It was a night of tears, fainting spells, tears, booty dancing, a human Ryan Seacrest, tears, and, of course, Dolly Parton (pictured). It was a night to remember, PopWatchers, even if the final result was as predictable as a non-committal comment from Randy. Unlike the last Idol results show I attended, this time I knew to show up early for the pre-taped segment, filing into Stage 36 at 4:50 p.m. with the rest of the audience, as Debbie the Stage Manager and Nigel Lythgoe frantically commanded us to please, please hurry to our seats, as they were supposed to start the pre-tape by 5 p.m. Once everyone got settled, I discovered two immediate surprises: One, the signage had significantly improved from Tuesday night, including “Hook’d on Cook” (but which one?!?) and this one, held by an 8-to-11-ish young girl: “Jason, will you marry me (in 15 years)?” And two, even though Dolly Parton was performing, the only two celebrities I counted in the audience were Chikezie and Robin McGraw, Dr. Phil’s wife. I’ve decided Nigel is intercepting the A-listers as they enter the theater and keeping them in a luxury-appointed holding pen until next week’s Idol Gives Back.

The pre-taped segment — which regular readers and eagle-eyed viewers should know by now is always the call-in Q&A and following musical performance — went off without a hitch. I correctly guessed that Syesha Mercado, David Cook and Michael “Haunts My Dreams” Johns were safe after they were called on to answer the viewer questions. All of the final nine dutifully head-bobbed to the Clark Brothers, who I thought did a decent job of climbing up from the Pit of Long Forgotten Reality Show Winners into the Pantheon of Respectable Performers Whose Albums You Probably Still Won’t Buy.

As we head beyond the jump, I’ll regale y’all with tales of Ryan’s words of comfort to the people of San Antonio, my two favorite Corey the WUC moments ever, and what caused Debbie the Stage Manager to call for paramedics.

addCredit(“Dolly Parton: F. Micelotta/Getty Images”)

The pre-tape over, Ryan stuck around to tape some segments for,well, I know it had to do with the NCAA Basketball Final Four andsomething called My Coke Fest at the Coke Zero Dome in San Antonio. Itseems Ry-Ry was supposed to host this event (music festival? corporatetailgate party? arts and crafts show?) in person, but couldn’t since Idol Gives Backwas now taping a large chunk of its show this Sunday at the KodakTheater. (Yes, I’ll be there.) So instead, Ryan had to stand stagecenter and read off copy about Three Doors Down and Coke karaoke rooms,and yet again, I had to gape at the man’s ability to do his job sowell. Someone had to. After finishing segment no. 1 in one take, Ryanstared down at the mosh pit, rolled his eyes and grumbled: “Brilliant!I can hear you say How does he do it?” By segment no. 3, though, he was flubbing his lines. “MikeCoke Fest? Who’s Mike Coke? Let’s do it again.” Yep, Ryan’s human afterall. After he was finished, Debbie made him stick around even longerfor what she kept calling “The Monkey Song,” a bit for Idol Gives Backwhere he was supposed to lip-synch and dance to the Monkees’ “DaydreamBeliever.” Ryan lasted about three seconds, tossing his thumbs into theair Elaine Benes-style, before he begged off, apologized for not looking like a total fool for our enjoyment, and rushed off stage.

Then came time for Corey the WUC to finally — ahem — do his thang, and I braced myself for the obligatory “AwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwWWWWWWWWWW YEEEEEAH!“and audience forced dancing antics. Instead, he calmly pulled fivepeople from the audience and engaged them in a rudimentary but stillsurprisingly entertaining rendition of Don’t Forget the Lyrics.Then the Idols came back out and lined up, the judges filed in — Randyfilling the night’s almost-didn’t-make-it slot — and we were into theshow.

