After seven long weeks, the finalists are revealed.

By Stephanie Schomer
March 19, 2015 at 05:24 PM EDT
Credit: Michael Becker/Fox

FINAL JUDGMENT. Look at how hard they’re working to make this dramatic! Is it working? (A little bit, yes, but MAN aren’t we all ready for this audition season to be over?)

Why we start this episode with the fate of Josh Sanders, another contestant who I sincerely don’t remember, I’ll never understand. When you’ve given so many constants SO MUCH airtime, why introduce us to new people now? Sorry, Josh. We barely knew you. We didn’t know you at all.

So tonight we’re back at the House of Blues, and we’re going to see 23 folks cut down to 11. Is this the LONGEST elimination process ever? This is our 14th episode. FOURTEEN. They teased the top 24 to us in the first episode, and—though we have a pretttttty good idea who they are—we still haven’t met them. I’m just, at this point, so ready for some live-show competition.

Back to the show, and Hollywood Anderson is about to get some news. We’ve liked Hollywood throughout this process, but J.Lo fell a little bit out of love with him the last time we saw him. I’m surprised that they let him go. Truly surprised. Hollywood is also surprised. He bawls, and it’s really sad. I hope he comes back next year.

Purple-haired Joey takes the stage in a dress she stole from Zooey Deschanel’s closet (is that where she got her ukulele too?!!) and sings “Sweet Pea,” that song that you know from 100 TV commercials, and you know what? I like Joey. She’s sweet. I keep waiting to find her annoying (and I definitely have in past performances), but she’s so earnest and truly talented and humble. So when she makes it through, I am so happy for her! Joey is so happy for herself and is crying so hard when she emerges from her talk with the judges, it looks like she’s been sent home. Joke’s on you, other contestants! She’s staying.

Remember when Idol used to, in the early stages of Hollywood Week, split the remaining contestants into two rooms and tell group A that they got to stay, and then group B would hear group A cheering through the wall and know that they were rejects? That was SO brutal. I’m glad they’re not doing that anymore.

Katherine Winston makes a smart song choice with Rhiannon (and maybe less of a smart life choice by putting all of her eggs in the Idol basket and not having “a back-up plan”), but I’m not convinced I want to see more of this gal. Totally good, but I don’t remember her. And I know we’ve seen her before. So that concerns me. But I’ll get my chance to remember her because she gets a spot as well.

Maddie Hudson, who looks a bit like Emma Stone and wears aggressively colored lipstick effortlessly (it’s literally gray tonight, kudos, girl), seems to have blundered her House of Blues performance. From what we see, it was an off-key version of “Diamonds,” and the judges tell her she needs some time. They are correct, and like Hollywood Anderson, I hope she comes back. Girlfriend’s only 16, after all.

J.Lo is disappointed in Alexis Gomez because her performances have become same, same, same. (“You said you were Mexican,” J.Lo says. Brilliant cutting, producers.) So she sings a The Band Perry song in Spanish, which sounds weird. Whatever, they send her through. Seriously, WHO ARE WE ELIMINATING?

NEXT: The verdict is in on Savion’s second chance.

Quentin Alexander channels Lenny Kravitz sartorially, and looks every part a rock star at the House of Blues. I wish we had gotten more time with him during this process, so I’m intrigued when he gets through. More to come from Quentin.

Now we cut to Savion, which is an interesting part of tonight’s drearily formulaic episode because this is the moment that he was sent home last season. And a lot of people were pissed about it! My fingers are crossed for this babe. He’s really fantastic on the stage and will throw some good performances our way if he gets to live shows. THANK GOD. Despite Keith’s most-committed and drawn-out fake-out—seriously, it is minutes long—Savion makes it.

Quick eliminations: Jaq Mackenzie (shocked about this one!) and Hunter Larsen. Man, I really thought they were putting a lot of confidence in Jaq throughout this process, and she totally won me over the last time we saw her. That said, I remember thinking she was not ready back when she auditioned, and also that she is a teenager, so I suspect we’ll see her next season.

So we’re sorry for Jaq, but the good news is that Mark Andrew is still fantastic. He does “Take Me to Church” and my only concern is that it sounds too much like Hozier’s original version. But maybe we’re at the point in the competition where the judges aren’t punishing people for that just yet. I want Mark Andrew to get through because a) he deserves it and b) he wants it so bad. He just cries so much, he just wants to take care of his family! I’m a sucker for him. And so are the judges! He’s through and is the most genuinely happy and relieved about it. So precious.

