them. Even he seems revitalized over last year’s train wreck!

          After only 3 shows, I feel the only problem AI has now is – TOO much talent to narrow down to one winner! If this keeps up, the biggest winners are US!

    • Kristin says:

      This is slightly going on a tangent, but when you said KRISLEECOOK I thought you were talking about Kristy Lee Cook at first…and I realized how weird it is that Idol had a contestant whose name is composed of the names of the last 3 idols. What are the odds of that?

    • helen says:

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      e mail address (

    • helen says:

      helenlife_21@att.Greetings How are you today happy new year. and how about your health. hope fine and you are doing well, My Name is Miss Helen,not yet married. I am looking for a very nice man of love, caring, honest, understanding, and of good character, then after going true your email on one this site i pick interest in you, so i will like you to write me with my E-mail address which is as follow, for me to tell you more about me, and as well give you my pictures because am really looking for a serious relationship with you. and also with love and trust.Remember that age,distance,color,language,or religion doesn’t matter,but true love does. thanks Yours New Friend Miss Helen. GOD bless you.
      e mail address (


  4. JL says:

    Overall, I really like the new panel, but last night I noticed that Randy was still immersed “old panel” behaviors like hiding his face behind papers and giggling during bad auditions. With J Lo and Steven Tyler on panel, these antics seemed outdated and tedious.

    Move on Randy — if someone’s bad tell them they’re off-key. And, if someone’s actually OK but weird (like Civil War guy), no need to be cruel. Seeing the two new judges reminds us that it doesn’t need to be cruel and exaggerated in order to be good TV.

    Listen to the music and respond to what you heard.

    • Sharon says:

      Agreed. I actually loved the way Steven Tyler handled Civil War guy… told him right up front he loved the song but no, he wasn’t AI material. Well done.

    • Peter says:


      Randy seems like a man on a mission to bring the nastiness back. But the other two seem to be taking the high road – with Steven even sort of scolding Randy. I also loved when ST told the civil war dude that he really loved the audition – but that it wasn’t right for Idol. I felt the same way. He actually sang that incredibly difficult song pretty well and was pretty interesting to watch. Not a guy for Idol, but also not a train wreck like it looked like it might be.

      Really liking JL and ST, especially ST’s enthusiasm for the music. His comments (when not straight up ka-ka-ka-crazy – which I also am amused by) are typically insightful, knowledgeable, to the point, and supportive. Hard to do. Here’s hoping his style catches on a few chairs down the row…

    • KWise1 says:

      I so agree with all that’s been said here. Last night really highlighted how immature Randy is. He has a middle school sense of humor (i.e., terrible). I am just soooooo impressed with Steven Tyler, beyond my wildest imagination.

    • marie says:

      Agree completely. In the absence of Simon’s out-and-out nastiness, Randy’s disrespectful giggling is looking more and more out of place. REALLY liking J Lo and ST so far; I’m probably guilty of typecasting when I admit I was expecting JL to be a ditzy pushover type, but no, she’s no Paula; she’s earned my respect by her professionalism so far. LOVE ST’s enthusiasm and really evident passion for music!

      But I’m reserving my final opinion of the new judging panel until the live shows, because I remember that during last year’s Hollywood Week, I actually thought Ellen was looking like a competent judge!

  5. Sue says:

    Molly the Harvard grad was my top pick of the night. She had such a nice tone to her voice with a bit of blues kicked in for good measure. Another favorite was Alyson Jados. I agree that she probably needs more work and this is where, again, I start thinking of Jimmy Iovine. He’s going to be the mentor through out the season and who better to really work with these people to make the most out of their voice. I really think that JLo had the right thought about her. She has something and just maybe, Idol can make it into something awesome. We need more rocker chicks by way of the Iraheta highway.

  6. lisasp says:

    I was really uncomfortable with the way they presented Chris Medina’s back story…it reminded me of the way they pimped Danny Gokey’s tragedy. It just seems to cheapen the situation and like you said, I fear we will remember his story more than his vocals. I did enjoy seeing the judges interact with the fiancee and Steven was particularly sweet with her. My other comment is that Steven uses the word “beautiful” waaay too often.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Agreed… I’m here for the music, and so was Chris.

      And I agree w/the comment about Jennifer’s honesty to the girl who will be eaten alive. “I want this so bad” should be an automatic NO to all contestants from here on out. I want to be 5’7 and drop dead gorgeous *blinks a couple times* nope – didn’t happen!

      • Robin says:

        Amen to that! It is one of my biggest pet peeves when contestants tearfully say “I want this so bad…This is my dream….” They all feel that way. Well, maybe not the few crazy ones just wanting a few minutes on TV. Wanting it is not enough. You need the talent too.

