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American Idol recap: Crystal, Clearly

It looked like a close race going into the finale, but without breaking a serious sweat, the dreadlocked mother from Ohio rolls over the affable paint salesman from Chicago

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Idol Lee Ryan Crystal
Michael Becker/Fox

American Idol

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

The breakup occurred around 8:50 p.m. ET, in front of a national television audience. Lee DeWyze stood shellshocked, staring down at the ”Dear John” letter he’d just received from the American Idol judges. ”You’re a super-nice guy, really, and you’ve shown so much growth. But at the end of the day, we needed a little more passion. You’ve got to believe it when we say that it’s not you, it’s us.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the stage, the judges were already trying to reconcile with their old flame, Crystal Bowersox, whispering sweetly into her ear. ”We know we’ve been fickle, baby. But all that flirting with Lee over the last few weeks? It didn’t mean anything. It was always you, MamaSox. It was always you.”

Okay, so maybe it’s a stretch to say the four folks on the Idol panel ever truly had feelings for anyone but themselves/the sound of their own voices. (Badum-bum!) But seriously, it all played out like a bad romance up there on the Idol stage tonight. I mean, earlier this week, Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson each made national talk-show appearances where they predicted Lee’s win; six performances later, they were pulling out ”I genuinely wish the best for you” consolation critiques that sounded like lyrics to a bittersweet Whitney Houston breakup ballad.

Ultimately, the old switcheroo can be viewed one of two ways: The judges made a major fuss over Lee the last few weeks in order to set up Crystal as an appealing underdog who could stage a ”comeback kid” rally at the finale and win the whole shebang. Or the judges really thought momentum was on Lee’s side, but reluctantly called the night as Crystal’s after she clearly and forcefully outperformed him in the first and third rounds of tonight’s three-part battle.

The larger question that’s looming over the Idoloonie nation, however, is whether Crystal’s triumph in the Tuesday-night performance finale will be enough to win the season 9 war. As I said in the latest episode of Idolatry (embedded at the end of this recap), it doesn’t matter that much whether it’s Crystal or Lee getting that confetti shower at the Nokia on Wednesday. Because unlike some of their Idol predecessors, these two cats seem to have developed the kind of fan bases that will buy their post-Idol debuts based on the quality of the music, not on the basis of a ”winner” or ”runner-up” title.

But since we’ve collectively sat through 42 episodes of Randy’s booing and Ellen’s stammering and Paige Miles’ warbling — and since we’ll sit through another two-hour marathon tomorrow — I’m not going to pretend that in terms of Idol the TV Show, we can call it a draw and let Crystal and Lee share joint custody of Kris Allen’s sash and tiara. Nope, based on tonight’s finale — and based on a head-to-head comparison of performances from the prior 13 weeks of competition — the American Idol title is wrapped up in brown paper and decorated with a variety bird feathers. And Crystal Bowersox is the one who should be opening it Wednesday night.

NEXT: Crystal sets a high-water mark for the season