Image Credit: Michael Becker/FoxHi, PopWatchers. How are you this morning? What did you have for breakfast? Anyone catch that Los Suns-Spurs playoff game? Love watching Steve Nash at work. That is one exciting basketball player.
Huh? Oh, was there an episode of American Idol last night? Yes, that’s right — I was there. I remember now. What happened? (SPOILER ALERT!) Well, Aaron Kelly went home, which was kind of a shock, but not really. Also, Lady Gaga performed on tape from last week, so I watched her performance of “Alejandro” on a screen, just like you. Everything else was as it always is: The judges walked out during commercials, then back in when we went on-air. Cory the Warmup Comedian gave away iPods. The CBS pages seemed a little more aggro than usual Um. Oh! There was a sign-language interpreter in the house! Is that jazzy? No? Argh. THIS… is not going to be overly fascinating. You should totally follow me after the jump anyway. Oh please, like you’d rather be getting work done?
In an Idoldome festooned with Mexican flags for Cinco de Mayo, we started things off by watching a heavyset woman wearing a necktie shake her moneymaker like Beyonce, after which Cory’s usual warmup antics progressed the same way they have since dinosaurs roamed the earth, though I did enjoy watching the sign-language interpreter attempt to interpret them. She started copping his faux-street attitude — occasionally throwing in what I took to be the sign for “now he’s just babbling nonsense, sorry” — and actually seemed to be getting laughs out of the deaf woman in front of her. This impressed me. Meanwhile, off-duty bandleader Rickey Minor was wandering the house in a very unbuttoned white oxford shirt that screamed “summer casual” and/or “I am so not doing any work today, ha ha suckers.” Some woman had a “Simon Marry Me” sign, which Cory promptly mocked: “She started Cinco de Mayo early,” he said. “She has no idea who gave her that sign.” Then he explained to the crowd that Gaga pretaped her number, and told us we needed to be prepared to lie to our friends and loved ones about this. And so do nations begin to fall.
The judges entered, Kara and her white tank top joining Rickey on the Casual Friday tip, enthusiasm for Ellen getting the slightly snoozy crowd slightly to its snoozy feet. We shushed for the dramatic cold open — because nothing says “Frank Sinatra Week” like the leftover interstitial music from Rollerball — and when Ryan announced that THIS was American Idol, Randy Jackson spread his arms wide and recited the phrase along with him.
Your.Top.5. took the stage under cover of the judges’ introductions, Lee turning to joke with the string section before the group number began. During the medley, Ryan sat in Kara’s chair, and Kara went to sit on Randy’s lap, where she proceeded to bounce like a toddler. Ryan and Simon started chatting, Randy and Kara were chatting — only Ellen really watched the Idols sing. She looked totally delighted. On the floor behind the stage-right pit, the sign-language interpreter was buzzing along, watching the teleprompter for lyrics. When the number ended, Ryan fist-pumped us into commercial.
The contestants lingered behind the judges’ table for a second to greet their critics, then headed to the couches to get touched up. The judges left. The audience coordinators continued to brief the swaybots on proper over-the-head clapping technique, and Cory complimented a man in the audience for bringing a Lady Gaga sign and thereby helping us to sell our little lie.
The audience actually groaned a little at Ryan’s introduction of the Ford video, but I think we were all pleasantly surprised at Crystal’s subtle, evocative acting chops. I experienced a moment of terror before realizing Lee’s character only had eyes for the Ford, because the last thing we need is to encourage the writers of Crystal/Lee slash fiction (which I am sure already exists, though I have no intention of confirming that because I don’t like washing my eyeballs). We continued to kill time with what may be the most comprehensive behind-the-scenes look we’ve ever been given at the Idols on show day, and Randy totally lurved his stand-in’s rehearsal impersonation. (Randy Jackson is impervious to your mockery, dawg.) While Ryan was interviewing the contestants, the only sound in the room was the air vents, slowly but surely sucking every molecule of oxygen out of our lungs. I may have taken a little disco nap here.
In the commercial after Lee was declared safe (and sent to the Lone Stool of Salvation, Death Begone!), Crystal gave a thumbs up to a woman with a Bowersox sign, and a man behind the sign stood up and hollered, “ATTABOY, LEE!” Cory made his way up to the man with the Gaga sign; he turned out to be a dad from Orange County who explained, “I’m a fan of any band my kids like.” This got awwwwws from the crowd, and a silent tear from me, as my childhood of pop culture repression at the hands of classical musicians scars me to this very day. To her credit, I believe my mother can identify Lady Gaga on sight these days, if not by sound — but would she hold up a sign for her? Not on your life. (Hi mom!)
Speaking of: This was the time on Idol when we Gagaed! For details, I’m going to refer you to my colleague Adam “The Beav” Vary’s column from the day she pre-taped her performance. As is his Beavish wont, he has written a very comprehensive account of the occasion, so there’s not much I can add from tonight’s show. The judges left, and it was too dark to see the Idols’ reactions. Mad kudos to the swaybots for diligently clapping over their heads when the tape finished, even though they were not on TV and no one would ever see them. On a personal note, I really hope Gaga directs a production of Equus someday, and I can’t wait for her new album to find out what random syllables she chooses to repeat ad nauseum next.