        • Leila says:

          The parents should prepare those young kids for the possibility of being rejected and also how to be graceful and humble even when begging. “I want it so bad” is a very self-centered way to ask for a spot on the show.

  7. JayK says:

    Last week I said Randy wasn’t as annoying this season, but I take it back. He’s worse. And I wish Idol didn’t spend so much time on the obvious jokes like Wannabe Radio DJ guy and Civil War Reenacter guy. They’re just being made fun of and we get it in about 10 seconds. And I didn’t hate White House Intern because she’s gone to Harvard and interns at the White House. I think that’s awesome. I hated her because of how arrogant she was about.

  8. Ghost of Kelly Clarkson says:

    @JayK – I had the same reaction the WH intern — I absolutely loved her voice but disliked her personality. I’m hoping to see a different side of her in Hollywood Week.

    Also, I’m really concerned about all the 15 year-olds going through to Hollywood. Considering how many experienced AI contestants have crashed and burned under the pressure in seasons past, I don’t think this will end well for them.

    • Owen says:

      Could your dislike of her “personality” have anything to do with her Obama love? Just thinkin’ aloud…

      • McFudge says:

        I don’t like Obama, but I have a soft spot for this girl b/c my son just graduated from Harvard, too (he doesn’t know her). Not sure why anyone would think she came off as arrogant. She seemed very down-to-earth to me. It’s funny, you wouldn’t know it from TV and movies, but most Harvard kids try really hard not to bring up where they’re going to school or where they’ve graduated from; it’s almost an unwritten rule that it’s just not cool to go around dropping the H-bomb, but shoot, if someone asks, what’re you supposed to do? I’ve never met any (my kid has great friends), but I’m sure there are some snots at Harvard, but that applies anywhere. One thing I can guarantee is that she just finished four years of absolutely working her tail off….and a lot of years before that working her tail off so she’d be in a position to get accepted in the first place. I respect that. Plus I think she has a terrific voice!

      • darcy's evil twin says:

        My dislike of her personality absolutely had something to do with her love of Obama!

        BUT – she can sing and it’s a singing contest.

        Victoria Huggins still holds the #1 spot for Most Annoying Contestant.

  9. del says:

    “….than an IBS sufferer at Taco Bell….” and THIS is why I follow you on Twitter and across the webverse, Mr S! :)No one has a better grasp of nuance than you do. I know when I read your reviews that you and I were indeed watching the same show.
    I actually melted with ST’s interaction with Julia….achingly sweet and respectful. He has proven himself to me to be everything that I hoped he would be: amazingly off-the-wall and actually in tune (!) with the contestants thus far. The fact that he is transported by some of the auditions is just icing on the cake….love his blissful nodding, eyes closed, while some of the songs are being sung. The man loves music. I also love how random the censorship labels are that slap across his mouth! I’m also pleasantly surprised by how much I like Jennifer Lopez. I didn’t expect her to be so insightful and kind….I expected more diva-like behavior. Randy is still old-school AI, and that’s not in a good way. Maybe he will fall into line with the new way of doing things judge-wise….eventually.

  10. Von smith reference says:

    I slow clapped what you wrote about emma vs chris.
    Slezak-your lookin good in idoloonies!!! ;)
    Its like katy stevens was the tip of the beiber fever iceberg
    But slezakkkkkk, remember—-save the rocker Alison is a youngster toooooo, so we shouldnt write tehm all off too quickly…….

  11. Sophie says:

    As I sat there with my 15 year old son watching the parade of Bieber wannabes, I could only think about how crushing and brutal Hollywood is going to be for some of these kids. I pray they have good support systems, but fear that the parents are asleep at the wheel, dreaming of fame by association Lohan-style.

    • KWise1 says:

      I agree. The families that drove 16 hours so their child could audition, or booked a flight from CA to WI because a child couldn’t wait until the Cali auditions…..who ARE these parents? Those 2 girls just happened to make the cut, but think of how many other parents indulged their young child’s “dreams” and drove thousands of miles, or paid thousands of dollars, to let them explore fame via reality TV. If your child is really that talented, encourage him/her to stay in school and pursue their dream the old-fashioned way: through hard work.

      • Jeni says:

        You have to wonder if they really understand what’s going to happen to their children. The possible prize is not worth it to me, and I can’t imagine it’s worth it to them. I don’t think they know what a soul-crushing machine they’re placing their children into. If they wait a few years, the kids will be more emotionally mature and able to deal with failures and successes a little better than a young teen. It’s hard enough for secure, non-hormonal adults to cope with the business, much less imagine a 15 year old having the ability to deal with these message boards, producers who declare them fat or ugly or bad teeth or misshapen foreheads, bad hair or whatever falls into people’s heads and they offer as “help”. No, it’s too mean to send these kids in.

