It's the dreaded Hollywood Week Group Round! Some girls collapse; an entire room heads home
Hollywood Idol Aaron Jen
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‘Twas the night before Vegas in Hollywood, an evil place where friendly-seeming gnomes (the gnomes are not what they seem) can make thunder happen. The Group Round was pretty dreadful, some of the solos sounded promising, and then J. Lo wore a fire blanket bathrobe to send Room 3 to the fiery pit of hell that is the world outside of American Idol.

Let’s get to it!

First up: The groups. Oh, some of them were so awful. We didn’t see all of them, not by far, but we did have to sit through The Bettys because one of their members was the one hurling into a clear trash bag as the girls sat in a circle last week. Yum. This time, a different girl was dehydrated and yet another kept throwing up in the bathroom after getting sent home. Equally terrible was patient zero Amy Brumfield’s group, in which a different patient — let’s call her Nurse Jacquie — fainted in the aisle while applauding for other people. (Lesson learned. Never do that!) The poor girl had just finished saying the only thing she’d caught from Tent Girl was a positive attitude, and her reward was dizzy feet. I blame Nigel Lythgoe, somehow. Anyway, it’s back to Tennessee for Amy B. More like TENTessee, am I right? (Thanks @Jesster9.)

The saving grace of the Make You Believers was the group’s only member to advance, Mathenee Treco. He grossly oversang his part to make up for the ineptitude of his team, but his greatness has nothing to do with his voice. No, his greatness lies in his subtle, unacknowledged impression of Alicia Silverstone in Clueless during Cher’s debate class speech, when she famously argued “If we could just get to the kitchen, rearrange some things, we could certainly party with the Haiti-ans.” Mathenee too spoke of having to “rearrange some things” after Jacquie’s collapse.

And may Mathenee remind you that it does not say R.S.V.P. on the Statue of Liberty?!

NEXT: Brielle Von Hugel was, like, totally buggin’

Hold on! Groove Sauce is comin’. Aaron Marcellus, Creighton Fraker, Jen Hirsh, Reed Grimm, and Nick Boddington established themselves as the group to beat with what Randy Jackson called “the first superstar performance of the day.” Jennifer bounced in approval and made duck lips. Jen Hirsh stood out here, and not just because she was the only girl. Her solo later on was also fantastic.

Then there was 679, and why am I even using these groups’ names? They are meaningless and unmemorable. This one probably stood for the 679 ways in which Brielle Von Hugel and her mom are what is wrong with America. The stage mom prayed her daughter wouldn’t get cut: “Please Jesus. I’ll have to deal with her when she comes back into the room.” This girl sounds like a real monster, and for a fellow monster to be scared of her? That’s pretty bad! Anyway, momster’s wish for the failure of an innocent human came true when the group’s weak link, frat boy Kyle Crews, was eliminated. Brielle wasn’t even that good, right? Just pushy and low-toned and often off-key.

Tons of people forgot the lyrics, which on American Idol is a fate worse than near-death from catching “the bug.” Then Those Girls and That Guy — which I assumed was Ryan’s way of making fun of some nobodies but was actually the name of their group — took the stage to suck, terribly. Bully cop Alisha Bernhardt got really pissed, but found it within her heart to offer personal security services to the judges. I was so hoping for a shot of them pretending to be asleep, but instead we got….

Another fainter! 17-year-old Imani Handy passed out during one of Area 451‘s final run-throughs, then wandered back to join them a few minutes later. THUD. Girl down again. The remaining trio said a prayer. I nearly cried when Imani’s mom was stroking her hand and explaining why she wouldn’t say no to letting her daughter head out on stage despite an inevitable third collapse. Of course it happened. Thank goodness the Pasadena Fire Dept. has plenty of experience dealing with tragedy in Area 451, where dreams go to die. Only Johnny Keyser, J. Lo’s boy toy, advanced from this group.

The Hollywood 5 were a bunch of kids including the delightful and tiny Ariel Sprague, the decidedly un-Scrooge-like Eben Franckewicz, and David Leathers, Jr. All of their stage parents were begging the judges for merrrrrrrrrrcy from their perch just behind the curtains, and they got it! I liked the group harmonizing on the final “me” note. Pick me, choose me, love ME.

Casualties: expectant father W.T. and last week’s stage-faller-offer Symone Black. They didn’t die; they just can’t stay here. Wouldn’t be healthy.

NEXT: Heejun admits to talking a lot of craps

Finally we saw geek squad MIT, or the “most international team,” which is so dumb I can’t even bring myself to explain why. Richie, the awful cowboy who has a mouth but doesn’t have an ear (talks but doesn’t listen) ended up delivering an awful vocal on “Broken Strings,” but all four guys made it through. Phil Phillips and Jairon Jackson sang well, but Heejun Han stole the segment with his deadpan apology to the cowboy and Mr. and Mrs. Cowboy, who would soon see all the bad things he’d said about the cowboy on TV. “So you check season 11 of American Idol,” he suggested. “I talk a lot of craps about Richie.” Don’t check any of the previous seasons, fools. You won’t find his craps there.

J. Lo had to take an important call (of duty, possibly craps) during the judges’ jam session with some of the contestants at the start of day 2 — Solo Day. That black woman inside of the white guy was really killing it with Steven Tyler. The scarf-goblin had to wipe his brow with Adam Brock’s lucky hanky after that. (I also noticed that Steven lingered heavily after his tender cheek kiss with blondie Hallie Day.) Would you rather wipe your brow with Adam Brock’s hanky or James Durbin’s tail? I feel an important PopWatch Poll coming on.

