After Chris fails to connect with Elvis or the audience, ''American Idol'' is down to a too-close-to-call final three

By Michael Slezak
Updated July 03, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
American Idol: Ray Mickshaw/FOX

American Idol

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”American Idol”: Chris goes to Disgraceland

He walked the line. He really loved a woman. He even revealed what kind of skivvies he wears. (For the record, boxer briefs.) But in the end, it wasn’t enough to make long-perceived front-runner Chris Daughtry the next American Idol. When viewers gave Chris the lowest number of votes after Tuesday night’s Elvis-themed episode, it not only surprised the many people who had considered the bald-headed rocker a lock to win season 5 but left Chris visibly shocked as well. With Ryan Seacrest’s doozy of an announcement, the competition suddenly looks like a tough-to-call three-way horse race between the consistently popular Taylor Hicks (the only singer who’s never been in the bottom three), surging underdog Elliott Yamin (who sounds — and looks — hotter with each passing week), and a very lucky Katharine McPhee (who Simon Cowell and the majority of readers thought was doomed after botching both of her numbers Tuesday night).

So what went wrong for Monsieur Daughtry? Well, for starters, as I pointed out in yesterday’s column, folks seemed to prefer a hard-howling Chris to the more understated performer who held back ever so slightly on ”Suspicious Minds” and ”A Little Less Conversation” this week. (Chris’ previous subdued performance, his April 18 take on ”What a Wonderful World,” resulted in his only prior bottom-three appearance.) Second, after replaying ”A Little Less Conversation” this morning — a performance I continue to believe was pretty darn terrific — I’ll admit I was jarred by the severe strain in Chris’ voice as he got out the final three words: ”Satisfy! Me! Yeah!” And lastly, a lot of Chris’ detractors expressed a growing boredom with his super-serious, growling performance style, labeling him a one-trick pony.

One anonymous poster on the message boards, citing Chris’ failure to smile for, well, pretty much ever, asked rather pointedly, ”Does the guy even have teeth?” LB, meanwhile, argued that ”Chris would be good in a rocker bar somewhere, but not AI.”

That said, I suspect a lot of you (like me) are smarting this morning from Chris’s ouster, like reader LisaBeatrice, who felt that on ”A Little Less Conversation,” Chris outdid the King himself. ”Never liked the recording Elvis did of that song,” she said, ”but loved Chris last night on it.” KathiG, likewise, noted that ”the Bald headed wonder” gave her chills on Elvis night, but she fretted that Chris’s lack of momentum might prove to be his downfall.

If we’re being honest, were Chris’ performances so bad compared with the way his bottom-two companion, Katharine, flubbed her lyrics on ”Hound Dog/All Shook Up” and caterwauled off-key on ”Can’t Help Falling in Love”? As Matt noted, ”Katharine really botched it up last night. This is at least the third week in a row she’s gone noticeably off-key during a performance (don’t forget ‘Against All Odds’ and Queen week). In addition, this time she forgot the lyrics to boot. I don’t know if she just gets nervous, or if she’s too overconfident and doesn’t practice enough, but there seems to be a disconnect between her sessions with the producers and her actual Tuesday-night performances. She slips significantly when she actually comes out onstage. Very disappointing because I was sure she would end up in the top two.”

Carol proposed a different theory about the comely singer’s recent run of subpar performances. ”Katharine is more interested in making sure she watches where the camera is than singing, even though she has a good voice and is very pretty. She should concentrate on being a model….She would be good at that.”

Summing it up with a little more sarcasm, Rooney observed that ”Kat seems to have a big fan base, so if her fans were able to overlook her lack of preparation and ability to sing the songs that she chose, she will still be on the show next week.” Suh. Nap.

Pattie, however, saw things a different way. ”This was a hard night for me because I wanted Kat to win, but she made a few mistakes which I think will hurt her. Elliott seemed to win over the judges but not me. Chris just didn’t win me over and Taylor was pretty good. So who did I vote for? The underdog Kat.”

Hmmm. While I’ve never thought about McPhee as a dark horse, I suppose that at this point, Elliott’s growing fan base could leave her in that position. ”Elliott’s performance was like your hometown football team making it to the Super Bowl for the first time — and winning,” wrote RBlues. Skc added to the accolades for E-Double by proclaiming, ”Elliott is the winner!! He doesn’t forget lyrics, doesn’t scream, doesn’t hold the mike like a weapon, doesn’t have to show skin to get votes or roll around the floor. I don’t want theatrics, just a nice easy voice to listen to. Elliott, you are it!”

And then there was the comedian Bob — there’s one in every crowd — who wondered ”why everyone talks about Chris Elliott each week. I mean, he was funny on Letterman and in Cabin Boy, but he is a lousy singer.”

Anyhow, if there’s any consolation for me in seeing my second-favorite contestant get eliminated, it’s this: Back in January, underwhelmed by the first couple of Idol episodes, I inexplicably declared in an ill-advised TV Watch column that if any contestant shown auditioning in Denver or Chicago went on to take the crown, I would ”videotape myself eating a piece of fried tripe and drinking a lukewarm mug of Mrs. Butterworth, then post it on the day after the season finale.” Well, given that Chris was the last contestant standing who auditioned in either of those cities, at least I won’t be gagging on my words in a couple of weeks.

What do you think? Were you shocked by Chris’ elimination? Which contestant do you think will get the bulk of his votes next week? And, like me, did you find it a little sketchy the way the producers ”spontaneously” allowed Taylor an extra performance thanks to Rebecca Romijn’s ”unscripted” request?

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American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.
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