      • Get Outta the Driver's Seat says:

        I agree — and who in their right mind would stuff the entire family into an automobile, and allow a 15-year-old with a brand new driver’s permit to drive the family halfway across the country??! Safety, anyone?? And how about the safety of the other drivers on the road?? Sheesh.

  12. Sabrina says:

    My first thought when I started watching the Chris Medina clip was “oh no! not another Chokey Gokey story!” I also had mixed feelings, you knew they were going to show her but I felt they at least held back from really un-necessary close-ups of her face. It is very difficult to know what she is aware of or not. But I agree that Steven Tyler showed what a down to Earth good guy he can be with his interaction with her. I hope if Chris makes it further, they don’t continue to beat this story to death. I would rather his singing carry him through the competition.

  13. Jake says:

    I think this show is way past it’s PRIME…stopped watching after Clay Aiken and Reuben. Just couldn’t bring myself to watch it tired of Simon’s snarky attitude and Paula’s incoherent self and Randy’s dog this and dog that…and now the new judges..BLAH!!!time to cancel it.

    • LiLa says:

      Simple solution – stop watching. The rest of us are enjoying the rebirth of AI.

    • PopVulture says:

      If you stopped watching, you have no idea about whether it’s past its prime or not.

      (hating myself a little for getting drawn into responding to this comment)

    • B- says:

      So you stopped watching after Season 2, yet you are on a Season 10 message board commenting on the show being past it’s prime? #CoolStoryBro

      If you continued to watch (which I believe you still do since you are here) you would know that the seasons AFTER season 2 all had great talent. So how is it “Past it’s Prime”? Season 3 had Hudson, London, Barrino, DeGarmo. Season 4 had Underwood. Season 5 had McPhee, Daughtry, and Yamin… Basically every season after Season 2 has had people better than the talent in that season.

      So stop complaining. Last season was the worst season and this season has done a wonderful rebound.

  14. SybilT says:

    First, thank goodness that Slezak is back!

    Second, I have incredibly mixed feelings about the Chris Medina segment. I really disliked Danny Gokey quite apart from the way that the producers handled his backstory. The continual exploitation of Sofia’s death confirmed uneasiness that I already had about Danny. But I didn’t get that vibe from Chris — quite the opposite. He came across as an incredibly decent and humble young man. That said, I resented what seemed like blatant manipulation by the producers. Chris’ voice was good enough to get him to Hollywood without it, but I’m not sure it’s good enough to make him into a favorite.

    I don’t know how much mental capacity the young woman has. It’s not clear to me that she can communicate well, even if she’s completely lucid. But I think she knew where she was, and I believe that she got genuine pleasure from meeting the judges. It’s going to be hard on her mother to be left as her sole caretaker while Chris is on the show — especially if he stays — but it’s also impossible to begrudge the poor kid a chance to pursue a dream, and perhaps provide for her more comfortably. I guess my bottom line is that I wish the producers hadn’t poured it on so thick, but I’m not going to hold it against the kid. At least, not yet.

    • RT says:

      Very well said. Summed up my feelings exactly.

    • McFudge says:

      …”but I’m not going to hold it against the kid”.

      Exactly! If 45 people ask you the same question and you answer each time, and each time it gets shown on TV, that doesn’t mean that you can’t stop talking about it……it means people won’t stop asking about it. He seemed like a really, really nice kid with an above average voice.

  15. Saracen Riggins says:

    White House chick defintely has my favorite female voice this season – but like a few others, I’m not crazy about her personality. My other favorite last night was the CPA – I have a major crush on him! Probably because he was one of like 2 that were near my age, haha. But he had a very endearing quality about him. I don’t expect he’ll make it far, but I’ll enjoy him while I can!
    As far as Chris and his fiance go, I for one don’t think there was a problem. I’m normally so turned off by the back stories. Chris, however, didn’t really seem to be milking his story (like almost every other person seems to). And I so respected him for what he’s choosing to do. And he did say she would be so excited to meet them. I do, however, think his story is more memorable than his voice – so far anyway. I’m open to being proven wrong!

