An American Idol results show can be a lightning rod for powerful human emotions. It doesn’t matter how many years or months pass, it only takes a moment to conjure up the fury of watching Chris Daughtry finish fourth in season 5, to channel the disbelief of seeing Fantasia, J.Hud, and LaToya London in a season 3 bottom 3 (with John Stevens and Jasmine Trias standing in safety), or to revisit the tears of witnessing Allison Iraheta perform a mesmerizing sing-out to ”Cry Baby” a little less than a year ago.
Tonight’s results-show telecast, however, was not that kind of party. The not-unexpected eliminations of Andrew Garcia (a.k.a. That Dude That Sang an Acoustic ”Straight Up” That One Time in Hollywood Week) and ”17-year-old Katie Stevens” (AKA Robot Girl Contestant 9.0) played out with the dull, humming precision of an office soda machine: You feed it a half-dozen quarters, you press a particular button, and seconds later, you get exactly what you expected.
It was only in the very last moments of the show — after producers rolled tape on a joint elimination reel — that I was able to remember a time when Andrew and Katie seemed like possibly viable successors to Kris Allen’s throne: There we had the two evictees in a happier time, at some kind of hotel breakfast table, the former strumming away at his acoustic guitar, the latter belting a pure, tuneful rendition of Adele’s ”Chasing Pavements.” In a mystery worthy of Jessica Fletcher (or Horatio Caine, if you’re into that sort of thing), I had to wonder how come, during eight straight weeks of live performances, we’d never laid eyes on either of those fresh-faced kids, contestants who had the ability to retune our ears, to make us feel like we were hearing a well-worn melody for the very first time?
As it played out, though, Andrew’s ouster had become such a foregone conclusion after Tuesday night’s turgid ”Hound Dog” that Ryan might as well have opened the show by declaring ”This…is American Idol! And this is also the end of Andrew Garcia’s journey!” Instead, the guy who still has such an insecurity complex that he makes Dunkleman jokes in front of 20 million people waited till the 20-minute mark of the telecast to administer the lethal injection to Andrew’s Idol dreams. Ryan forced the doomed contestant to stand alongside Casey James and Aaron Kelly, then asked him to explain how he was feeling about the prospect of a double elimination. ”It’s a little stressful so you gotta get ready to go with whatever goes.” I wish Ryan had instead filled the silence by asking Andrew what possessed him to wear that truly atrocious blue-and-green plaid shirt with matching affixed bowtie — and to start a protest petition against whatever clothing designer would foist that look on an unsuspecting public. Cut to Andrew aimlessly wandering the stage, shuffling his way through the meandering ”You Give Me Something,” while Ken Warwick sends out the dude’s Idol headstone for engraving.
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