Carrie Underwood and Randy Travis perform a duet, and the judges pass up yet another chance to keep one contestant from going home

By Kate Ward
Updated March 18, 2009 at 04:00 PM EDT
Michael Becker/American Idol/Getty Images

American Idol

S8 E22
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Someone in the Idol universe had one tough night last night. And I’m not talking about our ousted contestant, or even our dear, vacationing Slezak, who likely curled into a fetal position after hearing Ryan announce that Allison was in the bottom three (For shame, America!). Nope, I’m referring to Kara ”I want to maul Alexis” DioGuardi, who, during last night’s episode, watched her naughty little minx get booted off the Idol stage in a somewhat shocking elimination. Perhaps choosing ”Jolene” for Grand Ole Opry night was Alexis’ downfall, since her performance only reminded us how much better Brooke White sang it last year. Or maybe the voting audience preferred her sexy, growl-y takes on Aretha Franklin to her subdued performance Tuesday night. Either way, Kara certainly wasn’t going to be satisfied until girl whipped out a stripper pole and an ”I heart Bret Michaels” t-shirt, and I suppose Idol dialers weren’t either. How else can you explain her finish behind faltering contestants Michael Sarver and Scott MacIntyre?

Let’s face it: Alexis’ dull performance certainly wasn’t her strongest — and I cringed last night while watching her pitchy, cracked encore for the judges — but it was still solid enough to guarantee her a spot on the Idols Live! tour. And while I’m not quite passionate enough about the petite powerhouse to work myself into a tizzy over the elimination, I couldn’t help but hope that the judges might actually save her, especially since such a move would guarantee that they couldn’t save Danny Gokey in the weeks ahead. Come on, Cowell & Co! This is the same girl you compared to Kelly Clarkson just weeks ago!

Before we talk about the show itself, I must give homage to Slezak (who will return next Tuesday). I present to my version of the Idol results night song, dedicated to Alexis. Ah-hem…to the tune of Kenny Chesney’s ”She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”:

Well, Kara thinks you’re sexy/she always made a fuss

And now she’s coping/by watching Rock of Love bus

Okay, so I’m hardly the songwriter Slezak is. So I’ll just stop there.

Ryan began the episode last night by sharing a recap clip from Tuesday night’s performance show that was cleverly edited by producers to make it appear as though Danny had the best performance of the night. If that atrocity didn’t make you want to run out of the room cupping your ears screaming, ”Why, Idol producers? Why do you do this to me?” then the group performance certainly did the trick. Yep, our final 11 performed quite a dismal version of Travis Tritt’s ”Trouble,” during which the four remaining women curiously stormed the judges’ table, allowing Kara to eagerly stick dollar bills in Alexis’ dress (thankfully, the choreographers saved our eyes from another Danny air-hump).

Of course, the hour-long episode had plenty of filler (especially when compared to last week’s jam-packed double elimination). Other than the weekly Ford music video — in which the contestants hurled water balloons at one another to the tune of Ok Go’s ”Here It Goes Again” — the show provided viewers with a behind-the-scenes video that made me realize there is something crueler than forcing ousted contestants to sing. What could possibly be crueler than crushing someone’s dreams and then telling them to sing the very song they butchered? Why, making said contestants eat their farewell dinner at Buca. Sheesh, I know the recession is tough on everyone, but has Idol‘s form of currency been reduced to Paula’s chunky jewelry?

NEXT: (Cough) Sure you’re sick

But come on, now. Let’s dim the lights and get to the serious stuff. Ryan rattled off the results to the top row, where two of our bottom three sat their amateur tushes. The first to be sent to a stool? Take a deep breath and prepare to set your anger dials to RAGE: Ryan announced that our kick-ass little teenager, Allison, didn’t muster up enough votes to guarantee her safety. To which I respond, c’mon, America! Is Allison the Carly Smithson of season 8? What does this girl have to do to earn your respect? Deliver a baby on stage? Bring about world peace? Steal and bury Adam Lambert’s eyeliner?

Thankfully, the next person sent to the bottom three was someone who actually deserved to be there. After a fake-out moment, Michael Sarver took a seat beside Allison, and I was glad to see him there. The Texan should have hit a home run on Grand Ole Opry night instead of lobbing the ground ball that he did with ”Ain’t Going Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up).” And if we’re judging on performances alone, the next contestant in question, Scott, should have occupied that empty silver stool right beside Michael after his lackluster ”Wild Angels” (props to Fox’s cameramen, who delivered a great ”dramatic chipmunk” shot of that stool pre-commercial break). But never underestimate the sympathy vote. Scott passed right through, and he wasn’t the only one to depend on empathy: influenza allowed Megan ”I swear I’m sick even though I only cough when the cameras are on me” Joy Corkrey Diddy (seriously, what is her name?) to eke into the top ten, regardless of her flawed Tuesday night performance. (And sorry Simon: Whether she’s suffering from the flu, Ebola, or not sick at all, Megan’s singing still sounds like she’s shoving shards of glass through my ears.)

With Megan safe, we all knew who would round out the bottom three (nice try, Idol, trying to make us believe that Adam would have to scoot his nail-polished self to the other side of the stage). Alexis had to know she was in trouble when Randy couldn’t even remember her name. That was enough of a bad omen, but things hardly got better when Alexis picked up the mic for her encore of the Dolly Parton classic. You could tell the poor thing was desperately trying to sing her heart out, but instead, her repeat performance consisted mostly of bum and cracked notes. Not that the judges would have necessarily noticed her mistakes. Sure, they might have appeared invested while discussing their next move mere seconds into Alexis’ song, but those four are so checked out, you know they were just arguing over where they would watch Lost later.

But I have to give it up for Alexis, who responded to the judges’ rejection with grace (heh). And I will genuinely miss her. But as solid as she’s been, and as cute as she is, it was difficult to imagine her wearing the Idol crown. Especially after watching season 4 champ Carrie Underwood blow everyone away with her umpteenth post-Idol performance on the show. The former contestant teamed up with Randy Travis — who was rocking the whole Frankenstein’s monster look last night — to debut their ”I Told You So” duet. It was a nice song and all — and Carrie proved that she’s an incredible talent and a good sport, what with the dig on Simon — but it was a bit creepy in that whole Celine Dion-René Angélil sort of way to listen to Mr. Travis and Carrie sing about being in love.

Well, I’m off, fellow Idol fans, to dream sweet dreams about Ryan’s flat iron. Are you enraged by last night’s results? Should Scott or Michael have gone home instead? Are you disappointed with the new male-female ratio? Are you looking forward to Motown week? Did you enjoy Brad Paisley? And did you, like me, get wistful during the commercial break when Kristen McNamara’s audition aired?

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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