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'American Idol' recap: Two birds, one show

In the first elimination show of the finals, Ryan reveals the new Judges Save rule, but it doesn’t keep two singers from getting sent home anyhow

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American Idol
Michael Becker/American Idol/Getty Images; Ray Mickshaw/Fox

American Idol

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

Week one of the Idol season 8 finals has come to a close, and I’m thrilled to report that the public did exactly the right thing, sending ”package artist” Jasmine Murray to the arms of her genetically blessed family, and ending the ”journey” of lovable but vocally outclassed Jorge Nuñez. And, naturally, the show’s producers have rewarded American Idol voters’ good taste by…forcing ’em face down on the hood of a car and cuffing their collective hands behind their backs?

Oh now, now, now…you know I’m just exaggerating for dramatic effect. But cut me some slack: After one of the most uneventful, un-suspenseful results shows in recent Idol history, I’m kind of at a loss for an angle here.

In case you missed tonight’s telecast (blasphemy!), Ryan and Simon explained a new Idol policy that’s being instituted for season 8; the clunkily monikered ”Judges’ Save” will allow Paula, Simon, Randy, and Kara to band (unanimously) together, nullify the public’s vote, and save an eliminated contestant on one occasion (and one occasion only) this season. If and when immunity is granted to the lowest vote-getter, no contestant will be ousted that night, and there’ll be a double-elimination the following week.

Now I could work myself into a tizzy by noting that in a season where the judges/producers already got to (abysmally) hand-pick almost a quarter of the top 13 finalists with the return of the Wild Card, it’s a little galling to see them coming in for another power grab. But what good would it do? Better, then, to point out how the Idol failed to do even the most rudimentary fact-checking for tonight’s telecast. Did you all notice how they cited Michael Johns, Jennifer Hudson, Tamyra Gray, and Chris Daughtry as examples of how the Judges’ Save might have saved worthy contestants in previous seasons? Problem is, Tamyra and Chris finished fourth in their respective seasons — and as Ryan pointed out tonight, the Judges’ Save must be utilized before the top 5 round. And don’t even get me started on the revisionist history that the judges liked or appreciated J.Hud’s crazy-eyed season 3 fabulousness — not until she up and won herself an Oscar, that is.

But anyhow, that’s all ancient history — much like Jasmine and Jorge will be by next Tuesday when the 11 remaining singers tackle one of the more vague themes in show history — ”songs popularized by members of The Grand Ole Opry.” But before we recount the sleep-inducing proceedings of tonight’s telecast, let us briefly pause for our new results-night tradition of penning an Idol-themed ditty, this one set to the tune of Michael Jackson’s ”Bad.” Click here if you want a little musical accompaniment from the King of Pop, and even if you can’t carry a tune, sing along — as Simon noted, there’s no need for artistry when it comes to Idol!

Jorge is gone /
Princess Jasmine, too /
They’ll pack their bags /
But not Anoop /
The Idol house /
It’s so bourgeois /
Hot Megan Joy /
She sings ”caw-caw”

Come on, come on /
Rockin’ robin, all right

The shocking twist? /
Was not so much. /
The group number /
Caused a fierce couch-clutch. /
‘Cause no one likes /
A lame medley. /
Add jank dance moves /
Twice as deadly.

They had two eliminations /
And the right folks got the boot /
Too bad Kara could not join them /
And the backup singers too

Because the band, they’re bad /
Come on /
(Bad band, really, really bad) /
You know they’re bad, they’re bad /
You know it /
(Bad band, really, really bad) /
They once were good, now bad /
Come on, you know /
(Bad band, really, really bad) /
Rickey Minor has to answer right now /
‘Cause the band’s accompaniment /
Is bad

NEXT: It’s so hard to say goodbye…or maybe not

Really though, you can’t blame the band for everything. I mean, Jasmine could have been backed by the Jackson 5 themselves on her encore of ”I’ll Be There” tonight and still not have convinced the judges to overturn America’s verdict. Which kind of gave a funereal feel to the proceedings. There we had Jasmine, wearing a pulverized Cornish game hen (feathers intact) around her neck, standing at center stage with Megan (Joy) Corkrey. There was Ryan telling the Lady CawCaw she was safe. There was the Lady CawCaw, in her own controversial, cloth-beaded necklace, whispering sweet but false encouragement to Jasmine: ”The judges love you, girl.” And then, finally, there was Ryan telling Jasmine to sing while the judges deliberated. Would they throw her a flotation device, or would they let her musical aspirations get pulled under by the same sucking eddy that drown the singing careers of Leah LaBelle, Lisa Tucker, Mikalah Gordon, and so many other not-quite-talented-enough teenage Idol songbirds.