“Everybody take a deep breath. Lady Gaga has left the building,” Cory said in commercial, then quipped, “They needed to cover poor Aaron’s eyes.” Debbie the Stage Manager straightened the judges’ chairs and tried to summon their return. “Judges optional…” she reprimanded. As you saw at home, they didn’t even pretend to get back on time, filing past Ryan as he brought us back on air with nary a trace of tardy guilt.
During Harry Connick Junior’s performance, most of the kids in the pit lost their will to live and had to be perked up by the staff, leading to psychotic mass zombie swaying the likes of which I haven’t seen since that time the DJ played “One More Night” at my 8th grade dance. The judges gave the Awesomest Mentor of All Time a standing ovation, and then Your.Top.5 took the stage to answer that most burning of all questions: “If Harry Connick Junior sings live, and the band plays live, will the Idols still lipsynch their group number?” This was quickly followed by an only slightly less burning question: “If we have so much time for Harry Connick Junior’s Funnytime Story Hour/Clip Reel, is there any compelling reason why tonight’s results show could not have been half an hour shorter?” As we cut to commercial, the contestants clustered around HCJ on stage, everyone all hugs and long, lingering looks. It was like the last day of summer camp up there — even Ellen got in on the action. I felt a Michael W. Smith song rise up in my throat, but choked it back down to the dungeon where I keep all human emotion besides rage.
When Cory asked, we all gave it up for HCJ and his orchestra. Naturally, the trumpet section took this as a cue to stand up and mug for applause. “We could sit here and listen to that all night, y’all,” Cory complimented the musicians. PLEASE, I wrote. As we moved through break, all the men (including HCJ) got re-groomed, and Lee and Ryan had a conversation center stage while somewhere in the audience, Cory scarred a small child by asking questions like “How old are you” and “Where do you live,” questions that the small child’s mother had no doubt instructed her never, ever to answer if a stranger asks. Right before we came back on air, Lee sat down on his Lone Stool of Salvation, Death Begone… and HCJ promptly hip-checked him right off it.
“Bring down the lights,” Ryan said, and Lee’s head dropped to his chest for the dreaded elimination. When Crystal was moved near him, Lee tried to engage her in conversation about something. “What?” Crystal mouthed, then shushed him. When Aaron was placed next to Big Mike, I’m fairly certain we all thought that spelled doom for Casey (or, terrifying notion, Crystal), though the audience was of absolutely no help when Ryan asked them to say this out loud. And yet… no! Total fakeout! Survivor-style blindside! Casey and Crystal were safe! What a (relatively) staggering turn of events! Big Mike and Aaron Kelly were your Bottom Two! When we hit commercial, Casey sat on the couch, straight as a rod, shaking his head robotically like someone trying to clear their ears after a loud noise, while Crystal patted his leg reassuringly as if to say, “See? I told you everything would be okay.” I feared for a second that something in Casey’s brain had pulled a Bret Michaels (too soon?), but then he came back to life and guzzled a bottle of water, and watched as Ryan tousled the hair of a very small blond boy whom Cory had hauled up on stage.
When Aaron Kelly was announced as tonight’s (again, relatively) unexpected sacrifice to the text-messaging gods, there was but one scream of pre-teen anguish from somewhere to my right. Otherwise, reaction was pretty muted. Lee threw Crystal a look that said, “Can we get up? Can we go to him?” and the two of them actually took a hesitant step in Aaron’s direction before being beckoned back by Debbie. One thing you should know about Lee: He’s a hugger. I know this because Tuesday night, after we gaggle of journalists finished interviewing the Idols, Lee hugged every single one of us. I tried to offer my hand instead, but he’d have none of it. “I’m a hugger,” he said, which is how I know he’s a hugger. Anyway, I think it’s this quality that continuously calls him to move towards whichever Idol is in distress, even though he is inevitably blocked from doing so by someone wearing a headset.
The night ended with a trip to the moon on the gossamer wings of Aaron, who is no longer just an innocent lad of 17, but rather a man — a really sad, sad man, a man who knows loss and pain and betrayal and rejection and is no doubt doomed to walk the earth forever clarifying for people that no, he is not David Archuleta, but yes, he was on that show one time. During his farewell performance, Casey stood off to the side with his hands clasped at his waist and a small smile on his face, like a proud stepdad at a bar mitzvah. I couldn’t tell if the smile was a “Hooray, Aaron, way to go out like a pro” smile, or a “S—, I have to be here another week? Motherf—er! Oops, cameras. Smile, smile, I’m just here smiling, look at me, smiling” smile. I suppose only time will tell.
What do you think, PopWatchers? Did the right person go home tonight? Were the Gaga festivities — WHICH WERE TOTALLY SHOT LIVE COUGH COUGH WINK WINK — to your liking? Are you looking forward to Jamie Foxx/movie songs week? I am, for the simple reason that we already got that Aerosmith asteroid song out of the way. Yeah, it doesn’t take much. Los Suns!