As we lumber into the home stretch for the tenth season of American Idol, it’s hard not to start feeling nostalgic about past seasons of the show in comparison to this one. That feeling is especially acute (and just plain cute, really) when old Idol alums like Anthony Fedorov — who came in fourth place back in season 4, so long ago that it predates the very blog you’re currently reading (we are all so old, aren’t we!) — randomly pop by the old campus for a visit, only to discover they’ve erected a state-of-the-art Cross-Promotional Studies Center/UFO landing pad where your old dorm used to be. Your favorite cranky and daffy tenured professors have been replaced by more illustrious profs with several best-selling books to their names who nonetheless seem awfully fond of grade inflation. And then there’s that inane assistant prof no one really took seriously who has inexplicably been promoted to department chair. What’s worse, when you walk up to say hello to Dean Lythgoe, he’s clearly much more keen on chatting up one of the bearded hipsters from the current class who’s still hanging around even though he’s done with classes, rather than talk to you — and come to think of it, the dean actually seemed like he didn’t really remember who you are at all. (Granted, you have been working out a lot lately.)

I know, I know, I’m vamping. But it’s only because much of last night’s results show was spent listlessly watching the Idol Thunderscreen — for the recap of Wednesday’s show, and the Windows 7 advertorial, and the Lady Gaga performance, and the Ford music video, and the Steven Tyler music video, and Enrique Iglesias’ guest performance/balloon party. At one point, I was watching Enrique Iglesias on the Thunderscreen watch Usher on the Thunderscreen, and I think I may have been Incepted.

Still, there were a few choice nuggets of behind the scenery to chew on from last night’s results show, first and foremost being, of course, the actual results themselves. Here are all the highlights:

Jennifer Lopez is still not wrong If I had any lingering doubt that Haley wasn’t going to make it to the Top 3, it was obliterated watching the Wednesday recap back at the top of the show: The loudest and longest cheers were reserved for whenever the bluesy spitfire appeared on the screen. But Ms. Lopez would still not be deterred. Much like when it happened the first time on Wednesday night, after the clip of Steven announcing, “THEY’RE BOTH WRONG,” J.Lo just could not help herself, turning to Steven with joking-but-not-really stank lips and announcing to him, “No, we weren’t wrong.”

The calm before the storm James and Scotty took their places in the aisles as the recap package began playing, James standing just 10 feet or so away from my seat. After a while, the Durbs decided to relax and take a seat on the steps. He looked serene to me, with none of the results show restlessness that can possess most contestants, especially when it gets this close to the end. Meanwhile, those moppets that sat on the edge of the judges platform clutching toy instruments seriously came out of nowhere. It’s like they just magically popped out from their private universe under the judges’ desk. Oh my goodness, you guys, they are totally the American Idol Fraggles! Oddly, Haley and Lauren did not seem to even notice them, as they spent most of the song gabbing like two chatty moms who took their kids to a James & Scotty & and the Idol Fraggles* concert. (*I would pay at least $5 to see this really happen.)

This screengrab is basically for my mom so she can see where I was sitting, and for anyone else who happens to be curious about such things. But don’t worry, Annie, I don’t think it counts as a Hidden Gem:

When Idols escape After Lauren was sent to the Golden Stools of Safety — which we all know were just the Silver Stools of Doom with some really good bronzer — the 16-year-old looked like she was near to bursting with feeling. Eventually, during the ad break, Lauren was so beside herself that Debbie the Stage Manager took Lauren over to the far edge of the stage nearest Lauren’s family, and said to Lauren’s doppelgänger mom, “Wave to your daughter!” Yes, wave. They were not even 15 feet apart, but Debbie wasn’t going to let them get any closer. See, for reasons that remain somewhat fuzzy to me, the Idol contestants are pretty much forbidden from stepping beyond the stage during an ad break. Perhaps it’s for their own safety. The audience of the Idoldome does become a feral wilderness second only to the Haunted Forest beyond The Wall whenever the cameras are off, although I’m fairly certain if a crazy person is going to do something truly crazy when an Idol contestant is among the rabble audience, they’re really not going to be discouraged all that much by the fact that they’re live to the east coast. In any event, Lauren was having none of it, and broke free from Debbie to get a proper hug from her Stepford clone mother. I can report that no shenanigans of any sort took place, although I don’t think Debbie really needed to brandish that sniper rifle.

Attack of the giant balloons Speaking of Debbie, whoever thought up saving a few of those giant balloons from Enrique Iglesias’ Wednesday night pre-tape to use as props for the always obnoxious ruse that Iglesias was actually on live television when he pouted his way through a thicket of green lasers — whoever that person is, you are likely on Debbie the Stage Manager’s s— list right now. Because not only did Ryan risk harm to his person and his hair by stage diving into the audience to get after a balloon, one of them made its way into the audience as Jordin Sparks was seconds away from taking to the stage, and people kept batting it up into the air. Debbie had to step into the audience herself and grab it, only to have someone backstage bat the other balloon back onto the stage behind the velvet bench of quasi-safety. A stagehand snatched that balloon in time too, but I imagine this scenario will likely now feature in Debbie’s next set of anxiety dreams for the foreseeable future.

Coach Beiste loves her some Sparks Glee actress Dot Jones was to my eye the only bold-faced name who wasn’t a former Idol contestant sitting in the audience last night, which was just dandy with me, if for no other reason than she was one of a tiny handful of people who heeded Jordin’s repeated commands to say “Yeeeeaaaaahhhhh!” After the performance was over, the season 6 Idol champeen gave polite hugs to Haley, James and Scotty, and then was pretty well mauled by Lauren.

Randy’s favorite parts of Steven Tyler’s music video? The monkey, the elephant, and the drag queen.

James has a bad feeling about this. When Ryan gave Haley her private jet ticket home, Scotty immediately embraced her, all smiles. James, however, stood perfectly still, and slowly closed his eyes, like a man absorbing his doomed fate for the first time. During the following ad break, they both continued on these tracks, Scotty working through his nerves by talking to pretty much everyone he could, James sitting silently on the bench and staring into the middle distance. His fiancée Heidi, meanwhile, kept her gaze laser focused on him. With roughly 30 seconds to go, James and Scotty took their places center stage, and Cory the Warm Up Comic asked the audience to cheer them both on; the sudden roar seemed to snap whatever hold James had left on his tear ducts.

After the Durbs got the bad news, he wandered around the stage as his Idol journey package played behind him; when it was over, he spun around, and there was a brief flash when he looked so utterly lost, it did break my heart a bit. Scotty kept his hands clasped tightly near his face. Haley quietly cried. Lauren seemed slightly stricken, and mostly stone faced. The audience, meanwhile, began to cheer so loudly and so emphatically for James that I could not make out anything Ryan was telling him.

The long goodbye Ray Chew and the band kept playing well after the final credits had finished rolling, as Randy, Jennifer, Steven, and Ryan all moved in to say their goodbyes to Idol‘s metal rocker. J.Lo went first, and Steven raised his arms, coaxing the audience to cheer even louder for James. Heidi his fiancée eventually stepped up on the stage, and patiently waited for James to finish talking with Randy, and then Steven, before the couple finally hugged and hugged and hugged as everyone politely kept their distance. The audience began a slow clap, and then whooped in the affirmative after Cory asked everyone, “If James did a concert tomorrow, who’s going to see it?” People began calling for an encore, but after James finally parted with Heidi, he was too busy fielding hugs from every last member of the Idol crew. Finally, James gave his last hug to Cory, and then left the stage. It was only then that the audience filed out.

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