I think we all knew the answer to that question long before Jasmine’s reached the end of that final, wobbly glory note. The good news is, she managed to slather on enough pink, glittery eye makeup tonight that she won’t have to reapply it till her junior prom or the Idol finale — whichever comes first. The other good news was that Ryan handled the kid’s departure in adorable fashion, giving her a good long hug and telling her she was ”tremendous.” Awww.

The night’s second elimination felt somewhat less emotional, but maybe that’s because Jorge’s farewell package included footage of that fateful night when America chose him for a top 13 slot over the significantly more talented Ju’Not Joyner. (I know, I know…you guys could start a drinking game based on the number of times I’ve mentioned Ju’Not, Mishavonna, Kristen, Ricky, and Felicia since the top 13 got named. Too bad most of you read this column in the morning and/or at the office! Psych!)

Or maybe Jorge’s ouster felt anticlimactic because he was first paired against Lil Rounds for the walk to center stage, and you knew there was no way she was in danger, and then against Anoop, whose fan base seems too large and too feisty to let him go this early in the competition. (Anyone else love the way Anoop started heading for center stage before Ryan even told him to?) Either way, Jorge’s lethargically arranged ”Never Can Say Goodbye” seemed like the perfect kind of exit song for someone reluctantly leaving the Idol stage. And can I add that I loved how Paula showed her support for the guy through the power of dance! (No, I’m not being facetious. It’s actually quite refreshing to see one person on that panel who’s a little bit invested in what happens to the 13 cogs that keep the Idol wheels turning.)

NEXT: Return of the Idol queen

My big question about the night’s voting patterns, however, is this: Do you guys think Megan and Anoop were the third- and fourth-lowest vote-getters this week? Note Ryan never said a word about a bottom three, or a bottom four. He instead called Megan and Anoop off the safety benches with no real explanation. Am I reading too much into Ryan’s vagueness, or are the producers trying to keep us off-balance about which singers might be vulnerable going into top 11 week?

Other random questions I scribbled into my notebook during tonight’s telecast: Doesn’t Randy ever feel embarrassed about yelling ”booooo!” when Simon gets introduced? Why did I have to witness that Danny Gokey pelvic thrust during the atrocious Jackson 5 medley? Why are the group performances all pre-recorded this season? Did anyone else die inside when Ryan commented on Michael’s dance skills by declaring, ”You showed some good moves, bro”? If Jorge hadn’t been the lowest vote-getter, could the producers have eliminated him just for his total lack of lip-synching skills? How cute are Allison’s interactions with all the other contestants? Is it possible for me to care less about the goings-on in the Idol House? I wonder how Kanye West felt about having to interact with those gnarly audience-bots standing behind the judges’ desk during his quite good performance of ”Heartless”? And what was the square-footage of his backup singer’s shoulder pads?

And finally, in the spirit of saving the best for last, how terrific was Kelly Clarkson’s performance of ”My Life Would Suck Without You”? I mean, seriously, in a season where the judges keep clanging the ”package artist” cymbals, Kelly is living, singing proof of what this competition is all about: That a supremely talented young woman can be plucked from obscurity and transformed before our very eyes into a gorgeous, confident, self-effacing, funny, and thoroughly authentic rock star. Here’s hoping we Idol voters, and more importantly the folks entrusted with the ”Judges’ Save” power, keep Kelly’s example in mind as the season progresses.

Oh, one last thing: If you missed signing up this week for EW.com’s Idol Prediction Challenge, please do it now! Even if you missed scoring last night, we keep tabs on week-to-week winners on our leaderboard, and hey, how often do you get a chance to humiliate me (plus a number of my Idolatry co-hosts) with your Idol prognostication skills. Also, if you’d like to be a call-in guest on Idolatry, do shoot an email with your thoughts on this week in Idol (along with a daytime phone number) to idolatry@ew.com. Thanks!