Recap: ‘American Idol’ Season 13 – Finale – The Winner Is…

Ratings suggest that most of America skipped Tuesday's performance finale for “American Idol.”

If you're just tuning in for Wednesday's two hours of guest appearances and very limited results, here's what you missed on Tuesday.

Bottom Line: Caleb Johnson versus Jena Irene? It's gonna be a close one. 


Click through and follow along for two hours of live-blogging!

8:00 p.m. ET. We begin with intercutting between Caleb & Jena's audition experiences in The Box and their introduction to 7,000 squealing fans at the Nokia Theatre. The night's first performance finds Caleb head-banging to Queen's “We Will Rock You,” leading into Jena working the crowd on “I'm Just A Girl.” Jena gets dancers. Caleb, however, got a song he could actually sing. They join together for a fire-filled duet on “It's Only Love.” So much fire.

8:05 p.m. Ryan's gone strict black-tie tonight after last night's white jacket.

8:06 p.m. For the finale, J-Lo is in shiny silver/white, Keith's gone skinny-tie and Harry is tuxed up again. 

8:07 p.m. Jena and Caleb return to a standing ovation from the crowd and also the judges. “The competition is finally over! I can now stand up!” Harry cheers. “This is so surreal,” Caleb says. “Whatever happens, happens,” Jena says, voice cracking as she tells Caleb how proud of him she is. If the shrieks from the auditorium are any indication, I *think* Caleb has the advantage?

8:12 p.m. Seacrest promises “epic surprises.” We start with Sam Woolf returning to the stage for “Home,” which can only mean that our first epic not-so-surprise will be a guest appearance with Phillip Phillips. Nobody stopped to figure out if Sam and Phil-Phil would sound good together. They do not. They sound brutal together. But then Sam steps away and lets Phil-Phil take the spotlight. Phil-Phil doesn't need the faux fireworks on the screen behind him, because he remains such a sturdy performer. I almost pity Sam's awkwardness, seemingly getting pushes further and further from the center of the stage. Has anybody thought about Sam Woolf since he was voted off for the second time? Yes. I know *you* have, but has anybody else? Didn't think so.

8:16 p.m. Phil-Phil describes himself as Busy-Busy.

8:21 p.m. Thanks, “Idol” for reminding me that this is Jennifer Nettles. I feel like “Idol” reminds me of Jennifer Nettles every year. She's joined by Jessica Meuse for a duet on “Wrecking Ball,” a song that Jessica may not actually know. She certainly doesn't know the lyrics. But if you leave aside the lyrical gaffe, this is a much more successful pairing than whatever it was that Sam and Phil-Phil were doing. These are two fairly powerful female voices doing a song that rewards belting.

8:25 p.m. Randy Jackson is wearing a very, very pink blazer. He calls Caleb a part of the “Idol” family and raves about his consistency. Randy thinks Jena has grown by leaps and bounds.

8:26 p.m. And since Keith and Harry are doing the intro, that must mean that our next performer is J-Lo. 

8:27 p.m. J-Lo is singing “First Love,” which has been exhumed fully formed from 1986 or thereabouts. This song would have been a massive hit 30 years ago. It still may be a big hit now, but that's got more to do with J-Lo's sex appeal than the song itself. J-Lo looks spectacular and sounds… pretty weak, honestly.

8:29 p.m. DANCE BREAK! Shake it, J-Lo. That was pretty fun. J-Lo isn't the best singer in the world and I still don't get the song about her love for David Ortiz, but I bet she puts on a great show. I'd rather watch a two-hour J-Lo concert with “Idol” results at the end. Everything else tonight is superfluous.

8:35 p.m. Awww yeah. KISS! And they are, indeed, in makeup. Caleb, unfortunately, is not. Caleb also isn't wearing platform shoes, which makes him seem positively miniscule. They start with “Love Gun” and continue with “Shout It Out Loud.” Paul Stanley destroys a perfectly good guitar and the crowd goes crazy. I might have liked a little more Caleb in that performance, but out comes Houston, Caleb's brother, fully painted.

8:44 p.m. Now, because “American Idol” is aware of the Internet, it's “American Idol”: A Bad Lip Reading. Sometimes I like these bad lip-readings. This, however, is woefully unfunny.

8:46 p.m. Aloe Blacc and the Idol Guys are singing that song that Aloe Blacc keeps singing flat at different live events. And you know what doesn't make it better? The “Idol” Men. Harry is having a great time tonight, freed from his former sense of stay-seated propriety. If I were in the crowd, I might be able to feed off the energy and ignore the out-of-tune singing. I don't get the feeling that anybody bothered to rehearse this number. 

8:49 p.m. When did Ben Briley become Quint from “Jaws”?

8:50 p.m. Ford Commercial!

8:50 p.m. Caleb and Jena both get Mustangs! Just like Dave & Connor on “Amazing Race.” Will somebody on “Survivor” also get a Mustang tonight?

