Wednesday (March 5) night was a bad night for “American Idol.”
It wasn't just the imbecilic studio audience sabotaging one performance after another with against-the-beat clapping.
And it wasn't just the performances themselves, which were generally poor, but not exclusively poor.
A big part of the problem was that the judges also seemed disappointed and uncomfortable with the tone being set. Harry Connick Jr., in particular, came across as more consistently dyspeptic than Simon Cowell ever did on his grouchiest of days. I've never seen a reality judge making so little effort to cover up the sense that he'd rather be some place else.
The big impact is that just about anybody could go home on Thursday. I'm assuming teenage girls will keep Sam Woolf safe, so he's the picture with this recap, but I had a hard time picking. I'd also have a hard time guessing which potentially eliminated contestants might get the Judges' Save. I know the judges worship at the altar of MK Nobilette, but after two straight lackluster performances and a Bottom Three finish last week, would they really waste the Save if MK isn't striking a chord? If Majesty were punished for the second half of last night's Coldplay cover, would the judges take pity? Would the judges keep remembering how good Jena “Gina” Irene was on her original song and ignoring that she hasn't come close to connecting in the same way with anything else?
Let's find out!
8:00 p.m. Tonight's strangely presented Group Sing is Phillip Phillips' “Home.” What a coincidence! This Group Sing is all being filmed on cell phones. And… OH NO. The against-the-beat clapping begins. It's so horrible. So. So. Horrible.
8:02 p.m. Something has to be done about the clapping. Either set a rhythm requirement for entry or outlaw clapping entirely.
8:02 p.m. Over 70 million votes came in last night. But not a lot over 70 million, or else Seacrest wouldn't be announcing a figure that's below last week's total. J-Lo is wearing a maroon formal short-suit? Or something? And the judges all have gummy bears. Harry throws his whole bowl of gummy bears into the crowd. That's vaguely passive aggressive, isn't it?
8:04 p.m. Ryan introduces the clips from last night's show without saying that it was a great night. I appreciate the candor-by-exclusion. Once again, they're spontaneously going to a restaurant together, where they will surely have spontaneous conversations. Emily Piriz and Jessica Meuse discuss the heated judging conversations about Jessica's sharpness. Majesty Rose doesn't get why it's OK to be sharp sometimes and not others. The singers don't care about the criticisms, because they've built a family. Well, OK!
8:07 p.m. Did Randy feel like the judges were too harsh? Yup. He thinks Harry had indigestion. Harry looks like he wants to kill Randy. “I was not hired at a mentor. I'm envious of Randy,” Harry says. He notes that they're incredible, but that he has only a very short time period to give them advice and force them towards improvement. “Even though I have a harsh look on my face, I think this is the best group of talent since the first season,” Harry says incorrectly. There's just no way that's true. Sorry. Harry wishes he could fraternize. Why are we spending five minutes of this show apologizing for the judges being substantive.
8:10 p.m. DREW BREES! Harry is giddy! Drew tells Harry to have fun up there.
8:11 p.m. Results! Emily, Sam, Jessica and Ben Briley are up first. We see Randy's pre-performance coaching, which obviously didn't work. We don't hear Randy's opinions, though. So much for that!
8:11 p.m. Emily Piriz is the first member of the Bottom Three. That's totally correct. The other three are all safe. Jessica doesn't deserve safety, but we knew she was getting votes, so that's not a huge shock. [I had to go check: MK and CJ were my other two Bottom Three guesses.]
8:18 p.m. The judges will get to talk about their memories of home. Keith Urban was in an imaginary one-man band called Rock Fever. “I think I played Rock Fever on my imaginary radio show,” Seacrest says. This isn't about you, Ry-Ry!
8:19 p.m. Phillip Phillips is very excited about his new album, which has happy love songs and other darker things. He's debuting his new single, “Raging Fire.” I liked all of the singles off of Phil-Phil's first album and I quite like this one as well. Of course, I like the original Mumford & Sons songs that most of them seem to be based on as well. “Raging Fire” is catchy, has a fun brass accompaniment, and Phil-Phil sings it well. All hail Phil-Phil.
8:24 p.m. The judges are big Phil-Phil fans. I appreciate that Phil-Phil seems more comfortable in his skin, but he doesn't seem excessively comfortable.
8:28 p.m. Harry picks “When The Saints Go Marching In” as the song that predictably reminds him of his New Orleans childhood and home.
8:29 p.m. Jena, Dexter Roberts, Majesty and Alex Preston are up next. Uh-oh. I have none of these four in the Bottom Three, which means either Jena or Majesty is going to be punished for Wednesday sloppiness. The first half of Majesty's performance was so good! Why did the second half have to be so bad?
8:32 p.m. Dexter is safe. Majesty, whose hair is a total work of art tonight, is safe. Jena is in the Bottom Three, though Ryan botches the announcement. “You, too, will have to go to the stools,” Ryan says. “You two will have to go to the stools” is what Alex hears. He's confused, but eventually gets sent to safety. Jena played it way, way, way too safe last night. I know why she's in the Bottom Three.
8:34 p.m. And we haven't had a guy make the Bottom Three yet this season. Five-for-five on women. Will CJ end that streak? Or will MK just make things worse?
8:37 p.m. Tonight's Band That's Popular Elsewhere But Largely Unknown Here is Kodaline. They're quite fine in an earnest-and-Irish kinda way.
8:46 p.m. Jenny is from the block. “Saturday in the Park” is the song that makes her remember childhood. She loves Saturdays. She loves the park. And her birthday is in July. Aww.
8:47 p.m. That leaves Malaya, MK, CJ and Caleb Johnson. Caleb won't be in the Bottom Three. Malaya shouldn't be in the Bottom Three. That leaves the other two.
8:49 p.m. Caleb is, indeed, safe. CJ is also safe. And we're going to be 6-for-6 on women in the Bottom Three.
8:50 p.m. Malaya is safe and MK, going without her baseball cap tonight, is in the Bottom Three.
8:54 p.m. It's MK's second week in the Bottom Three. Keith tells her it's about connecting.
8:55 p.m. Jena is… safe. It's down to MK and Emily.
8:55 p.m. The person with the fewest votes is… Emily Piriz. Dang. Two weeks in a row of correct predictions from yours truly. I'm the real American Idol! I kid. There's no way the judges are wasting the Save on Emily.
8:56 p.m. Oh come on. Somebody tell the audience this ballad is a stupid song to clap ineptly through. Emily's a bit emotional tonight. There are some awful notes. Emily wasn't bad as a contestant. She just chose songs that only occasionally showcased what she does well.
8:58 p.m. “It's not unanimous,” J-Lo says. So Harry tells Emily that they're not using the Save. Emily puts on a big smile.
8:59 p.m. That's two straight weeks with America deciding to send home the pretty girl with the decent voice and no connection to the song.
9:00 p.m. Next week is Songs From The Cinema.
Thoughts on this week's results?