  16. ChrissieK says:

    Michael–You be da best. I miss you on EW, naturally, but you are here and so my universe is not so tilted as it was. Randy’s punch in the face to Harvard Girl was AWESOME! I still laugh over it! I suppose she does a mean tap dance and can paint like DaVinci and models on the side for Victoria Secret…her journey, if long, will be interesting. JLo was, I thought, one of the better mentors a few years back so I am not surprised at her near-excellence at the judge’s table. Steven Tyler…I shall DREAM ON and ON about you because you are American Idol 2011. Truly, if it weren’t for Steven, I probably would have dropped AI from my dance card.

  17. CMJ says:

    Uhm, from the totally gratuitous and shallow end of the pool….I’m hopin to see more of Big Goon. What a burnin’ burnin’ hunk of man! Can we have more of these and less of the 15 year olds?

  18. Sophie says:

    When I saw the Chris Medina promos early in the show, I looked at my son and said
    “That’s why they trotted out Danny Gokey. It’s a sequel.” And as most sequels go, it was a horrible misstep by the producers. To tie back to my prior comment, it appeared that the family of Julianna was there with her. Shame on them for allowing their daughter to be pimped in this manner.

    • PopVulture says:

      But maybe she wasn’t “pimped.” Maybe she was excited. Maybe she was just as happy to see herself on tv as any other family member/loved one would be.

  19. susela says:

    I wish they had told 15-year-old Emma that they would hold her golden ticket for one year! Hollywood Week’s gonna be tough for her.

    And let’s hope that they don’t trot out Chris’ back story every time we see him on screen. None of us minded hearing about Gokey’s wife the first time we met him—it was hearing about her EVERY time we saw him that created a backlash.

    I can’t believe how much I’m liking Steven Tyler!! He’s funny, he’s honest without being cruel, and he’s compassionate. He was the only one of the judges to talk to Julianna as if she was still a person. And did you notice that while Randy and Jennifer were playing up the golden ticket they were bestowing, Steven was quietly talking to other family members? He may say “(s)uck a duck,” but he’s a classy guy.

    • RT says:

      I didn’t notice the part where he quietly talked to the other family members. He really is proving to be a class act. When I first heard he was going to be judge, I felt like it was a huge mistake and guessed that he would be crazy, incoherent, and not offering any real contribution to the show. I am so glad to be wrong.

  20. Yo says:

    I’m not so sure Randy was the only one laughing at contestants; for sure he was the only one we saw laughing. I thought there was some judge “in joke” happening that we missed.

    Steven Tyler was terrific his response to Lauren last night, and Lauren’s presence on the show did not disturb me. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do and the cost of care/rehab for a head trauma victim is prohibitive. I have known some disabled accident victims and they sued the driver, less because they wanted to than because they had to. Idol needs to be careful in its handling of this story, but for now, I’m sure this woman’s presence will result in contributions to help her. If a Gokey is pulled, it will backfire. This is now a tender and tragic love story; I hope it doesn’t feed a cynical America.

  21. Lizzy says:

    “Haley Reinhart: Big, booming voice on “Oh Darlin,” but girl threw in more runs than an IBS sufferer at Taco Bell. Needs fewer gimmicks, more emotion.”

    Please don’t say things that funny, because then I laugh out loud at work and it becomes obvious I’m not doing what I’m supposed to.

  22. Jaded says:

    Steven Tyler is such a treat to watch! I LOVE the way he genuinely enjoys the good singing and how he takes what he’s doing so seriously. Also, I love hearing the little snippets of him singing–his voice is just gold! And his words to Chris’ fiancee at the end of the show were touching beyond measure. GO STEVEN!!!

    • McFudge says:

      Can’t say that I ever really cared for Steven Tyler……until now. In spite of his occasional perviness. I kind of expected good things from JLo, because she had been a good mentor, but I thought ST would be a train wreck. What a nice surprise!

  23. Jaded says:

    Also, did anyone notice how the chick with the leg cramp got absolutely NO reaction from her family/friends??? They all seemed pretty irritated with her, even glaring at her–like she pulls this attention stealing crap all the time. Way to steal a moment from the guy who actually got the ticket.

    • Suncatcher says:

      Yup. I caught that too, Jaded. Her entire family walked off, leaving her alone with Ryan. She finally “limped” after them. Too funny!

    • Jenny says:

      YES!! That had to be the funniest thing I had ever seen in my life. My reenactment of it gets my family rolling every time. They were very nonchalant about her pain and Ryan laughed as well. Especially when he noticed no one cared. Ahhh a classic. Do you know where I can find this clip? I would love to post it on my FB page. Xoxo

  24. CC says:

    Weekly Reader, classic.

  25. R. Carr says:

    I thought the young asian girl (Thia) and the while girl doing all the runs (Haley) shouldn’t have gone through. I thought the first girl that was begging for a spot was genuinely sick and should have made it through easier (they didn’t need to make her beg).

