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American Idol recap: The Unbearable Triteness of Leaving

It’s an hour of shock and sadness as the Top 12 finalists are named. Can season 9 be saved?

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American Idol Lambert

American Idol

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

‘I don’t know what America wants to hear.” — Lilly Scott, seconds after being robbed of her spot in American Idol‘s season 9 top 12

Outrage. It’s as integral to the process of enjoying American Idol as seeing Simon Cowell’s insuppressible smile during a genuinely good audition, or rewinding your DVR after a performance by some heretofore anonymous kid who just gave you goosebumps all the way to your spleen.

Indeed, Idol‘s eight-season history is littered with unspeakable horrors that drove us to scream at our televisions and insist to anyone who’d listen: ”I’m done with this show! Never watching again!” My stomach clenches even now thinking about Jasmine Trias over Jennifer Hudson, Haley Scarnato over Sabrina Sloan (maybe that’s just me?), Sanjaya Malakar and Scott Savol over, well, pretty much anyone ever. But like I said, outrage is part of the process, imperative to create the ebbs and flows and emotional crescendos of American Idol the TV Show, even if it’s our least favorite byproduct of the relentless search for the next Kris Allen or Adam Lambert or Allison Iraheta.

So you’d think by season 9 — during the inconsequential semifinals, no less — it would be easy to brush off the bad judgment of speed-texting tweens, to process the way-too-early exits of Lilly Scott, Katelyn Epperly, and Alex Lambert (plus the sort-of-maybe-too-early ouster of Todrick Hall), and move on. Once upon a time, we survived Daughtry’s fourth-place finish, so why do the ritual killings of the dreams of four indisputably flawed semifinalists feel like they’re part of something bigger, a shifting of the tectonic plates at the core of the Idol universe?

Maybe it’s this: In the course of 21 episodes, we’ve endured the sadistic pillorying of Angela Martin, we’ve swallowed our disgust at the sight of Kara’s rogue left shoulder rubbing hungrily up and down Simon’s torso, we’ve witnessed precious few performances that would hold up to the Kelly Clarksons and Melinda Doolittles of Idol seasons past — let alone the Mandisas and Michael Johnses. (Heck, my own Glambert mother emailed me last week to say the parts of Idol she most looks forward to these days are Kris Allen’s Ford commercials. They are pretty freakin’ awesome, no?) And in the background all this time, we’ve heard the steady, approaching war drums of The X-Factor.

Which is why, for the past few weeks, we’ve looked to a ragtag group of 24 singers to reassure us that Idol‘s still got a little life in it yet. We wanted them to assure us that it’s not yet time to leap off this carnival ride, shrug our shoulders, and shout ”Thanks for the memories!” as we run full-tilt toward that monster rollercoaster the British guy with the deep V and the sunburned chest is erecting on the other side of the fairground. (Sorry, that was a lot of sentence.)

And that’s precisely why each abysmal voting result tonight stung so badly.

Katie Stevens getting more votes than Lilly Scott didn’t just mean that we’d lost the chrome-haired chick who experienced pitch problems Tuesday night on Patsy Cline’s ”I Fall to Pieces.” No, it meant we’d had the gift of surprise ripped out of our hands, and replaced by a three-pack of department store socks wrapped in ruffled, off-the-shoulder, hot-pink wrapping paper.

NEXT: Alex’s sad tears