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American Idol recap: Finale Destination

The judges work overtime to convince us we’ve witnessed a ”Moment,” and push hard for a Lee vs. Crystal showdown

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Michael Becker/Picturegroup

American Idol

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

Like a pizza without cheese or a Beyoncé concert without costume changes, an American Idol season without ”Moments” (upper-case ones, naturally) is just an impostor, a 43-episode litany of unfulfilled promises, unexplored risks, and underutilized water coolers. And so, as we get dangerously close to the end of the show’s sleepy ninth season, I guess we can’t really blame its producers for going to almost comical lengths to make our souls stir and our tear ducts activate and our hearts beat double-time, faintly thump-thumping the words ”de-WYZE, de-WYZE, de-WYZE…”

Yes, folks, tonight we were treated to a Very Special Episode in which the combined medical staffs of Grey’s Anatomy and House teamed up to cure cancer, the castaways of Lost walked meaningfully across a scenic beach, and David Caruso’s Lt. Horatio Caine took off his shades. And then put them back on again. Plus, Julia Roberts stood in front of a boy, asking him to love her.

And what song was playing over this deeply moving montage? Why it was Lee DeWyze, backed by strings and horns and an eight-person Gospel choir, bringing us Leonard Cohen’s ”Hallelujah,” the musical GPS perpetually set to the corner of Emotional Release Ave. and ”Feel Something Already!” Blvd.

Heck, I’m surprised Ken Warwick didn’t think to plunk Paula Abdul in the front row and pay her a full season’s salary to seal-clap and shed pure, glistening tears of joy. ”It was you, Lee! It was always you! All this time, I’d been waiting for a Moment, and you were right there, delivering your authentic truth right in front of me!”

The shame of this 20-car pileup of hype, of course, is that Idol‘s overwhelming desire for a Moment tonight essentially doomed it from ever happening in the first place. I mean, subtlety has never really been the show’s strong suit, but its greatest hits — Fantasia’s ”Summertime,” Kelly’s ”Stuff Like That There,” Bo’s ”In a Dream,” to name a few — have always been performances that caught us unaware, that jolted our seats upright and out tray-tables back without any signal from the Captain that something noteworthy was about to go down. Simon’s banty-rooster intro — ”We’ve heard this song before, but I don’t think we’re ever gonna hear it like Lee’s gonna do” — promised us calla lilies; Lee’s eventual delivery of high-quality carnations could only be a let-down by comparison.

But as much as I want to bristle against the great big Idol Manipulation Machine, it’s impossible for me to deny that Lee was, without question, the star of the evening, and that the only satisfying(ish) conclusion to this long and inauspicious Idol season would be a Lee DeWyze/Crystal Bowersox finale. Hey, just because Simon’s got a smug grin on his face doesn’t mean I’m rooting for it to get wiped into a mask of stunned horror on Wednesday. Not if it means advancing the underwhelming Casey James into the finale.

NEXT: Reading a little too much into the night’s proceedings