What really happened to ''Idol'''s Christina? The show's coproducer discusses the mysterious illness that kept the finalist off the show the very same night she was voted out of the contest
Christina Christian, American Idol
Credit: Christina Christian: Joe Viles

Many ”American Idol” viewers thought it was awfully fishy that Christina Christian was said to have ”taken ill” before Wednesday night’s live episode, when she was voted off the show — this after delivering a rousing performance Tuesday night. But Christian really did suffer a stress-related collapse backstage before Wednesday’s show, co-executive producer Nigel Lythgoe tells EW.com. In fact, he says, despite being briefly hospitalized, she was hoping to return to ”Idol”’s Los Angeles studio in time for the broadcast, but Lythgoe told her to rest.

Lythgoe says he saw the 21-year-old contestant receiving medical attention at 4 p.m. Wednesday, two and a half hours before airtime. ”The paramedics were already in the dressing room. She already had the oxygen mask on her face,” he says. ”The paramedics said she was suffering from shortness of breath and swollen sinuses and suggested she go to the hospital. The ambulance came from Cedars-Sinai. We [the producers] didn’t have any say in it.”

At this point, Lythgoe already knew the results of the voting but had told no one because he was bound by nondisclosure agreements. ”An hour before show time, I talked to her father at the hospital. He said she was dehydrated, that she had been diagnosed with sinusitis, and it was stress-related.” Even then, he says, Christian was hoping to make it back to the studio. ”She got on the phone and said, ‘Maybe if I don’t do the number, if I just sit on the couch?’ I said, ‘You don’t need to put yourself through this. The whole program for everyone on a Wednesday is stressful.’ I’m not sure she bought into it.”

Lythgoe says he sent the ”Idol” staff shrink to see her and to break the news she’d been cut at 6:30 PT [when the show airs live on the East Coast], before her friends watching the show back home in Florida could call her with the news. ”He said she took it really well and that a lot of pressure was taken off her.” Two hours later, she was released and returned to her hotel, where Lythgoe met with her and her family and watched the show over pizza. ”Even I almost had a tear in my eye,” he says.

Though Lythgoe says Christian flew back to Miami on Thursday, she’ll be back next week to reassure viewers about her health, and to thank the 900,000 fans who did vote for her. That degree of support is a sign that ”Idol”’s popularity doesn’t need to be goosed by manufacturing crises, Lythgoe says. ”We are caught up in reality. We’re watching this happen. There is in no way, shape, or form any manipulation on our part. In truth, we don’t need things like this. It’s very upsetting.”

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American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.

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