American Idol‘s math has always been fairly simple: He (or she) with the most viewer votes wins. The one with the lowest weekly tally meets a fate uglier than a Lazaro Arbos key change. And the ratio of judges’ feedback to actual contestant performances is roughly 237 to 1.
But in Season 12, one set of numbers simply hasn’t made sense: With a finale set for May 16 and a mere 10 finalists in the mix, only a Judges’ Save or a non-elimination week — without a subsequent double exit — would stop the season from ending prematurely. And you know Uncle Nigel and his Fox Overlords aren’t about to fill that dead Sweeps airtime with a one-time-only repeat of The Mob Doctor.
That kernel of information — plus word from Idol’s publicity team that the Save was still in effect (despite the fact that in prior years, it expired prior to Top 5 night) — took some of the suspense out of the proceedings. I mean, Nicki, Randy, Mariah and Keith aren’t going to step in and veto the will of the voting public when there’s only four or three singers left standing, right?
After an astonishingly emotional return to the stage from Season 3 champ Fantasia (ooh wee, “Lose to Win” is a good’un) and the surgical vocal precision of Season 2 runner-up Clay Aiken, we got to the vital stuff:
Sent to Safety (in No Particular Order)
Singing for Her Life
Janelle Arthur “
Set Me Free You Keep Me Hanging On” | I’ve got to admit that Janelle’s rearrangement of the Supremes’ classic was one of my favorite Season 12 moments, but without her trusty acoustic guitar — and with a more piano-driven arrangement — some of Janelle’s angst and fire got stripped away. This was a good performance, but hardly enough to shake the vibe that she’s the No. 5 contestant in a very strong quintet. Randy revealed a 2-2 split on the panel, and without a unanimous decision, Janelle was eliminated.
A few other thoughts on the episode:
* I really do dislike a medley of almost any kind, but this week’s choice of Donna Summer seemed particularly grisly for poor Kree and Janelle, who are about as far from disco as Uncle Nigel is from being excited about music of the last 15 years. Plus, Angie getting dipped by a male dancer definitely ranks among the season’s 10 most awakward moments (right alongside Jimmy misogynistically weighing in on the Mariah-Nicki squabble with his “Women! They’re so silly!” brand of humor — gag).
* That Ford Fiesta scavenger hu…
* Oh, sorry, I dozed off during that last sentence.
* I’m always looking for reverse psychology in Jimmy’s Contestant Critiques, but after he described Angie as “a great technician” (yikes) and said her “Halo” came up short in the believability department, I’m starting to wonder if he simply isn’t that into her.
* Watching Paula Abdul “sneak” out on stage and congratulate Candice for her inventive, gorgeous “Straight Up” was one of the sweetest moments of the season — especially when the former Idol judge noted the 1989 hit had been “a best friend” to her. Do-do I still love Paula? Or at least her must-have Greatest Hits? In a word, yes — just not behind the judges’ table. #JasonCastro #NeverForget
* Clay Aiken may never be painted as a “commercial package artist,” but you can’t deny the size or precision of his voice. In my heart, I think his “Bridge Over Troubled Water” was the final swish of mouthwash intended to remove the taste of Lazaro Arbos (who tackled the ballad in his audition and as his Top 10 “victory anthem”) from the Season 12 stage.
* Jimmy forgetting his lukewarm Wednesday-night response to “Without You” and comparing it to a successful jump out of an airplane? Mariah saying she wanted to place Amber in a spot “above the top 2”? Have they finally gone too far in trying to make Ms. Holcomb happen? Discuss!
* I’m not saying Jimmy was wrong about Kree not doing the best job in song selection this week, but he totally saw this week’s results before predicting she might be in jeopardy, right? That said, the long and meaningful shot of Kree and Janelle hugging felt like the show trying to subtly transmit the blonde country girl’s votes directly onto the brunette one.
* Call me an unrelenting megafan, but I lost my damn mind when Fantasia’s lower lip began to quiver on the final refrain of her awesome new single “Lose to Win.” This was absolutely the best Ms. Barrino has looked and sounded on the Idol stage since her confetti shower at the end of Season 3. And nobody feels their music like she does. #WomansRevivalYes Hey, an idea? Instead of the Ford Fiesta B.S. moment, though, wouldn’t it have been a better use of the car manufacturer’s money to sponsor a second performance by ‘Tasia? Or maybe allowing the lovely La Toya London to grab the mic and delight us for a couple minutes?
Your turn: What did you think of Season 12 Top 5 results? Is Top 4 week too late in the show to be using the save? Is a non-elimination week and then cumulative results from the next two Wednesdays the most fair way to extend the season? Sound off in the comments, and for all my Idol-related news, recaps, interviews and videos, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!