It's a graceful exit for the unlikeliest teen ''Idol'' sideshow -- but does Blake's appearance in the bottom three suggest a real danger he might miss season 6's main event?

By Michael Slezak
Updated April 19, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

”American Idol”: Sanjaya’s last hurrah

Leave it to Sanjaya Malakar to get the last laugh. The most buzzed-about, most irreverent, and, in many circles, most loathed contestant of American Idol‘s sixth season left the competition on a high note tonight — not with a powerful vocal performance, but with an amusing twist on a well-known Bonnie Raitt lyric: ”Let’s give ’em something to talk about — other than hair.”

Touché, kiddo.

Indeed, while I’ve been down on Sanjaya for the past nine weeks — decrying his gauzy ”Steppin’ Out With My Baby,” raging against his tongue-in-cheek take on ”Bathwater” — I’ve got to give credit where it’s due: For the first time in memory, I was laughing with the kid, not baring my teeth at his mockery of my favorite show. Even more surprising, though, was the sympathy I felt for the little devil as Ryan Seacrest swung the axe tonight, and Sanjaya’s fellow bottom-two dweller, LaKisha Jones, gripped him in an embrace that lasted longer than a Martina McBride money note. Teenage pranksters cry real tears, too!

Which isn’t to say I didn’t want to see the voluminous-haired spoiler go home. To my eyes and ears, Sanjaya’s deflated Tuesday-night rendition of ”Something to Talk About” was audible proof that even he’d had enough — enough of the brutal critiques from Simon, from critics, and from fans; enough of being reduced to a national punch line, like being named ”Today’s Girl” on Maxim magazine’s website on Tuesday. (Was that really necessary?) The absence of the maddening mischief that had punctuated ”You Really Got Me,” and the fact that buzz about Sanjaya had taken a backseat to the Simon Cowell-Chris Richardson incident, made me confident that Sanjaya would finish a lucky No. 7, and for once, I got it right.

Nevertheless, LaKisha should consider herself lucky to have survived the week, given that even a fanboy like myself couldn’t find anything positive to say about her loud, cacophonous cover of ”Jesus Take the Wheel.” I’m just hoping this close call will relight Kiki’s fire, and prompt her to do something extraordinary next week — like a flawless a cappella number, or a radical arrangement of an unexpected track. (Yeah, don’t worry folks, I’m bracing myself for a karaoke-y take on a Diane Warren ballad.)

Oh, and speaking of folks who’ll need to raise their games next week — what did you all think of Blake Lewis’s inclusion in the bottom three? I’d never in a million years have predicted it, that is until I trolled the TV Watch message boards this afternoon, and discovered that many of you were describing Blake’s cover of ”When the Stars Go Blue” as listless and pitchy. I dunno though, dawg pound, a scenario in which the spiky-haired dude doesn’t join Jordin and Melinda in the final three would be more bizarre than Randy’s skull-embossed fedora, one of the many oddities of a bloated, often disjointed results show.

Seriously, the discordant combo of Ryan attempting to clear up the controversy over Simon’s eye-roll during Chris Richardson’s remarks about the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings, the snooze-inducing group rendition of ”I’m Alright,” an extended advertisement for the upcoming Shrek sequel, and an utterly random (if not unpleasant) performance by Fergie was, to paraphrase Simon, like having a hamburger, fries, onion rings, and milkshake for breakfast. And note to Antonio Banderas: Next time anybody asks, Shrek the Third opens May 18, not sometime in June.

That said, the segment about what the Idol finalists listen to backstage — Jordin: Fergie; Blake: Incubus; LaKisha: Yolanda Adams — wasn’t as mind-numbing as I’d expected. As for me, other than listening to Sabrina Sloan’s performance of ”Amazing Grace” in an cubicle (click here to see it!), I’m listening to you, TV Watch readers! And in that spirit, I present my three favorite message-board comments of the week.

3) Kerry: ”Sanjaya needs to put that bandana around his mouth.”

2) Slowposter: ”Okay, so I was late to the party on the Phil/Nosferatu references weeks ago (and BTW he is definitely improving), but what about Blake evoking Owen Wilson in Zoolander? Every time he performs, I just keep hearing Will Ferrell say ‘That Hansel, he’s so hot right now.”’

1) Murderpuss: ”Randy Jackson is the most famous lottery winner in America. He could easily be replaced by, oh, a talking tub of Parkay margarine and it would be more articulate.”

Oh, and on the subject of message boards, if you’re using a Safari browser on a Mac, you may have trouble viewing them. Additionally, you’ve probably noticed is having some ongoing technical difficulties with our TV Watch comments; we are working hard to fix them, and we apologize for the exasperating experience.

In the meantime, did anyone catch what Sanjaya whispered to Ryan before his ”THIS, is AMER-ican Idol” intro? What did you think of Blake drying Kiki’s tears? And are any of you concerned about the welfare of Crying Girl in a post-Sanjaya Idol universe?

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