By Adam B. Vary
Updated May 17, 2007 at 07:04 PM EDT
Frank Micelotta/American Idol/Getty Images for FOX

Yes. The answer is yes. As in, yes, the studio audience at CBS Television City Stage 36 was just as drop-jaw gobsmacked as the rest of you were that Melinda Doolittle took home this season’s Tamyra Gray Memorial Untimely Exit Door Prize. Past recipients include, of course, Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson and multi-platinum rock star Chris Daughtry, so I don’t think there’s much Mindy’s got to worry about. I mean, right? She’s gonna be okay, right? She’s really gonna be okay. She is. Tell me it’s going to be okay, PopWatchers. Please tell me it’s going to be okay.

And with a deep, cleansing breath, and some soothing Rufus Wainwright on my iTunes to wash the curdled Idol Velveeta from my brain, I now return you to our regular scheduled results show what-you-didn’t-see recap.

addCredit(“Adam Levine: Frank Micelotta/American Idol/Getty Images for FOX”)

I’d been told my press ticket for last night almost didn’t happen,so I strolled into the studio expecting oodles of celebrities stackedthree high on each front section chair, only to see… Brandon Rogers.A popular Brandon Rogers, sure, signing autographs and giving BlakeLewis’ papa a big bear hug, but, I mean, where’s Orlando Bloom andKeira Knightley pimping Pirates 6: Electric Boogaloo? Sure, Dancing with the Starsrunner-up Mario Lopez caused a minor explosion of shrieks when heentered, and LaKisha sure looked happy to be alive when she skittered —skittered over to A.C. Slater’s side for a photo op. But where’sMichelle Pfeiffer with her kids to remind us she has two movies outthis summer and, more importantly, still exists? Haley Scarnato got apolite smattering of applause. Corey the WUC had to point out JoshGracin before anyone recognized him. But would it kill even a B-listcelebrit—

Omigod, a woman who was on Oprah is sitting three seats awayfrom me! I know this because another woman sitting three seats awayfrom me in the other direction recognized her and said hi! You know, Ishould dial down the snark, because I actually have to admit that foran entertainment journo who likes to think himself well past being starstruck (Meryl Streep and Matt Damon excepted), well, I gotta admit Idid get a little thrill at the notion of seeing someone who’d gotten ahug from the most powerful person in the world. (She’s not a star, see.She just endorsed Obama,so all these debates are clearly moot. She’s no less than a kingmaker!)What was the grand insight this woman — for the record, a Blaker Girl,replete with t-shirt to that effect — had about Ms. Winfrey? “Oprah islittle!”

Corey the WUC went through his usual scripted routine,with one really, really disturbing deviation. At the end, as he wasabout to introduce the judges, he told the audience offhand to “checkyour hur” (that’s hair, btw) to be sure it looked good oncamera. And, I swear to all that’s Mindy Doo, 80 percent of theaudience started ruffling and teasing their hair in unison. I got chills, and not the good kind. Corey the WUC doesn’t know his own power. He must be stopped.

Finally, Ryan, Randy, Simon and the Idols get introduced, Melindaand Jordin entering holding hands with a jaunty Blake leading the way.Paula sneaks in through the wrong door. After a quick brief from Debbiethe Stage Manager, Corey tells us that the opening is going to be a bitdifferent, but we should all applaud when we hear, “This is American Idol.”He did not specify from whom, but I think we all assumed he meant Ryan.So when Homer Simpson screwed up the line, no one cheered. We all justlooked at each other asking, “Um, so, should we cheer now?” Debbie andCorey had to indicate that, yes, you can cheer now, you silly audience,you!

The judges huddled together during the Tuesday night recap,nattering about whatever it is they natter about to each other ratherthan pay attention to the massive show unfolding live in front of them.I don’t mean for that to sound bitter; more like perplexed. I’ve lostcount of how many of these conversations/gossip sessions/worlddomination strategy meetings I’ve observed over the course of thisseason, and it just reminds me of those girls in the back of the busduring 8th grade who always seemed to be talking about interestingthings but would always glare at me whenever I tried to join them. So,okay, maybe a little bitter.

Where was I? Oh, yes, the first ad break. Nigel goes up and giveseach Idol what appears to be a pep talk, and then Blake works out hisnervous energy by talking with Brandon. A (possibly) random woman walksup to Randy and flirts up a storm with him while never letting go ofhis left hand. It causes me to realize that the entire left sectionfront row behind the judges is made up of young, pretty women with atleast shoulder length hair. I wonder if this has always been the case.

During the next ad break, the judges bolt for the door, and Ryan schmoozes the audience surrounding the IdolChallenge winners by attempting to perfect the “This Love” he debutslater with Blake. Surprisingly, this tactic works, and the audience isutterly charmed. With eight seconds to go before the ad break ends,Debbie orders Brandon to sit with LaKisha for the cameras, so Brandonliterally sprints across the studio to make it into the seat with maybe2 seconds to spare.

