1 of 10
Returned for the top 7 during season 11 as a judges' save
Finished TBD: Still in it to win it!
Why were we surprised? The biggest surprise here was that Jessica was eliminated at all, after delivering one of the best vocals of the night a day before. How could America get it so wrong? Jessica is the posterchild for the judges' save — an instrument to be used to correct America's mistakes. Jessica only got through a few bars of her ''save me'' song before the judges rushed the stage to stop her. Now she lives to compete another week, and possibly take it to the very end.
2 of 10
Returned for the top 11 during season 10 as a judges' save
Finished 6th place
Why were we surprised? In the past, only the top 10 finalists were eligible to go on the big summer tour. But that all changed when Casey Abrams was saved in 11th place. In order to make life easy, it was a top 11 that headed out across America in July. When Casey got the news that the judges were using their single save on him and he would get to tour, he collapsed in shock at the feet of Ryan Seacrest. Thankfully, Casey recovered and continued to sing and play his guitar until he was eliminated in 6th place.
3 of 10
Returned for the top 13 during season 8 as a wild card
Finished 6th place
Why were we surprised? It appeared to be all over for Anoop Desai. Ryan Seacrest had just declared Matt Giraud the 12th finalist, completing the season 8 top 12. But not so fast! As Anoop was about to head back to the couches, Simon Cowell stopped him. ''We decided recently,'' teased Simon, ''to make this a top 13.'' A shocked Anoop put his face in his hands, while Idol fans reveled in one of the show's most memorable feel-good moments.
4 of 10
Returned (sort of) for the top 7 during season 8 as a judges' save
Finished 5th place
Why were we surprised? When the judges' save was introduced in season 8, fans were miffed that the panel was reversing America's decisions. But all those reservations melted away after the first save went to Matt Giraud at top 7. Simon Cowell told Matt Giraud it's ''good news'' as the crowd chants ''Save! Save! Save!'' Even the knowledge that two contestants would be eliminated the following week did not stop the remaining finalists from swarming the stage to hug Matt.
5 of 10
Returned for the top 24 during season 9 to replace a disqualified contestant
Finished 7th place
Why were we surprised?The judges confused fans by placing Tim Urban in the top 24 during the season 9 green mile episode — we never saw the judges give him the nod. It turned out that curly haired orphan Chris Golightly was originally part of the top 24 but was disqualified after Idol producers discovered he was already signed to a recording contract. If it weren't for Chris's legal entanglements, we would have never been treated to Tim's infamous slide.
6 of 10
Returned for the top 32 during season 5 to replace a disqualified contestant (Donnie Williams)
Finished 5th place
Why were we surprised? When sweet George Huff was cut in the rooms during Hollywood week, it appeared to be the end of the road for him. That is until top 32 semifinalist Donnie Williams was arrested for drunk driving after a celebration party thrown in his honor on the eve of his return to Hollywood. Idol producers dumped him, bringing back George who stayed in the mix until close to the end.
7 of 10
Returned for the top 12 during season 4 to replace contestant who quit (Mario Vazquez)
Finished 9th place
Why were we surprised? Good looks and swagger weren't enough to get folks to pick up the phone and vote Smith, the son of baseball great Ozzie Smith, into the season 4 top 12. But a few days after the soul singer was cut at the top 16, Mario Vazquez dropped out of the top 24 citing ''personal reasons.'' Smith was suddenly in and on his way to a 9th place finish.
8 of 10
Michael ''Big Mike'' Lynche
Returned for the top 9 during season 9 for the judges' save
Finished 4th place
Why were we surprised? At first, it seemed as if the judges would not use their save on Big Mike Lynch, who had just learned he'd gotten the lowest number of votes at 9th place. Simon Cowell delivered the verdict as if the panel had decided to pass. ''We wish you had done something like that yesterday,'' lectured Simon after Mike delivered an emotional ''Woman's Work'' as his ''save me'' song. But it was good news for Mike and his tearful wife, who had delivered a baby girl while Mike competed in Hollywood. ''We have decided...that we are going to see you next week,'' grinned Simon.
9 of 10
Returned for the top 12 during season 2 as a wild card
Finished 6th place
Why were we surprised? She was cut in Hollywood, had zero stage presence, and a very strange goat-like vibrato. Still, Simon Cowell saw something in 17-year-old Carmen Rasmusen that nobody else saw. ''I think this girl could do very well in this competition,'' said Simon when he plucked Carmen to be the 11th member of the season 2 top 12. He wasn't alone: She lasted another 7 weeks.
10 of 10
Returned for the top 24 during season 11 as a wildcard
Finished at 12th (disqualified)
Why were we surprised? Why would Idol want to expand the top 24 to a top 25 by adding another guy? And why would that guy be the oddly-voiced bass Jermaine Jones? Both David Leathers Jr. and fan favorite Johnny Keyser seemed to be more likely candidates out of the wildcards announced during the broadcast. But the real shock was Jermaine's disqualification after producers learned he had lied about outstanding warrants. Nobody replaced Jermaine when he left.