8:51 p.m. Once again, we're honoring musical mentors. Jena honors Dr. Jaffurs, while Caleb honors Jeff Sawyer. Both mentors got tickets to the finale. But did they also get cars? No? Wait! Indeed, they do get cars, albeit Ford Fusions. 

8:53 p.m. Ryan's Buddy Demi Lovato is joined by the Idol Girls. J-Lo, back after a quick change and maybe a shower, is very pleased with this performance. Quick! Name those two “Idol” girls between Malaya & Jessica and Majesty Rose. Yes, Emily Piriz and Kristen O'Connor were people who were on “American Idol” this season. 

9:02 p.m. Seated at a piano, Jena launches into “Decode.” She's good. I kinda wish she'd done this one last night instead of reprising her Elvis cover so soon. Welcome, Paramore! Hayley Williams' shirt tells me to “Be Nice.” I suspect this means she's been reading my recap. 

9:06 p.m. Ack! Attack of the yellow balloons! Or maybe they're surveillance rovers from “The Prisoner”? J-Lo likes playing with yellow balloons.

9:07 p.m. Come on, “Idol” director. Every time you're showing Paramore, you're not showing J-Lo and balloons. The camera guys, incidentally, clearly weren't prepared for the balloons. It's funny how unprepared they were.

9:12 p.m. There was a Coca-Cola spill on the judging panel. I blame the balloons.

9:13 p.m. Welcome my University of Pennsylvania classmate John Stephens. He apparently attended our 15th reunion the other day. I did not. You may know him as John Legend. He's more successful than I am. I hope he donates more to the Penn Fund. 

9:16 p.m. With her hair straightened, her glasses off and her braces gone, Malaya Watson looks like a totally different person. She should have finished fourth this season, if you ask me. 

9:17 p.m. Flashback to the audition process? Or something? I don't understand. But I guess time has gotta be filled. We ended up with Jena and Caleb as our Finalists, in case you've forgotten.

9:20 p.m. Let's groove with Jason Mraz and Alex Preston as they pick their way through “Love Someone.”

9:22 p.m. Zzzzz. Sorry. That was very pleasant. It would have been better at a Barnes & Noble. It didn't need an audience of 7,000.

9:28 p.m. Randy is with Team Seacrest. Ryan's mom is there to introduce what promises to be  an amusing moment. It's Ryan Seacrest singing “Right Here Waiting For You.” It's bad, but then things get weird with the arrival of the real Richard Marx. It becomes one of the strangest duets in TV history. One part magic, one part wax museum. 

9:30 p.m. They keep cutting to Jane Lynch in the crowd. She's not amused.

9:32 p.m. Montage of J-Lo outfits! This should have been an hour-long segment. 

9:34 p.m. HOOTIE! No blowfish!

9:36 p.m. Darius Rucker is being joined by CJ Harris and Dexter Roberts. The screen behind them says “Alright.” I think that's a song title, even if I'm just sitting here singing “I Only Wanna Be With You.”

9:40 p.m. I'm ready for results. I wish we could at least separate out the Bottom Two.

9:44 p.m. Oooh. Caleb and Jena doing a cappella and leading into Lady Antebellum. The a cappella was nice.

9:48 p.m. Jena's mom is excited for both Jena and Caleb. Caleb's mother doesn't know Jena's name.

9:48 p.m. Because this is “The Voice”… Time for all three judges to perform together with Randy. They start with “True Colors” and… it goes downhill from there. Individually, these are all talented people, but this is not a well-conceived union of their talents, though J-Lo playing the tambourine is kinda awesome.

9:56 p.m. Once upon a time, it made sense for “Idol” to stretch to 10:06 on finale night, because it gave FOX a nice ratings bump. It no longer makes an iota of sense. Now it's just extending my first recapping job an extra six minutes, cutting into the brief hour I have between “Idol” and “Survivor” recapping.

9:58 p.m. Final thoughts from the judges. Keith says they don't agree on who might win. J-Lo agrees. “We are so proud of the two of you,” Harry says.

9:59 p.m. “You da bomb,” Jena tells Caleb. “No, you da bomb,” Caleb protests.

9:59 p.m. The votes arrive on-stage!

9:59 p.m. The Season 13 winner is… CALEB JOHNSON.

10 p.m. I'm fine with that. Jena makes a good effort to smile, as do her parents.

10:01 p.m. At the start of the season, I thought Caleb was the rabbit, that he'd give the other contestants somebody to chase, but he probably wouldn't win. I was wrong.

10:01 p.m. Ryan says that “Idol” will be back “early next year.” That's… odd, right? “Idol” has premiered in January every single season since the first. Does he not have the confidence to say that? Is there a chance that “Idol” could get a later start next year?

10:02 p.m. Rather than singing, Caleb just gets hugs, including a very aggressive leg-wrapping courtesy of Kristen O'Connor. Congratulations to Caleb for that.

10:03 p.m. Finally Caleb starts singing his cliche-ridden first single. He's good. He'll be fine. There's a marketplace for him to be successful, even if he doesn't become, say, Daughtry. 

So… Happy? Sad? Relieved we're done? Thanks for reading along for another “Idol” season.