    And I completely agree … the chumps waste everyone’s time. I’d like to see more borderline contestants as well. Given that Thia and Haley weren’t that good I’d expect there to be quite a few better than them that we didn’t see. There has to be a better way to provide comic relief.

    I really like that John Lennon look-alike (toward the end that said he almost fainted) and the arena janitor (and I typically don’t like the r&b types but she has this great Erika Badu thing going on).

    • Saracen Riggins says:

      I agree on the count that there are definitely better ways to provide some comedy. For example, when Ryan interacts with families always entertains me far more than the “joke” or “terrible” auditions. When he asked the one Mom (of a talented contender if I recall correctly) if she was a singer and she said only to little people. Ryan said “That’s me!” – that cracked me up!

  26. Alison says:

    Oh, Slezak, I knew you would make me feel guilty for hating on the White House intern. I don’t really blame her for my feelings, but rather the editors who chose to package her as such.

  27. ngh18 says:

    Steven Tyler is really surprising me as a judge. I did not expect to be so taken with him. Jennifer is okay, but she still has not won me over. Randy seemed at first to be the outsider, but I did not notice that so much tonight. I did, however, miss Simon tonight. I guess I always will.

  28. Helene Fina says:

    I will continue watching AI because I absolutely love the new judges. They are more credible, honest, fun and real.
    Though I have not seen any outstanding talent so far since Season 8… (which I loved!) I will continue to watch AI do to the new judges alone.
    As for the 15 yr olds, why don’t they produce a new show, “TEEN Idol”. It would be so much better for all concerned, including us (the audiance.)
    As for the intense background stories, let’s wait until after Hollywood week. Let’s just go with the singing and occupations.
    Also, why did’nt anyone mention the country singer with the low voice? I don’t like country… but he was adorable.
    Let’s all hope we can get some solid enertainment this year and enjoy it!

    • Snsetblaze says:

      Teen Idol is an excellent idea. Then I can skip it and not have to sit through Bieber wannabees and those that have been watching all their lives and deserve to go to Hollywood because it is their dream. We can see more of those like the singing waitress or the arena janitor that just did not have the means to get their careers really started. And we won’t have to deal with tweens continuing to vote for Sanjayas so they make it further than they should.

    • McFudge says:

      Teen Idol? That is a scathingly brilliant idea! I’m so looking forward to hearing 15 year old kids sing Frank Sinatra or something.

  29. Jerry says:

    While a lot of you feel that the Chris Medina segment was exploitative, I’m leaning towards the idea that Chris and her family knew that, and decided to use the publicity both ways.

    If you do a little digging online, there is a non-profit website set up to help pay for his fiancées medical bills. Last night when I found it they wanted $8,000, and had $9,000 raised. Now they want $16,000 and have raised $10,000.

    So, assuming they need this money for a legitimate purpose that will help improve her life then I say bravo for using Idol’s exploitations to your advantage.

    The website is: by the way

    • McFudge says:

      I was thinking that had they been married, she might be covered under any health insurance that he had. Now there is no way she can get insurance. I have no doubt they can use the money.

  30. the real wendy says:

    I hope everybody out there realizes: Chris Medina is THE TRUE Prince Charming. You can only wish to have someone that spectacular in your life. Singing or no… he’s already won it all in my book.

    • Princess Diaries says:

      Absolutely. Singing or no……..Chris has got what’s truly important – strong moral character. He’s a winner.

  31. DallasHunter says:

    I have to have my fix of Slezak even if he ends up on a website in Irktusk. It seems like this website is coming from Guam. (:

    The Chris Medina story is one that raises more questions about what is right and wrong on TV than it answers. To be honest, I felt a little uncomfortable and moved at the same time. Is it wrong to show a person in that state, or is just as wrong not to show her? I don’t know, how can anyone be for sure? Regardless, I think there is NO DOUBT that Steven Tyler’s handled himself in such a way that will endear himself FOREVER to those of us that didn’t know what to expect. And maybe for the first time in Idol history, we now have a judge that not only knows music, but geniunely cares about the contestants and people in general. For that act alone, he will make people like Simon, Kara and Paula voluntarily fade from memory forever.

  32. Jessica says:

    I enjoyed last night a lot and am so glad Michael Slezak is back! :)
    I was a little upset b/c I am positive I saw a second glimpse of Andrew Fenlon (House of the Rising Sun audition last year) and wanted to hear his audition and hoping he made it through.

  33. mariabintexas says:

    WORD TO CHRIS MEDINA David Cook WON Season 7 of Idol without trotting out his brother with brain cancer. Take note. Dont exploit your family for fame. I am however glad that Idol made use of his “tragic backstory” because now I have someone to passionately vote AGAINST.

