Recap: ‘American Idol’ Season 14 Finale – Nick versus Clark – Who wins?

Nick or Clark?

Clark or Nick?

Who will be crowned our 14th and penultimate “American Idol” winner?

And why must it take 126 minutes to find out? When “American Idol” was a colossus straddling the TV landscape, this sort of bloated spectacle wasn't just justified, it was practically necessary for FOX. Milk every blessed second out of “American Idol”! 

But Tuesday night's performance finale lost to “Undateable” in the 18-49 demo. That's a bit sad.

But maybe ratings will still perk up for the actual finale.

Follow along with me as we go on this lengthy journey to either Clark Beckham or Nick Fradiani's confetti-filled coronation…

8:00 p.m. ET. Nick and Clark are joining Fall Out Boy for a rousing show-opening rendition of “Centuries.” Neither seems exactly sure whether or not they're the stars of this this particular performance. Clark in particular lingers in the background in discomfort waiting for his brief solos and then fades away when he isn't singing. This is about as un-Clark-y an opener as the show could conceive. We'll see if something more in his wheelhouse looms later. Nick is more at ease. This is at least part of why I expect that in two+ hours, Nick is going to be your winner. It's not that I like Nick more, but I think he's more reflective of what this show is at this moment. 

8:04 p.m. The judges take the stage for the season's last Jennifer Lopez Fashion Show. I can't tell if J-Lo is wearing a classic black one-piece bathing suit covered  by a sheer black nightie of if that's just what I'm pretending she's wearing. Either is possible. Keith and Harry are both tuxedoed, with Harry going bow-tie and Keith going skinny-tie. They'll all be playing together later tonight.

8:06 p.m. Clark and Nick come jogging down the aisles, converge on the judging platform and exchange a bouncer-hug with each other. Nick nearly overslept. Clark slept the right amount. Captivating!

8:07 p.m. Tyanna Jones get the first showcase performance of the night, joining What Remains of The Jacksons. This pairing reflects the show's season-long confusion regarding what Tyanna's actual niche is in 2015. We all agree that her youthful spirit is what's most vital and that's what's on display here, even if The Remaining Jacksons are entirely unable to match her. Still, The Jacksons have decades of precision movement baked into their DNA and it's fun seeing Tyanna trying to interact with them. We never saw anywhere near her peak this season and I hope that she continues to develop.

8:15 p.m. The Ladies! They're joining Nile Rodgers and Chic for for a performance I swear we see at every single “American Idol” finale. There's no question at all that the star of this particular performance is Sarina-Joi Crowe, who absolutely totally got screwed going out at the  start of the Top 12. [Nicole Kidman in the house!] Like if we'd had a few more weeks of Sarina-Joi and a few fewer weeks of the totally confused and lost Maddie Walker, might we have had a slightly better season? Perhaps not. We also lost out on a couple good weeks of Joey Cook. They pretty much screwed up the voting and voting structure from the very beginning this season, didn't they?

8:19 p.m. The talent list for this show is… Odd. But… Ricky Martin! Why do I feel like Ricky Martin and Ryan Seacrest share a tailor? Or if they don't share a tailor, why do I feel like Ricky Minor and Ryan Seacrest could spend hours comparing their respective tailors?

8:22 p.m. The “Idol” Men join Ricky for “La Vida Loca.” Or is it just Quentin Alexander and Qaasim Middleton? Yeah. It looks like it's just those two. No. Here come the others. This is ever-so-odd. But everybody at least looks like they're having fun. and if Ricky Martin's having fun, who am I to dissuade him? And now we're on to “She Bangs”? Goodness, this is a three-song Ricky Martin set. And if you thought Clark looked like a fish out of water flopping next to Fall Out Boy, here he's like a fish out of water and on a skillet. Is that the theme of tonight's show? Making me pity Clark Beckham? Because it's working. But at least Nick and Rayvon and Qaasim seem game and Quentin is trying hard as well. Only Nick looks like he's rather be sitting on the side somewhere. 

8:26 p.m. A fourth song. That was a solid seven minutes of Ricky Martin. To paraphrase that last song: Oy vey, oy vey, oy vey.

8:32 p.m. Wait. They got the awesome Janelle Monae and they didn't let Tyanna perform with her? Instead, we're reminded of the existence of Adanna Duru, whose job here is mostly staying out of Janelle Monae's way. Where did J-Lo vanish to? Keith and Harry look so lonely.

8:35 p.m. The crowd responds strongly to Prince Royce, who introduces himself to us repeatedly and identifies himself as our new boyfriend. I've now been distracted by the background dancers in two consecutive performances. Oh! Hello, J-Lo.  I've gotta say, J-Lo is always such a great performer when she does her “Idol” stage appearances. Hey, creepy bald guy. Oh. Pitbull. When did you become The Six Flags Guy, Pitbull?

8:39 p.m. Is that all? I want no more Prince Royce, but I definitely want more J-Lo.

8:41 p.m. Don't mind me. I'm figuring out who Echosmith is/are. And now I'm prepping an Echosmith White Mambazo joke. Be right back.

8:43 p.m. Joey Cook! Fine, I recognize “Cool Kids,” even if I probably never processed who sang it. They found a good grouping for Joey. This makes me happy. She deserved to be put in a situation in which she looks modern and hip, because with the right packaging she really is. “Idol” was never invested in steering and shaping Joey, probably because Scott Borchetta didn't know what to do with her. In this context, it looks almost easy.

8:47 p.m. Yes. We know. J-Lo is doing Planet Hollywood. I would go see that.