I wish I could tell you how Blake’s father made it up on the stageafter Blake’s going-home segment, but like Melinda and Jordin, I wastoo busy tending to my tear ducts so I missed it. (What can I say,crying dads get me every time.) Then Elliott Yamin performs — man,that kid is just a note hitting machine! — and Jordin, like severalvery vocal women in the audience, is so excited she can hardly containherself. Melinda lives the performance with Elliott note for note,quietly celebrating every mastered high note, clearly pulling for himto succeed. (Really, she’s going to be fine. I mean, she has to be. Right? Yes? Promise?) And Blake, er, well, he looks disconnected.

And then something happens that I’d only be fully aware of after Igot home and watched the show back with my neighbors. Apparently, whenRyan says that Melinda is going home — which to me made completesense since we’d just seen Jordin and Blake do the same — a lot of people took that to mean Ryan slipped up and gave away the ending.Which, in hindsight, he technically did, but at the time that somehowdidn’t register, even after I’d overheard a few of my fellow seat mateswhispering to each other: “Oh, Ryan meant she’s going to visit her hometown.” Instead, I watched Blake shake off even more nervousenergy by doing the running man and sticking his gut way out for Jordinto rub. (I just report what I see.)

After Melinda’s segment, during the penultimate ad break, as thecrew set up for Maroon 5, Simon’s girlfriend Terri Seymour almost gotcozy with her man until two VIP audience members came up to monopolizetheir time. (I gather they were VIPs because they had official Idolbadges hanging around their necks and, more importantly, Simon happilyheld a conversation with them.) It takes me a moment to realize Blake’sdisappeared. To where? Well, he emerges with a bottled water and a hugegrin, and Maroon 5 soon follows, so I’m guessing he got to meet theband he’d only just covered the night before. I’d have a huge smile too.

Now, I know you’ve all seen Paula dancing during the guestperformances, but until last night I’d never bothered to look over atband director Ricky Miner, and, I gotta say, for sheer entertainmentvalue, the camera should really be on him. During Maroon 5’s set, theguy, normally so cool and composed, started to flail his arms like adrunk uncle at a wedding. Perhaps he’s always been like this; perhapshe’s a huge Maroon 5 fan. All I know is without a band to lead, Rickylet his inner spaz shine through, and if anything I like the dude evenmore now. Essentially because I’m all spaz.

After the set, the band all slapped some skin with the three Idols,Adam Levine (pictured) giving a quick bow and rock benediction to Blake. (Paulaand Ricky, meanwhile, hug out their dance spaz connection — it wouldappear Paula noticed Ricky for the first time too.) And then, oh, then,the dreaded results.

I’m just skipping over the most painful part and straight on throughto Melinda’s “journey” montage. Without missing a beat, Mindy walkedover to tell to Ricky and the band she wanted to sing “I’m a Woman” forher kiss off, and for those of you who missed it on their TiVo — theone at my neighbor’s cut off the ending — she killed it. In more waysthan one, really; Blake bequeathed to Melinda the finalists’ bouquet heand Jordin received during the montage, and when it came time for herto bring in the backup singers, Melinda was up that exit rampbequeathing said flowers onto her vocal support group. What’s more,when the show was over, Jordin handed her bouquet to Melinda, whoimmediately turned right around and passed it on to the other twobackup singers. The woman takes care of her own. Of course she’s goingto be a huge amazing star. It’s going to happen. It must.

Before I had time to go sulk in my car, though, Nigel quicklycollected the two finalists, Ryan and Debbie to stage the coin toss tosee which of the pair would sing first Tuesday night. With the judgesgiving their final words of encouragement to Melinda (who, I gotta say,looked relieved more than anything — see, she is going to beokay!), Ryan got the honors of flipping the custom-made coin withBlake’s head on one side and Jordin’s on the other. Either Nigel hopedthat whoever made that coin didn’t have a blog, or he had two othercoins made for the other two outcomes. If it’s the latter, they’ve gotto be the collector’s item of the year, right?

Blake won the toss and got to choose. His first response, with anervous, cheesy smile: “Let’s let the producers decide.” No, scoldedRyan (gently), it’s your choice Blake. “Do you want to sing first?”Blake asked Jordin. She shook her head as if she’d been asked on a dateby a 43-year-old: No! “Well, okay, I’ll sing first then.” And withthat, the finale is on! We’ll be there Tuesday night in the audienceand Wednesday in every place possible at once: the red carpet, theKodak theater, backstage in the press room, one-on-one with the winnerand runner-up, Simon’s dressing room, Ryan’s grooming room, Randy’sdawg pound, Paula’s throw-pillow room — everywhere. But will Icare nearly as much about the outcome now that my Mindy Doo is on herway to winning the first Nobel Prize for singing? Can Simon carry atune?