  34. mariabintexas says:

    One other thing about Chris Medina. Exactly how does he plan to be his finance’s primary care giver should he actually succeed on idol and become a touring musician? Call me cynical but his “golden ticket” is his ticket out of his unfortunate situation. Gross. Just gross.

    • Jeni says:

      He doesn’t need a golden ticket. There’s nothing holding her to him, but his desire to love her for better or worse. I do worry that fame and it’s inherent self-absorption will pull them apart. The Idol machine can chew you up and spit you out without thought or concern. But maybe he can have a career as a musician and take care of her. They don’t have to be exclusive.

    • Snsetblaze says:

      Maybe he will be able to afford help – to give the mother and himself some relief.

    • Niix Starkyller says:

      There’s always at least one idiot in the crowd. It’s nice when they point themselves out so we don’t have to wonder who it is.

      In the last 24 hours, they have already received a great deal of financial help from that one airing. Her mother has been writing for over a year about her condition and their struggle (and deep commitment) to helping Juliana on her long road to recovery.

      If they raise tens of thousands of dollars more in the coming weeks to alleviate the financial burden of her recovery, they will all be able to spend more time being emotionally supportive as well.

  35. Jen says:

    I too was moved by Chris Medina’s story, I didn’t think it was exploited or thrown in our faces.

    What bothered me is Randy. Did anyone else notice that when the girl yelled at them for not accepting heavier women, Randy’s first instinct was to call out his past winners?? First he pointed to Jordin Sparks’ picture (wtf?!), then said something about “Our first….” ohhhh Randy, you just TOTALLY insulted Kelly Clarkson’s weight. I couldn’t believe he did that.

    • whatevs says:

      It’s not like he called them fat, he just said they weren’t skinny, which they aren’t. Nobody cares.

      It’s great that he did that so that she knows her singing was horrible and that it wasn’t actually about her weight.

    • Suncatcher says:

      I thought Randy was right in what he tried to tell this young lady about past winners & their weight. Jennifer Hudson is making a fortune promoting Weight Watchers – after losing a whole lot of weight…

      There was nothing any of the judges could say that would get through to that contestant last night. Hope she was watching cuz she sure made a fool of herself.

    • MichelleR says:

      I had the same reaction — that somewhere Kelly Clarkson was calling him every name but a child of God. Then, a couple minutes later, The Jennifer Hudson Weight Watchers commercial comes on.

    • MichelleR says:

      The show has been great. I love the intern’s voice, love might be too light of a word, but I really think she’ll have a chance at it at any time, and doesn’t need to show. She has an education and she has connections and her fall back is never going to be flipping burgers.

      I just have no amusement in me for the show humiliating the delusional. I just sit there stone-faced and wait for them to move on.

      Who knew Steven Tyler would be so beloved and amazing? I really was bummed out when they announced the new judges and now I’m thrilled. No matter what Tyler does in the future, I’m going to remember his kindness.

  36. Janet B says:

    Our family wasn’t going to watch this season, but after reading your recaps we gave it a try last night.

    We really like Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez as the new judges, while Randy is still our least favorite judge. Steven and Jennifer are respectful of the good, the bad and the silly. Although Steven needs to be careful about the “creepy old man thing” as my teen called it last night.

  37. Lallaa says:

    Michal says that he doesn’t really like Chris medina because he remembers his sob story more than he remembers his voice. But I can’t say that I even remember Anyones song choice, let alone their voice during these auditions. Can you?

  38. PinBox says:

    I was appalled at the judges asking Chris about his fiancee, as we know they have everyone’s back stories when they audition. Unacceptable and absolutely seemed scripted to culminate with bringing her front and center for our viewing pleasure. Shame on you, Idol, shame.

    I hope they do not promote too many SHOUTERS or trilling run singers. They are just annoying (and I doubt if Randy remembered the one from an earlier season).

    I hated how Randy laughed at people, loved how Steven and JLo sternly and intentionally ignored it and didn’t laugh. Talk about great self control!

    I hope JLo realizes she has begun to refer to “The Whole Package”, and nips it in the bud. It brought back unpleasant memories of Kara.

    My favorite moment was when Randy laughed at (whoever it was), and then made a really rude remark to the guy and Steven admonished Randy (like a parent would to a child acting out), with, “Hey, hey, hey hey”, and THEN firmly stated that , “YES”, we do need to vote, when Randy tried to take back control by asking if they even needed to vote. It was a wonderful example of Steven’s kindness and basic human respect, and it very effectively showed how much Steven and JLo will not participate in, tolerate or condone bad behavior from Randy.

