Last Thursday’s “American Idol” was a bit like “Torchwood: Miracle Day.”
The plot of the series was “What happens in one day, people just stop dying?” Death is, after all, the inevitable destination in all human lives, so what happens if the entire species is detoured from our logical destination? How do we live if we aren’t going to die?
“Death” usually isn’t the destination on “American Idol,” at least not the episode-by-episode destination. Instead, the destination is towards singing. But last Thursday’s “American Idol” was song-free. For perhaps the first time in “Idol” history, an entire hour passed without a single performance, without a single ruling by the judges. It was a full hour of coughing, sneaking and rehearsing.
It was very weird.
Rumor has it, though, that people are actually going to sing on Wednesday’s episode.
Let’s find out…
8:00 p.m. ET. “The more I puke, the better I feel.” Have any words been more apt?
8:01 p.m. “Not everyone will survive,” says Ryan Seacrest, whose standard for “survival” are low, I guess.
8:02 p.m. It’s Group Day, which follows swiftly on the heels of Group Night. But this is also the day that dreams will end.
8:02 p.m. There are 42 groups set to perform and many of them are moving forward with minimal sleep. Prayers are being said. Last minute chaos is ensuring. Trouble is being shot. Tears are already being shed. But time is up.
8:03 p.m. The judges enter. It’s 9 a.m. Surely Steven Tyler’s contract should have prevented this.
8:04 p.m. As we already knew, the first performance is coming from The Betties, an emotionally and gastro-intestinally unsteady team of women. “Couldn’t it have been Betty and the Boops,” says a disappointed Steve Tyler.
8:05 p.m. Things are not good for The Betties. Jennifer isn’t bad on the opening leg. Cherie Tucker is dreadful and only gets worst. Cari is shouty and mediocre. Gabrielle Cavassa isn’t good either. And Brianna Bell is singing a solo that has nothing to do with anything. “That was really bleak,” Ryan says. Jennifer and Cari advance, which is probably correct based on what we saw. Cari could have been sent home, if you ask me. Cheri goes and vomits up her sadness. Or maybe just her illness.
8:07 p.m. Our next Group is Groove Sauce and they weren’t interesting enough to get any screentime last week. That’s because they’re pretty good, starting with the twitchy, soulful Reed Grimm. Nick Boddington is also quite fine. Craighton Fraker is nasally and silly. Aaron Marcellus remains a very talented Donald Glover skit character. And Jen Hirsh has a very fine voice, with plenty of soul, even if she’s probably not in a group that matches her skill-set very well. They close with five-piece harmony that brings the judges and other teams to their feet. “That’s the way it’s supposed to be done right there,” Steven says. Randy and J-Lo praise the background singers. “Yo. I was impressed, yo,” Randy says, before sending all of Groove Sauce forward.
8:15 p.m. It’s time for Six-Seven-Nine, or possibly 679. You may recall this as the group driven by Brielle and her Evil Stage-Mother. Before the performance, the mothers pray off in the wings. Kyle Crews kicks things off with some cheesy white soul. Brielle’s mom isn’t impressed, but she’s much happier with her daughter’s performance. Joshua Ledet is very good, making both Kyle and Brielle look detached. Shannon Magrane closes loudly. The judges call Shannon, Brielle, Amber and Joshua to the front. They’re safe. Only Kyle goes home. Kyle blames the key and vows to continue to sing.
8:19 p.m. I need spelling for these groups. Our next group is the one that added Patient Zero Amy Brumfield. Everybody’s doing well leading up to the performance, but then… SOMEBODY FAINTS! And it isn’t Amy. It’s Jacquie. Suddenly, they’re a trio rather than a quartet. But Jacquie refuses to go down without a fight. “Are you worried about getting up there?” Ryan asks. Jackie agrees that she is, indeed, worried. Uh-oh. Dustin Cundiff starts things rough and forgets the lyrics. Randy cat-calls him from the judges’ panel. That’s not a good sign. Amy is already tired and weak before she forgets the lyrics, botches a melody and shakes her head in clear pain. Somebody named Mathenee over-compensates horribly. And Jacquie wails painfully. Only Mathenee advances, which is ridiculous, since he was every bit as bad as everybody else. That was a disaster and I don’t see why he had to be rewarded for being the least-bad part of an awful group.
8:28 p.m. Back to the anxiety. People are freaking out.
8:29 p.m. Crystal Duffield muffs lyrics. Boo. Jasmine Antoine muffs lyrics. J-Lo doesn’t know why they weren’t helping each other.
8:30 p.m. Montage of word-forgetting. We aren’t even identifying this memory-starved contestants. One or two of them are slightly familiar. There’s the Portland Hipster. The African Refugee. And other people.
