''American Idol'' recap: The final 12
Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together one last time for the self-proclaimed second-rate Whitney Houston, the first-rate Britney Spears impersonator, the obnoxious(ish) teenager who generated more (intentional) laughs than the rest of the top 24 combined, and some dude who's been whining incessantly on my TV screen for the last three weeks.
Were they the right ones to go home? In two instances, the answer is a clear-cut and resounding ''Oh, hell, yeah!'' In fact, the case could be made that Kady Malloy and Luke Menard both lasted a week or two beyond where their talent levels should've carried them.
Still, poor Kady! During last week's elimination show, she looked completely stunned to have outlasted hysterically sobbing comrade Alaina Whitaker. And after a Wednesday-night performance in which she only hit maybe 50 percent of the notes on Queen's ''Who Wants to Live Forever,'' you pretty much knew that tonight Kady would be playing the role of American Idol's Marie Antoinette, making that somber march to the guillotine in her kicky, Jackson Pollack-inspired dress.
The weird thing is, though, while I don't think in any way she earned a place in the top 12, I couldn't help feeling a little bad for the Texas teenager. Maybe it's because I keep forgetting she's only 18 years old, or maybe because her sole purpose the last three weeks seemed to be serving as a punching bag for the judges, for Idol fans, and for Idol prognosticators (like me). Adieu to you, Kady! If it's any consolation, I get the giggles every time I think about your imitation of ''I'm a Slave 4 U.''
On the other hand, I have no such feelings of remorse for heaping piles of enthusiastic criticism on Luke, not after he committed another crime against ''Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,'' Wham!, and every fond memory I have about coming of age in the '80s during his exit performance tonight. He was the only one of the final eight men who didn't step up at any point during the last three weeks and make a decent case that he belonged in this season's finals. (Although a reader named Kristen posted on our message board the interesting suggestion that Luke should've ''busted out the shorts and white gloves'' to make his performance this week less forgettable.)
Someone by the name of Cranky, meanwhile, predicted that ''Baron von Acapella is a goner this week. The only thing he has going for him is the fact that he's pretty, but even that is in a 'ran Orlando Bloom through the copier a few times, then Photoshopped him with a grainy security-cam photo of Luke Perry' kinda way.''
This week's two other eliminations, on the other hand, weren't quite as cut-and-dried. It was pretty clear after Tuesday's performance show that either Chikezie or Danny Noriega would be joining Luke on the long journey back to obscurity, and not surprisingly, they were the last men left standing on the stage last night, looking longingly at the 12th silver space-age chair and praying for sweet relief from Ryan Seacrest's interminable stalling.
In the end, though, America voted for pure vocal talent over showmanship and saucy interview skills. And while I'd be lying if I said a part of me won't miss Danny's jaunty ''ish''es, knowing ''mmm-hmm''s, and ability to get Simon to crack a smile, I also gained a newfound respect for Chikezie tonight. The way the uni-monikered belter embraced Danny and squeezed him almost as if he were trying to wring any surplus anguish and tears out of the kid before he had to grab the mike and sing ''Tainted Love'' was perhaps the sweetest moment we've seen in 19 Idol episodes this season.
And with that result, the season's most polarizing contestant to date said goodbye. A reader named Sister Maureen wrote that was rooting for Danny to last one more week, and eventually replace Paula on the judges' panel (not a bad idea) ''or even give Elisabeth the boot from The View!''
Kelika, on the other hand, admitted that ''Danny is kind of funny, but he reminds me too much of a kid that thinks he deserves something; too snotty for my taste. The fact that he doesn't appear to be humbled bothers me because there were others out there that didn't make the cut that I think would have at least appeared to be more thankful.''
Chikezie, on the other hand, may have gained extra votes from viewers who were turned off by Simon's overzealous critique of the R&B crooner. Keiren63 declared Simon was ''downright cruel to Chikezie telling him that because the song was originally covered by Whitney meant that it was useless for him to have sung it (completely ignoring Luther [Vandross' version]?).'' And Kath agreed, saying she hoped Chikezie made the top 12 ''if only for absolutely owning Simon (on musical knowledge.) This is how it's done, kiddies. *cough* Danny *cough* Making faces at the judges just makes you look like a dumb 12-year-old. Proving you know your stuff earns mad respect. If there is justice in the world, Luke and Danny will go.''
NEXT: The cursed song strikes again!