  39. KWise1 says:

    I get so angry when a contestant says, “but this is my dream.” If that’s true, then you probably have a Plan B and a Plan C, right? You’re not putting all your eggs into the American Idol basket, are you? Anybody truly committed to a career in music would probably explore a variety of routes to achieving your dream. If your ONLY plan is to try out for American Idol….then you are a fool.

    • Snsetblaze says:

      Good point. And people who say that never seem to realize that many, many people have the same dream and the fact that they even got into the room with the judges in the first place is often a miracle.

    • LiLa says:

      Right or wrong, those pleas come off sounding whiny and entitled to me and I wish that everytime a contestant pulls out that card, they automatically get rejected. For most of them, it would be to their benefit to have to work a little longer towards achieving their dream.

  40. Jeni says:

    What surprised me about this show, and the past two is how happy I am while watching. I love seeing contestants who can sing and judges who really listen. I didn’t even realize it was missing. The past few years, I could not watch the auditions. I don’t find hairy men dressed as ballerinas or rabbits amusing. I don’t like ‘smart’ people mocking the less fortunate. And I don’t miss Simon’s bored, condescending attitude. I do like the new judges. I do like fewer sob stories. I like the opportunity to hear more good singers than people there just to get attention. I forgot how much I used to enjoy this show, and it’s great to enjoy it again. (And despite myself, Steven Tyler made me cry when he spoke to Juliana. It was such a great Dad/nurturing moment. So thoughtful–who knew?)

    • Ella says:

      My thoughts exactly, Jeni! I skipped auditions for years – too stupid and too boring. These 3 shows were a breath of fresh air and judges are the big part of it! Steven Tyler is the best!

      And yes, I would like less sob stories and more good singing! I wish they didn’t have so many 15 years olds! These kids should be in school, not on national TV! Whomever said up the thrad to make a separate show “Teen Idol” is right! I’d rather see talented people who worked hard on their music and couldn’t catch a break. Their time is limited, and now there are even fewer spots because of these little kids. Other than that – Idol is back and I thought that I won’t watch it after the last season disaster. What a nice surprise!

  41. Paul says:

    PinBox I COMPLETELY agree! Randy’s laughter is COMPLETELY out of place without Simon– it was getting crueler & crueler as the years went on, and I love that Steven & J Lo won’t laugh at people who don’t deserve it.

    Definitely cheering for Molly– I loved her alto tone! I think she’s my favorite so far! And the footage of her getting punched in the face by Randy was hilarious!

    I thought both Scott’s were good as well

  42. Teresa says:

    My mother came in after the first ten minutes of the show last night and when she asked what she missed, I said (to my surprise), “This next American Idol.” It pains me to say it because Nigel’s been pimping Scott in tweets and talk show appearances, but there’s something about him. I don’t like country music, but his voice is distinctive and his vibe is absolutely winning.

    I have mixed feelings about Emma. I don’t think she’s ready and I don’t like the judges caving in because she begged them. But… if they are going to lower the audition age, I think it’s okay to send the youngsters to Hollywood week. Most of them won’t go survive it, but they should learn from the experience and hopefully they can apply what they learn over the course of years. Maybe, like Rachel from last week, they can return a few years later and advance farther in the process.

    Think of Hollywood week as the new American Idol Camp.

  43. Diane says:

    still no one I am excited to see again. They have far less mental hospital people, with the exception, possibly of the civil war guy, but without Simon to say what everyone is thinking, they just are not funny. They might as well just do without them. Please, american idol, spare us the sob story. I just groan when I hear “coming up a story that will tug at your heart strings” I don’t have that many heart strings.

  44. cornelle says:

    It won’t be the kids/contestants who ruin the show. It won’t be the judges — even with all of the debate about the Tyler/JLO/Jackson mix and who’s nicer/meaner/funnier/more accurate in their judging.
    It will be the PRODUCERS. The cheese factor (whether it’s in Wisconsin or no) is so high that I could only watch about 20 min. of this show, zipped-through w/my finger firmly on the FF button. Why? B/c as so many of you astute posters have pointed out, it’s becoming impossible to tell the city tryouts from one season to another — even if they are in different cities. Every year — we have your poor, your tired, your hungry, your huddled masses. It’s horrible and a terrible injustice to these people when their stories become cliches b/c we’ve seen them in one way, shape or form. Next year, if there is one, I think the audition weeks need to be revamped b/c if you can’t find a way to involve folks in the beginning, they will be less likely to tune in for all of the subsequent shows, IMHO.

