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American Idol recap: Better 'Save' Than Sorry!

In the season’s most emotional results show, the judges overturn America’s decision to send Matt home. Now the question lingers: Did they do the right thing?

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American Idol Saved
Michael Becker/Fox

American Idol

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, Ryan Seacrest
Reality TV

It’s fitting that the most dramatic results show of American Idol‘s eighth season arrived during ”Songs of the Cinema” week — brought to you in part by Cecile Frot-Coutaz, Ford, Coca-Cola, AT&T, the soundtrack to Hannah Montana: The Movie, New Line Cinema’s 17 Again, Quentin Tarantino’s movie that cannot be named, and the Paula Abdul ”Forever Your Girl” jewelry line (an HSN exclusive!).

Indeed, watching Simon Cowell tell underdog contestant Matt Giraud that the judges had voted to overturn America’s decision and let him return to the Idol stage for disco night next week reminded me of that clichéd-but-effective moment that arrives near the end of nearly every Hollywood sports flick. The scrawny substitute quarterback throws a ”Hail Mary” pass into the end zone and pulls off the last-minute upset. The crooked little racehorse with the oversized heart gets up in the final stride to win the big race. The figure skater who’d nearly given up on her dream lands the quadruple jump and scores a perfect 10.

It’s okay, folks. Stop hiding those Kleenexes. Because in much the same way you get a free pass for tearing up at the end of hokey sports flicks, there’s also no need to apologize if you choked up at the sight of Matt’s six competitors rushing the stage for a heartfelt group hug at the end of tonight’s show. Heck, my tear ducts activated so unexpectedly, I was ready to blame it on my Thai red curry — till I realized I’d finished eating it before Adam Lambert had landed the night’s best punch line. (Yeah, I’m referring to his coy ”Did he mean it as an insult?” after Ryan noted that Simon had compared his Tuesday-night rendition of ”Born to Be Wild” to something out of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

But back to the crying for a moment. You see, as genuine as my emotions were for Matt, the more I think about it, the more the story arc of tonight’s telecast feels less like a cinematic event and more like a particularly touching cell phone ad. (Sometimes I cry at those, too.) Matt hadn’t won the big game, after all. He’d just taken another step toward his inevitable fifth-place finish. And that raises a question: As much as the live studio audience tonight wanted to see A Miracle on Idol Street, was Matt really good enough to earn the Judges’ Save? As with all moments of ambivalence and indecision, I think it’s best to make a list of pros and cons.

NEXT: Good idea/bad idea