The show's ''season of women'' story arc becomes pure fiction as another female contestant walks the 'Idol' plank

By Michael Slezak
Updated April 29, 2010 at 04:00 PM EDT
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American Idol

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We begin today’s American Idol recap with a fond farwell to Siobhan Magnus — glassblower, moth whisperer, power belter, and possible woodland faerie. You may have loved her. You may have loathed her. Or, like me, you may have been holding on to threadbare hope that Siobhan would return to the magnificent early-season form she displayed on ”Paint It Black” and ”House of the Rising Sun.” But whatever your feelings about this season’s resident quirky-chick contestant, there’s no denying her absence is going to drain a little color from the final eight episodes of this strange and frustrating Idol season.

I mean, it’s not like we can count on Lee DeWyze or Michael Lynche to stray far from their standard-operating black, gray, and/or olive color palette. It’s not like we can count on High School Student Aaron Kelly to offer backstage zingers like Siobhan’s direct attack on Simon Cowell’s fashion: ”For someone who wears the same V-neck every day, he sure has an awful lot to say about my style!” And it’s not like there’s anyone left among the five remaining contestants who’s only tangentially aware that he or she is participating in a live television broadcast.

Seriously, did you notice at the end of tonight’s episode, how hard Ryan had to work to get Siobhan to disengage from hugging it out with her mom and the rest of her entourage, and to focus on the work of providing a TV-friendly denouement to her full-throttle sing-out to Aretha Franklin’s ”Think”? The trademark Siobhan glory shriek was in full effect on her take-no-prisoners final performance, but this time around, The Note was in proper alignment, and sounded pretty stellar. ”You’re still our star,” Mama Magnus whispered sweetly to her daughter, a sentiment that surely drew ”Hell yeahs!” from Siobhan fans everywhere.

And yet, how did the girl who once looked like a mortal lock for the top three wind up finishing behind the once-eliminated Big Mike and the perpetually unspectacular Aaron? For starters, there’s song choice. Future Idol contenders should bear in mind that ”Any Man of Mine” is now 0-for-2 on the show, having also led to unimonikered Mandisa’s exit back in season 5. Perhaps more damaging, though, was Siobhan’s backward momentum over the last five or six weeks.

Even the biggest Siobhan booster can’t make the case that ”Any Man of Mine” was in the same league as her Rolling Stones cover in top 12 week. Nor is it up for debate that last week’s turgid ”When You Believe” was on par with that haunting semifinal rendition of ”House of the Rising Sun.” And that’s a major problem on a show where viewers often demand to see ”growth” above all else. Indeed, if you’re not learning and improving on a weekly basis — or if you dare to peak too early — then it’s only a matter of time till the backlash begins.

NEXT: Dig a little deeper, Lee

Bearing that in mind, though, it was strange to see Casey round out the bottom two, given that his ”Don’t” was not only the strongest performance of Shania Twain Week, but also marked a huge leap forward in his own competitive momentum. What’s indisputable, however, was the extreme grace under camera shown by Casey’s mom after Ryan announced her son would live to sing another week. Instead of engaging in a round of enthusiastic hooting, applauding, and chest-bumping, Casey’s mom remained subdued, perhaps even a little saddened, in a show of deference to fallen Siobhan. (Big Mike’s wife could’ve benefited from a little of that restraint after her hubby was given safe passage from his bottom-three spot just a few minutes prior; anyone else notice Kara refrained from applauding, though, once Big Mike’s safety was declared?)

And while I have to give Idol‘s producers a little credit for keeping suspense alive during tonight’s telecast — the pairings of Big Mike/Casey, Aaron/Crystal, Siobhan/Lee had me believing we’d only see a bottom two, and left me feeling totally clueless over which duo might be at risk — I really wish Ryan’s results-night interview questions weren’t always designed to elicit the most rote, worn-out answers from the judges and contestants alike. Really, asking Randy why Aaron excelled with a country theme? It’s not like he’s been known for putting a hip-hop spin on his music, yo! Or forcing Kara to once again say she enjoys Casey’s singing voince — not just his torso? (Because everyone loves a piping-fresh ”cougar” reference?) All these responses made me sleepier than Lee DeWyze explaining his song choice: He almost didn’t pick ”You’re Still the One.” And then he ”connected with it and picked it.” Dude, dig a little deeper — you’re gonna have to down a few Red Bulls and enter the land of the living if you wind up in the top two and end up facing all the promotional gobbledygook that comes with it.

I flinched at Crystal’s statement that she wasn’t sure if she’d ever been in the bottom three, but let’s not forget that Ryan never told us who was the third contestant at risk during Elvis Week results. (Yeah, Big Mike stood next to Katie, but Ryan eventually went on to say Burly McBeasterson was never at risk.)

NEXT: We get it, Shakira. You have hips.

And now, it’s time to grade tonight’s performances!

Rascal Flatts, ”Unstoppable”: Oh, would that someone had proved Gary LeVox and company wrong by pulling the plug on this water-logged ballad! Alas, dreams did not come true, and LeVox’s nasal drone continued on with neither charisma nor conviction. D+

Shakira and Her Crazy-Ass Dancers (Plus That Country Band), ”Gypsy”: Note to Shakira: ”Gypsy” is not ”Hips Don’t Lie.” In other words, hyper-serious backup dancers are not welcome or required, nor is Gary LeVox tossing in minor whisps of harmony like tinsel to Christmas tree. B

[Side note: Can anyone explain what in tarnation was going on when Shakira kiddingly suggested LeVox wear a skirt for the performance, only to have Ryan hyperactively squeal, ”He’s got one! He’s got one!”? Theories welcome in the comments section.]

Lady Antebellum, ”Need You Now”: Who else got obsessed with Hillary Scott’s smoky eye tonight? I wonder if it was done after a consultatio by Collier Strong in the L’Oréal Paris Makeup Room? Seriously, though, it’s nice to see a current chart-topper on Idol that handles live vocals more successfully than, say, Paige Miles. Pretty melody up in there, too! A-

Sons of Sylvia, ”Love Left to Lose”: Totally inoffensive — except for the sound mix that made the lead vocals (and the fiddle) sound like they were being processed through a tin cup. I will also admit to being mildly freaked/moderately fascinated by the presence of Carrie Underwood, zapped in from Dancing With the Stars‘ planet Mirrorballus just in time to provide an enthusiastic intro. C+

[My colleague Simon Vozick-Levinson has a Q & A with Sons Of Sylvia — formerly the Clark Bros. of The Next Great American Band fame — over on our Music Mix blog.]

Ford Music Video: I loved the lifeblood right out of the vampire-y costumes and makeup — being at one with the bloodsucking undead does wonders for the complexion! Conceptually, it all worked well — until Big Mike opened that ridiculous pizza box with extra garlic. Underlying message: WE CAN NEVER LET THE IDOLS BE TOO DARK OR EDGY! THINK OF THE CHILDREN, AFTER ALL! A- (pre-pizza joke)/B- (post-pizza joke).

Extended Shrek advertisement: Permanently deleted from my memory bank. You?

What did you think of tonight’s results? Are you angry, thrilled, or indifferent? What did you make of Ryan’s peculiar wording that there were 33 million votes ”registered last night”? And was that an actual Kardashian he was sitting next to? (I only know the central, horrific troika, so I ask in all seriousness.) Thoughts about next week’s Frank Sinatra theme with guest mentor Harry Connick, Jr.? And what about Shakira’s advice to the contestants? ”Eyes on the stars, feet on the ground, hips don’t lie.” Or something like that?

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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