8:48 p.m. “It really could be either one of them,” Harry predicts. “First of all, I have to say 'SpongeBob,'” Keith says, giving a signal to his kids, I guess. J-Lo predicts Clark's gonna win. Wow.

8:49 p.m. Montage of wacky judging moments! Awww. This year the guys were less scared of J-Lo and they involved her more.

8:50 p.m. Keith Urban time. Let's count the cut-aways to Nicole Kidman in the crowd. One. What's happening? Why are we not going to Nicole every five seconds? Two. [Wow. They had to give us a “Nicole Kidman” chyron. Thanks, FOX!] We're going to get a cut-back to Nicole clapping at the end, but this has been absurdly and unnecessarily restrained. Nope. No post-performance cut-away. Keith was good, by the way.

8:58 p.m. Kelly Clarkson says it doesn't matter who wins, but she wishes them luck.

8:58 p.m. Jamie Foxx and Rayvon Owen are performing together. This is odd, but also nice. Jamie Foxx sounds good here. He sounded so awful before The Fight of the Century a couple weeks ago.

9:01 p.m. Oh right. Clark and Nick are people who exist. “I just trust The Lord,” Clark says, vowing to “kill it” no matter where The Lord sends him. Nick wants to win, but he's proud of Clark. We'd be surprised to know know that this isn't just about singing, Clark says. It's about the process, the hair and makeup and performances and stuff. Nick agrees that the show's crew is awesome.

9:03 p.m. Nick's musical mentor is the guitarist in his band, which is utter BS. So basically, he's just giving a trip to the finale to his buddy. Clark's mentor is his choir pastor, which makes more sense. And they're both getting cars, the mentors are. And Nick and Clark are also getting Fords. How nice. We could just announce a winner now and call it a night. No?

9:05 p.m. Nope. First? New Kids on the Block and… Daniel Seavey. He describes this as “amazing,” even though Daniel was born nearly a decade after NKOTB's peak. They call him The Newest Kid. “Can he pull off those classic moves?” Ryan asks. The answer? No. He cannot. It was a mixed CBS day for NKOTB. Donnie's show was renewed. Joey's show was canceled. And the show that Jonathan was on this season was renewed. Daniel's really not even trying. It's not entirely his fault, but NKOTB is a precision machine and he is not precise.

9:08 p.m. This is sad and awkward. I'm not sure Daniel knows where he's supposed to be at any point. I'm just hoping that Danny Wood doesn't bulldoze him.

9:15 p.m. Scotty McCreery wishes the Finalists luck. Because what else would he do?

9:15 p.m. Quentin Alexander and Vance Joy are doing “Riptide.” The crowd is clapping against the beat. Good times.

9:18 p.m. Scott Borchetta would be proud to take either Finalist back to Nashville. They're going to the CMA and CMT awards, the winner and Scott. OK.

9:20 p.m. Pitbull, Chris Brown and Qaasim are performing now and I'm ignoring this. “American Idol” should know better, but I guess beggars can't be choosers. Cue the Chris Brown defenders flooding comments. Look, he can do whatever he wants. And I don't need to watch.

9:27 p.m. OK. I'm back. I hope that was great. But now it's time for Steven Tyler and Jax. Or… Just Steven Tyler and maybe Jax will join him eventually. Jax is actually in the crowd just enjoying the former “Idol” judge. Steven Tyler may resemble a Slim Jim with a Cruella de Vil weave, but he still rocks. And I love how much J-Lo loves him. Jax runs up to join Tyler on stage I can't tell if she fell coming up the steps, but it seems that her is inoperable or something? Whatever it was, it's fixed. Nope. Not fixed. I don't have a clue what's happening. But even amidst the confusion, I know I'd be feeling much better about this whole finale if Jax were still in the running to win this thing.

9:33 p.m. I love Jax interrupting to thank the judges and America, given that “Idol” didn't give her that moment last night. “Idol” definitely let Jax down last night and I'm glad she stole this moment here.

9:41 p.m. Michael McDonald and Clark Beckham are taking it to the streets.

9:41 p.m. A season recap montage? Why?

9:44 p.m. Ryan is hungry.

9:44 p.m. Nick is performing with Andy Grammer. And… Haley Reinhart in the crowd! Yikes, I had no awareness of how much of Nick's schtick is totally identical to what Andy Grammer already does. Like watching Clark and Michael McDonald, you understand Clark's value, because Michael McDonald's not gonna be around forever. But Nick's standing next to a guy who's everything Nick wants to be, but who's only a couple years older. Odd.

9:53 p.m. Our judges! Together! Harry's playing the piano. Keith's on his guitar. And J-Lo is shimmering. I don't know why they've joined together on a Rihanna song, but whatever…  They shift from “Diamonds” to “Locked Out of Heaven.” Harry keyboard solo! Keith guitar solo! J-Lo dance solo!

9:57 p.m. Nicole Kidman is pleased.

9:57 p.m. Really? Results after this? Please?

10:01 p.m. “Scream Queens” gets the FOX advertising pimp slot.

10:01 p.m. Results! Results! Clark tells Nick he wouldn't pick anybody else to be with him at the end. Nick says Clark's a great musician and a better person.

10:02 p.m. OK. The winner of Season 14 of “American Idol” is… NICK FRADIANI. And I'm not gonna say that I told you, but Ryan very, very, very very conspicuously didn't claim that this was a close race. I don't think it was. Is the confetti machine broken? Did the “American Idol” Season 14 budget not include confetti? 

10:03 p.m. Congratulations to Nick Fradiani. Finally the streamers start coming down.

10:04 p.m. And congratulations to all of us for surviving another “American Idol” season.

Yay? Boo?