  45. Ericalee says:

    Slezak, you are still the best!! But someone needs to get more tech savvy on tvline. The mobile version of this recap is a mess, I can’t get to pg2. Also check your YouTube tags…. It was idooonies when I watched your show instead of idoloonies xoxo

  46. Suncatcher says:

    I only watched half of last year’s AI. The highlight was “Pants on the Ground?” The warning shot over the bow that it was going to be a rough year – and it was.

    This year, I can’t get enough of AI10! Steven Tyler and JLo have single handedly brought it to an even higher level than ever before -and in only 3 shows. These 2 are honest, warm, caring, experienced, talented, musicians, who are RESPECTING this year’s crop of contestants. Their behavior is bringing out the best in AI and in the talent pool.

    Was AI lucky in picking these 2 – or did Nigel et al know what they were giving us this year? No matter. The real winners are US. : )

    PS – I thought I’d miss Simon. Then I thought last night, watching Steven Tyler with Chris’s lady, would Simon ever do this? The answer is no. Simon who?

  47. Tulip says:

    Manipulation Idol is in full effect, but of course I cried and cheered him, her, her family and SteveN (get it right JLo) Tyler. I hope Uncle Nigel doesn’t suffer from Beiber Fever too much because there is so much “mature” talent happening that I’m cautiously optimistic about the Top Ten. I am enthralled with Steven Tyler, side-eyed about Jennifer Lopez, and meh about Randy Jackson.

  48. Sandi says:

    I’m not a cynical person by nature and I, for one, was not offended by Chris’ fiance on camera. Should she be hidden in the shadows from this point in her life forward? Should she feel shame being on camera because of her disability?

    Maybe Chris is proud of her, no matter what, and wanted her with him on camera. If not, she could have stayed home. He didn’t have to bring her. And I certainly don’t think a guy that is now devoted himself to caring for a woman with a TBI brought her with the intention of exploitation.

    His story moved me and even if that was Idol’s only intention for letting her be filmed, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with showing the strength of human spirit.

  49. Dawn says:

    The absolute best moment of the show was Steven Tyler slamming the breaks on his proclamation that Alyson Jados “could be one of my…noooooo.” In that instant, you could almost see the man have a revelation—for the first time since the early 90s, when his band put out those awesome videos featuring Alicia Sliverstone as the girl next door turned sexpot, thereby demonstrating to a new generation of teenager what their mothers had found so sexy about tight-panted, hair-metal rockers, Mr. Tyler might actually have a shot a beautiful 20-something, but would obliterate this possibility and immediately revert to being lecherous, old rock “icon” if the suggestion of paternity were allowed escape from his cavernous mouth.

  50. Cy says:

    Nice recap, Slezak! I agree that it was impossible not to be touched by Chris Medina’s story. Honestly, I didn’t have any qualms at all about Idol covering it because, unlike the silly “I had cancer when I was 5 (but I”m all better now)” contrived sob stories, Chris’s is one that affects his current life and truly reflects on his character. Because in this case, it isn’t just how admirably he’s holding up under a terrible sickness, etc, that fate has thrown upon him. He *chose* this pain by choosing to stick with his fiance despite how hard he must have known it would be. So in my opinion, he deserves to get the positive feedback for his pain. I’m really glad they told us his story.

    Obviously, I’m madly rooting for Chris for Top 20 now, but there were also a few others that really caught my attention in this bunch:

    1) Molly the Harvardian – Thanks for telling the haters to chill out, Slezak. I can’t foresee her doing super-well in this competition just b/c there are so many petty, jealous ppl out there, but she has true talent, and I like her assertive, go-get-em attitude. Hope she does well!

    2) Scott Dangerfield – Great name! And I’m so glad J Lo told him to keep the hair and glasses–I love the look~

    3) Rocker Girl – Finally, a rocker! Last season’s slew of singer-songwriters bored me to tears. Here’s hoping this girl or at least a few good rockers make it to Top 10.

    4) Thia Megia – She looks like she may actually have the confidence to not crumble under the Top 20 pressure like all the other Asian contestants that get on Idol. I’d love to see her go far. :)

    As for people who TOTALLY didn’t deserve to go forward–that silly Emma girl. I agree with your analysis of her completely–she’s gonna get devoured in Hollywood (cut on the first day, I’d wager) because she’s 100% not ready, either vocally or emotionally, to enter the entertainment industry. I love how compassionate our new judges are, but they (okay, Steven and Randy) really shouldn’t have given her this false hope.

    • Suncatcher says:

      Hopefully Emma heard Steven Tyler first say “no” to her along with JLo for the same reason – too young & thin skinned.