8:31 p.m. Our next group if Those Girls and That Guy, featuring Alicia the Cop and Christian the Puker. They claim that they eventually put everything together and that fun is going to be radiating from the stage. They’re confident. They take the stage with some energy. Christian has an OK voice, but his “I’m constipated” face isn’t very appealing. Oh. The cop’s name is Alisha? I was calling her Alicia all of that week. She’s mediocre and makes things worse by awkwardly hugging Christian at the end of her voice. People are yawning. J-Lo is yawning. “A little rough around the edges,” Randy says, before sending the entire group home. That’s ridiculous, or at least it makes Mathenee advancing more absurd. The members of Those Girls and That Guy collectively agree that this sucks. Alisha grabs her badge and returns to the beat.
8:39 p.m. Another death! A member of… Team Area 451 goes down. Imani? She collapses. Her group-mates are shocked. Clearly this is a perfect way to select America’s next great singing sensation.
8:41 p.m. The pint-sized members of Hollywood 5 hit the stage, led by the great Ariel Sprague. Eben Franckenwitz and Gabi keep the momentum going. Lady’s man David Leathers Jr. is a little wobbly, as is Jeremy Rosado, but both of them are still better than anybody in the past few groups. It’s not a shock that they’re all through to the next round.
8:43 p.m. Area 451 is next and Imani wants to join them, but she goes down again. Imani makes it backstage and she’s determined to follow her dream. Imani’s mom is leaving it up to her. Sure. Because why should an adult take responsibility for her child’s health? Bryce Garcia immediately forgets his lyrics and hums. He gets a small assist from Johnny Keyser and finds himself admirably. Kristi Krause yells shrilly and painfully. Imani finds her inner fire and a light comes on her eyes for half a verse. But it’s too much. The extension is too much. You can see the light go out and down goes Imani, passing out on-stage.
8:47 p.m. Why is it that “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race” have medical staffs that will step in to prevent people from doing STUPID things, but “American Idol” apparently does not? There’s no excuse for Imani stepping out on the stage under those circumstances and “This is her dream” doesn’t cut it. It’s verging on criminal neglect, frankly. What if she’d been closer to the edge of the stage and cracked her skull?
8:49 p.m. Argh. Now we have to relive Imani’s collapse. And Johnny Keyser’s questionable decision to keep singing through her medical emergency.
8:50 p.m. The judges don’t really know what to do. Bryce and Kristi are sent home. Imani vows to show the judges her stuff if they let her solo. They choose not to. Bye, Imani.
8:52 p.m. We lose a slew of people who weren’t memorable, as well as Symone Black, who previously fell off the stage.
8:53 p.m. The group we’re all waiting for is MIT, with Heejun and Cowboy. Their name stands for Most International Team, if you care. Nobody’s talking to Cowboy, who’s wearing a black hat. They were all in confessional as a group, but Cowboy requests solo time to discuss how he’s compromising. “His probably is that he has a mouth, but he doesn’t have an ear,” Heejun says.
8:55 p.m. MIT time! Heejun leads with very nice tone and no enunciation. Jairon Jackson follows up decently. Richie “Cowboy” Law is so-so at first, but then he launches into a horrid falsetto. Phillip Phillips twitches and growls. He’s not all that good without his guitar, is he? And Jairon Jackson gets to close. The judges agree that the performances weren’t perfect, but that collectively they’ve all done enough to advance.
8:58 p.m. Various other people advance. But we also return to MIT, where Heejun apologizes to Richie for all of the things he said about him and all of what Cowboy will eventually see being said on TV. Cowboy hugs Heejun. They’re all buddies!
9:03 p.m. In-episode commercial. STOP IT.
9:04 p.m. It’s a day later. And that was it for Group Day? We saw a lot of vomiting and almost no quality singing. Wow.
9:04 p.m. Everybody takes time to jam with the “Idol” band. WHAT IS THIS? STOP!
9:05 p.m. It’s Final Performance time. Contestants will perform with the band and they can also play instruments.
9:06 p.m. Our first soloist is Joshua Ledet, who I only noticed for the first time early this episode. He puts an impressive amount of emotion into his vocals. That leads to some moments of over-singing, but it also produces some soaring moments that are really, really intriguing. Like I can imagine this kid doing something sublime with a good blues song.
9:08 p.m. On his keyboard, Colton Dixon — you remember him for stealing the spotlight from his sister — is very good, practically ready for a “Glee” close-up already, with the ridiculous skunk-streak in his hair. Phillip Phillips finally gets to pick up his guitar and guess what? He’s suddenly good again. He can’t stop the twitching, but at least he has some place to filter the twitching through.
9:10 p.m. Jen Hirsh takes a much less orchestrated approach, going with a slow-building, jazzy rendition of “Georgia On My Mind.” Whew. After the Group performances, I had some fears, but this has been an encouraging start to tonight’s second hour. The judges stand for Jen. It’s well-deserved.
9:16 p.m. Creighton Fraker is a muppet. He’s not an untalented muppet. He’s got very impressive range. But I can’t take him entirely seriously. He’s just too eager-to-please and all-over-the-place. But under the right circumstances, I could imagine him giving a great performance. The judges think his “What a Wonderful World” is that great performance. I disagree.