Was it me, or was that “9 to 5” group performance actually prettyfun? I guess the look on David Cook’s face as he rubbed backs withMichael Johns — a combo of “What the hell am I doing?” and “Why am I having a blast?” — kinda made it for me. At the same time, I couldn’t help but steal some glances at Chikezie, who was due to sing “9 to 5”this week if he’d made it through, and the guy wasn’t so much clappingalong with the rest of us. (Yes, I know, I was clapping too, but it wasa group performance, and they came into the audience, so it doesn’tcount. Try to pierce that iron-clad logic.)

My notes for the middle part the show are pretty light. I had aright good chuckle coming back from an ad break when Simon grabbedPaula’s chair and kept her from turning it to face the stage. And Coreyhad a delightful time talking with three young brothers from Ohio —OH! IO! (omigod, I know I’m from Columbus, but I cannot believeI just did that). At one point, Corey asked the youngest how old hewas. Kid: “Six… no, eight!” Corey: “68, I see, I see. What year were youborn?” Kid: “Ummm… 2000!” At which point, I do believe my hairlinereceded a full inch.

But otherwise, things moved along at a fair clip, and much of mytime was spent in the dark watching all the video packages and thepre-taped segment from earlier. And then David Cook was safe — and letme say here that I’m truly sorry that his absence, which I noted in Tuesday’s write-up,was due to a medical issue, and that I’m truly thrilled it seems to havebeen no big deal — Ramiele and KLC were in the bottom three, and wewere into another ad break. And then, suddenly, Debbie was sternlycalling for a paramedic; my heart dropped, and I have to confess myeyes leapt to David Cook. But he was fine. It appears a fan in the moshpit had fainted (as my mom warns me to this day, don’t lock yourknees!), but she was fortunately caught by someone behind her, and theon-site paramedics were able to get her up and walking off the stagebefore we even got close to coming back on air.

Such drama! And it continued for the rest of the show. First, Brookewas bottom three’d and just could not stop crying, no matter howearnestly Carly, Syesha and KLC rubbed her back and fixed her hair.Even Nigel applied the usually fail safe paternalhand-on-the-small-of-the-back, to no avail. And all this was happeningwhile the crew erected all the equipment and placed all the musiciansfor Dolly Parton’s number in less than four minutes, which was quite ashow considering it took 20 minutes to set up Jordin Sparks and ChrisBrown’s pre-taped number the night before, and they didn’t have back upsingers or a gospel choir. Then Dolly floated in, and I meanthat quite literally; bless her, the dear woman looks like she weighsabout as much as my down comforter. She made one last adjustment —hiking up her white-sequined pants — and pretty much blew the roof offthe place. Yes, I was clapping, and I didn’t even mind that Nigel wasleading the way.

Once the show was at its final ad break, Dolly was zipped out ofthere, and all that equipment disappeared almost as quickly. Brooke wasstill teary, and Carly looked near her wit’s end with all thebackrubbing. (David Cook, meanwhile, complimented Jason Castro’sboots.) When we came back for the final results, all of the Idols backon the bench looked crazy tense; for a moment, David Cook even claspedhis hands together and grimly closed his eyes. After Ramiele learnedshe was going home, she was near bum-rushed by the rest of the women asthe guys watched her Idol journey package back at the benches.Carly pulled out the big guns and repeatedly wiped away Rami’s tearswith massive wads of tissue like a woman possessed. As the segmentwrapped to a close and the tiny ex-Idol began her swan song, the guyssauntered over to join the goodbye line — except for D’Archie, whoseemed trapped in a loop of “whoops, this spot’s taken, now this spot,now that spot,” until KLC finally roped the kid in. Ramiele finishedher song; the rest of the Idols formed a group cocoon around her in anapparent attempt to absorb her body into theirs; the 19 Entertainmentend credit twinkle played over the speakers; and Ms. Malubay wasimmediately whisked off-stage. Annnnnnd scene! Phew!

And now, I leave you with this question: What would you ask Randy,Paula, Simon, Ryan, and the Idols if you were pre-selected for thecall-in Q&A?