Jackson Allen
Credit: Frank Micelotta/PictureGroup/Fox

When I arrived outside CBS Television City for last night’s American Idol Double Elimination Results Show Spectacular, I confess I was a little surprised to see Season 9’s Katie Stevens mulling outside the main VIP door. I was far less surprised to realize that Katie — who was sporting high-waisted, billowy, silk, abstract zebra-print pants and high heels wrapped in black lace — appeared to be 19 going on Real Housewives of Orange County. (This, in fact, pleased my snark demon Smirkelstiltskin to no end.)

After I made my way to my seat, however, I realized that Katie’s Season 9 compatriot Andrew Garcia was seated next to her in the audience. Andrew and Katie, you may recall, were the two contestants sent home last year the week after Big Mike Lynche was saved. And the duo had now returned to the Idoldome to witness two more contestants lose their Idol dreams in the same fashion. Right. So. Twisted psychological mind frak concocted by Nigel Lythgoe so he can continue to feed on Katie and Andrew’s weeping souls? Or twisted psychological exorcism of Katie and Andrew’s lingering guilt for contributing to Idol‘s worst season ever? Smirkel and I are still debating.

Fortunately, as you well know, the Idoldome was also graced with the presence of Kris Allen, Season 8 Champion and Mensch of the First Order. After taking his seat next to his unspeakably beautiful wife (seriously, I’ve met her in person, and Kris got the deal in that marriage), Kris began systematically approaching, hugging, and enthusiastically engaging with every last member of the Idoldome family, from Fox’s on-site photographer to production assistants to hulking bodyguards. He was mensching it all over that joint; even Smirkelstiltskin swooned a bit, despite Kris’ trip-back-to-1992 hair. Kris didn’t even flinch when Katie and Andrew descended on the judges’ table to horn in on Kris’ time catching up with Randy Jackson. There was a brief, brilliant moment when the four of them stood in awkward silence together up on the judges platform, all of them too polite to acknowledge that none of them were the Idol alums they really wanted to be talking to. (I imagine the thought bubbles to be something like this: Where’s Simon? Where’s Adam? Where’s Ellen?)

As for the rest of the behind the scenes highlights:

Scotty’s grandma is handsy While Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina sang their duet of “I Told You So,” Scotty’s grandma squeezed the leg of Lauren Alaina’s father. [I would make a joke here about the eerie Lauren Alaina clonebot seated on the other side of Lauren’s father, but the woman simply terrifies me too much to ever consider provoking.] [DO NOT CLICK on that preceding link if you want to sleep tonight or the rest of the week. I know I’m not gonna.]

Want to start a riot? Give away Idol swag. As had been promised to me on Twitter, Cory the Warm Up Comic was indeed back inside the Idoldome last night, and the man was in rare form after he stumbled on a simple, devastatingly effective crowd rallying technique: Getting the Top 11 to hand out Idol swag to the audience. It started when Cory spied a denizen of the stage-left Idoldome opera box brandishing a sign imploring Scotty to take her to prom. Later on, Cory, as is his usual custom, pulled out a giant bag of CafePress-created Idol swag to hand out, and he had the brainstorm to have Scotty give a Scotty McCreery water bottle to said teenage prom hopeful — with 30 seconds to go before we were back on live TV. Debbie the Stage Manager quickly put the kibosh on that plan, but come the next ad break, Scotty was up and handing said water bottle to said prom hopeful, grinning like a 17-year-old country boy who’s suddenly found himself to be the most irresistible boy in the universe.

Then Cory had Casey Abrams throw a Casey Abrams t-shirt into the audience, and you’d think he was tossing a vanity record deal at the Kardashians by how rabidly the throng leaped for it. Not to be one-upped, Scotty — who you’ll recall, plays on his high school’s baseball team — grabbed a Scotty t-shirt and launched the thing into the back rows of the main Idoldome seats. It was caught, almost accidentally, by a tall gentleman, who quickly handed the shirt back into the hands of a feral tween, who I think may have devoured the thing whole in one bite right there. And Cory was just getting started: Next, Lauren Alaina handed out a Lauren Alaina gym bag. Haley Reinhart was still tied up with PAs removing her monitor to throw her t-shirt, but she did have time to swoop in to clasp the happy fan to her bosom. And Cory even invited a tiny girl down to the stage to collect her Thia Megia t-shirt and Thia Megia hug — after Thia was sent to the bottom three. Unfortunately, there did not appear to be any James Durbin tail-scarves in the offing, an oversight I expect the Idol merch overlords to remedy any day now.

Jennifer Lopez’s, whatdoyoucallit, spangles? I’m no fringe expert, but Ms. Lopez was decidedly entertained by whatever one calls the dangling chunks of shiny objects covering her dress. Every so often, she would spontaneously twirl them about and giggle. I mean, who wouldn’t, really? Also sparking J. Lo into fits of sunny laughter: Jacob Lusk’s giddy joy at watching guest performer Fantasia sing about love, collard greens and cornbread.

Best Casey hugs of the night There were two. When the part in the video package detailing the Top 11’s week where Casey broke down crying began to play on the Thunderscreen, Stefano walked straight up to Casey and pulled him in for a solid, two-armed hug. Later, when Ryan declared Casey safe, the Season 10 Fozzie Bear shuffled back to the benches and straight into a massive, lift-and-twirl hug from Jacob.

Lauren Alaina is not a fan of Rio Well, okay, she probably is. But after Naima, Thia, and Paul returned to the velvet benches of safety to take in Jamie Foxx and’s ridiculous advertainment for Fox’s Rio, the realization that two of the three would be leaving appeared to hit Lauren like a Mack truck. The poor girl pretty much cried through the entire performance — I mean, she was, like, sobbing, the kind of sobs where your breathing is erratic and you can’t really stop, let alone smile, no matter how many “Brazilian” dancers in bizarrely adorned “plumage” thrust themselves within inches of you. The entire production was such an empty assault on the senses, and Lauren’s face looked so sad and so lost amidst it, there was a strange grace to her reaction, as if she was the only one in the Idoldome with enough sense to find the proceedings to be upsetting and bizarre and lacking in all sense whatsoever. I just wanted to race over there and tell her it was really going to be okay, but sometimes you just need to have a good cry while an Academy Award winner “sings” about wanting to party and samba as two athletic male dancers partake in what appears to be an elaborate martial arts mating ritual. When Ryan delivered the final verdict, Lauren collapsed into tears once again, but she had the presence of mind to give Paul McDonald a high five of congratulations. So the girl is gonna be okay. (Now let’s just hope The Bacon Brothers aren’t planning a mutant-themed rock anthem tie in with Fox’s X-Men: First Class.)

Those were my highlights from within the Idoldome. What stood out most for you?

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All ‘Idol’ on-the-scene reports

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