Solo time! Joshua Ledet was a lovely surprise. The 19-year-old from Louisiana almost didn’t get on the plane due to “really bad anxiety,” but then he put some headphones on and went to sleep. It’s that easy. He was a standout in Brielle Von Huge Turd’s group, but the solo offered us a chance to hear and see up close how serious he is about the craft of singing. Not only did he hit each note of “Jar of Hearts” but he was really careful about giving it his own unique phrasing and, at times, melody. I’m into him.

Phil Phillips stood with his guitar and delivered a nearly unrecognizable cover of “Wicked Game.” He’s one of those singers for which every note is either a joyous occasion or a severe strain, according to his facial expression. I’m not sure he can help it. He’s doing his thing and he sounded good. “I worked two jobs for it!” he said while bounding by Randy, who was impressed by his guitar. That was pretty endearing, especially because it was clearly unscripted. A rare jewel!

Jen Hirsh could be my favorite female so far. The 25-year-old had Steven purring and leaning his head back in ecstasy during a very sultry rendition of “Georgia On My Mind.” What I like the most about Jen is that she does some pretty crazy things vocally and in her presentation, and yet she seems to be in complete control of her various magical powers. She doesn’t look rehearsed, either. Another gem.

There was Colton Dixon on the keyboard with his skunk hair singing “What About Now?” I feel like I should like him more, and I wonder if it’s because I’m less jazzed about the “comeback kids” who return for another shot after appearing on a previous season. Is that a thing for anyone else? I know it’s unfair and that I shouldn’t be thinking of them as used clothes or recycled COCA-COLA cans instead of the magnificent washed-up pearls that they are.

NEXT: Reed Grimm is an Animal Creighton Fraker sure does like to throw his hands around mid-song, like he’s conducting something much greater than the Idol house band. It’s no Paul McDonald walking his imaginary pet turtle around the stage, but it’s something. I’m interested to see which imaginary objects Creighton will command as he is given roaming privileges. The judges gave a triple standing O for his cover of “What a Wonderful World.”

No way do I believe that Reed Grimm hadn’t planned all along on playing the drums after doomsday gargoyle Nigel Lythgoe decided he would NOT be allowed to sing a cappella. I loved Seacrest’s clear frustration as he went over Reed’s grim fate with him. “This is the first time you heard that,” insisted Ryan as Mr. Grimm just stood there giving no reaction whatsoever. “Come on, Reed, get in the game!” Ryan continued. “Let me remind you on camera that what we just told you off camera is something you’re supposed to act shocked and dismayed about. This is the first time.”

Anyway, Reed took a private session with Katharine McPhee’s vocal coach mother Peisha and associate music director Michael Orland, but they weren’t doing it for him so he ran away multiple times to call his mom. Then he had an idea. He’d play the drums on every percussionist’s dream song, “Georgia On My Mind.” Sure! The judges gobbled it up. “That’s another Casey there,” Randy muttered loudly to J. Lo. Is Reed Grimm the new Casey Abrams? Discuss.

Shannon Magrane looked perhaps just a bit too hot to have just turned 16 in short shorts and black stockings during her “Wonderful World” solo. We’ve got a growler on our hands! You know I love a growling lady, but I think by focusing on the growls Shannon missed a few of the “less important” notes as a result. There’s no such thing, of course.

Skylar Laine, 17, had been to the hospital and back by the time she sang her solo, “You Lie” by the Band Perry. J. Lo made sure to announce to everyone that Skylar reminded her of Reba McEntire. She definitely had good engagement with the band. Maybe it was just one of those songs. You know, those songs. Skylar reminded me of Lauren Alaina, actually, in that she’s cultivated a countrified stage presence in which she encourages everyone around her to have just as much fun as she’s having. If your’e not into the song, this can be jarring. But it can also be pretty cute.

Adam Brock delivered the “grand finale” of the solos, even though we’d only seen the handful I just mentioned. He thought it was “time for American Idol to have some white chocolate up in here,” so he sang yet another “Georgia.” (Speaking of Lauren Alaina, I wonder if she and “Peaches” were offstage stroking some strung-out Hollywood Week cats they’d found on the side of the road next to a few contestants who’d dropped dead.) Adam Brock is another growler and is full of some totally unexpected antics considering he looks like the most stylish first year law student in a small study group of nerds. Steven, his brow still smiling from the hanky wipedown, loved Adam’s “magic note.”

The judges then pretended to remember the differences between all the blonde girls who look exactly alike.

Good luck!

Finally, the 98 remaining contestants got split into four rooms, three of which were granted the gift of life for one more night. It’s farewell to Reis Koeckener, NBA dancer Brittany Kerr (NEVER FORGET), Jennifer Malsch, Jaira Gibson, and Madison’s mommy Rachelle Lamb, who may have pushed too hard during the judges’ jam session and consequently messed up during her solo of “The House That Built Me.” At least Steven had loved the song. I loved how Steven was shown drying a girl’s tears with his bare fingers during the sob sesh in room 3. Despite a major catfight between Rachelle and a girl who didn’t appreciate Rachelle’s insensitive belching, these cuts turned out to be pretty uneventful, at least from my sofa. I’m sure it was eventful for them.

If I didn’t just mention your favorite — and you actually know your favorite’s name — then your favorite has moved on. Even that awful cowboy.

Vegas tonight! “Are you on Ritalin?” Terrifying vocal coach Peggi Blu is back! Oh I can’t wait.

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