When American Idol fan favorite Colton Dixon placed in the bottom three for the first time, the rowdy room that had party rocked with LMFAO minutes earlier fell silent. You could hear pins drop (the ones so recently used to pop balloons from the group number). Next jaws dropped, followed by gasps, boos, a supportive sister’s tears, and the swish of Jennifer Lopez’s ponytail as she shook her head in disbelief. Rumor has it a journalist let out a scream in the press room when her favorite was revealed as the lowest vote getter of the final seven. Even former winners Kris Allen and Taylor Hicks informed us afterwards that they didn’t see Dixon’s fall from favor coming.

One person who wasn’t shocked? Colton Dixon himself. He knew much earlier that he was in trouble. He nodded knowingly toward Phillip Phillips when Ryan Seacrest called Skylar Laine and Elise Testone to the center of the stage to announce which songstress would fill the second stool of shame. Anyone in the audience who wasn’t watching the girls on their way to judgment could have seen the deflation in the 20-year-old’s body language.

“I was expecting the bottom three, especially when [Ryan] paired me with Phillip and Jessica — kind of a giveaway,” the rocker told EW after the show, rolling his eyes. It didn’t help his nerves when Seacrest repositioned the trio, putting Jessica closest to the microphone during a video montage. In the final commercial break before Dixon’s elimination was made official, the singer stared into the giant oval screen with his back to fans trying to reassure him by screaming, “I love you!” Even though Dixon had an inkling what was coming, that didn’t make it any less heartbreaking to watch. (America, be thankful you were spared the sight of Steven Tyler beckoning Dixon’s bawling sister to the stage, not to mention the siblings’ long, sad embrace.)

By the time he made his way to the press tent, Dixon had had an hour to regain his composure. In our exit interview, he could even laugh about the red leather pants Jimmy Iovine dismissed as more Billy Idol than American Idol. Dixon pinpointed his decision to go Gaga as the nail in his coffin. He also discussed the highlights of his time on Idol — he won’t miss the constant comparisons (or implied competition) with Phillips — and said he plans to make Christian rock CDs in the future. You’ll never guess what he is most excited for when he returns to his hometown of Murfreesboro, Tenn. Check it out below.

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