Last night's Idol took us down to the top three contestants, but as expected, it took a long time to get there. The thing is, at this point the filler doesn't even feel like filler any more, just as the eliminations don't even feel real. This is the end of the 18th week of the season, and the show is built on such a hurry-up-and-wait premise that all the starts and stops have depleted its energy and killed the drama. There's a reason that the singers who get eliminated or who are forced to sing for the judges' save can surpass expectations: That kind of pressure in the moment is a fantastic motivator. The problem is that the whole show is about whether or not you'll get voted off that week, and after five months the singers and viewers become kind of numb to the whole thing.
Jamie Foxx may have been this week's mentor, but that didn't mean he was gonna show up at CBS Television City and actually cheer for these kids. (Though I'm grateful he wasn't around to "sing" one of his "songs.") Instead, we got Idol names of the past. Fantasia, who won the third season, led off the show, and later on there was a performance from Daughtry. They both seem like very nice and likeable people, and I am sure they have wonderful families and love their dogs, but they're both such derivative performers that it's hard to get excited about their music. Like Fantasia? Do yourself a favor and listen to Lauryn Hill. Caught yourself nodding along to Daughtry? Give your money to Live. The question isn't so much their quality as their originality, you know? Why someone would think Daughtry was somehow better or preferable to the already known blandness of Nickelback is beyond me.
Bon Jovi also performed, but I just felt bad for them, you know? Jon Bon Jovi is 48, and there's no way Slippery When Wet appeals to Lady Gaga fans. You could tell Bon Jovi was thinking the same thing the entire time, too.
The hook this week was that the top three contestants get to go home for a mini-concert, promotional appearance at an AT&T store, and general festivities in their hometowns. A montage showing past contestants going home for the same trip worked pretty well to highlight just how insane this show can be for the people lucky enough to use it for a shortcut to brief fame. As such, the families (well, two people per team) of the contestants got to hang out on stage and wait for the verdicts. I like to imagine them all hanging out in the green room every week and talking trash like L.A. really is Magnolia, but I know I'm probably reaching for too much.
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Casey was the first one saved, which was a mild surprise: He's got the looks and appeal, but he's been a bit rough in the past. Lee also earned a pass, but that was a given based on his total comeback performances over the past month. Plus he's now learned to use the facial muscles required to smile, which was the final piece of the puzzle.
That left just Crystal and Mike, though a pairing of Crystal and anyone else is a no-brainer. Sure enough, Big Mike was sent packing. But nobody can say that guy didn't give it his best. He even sang well enough to avoid elimination a few weeks back, and he's been one of the better singers ever since he figured out to take the R&B route. His montage was a bit bittersweet, filled as it was with hopes to support his wife and newborn with a music career, but still, he had a good run.
So that leaves Crystal, Lee, and Casey. If I had to pick them, I'd say that's the order they'll be in when this is all over, but you never know. Lee could come from behind again and make it a real horse race with Crystal. Still, I think she's done so well for so long that it's her title to lose.
Two more weeks, kids. Can you smell the freedom?