And speaking of precious, here’s Trevor! I’ve missed him. For what it’s worth, and to embarrass her, my roommate just asked me how old he is, because she needs to know what she’s allowed to feel about him. (Sorry, Syd!) She’s very upset to learn that he is an actual child, age 16. Trevor, total heartthrob in the making, already attracting cougars. Anyhow, Trevor killed it the last time we saw him, and his House of Blues audition was fine, but not great. Harry’s giving him a BIG speech hinting that they’re going to let him go, so they obviously keep him. Guys, stop doing this! It’s obviously funny for you, but we’ve seen it 15 times at this point and it’s BORING. Go do your homework, Trevor. We’ll see you next week.

I’ve liked Emily Brooke throughout this process, but I’m not blown away by her House of Blues performance. To my surprise, the judges agree with me. They give her a really heartfelt explanation and basically ask her to come back, but this girl is 15, so she’s obviously upset. Though she handles it with total grace.

NEXT: Celebrity look-alike with Nick Fradiani.

I just realized who Nick Fradiani looks like! I’m super pleased with myself. Are you ready for this? He looks like Adam Levine and Scott Disick had a baby. YES. I think that is an excellent note. I know, Scott Disick is horrible and Nick Fradiani is a babe, but Google it! I’m right. Nick makes it through! As if there were ever any question.

Sarina-Joi Crowe has been here THREE times before. For that alone, she should get through. She does! (Though it’s totally deserved, she’s fantastic at the House of Blues.)

Jax’s boyfriend Qaasim gives the most intense, manic performance of the season, and I kind of dig it. So entertaining! J.Lo loves it! She is just dancing in her damn seat! He’s obviously through. Super talented and the love interest of a fellow contestant? Dunzo. Can’t wait to see him on the live shows.

Keith’s baby look-alike Riley Bria and Ricky Dale Hendricks, who sang Garth Brooks at his audition and was fantastic, are fighting for the same spot. Ricky’s not killing it at the House of Blues. Give him a couple more years, and he’ll kill it. Riley also fails to blow my mind, but he feels a little more current. If we’re going for a young male country star, we may as well make it one with a contemporary style, right? Ricky’s fantastic, but he’s old school, and we need to shake this show up. It’s a nail biter, this elimination.

I breathe a sigh of relief when Riley makes it. Even though Ricky’s heading home, we’ll see more of him, I think. He’s good, he knows it. He should come back.

OOOOO Jelly Joseph! For some reason I thought she got eliminated last week so I am SO pleasantly surprised to see all of her fabulousness up on that stage. Her voice is so killer. I love love love her.

Jelly is competing for the same spot that Shi’s competing for. I can’t imagine the judges getting rid of either of these two. They’re both super unique and talented and fantastic to look at. Shi crushed that performance like a seasoned pro. Woof, I’m nervous now! Oh god, they got rid of Jelly. UGH. Dammit.

That’s that. We’ve got our top 24! Now, in light of that, I’d like to bring up what I’m sure many of you know, which is that the top 24 leaked AGES ago. I did my best to avoid it, but I will say that it seemed like a very sneaky decision by the producers. From day one, if you googled any of these kids, you could easily stumble upon their Twitter profiles, which had avatars that were obviously professionally shot—and what’s more, obviously professionally shot in the American Idol style.

But even if you managed to avoid the spoilers, this season more than ever largely followed the same kids throughout the bulk of the episodes. And I get it! We’re heading into the top 24 with loads of favorites, we already feel invested, we’re not going to meet any strangers next week. But honestly, this took a bit of the fun out of it. Are you guys in agreement, or did you like that we got more face time than usual with these kids? And how many of you sought out the top 24 rather than discovered it on the show?

Either way, we’ve got our top 24. For your reference:

  1. Nick Fradiani
  2. Alexis Gomez*
  3. Savion Wright*
  4. Katherine Winston
  5. Mark Andrew*
  6. Adanna Duru
  7. Daniel Seavey
  8. Lovey James
  9. Clark Beckham
  10. Maddie Walker
  11. Riley Bria
  12. Sarina-Joi Crowe
  13. Trevor Douglas
  14. Tyanna Jones*
  15. Qaasim Middleton*
  16. Shannon Berthiaume*
  17. Michael Simeon
  18. Joey Cook
  19. Quentin Alexander
  20. Jax*
  21. Rayvon Owen*
  22. Shi Scott
  23. Loren Lott
  24. Adam Ezegelian

*We predicted their success after the first audition. Not bad: 33 percent success rate. I’ll take it! See you next week.

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