9:18 p.m. It’s raining outside. Who cares?
9:18 p.m. I can’t tell if we’re supposed to think the contestants can hear the thunder.
9:18 p.m. Reed Grimm was planning to sing a cappella, but he’s been told by the producers that he can’t perform a cappella. Suddenly he’s forced to scramble and find something he can do with the band, with only 30 minutes to prep. Peisha McPhee, an “Idol” vocal coach, is helping the hyperactive Reed, as the clock ticks down. Reed calls his mom for help.
9:20 p.m. Shannon “Joe’s Daughter” Magrane really isn’t ready for this show. She’s got amazing raw materials, but she’s too young and too unformed. She’s doing all these runs and allegedly soulful moments, but I’m not feeling the growling and the bellowing. It’s not an insult to say that in two years, she’ll be vastly better at her craft. The judges, naturally, love it. Another standing ovation. Agree to disagree on this one.
9:22 p.m. Reed’s still not feeling it. He’s rethinking the song and rethinking his “Idol” experience. What an odd kid he is. He calls his mother and cries. After this pause, he has a brainwave. He’s decided he’s going to play the drums?!?!? Does he actually… play the drums? It’s unclear.
9:24 p.m. Well, let’s see how things go with Reed. He also does “Georgia on My Mind.” He’s barely playing the drums, but the vocals are superb. And by the end, he’s at least keeping beat with the singing. Randy compares Reed to Casey, which is hyperbole, but it was as well as we could have hoped for, given the drama.
9:31 p.m. More nerves. Blah blah.
9:31 p.m. Skylar Laine is another “Idol” singer who has made a trip to the hospital today. Dehydration. Before she starts to sing, the judges remind each other who Skylar is. The answer is that she’s the little girl who sounds a lot like Reba. It’s true! She does. And in case you somehow forgot, J-Lo tells Tyler that Skylar reminds her of Reba.
9:33 p.m. Oh right. Rachelle Lamb’s woman who brought her adorable daughter into the audition room. Rachelle goofs on the words immediately, but she pulls a Brooke White and stops the performance to reset. That’s always a better idea than stumbling along lost. The words aren’t Rachelle’s problem as she re-performs, but there are definitely some bum notes.
9:35 p.m. New father Adam Brock thinks he’s bringing some white chocolate to “American Idol.” Adam may have the most immediately radio-ready voice we’ve heard today. I can find no flaws with his take on “Georgia on My Mind.” I’m also pre-disposed to root for bearded “Idol” contestants. Adam’s performing with his grandfather’s handkerchief, but the hankie has extra mojo because it now contains Steven Tyler’s sweat after the morning’s jam session.
9:38 p.m. That’s it for today’s solos. I wish we’d seen some more. There are many nervous people who I don’t think we’ve even spotted previously.
9:43 p.m. The judges are deliberating. Oooh. Three Rooms? First, we must hear the judges use lots of pronounces. “Do you see him in the Top 12?” “She wasn’t good today, but she was so good yesterday.”
9:44 p.m. There are FOUR rooms!
9:44 p.m. In Room One, is Jen Hirsh and some other people. They’re all going through, y’all.
9:45 p.m. Room Two includes another group of people who are sure to go through.
9:45 p.m. Room Three is iffy. Room Four includes Baylie Brown, who seemed like a sure thing until we stopped seeing her.
9:45 p.m. Everybody in Room One was awesome, so I don’t know why Johnny Keyser and Adam Brock and David Leathers Jr. are freaking out. Come on. These people aren’t dumb. They’re safe! SHOCKING! Jermaine Jones, Lauren Gray and Joshua Lidet are also through. Duh-doy.
9:47 p.m. In Room Three, we see Rachelle Lamb and the very attractive Sarah Phillips, who we haven’t heard sing for a long time. Madison Shanley is very sad. As she would be. She’s in a dead room and she knows it. People are goofing off and burping and giggling and Madison is disgusted. Rachelle, the accused burper, is having none of it.
9:53 p.m. Room Two is also safe. Duh-doy. Reed Grimm, Phillip Phillips, Shannon Magrane and a couple other no-brainers are happy.
9:54 p.m. In Room Three, BurpGate is continuing. The judges arrive and frown and tell silly stories about how this was the most talented season ever. Room Three is done. J-Lo assures them that they’ll all be missed. Steven Tyler tells stories of playing to empty clubs in his early days. The journey ends for people I didn’t much care about.
9:56 p.m. Things are uncertain in Room Four, with Baylie Brown, Heejun, Cowboy and more. The judges agree that Steven will reveal the room’s fate and do it quickly. Instead, J-Lo tells Room Four that they’re safe. YAY, I guess!
9:58 p.m. Everybody advancing gathers out in an alcove and they’re told that they’ll be going to Las Vegas, again. What happens in Vegas will air tomorrow night.
What’d you think of this two-hour “American Idol”? At least people sang, eh?