The viewers' votes send two men and two women down the drain, but we suspect more tears were shed on stage than in living rooms
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”American Idol” recap: Did the right four go home?

The first cut is the deepest, as the old Cat Stevens song goes.

Then again, if Cat Stevens had been writing about the first elimination episode of American Idol‘s seventh season, he’d have been completely and utterly wrong, seeing how the initial four eliminations didn’t even leave a surface wound tonight. Sure, Amy Davis, Joanne Borgella, Garrett Haley, and Colton Berry all seem like sweet, likable — or, well, at least blandly inoffensive — folks. But anyone who’s planning to tune in to Fox two or three nights a week for the next 13 weeks couldn’t have been crying like Ramiele Malubay or Asia’h Epperson at any point during tonight’s program.

Poor Garrett. You kind of knew it was all over for him when the producers snuck in his totally clueless post-performance interview clip — ”I loved it, and I can tell America will love it” — in the midst of the recap of Tuesday night’s proceedings. I had expected the kid to survive into week 2 because the sheer hideousness of his ”Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” was far more memorable than, say, Jason Yeager’s ”Moon River.” But as a friend pointed out to me over IM tonight, ”Sometimes awful is just awful.”

Plus, I’m guessing Garrett’s styling issues — broke-down mop of a ‘do, ghastly wisp of a ‘stache, and pale skin that had Simon worrying he’d been locked in his bedroom for a month — contributed to his early ouster. As a message board poster named Help Me pointed out, the overall effect was simply too much: ”I looked up and there was Garrett yelling at me, ‘It puts the lotion in the basket!’ ” Another reader, however, thought Garrett’s look was more Lord of the Rings than Silence of the Lambs, kidding that there was a ”warrant out for his arrest in the shire; he stole some magic potions from a wizard and now he is wanted!” Heck, even Garrett’s fans were struggling to accept his facial hair. One reader noted that while Garrett’s newbie status made him more appealing than semipros like Michael Johns and Carly Smithson, ”I really don’t think I could vote for him with that kidstache. Wax off!”

The other elimination on the men’s side was one I (and many of you) correctly predicted, and frankly, not even Colton Berry looked surprised when Ryan sent Chikezie (Eze) back to safety and set the stage for another lackluster rendition of ”Suspicious Minds.” I’ll admit I winced when Ryan asked the judges to give Colton some constructive criticism, and Simon encouraged him to go find a fulfilling job and forget a career as a professional singer, but frankly, it was exactly what Colton needed to hear. Maybe not exactly when Colton needed to hear it, but no one’s ever accused Simon of being tactful.

The weird thing for me about Colton’s elimination was the way it sent fellow contestants like Ramiele, Asia’h, and Kady into sobbing fits, while Colton’s family members (who incidentally are not courting votes from millions of Idol fans) remained totally stoic.

If anything, though, Mr. Berry’s brief Idol run proved to me that the judges picked the wrong Colton out of the top 50; Colton Swon, if you’re out there, I think you coulda been a contender! Reader Justin Castillo, meanwhile, thought Colton should’ve checked out of the running in favor of a different candidate back on top-24 judgment night: ”If I were him, I’d have told Kyle [Ensley], ‘Congratulations! You’re gonna be the youngest U.S. president in American history.’ Then I’d have put that elevator in reverse to tell the judges and producers that the final spot should go to Mr. Ensley.”

Coincidentally, the eliminations of Colton and Joanne meant that the last two contestants chosen to be semifinalists by the judges (both in head-to-head matchups) were two of the first to be axed. Joanne’s ouster wasn’t a surprise to most message-board posters, who were totally underwhelmed by her vocals on ”Say a Little Prayer” Wednesday night. In fact, dozens upon dozens of you picked Joanne and Amy as both most likely to go home and most deserving of going home.

NEXT: Where the votes aren’t

A reader by the name of Key Living, in fact, rated Amy’s ”Where the Boys Are” as the worst performance in Idol history: ”Did she even sing one note in key?” asked Key. ”Not only was she completely out of tune, but her styling of the song was flatter than road kill. It was so painful to listen to that I physically started to curl up into a tight ball of agony, clutching my ears, trying to stop the bleeding. Joanne’s performance was a close second. It was shocking how bad they both were. Buh-bye, ladies!

Buh-bye, indeed. While Joanne showed at least marginal improvement on her exit performance, Amy didn’t fare as well. When she grabbed the mike after Ryan gave her the boot tonight, my husband turned to me hopefully and said, ”Maybe she practiced last night?” Two notes into her brutal assault on the Connie Francis classic, he rethought his position: ”Or maybe not.” Indeed, Amy was so screamingly off key I wouldn’t have been surprised if her mother had ripped off her ”Amy Davis” T-shirt and fled the Idol set in a huff. She’d have been well within her rights. (I kid, I kid!)

Seriously, though, it pained me to see Amy fail so miserably both Wednesday and Thursday. There was something about her that seemed kind and uncloying and perhaps a bit resigned to her cannon-fodder fate. I hope she fares well as her post-Idol journey continues. Well, just as long as it doesn’t involve singing.

Oh, and on the subject of singing, two quick things. First, concerning that utterly dreary medley of forgettable ’60s hits: (1) Carly’s updo was a massive improvement, and I would be completely psyched if she wore her hair like that forever. (2) Every time the camera panned away, my eyes went immediately to Asia’h, but I think she might’ve been the one who missed her cue on ”Spanish Harlem.” (3) And poor Amanda looked totally bewildered in trying to keep up with the group dance routine. How do I love her? There is no room to count the ways in this TV Watch.

Second, whether you loved, hated, or felt indifferent about Paula’s video for ”Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow,” how could you not delight in the way Simon gave her that little kiss as she basked in the post-screening glory? I imagine Simon feels about her the way all of us feel about our wackiest, loudest, most off-kilter, but ultimately harmless co-worker. Sometimes, you just have to sit back and enjoy ”every color in the universe.”

What did you think of tonight’s eliminations? Were there any contestants you felt dodged bullets? Were you at all concerned about the fate of the rock & roll nurse? Was Simon too brutally honest with little Colton? And was it just me, or could you picture a little thought bubble over David Archuleta’s head that read, ”Four down, 19 to go”?

Episode Recaps

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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