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American Idol season finale recap: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark Horse

Kris Allen thwarts Adam Lambert’s long-predicted season 8 coronation, but with a final two this awesome, did anyone really lose?

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Idol Lambert Allen
Kevin Winter/American Idol/Getty Images; Ray Mickshaw/Fox(3)

American Idol

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

Five (and only five) words for you: ”Adam deserves this. I’m sorry.”

Yes, folks, the only thing more shocking than witnessing Kris Allen’s upset win over Adam Lambert during tonight’s season 8 finale of American Idol was hearing the unassuming (and yet in my estimation, completely worthy) victor utter those astonished words of apology. I mean, what’s next? Rachel Alexandra giving Mine That Bird some room on the rail to pass her in the Belmont stretch? Federer handing a Wimbledon title to Nadal? Coke and Pepsi swapping cola recipes?

In all seriousness, though, while I went into tonight’s finale completely ready to embrace either the terrific Kris or the fabulous Adam as my Idol, I also recognize that not everyone approached the telecast with such a Kumbaya attitude. Exhibit A: At 10:09 p.m., I literally had to talk my own Adam-obsessed mother through a crying spell punctuated by her first-ever ”I’m never watching this stupid show again!” outburst. (Welcome to the full Idol experience, Mom!) Exhibit B: The message boards for my Idol season-finale live-blog (which is excerpted at the end of this column) are uncomfortably crowded with the kind of nascent barbs that signify folks are getting worked up by something more than their feelings about who took a confetti shower at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles tonight. ”Kris is the least-worthy Idol winner ever!” ”The screecher went down in flames!” ”The Christians voted for Kris!” ”The homophobes voted against Adam!” (As if being Christian and being gay were somehow mutually exclusive, or as if any single contestant from this year’s top 13 had ever openly discussed his or her sexual orientation in a public forum! Okay, I’m being a little coy there, but I also speak the truth!)

But before we gather in the town square with our torches and brickbats, ready to descend on Fox and 19 Entertainment and whoever else should be held responsible for tonight’s somewhat unexpected results, let’s all take a deep and cleansing breath. Before we lob the words ”unfair” or ”untalented” or ”unforgivable” in the direction of a soft-spoken and by all accounts charming young gentleman from Arkansas, or before we sneer and jeer that the inevitable victory march of a certain cool cat from California fell a step short, let us check ourselves. Before we put smiles on the faces of the arms dealers who’d so love to see us turn our obsession with a televised talent competition into a full-blown culture war, let’s ask ourselves: In whose name are we fighting?

Oh, I know, vitriol and outrage and whining are important signposts on the Idol highway — without them, this column would crawl under a couch and turn to dust, and I’d be out of a job! — and yet every single thing I have seen this season about Kris Allen and Adam Lambert tells me they wouldn’t want us to take the bait at a moment like this. In Kris and Adam, we have a couple of telegenic, talented guys who reportedly showed their solidarity — set an example of how competitive rivals from different walks of life can still behave respectfully and dare I say lovingly — by the former painting his thumbnail black, and the other leaving his thumbnail unpainted. (If that not-sponsored-by-Maybelline anecdote made no sense to you, then please click for a more detailed explanation.) The point is, these guys clearly like and respect one another. These are the combatants who, when asked on Tuesday night who was going to take home the season 8 crown, promptly pointed at each other and said ”That guy!” So how exactly can anyone who loves Idol not be smiling right now? Well, unless, of course, you’re a fan of Scott MacIntyre, who actually managed to get less screen time tonight than Janice Freakin’ Dickinson! (More on that and other egregious snubs in just a moment.)

NEXT PAGE: Five good reasons we should all be happy about the season 8 finale