Michael Becker/Fox
Michael Slezak
April 22, 2010 AT 04:00 PM EDT

The spirit of generosity was most definitely in the air during tonight’s Idol Gives Back telecast. President Obama quoted Randy. Victoria Beckham interacted with common folk. And Tatiana del Toro was granted a temporary return to the Idol stage. Perhaps most exciting of all, though, legendary Capt. Chesley Sullenberger gave us simple instructions for getting in touch with our inner heroes.

Indeed, those of us who donated by calling 877-Idol-Aid or visiting AmericanIdol.com made Sully’s daring Hudson River plane landing — in which he saved 155 lives — look absolutely pedestrian. Or at least that’s what Sullenberger himself allowed us to believe for a moment when he looked into the camera and noted that our simple donations had the potential to save the lives of thousands. Oh yeah, take that Sullenberger! You got served!

But just as Idol can giveth, so too can it taketh away. And while the show was staging a complex, multi-location telethon tonight, that didn’t absolve it from conducting the harsh business of whittling the season 9 finalists from seven down to six. After the ”Kumbaya” had settled, we bid adieu to Tim Urban, whose blinding white button-down shirt and pants made him look one parachute pack short of someone who was about to take a leap of faith out the side of a plane.

Ken Warwick & Co. made some peculiar choices in the run-up to Tim’s ouster. The first two ”one or the other is in the bottom two” pairings consisted of Crystal Bowersox and Casey James, and Lee DeWyze and High School Student Aaron Kelly, which pretty much obliterated any early-episode suspense over who might be at risk. Of course, with pro-tem leaders Crystal and Lee back on the safety couches, and Casey, Aaron, and Aaron’s Unfortunate Shredded Pants relegated to the Silver Stools of Doom (TM), the remaining combo of Michael Lynche-Siobhan Magnus-Tim Urban did leave me in a state of heightened speculation during the telecast’s multiple ad breaks: Which one was at risk?

Tim, not surprisingly, would go on to handle his exit with grace and (what else) a massive, unflinching smile. I loved how Tim raised his arms in victory and let out a little whoop when Ryan declared that Casey was safe, and that he’d reached the end of his ”Idol journey.” At this point in the competition, with Randy having descended into giving him sliding-scale critiques, Kara questioning his intelligence, Ryan openly calling him ”Turban,” and Ellen — who likes everything — declaring she didn’t like his Tuesday-night Goo Goo Dolls soup, Tim must’ve known he was a man on borrowed time. But we didn’t see him mope or pout or huff. We just saw a guy visibly thrilled with his good fortune, his good experience, and his very good hair.

Would I have swapped him at any possible turn to get Jermaine Purifory or Alex Lambert back in the competition? Absolutely. But I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t developed a begrudging respect for the way Tim conducted himself in a situation that might’ve left a less emotionally steady contestant in tears. On the scale of seventh-place finishers, dude is definitely more Kristy Lee Cook than Jennifer Hudson, but if there’s ever an Oscar for Mr. Congeniality, he might just get it — even if he didn’t get the chance for an exit performance!

NEXT: Oh, Fergie!

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