American Idol: Later, Lacey

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Last night was my first real elimination round of American Idol. Sure, they've been thinning the ranks for weeks, but that was a rapid-fire bloodletting that sent home four bad singers a week. This is the big show, the top 12, with more lights and makeup and more prominent guest performers. This is the real deal, and it was every bit as mind-gnawing as I'd feared it would be. Maybe more.

From the top, it was clear that the producers are masters at filling for time in ways you wouldn't even think about, which included a really long montage set to the Everly Brothers' "Dream" that then turned into what felt like a parody of an epic movie trailer. Then it was time for Ryan to banter with the judges, including the catty continuation of a probably fake tiff with Simon, after which we got to see former Idol winner David Cook perform "Jumpin' Jack Flash." Cook's not Bono or anything, but he is a bigger name than some of the also-rans that performed on elimination eps earlier in the season, so I'd imagine that's the way this thing is trending. By the end of the season, maybe someone really good will be on?

This was the worst, though, just the worst: The top 12 got to be in an ad for Ford Fiestas that was shown during the episode. I don't mean in a commercial break, either, I mean Ryan said roll tape and there it was, a cheesy commercial with them all singing "Tick Tick Boom" and grinning in cars. This is like when a radio DJ says, "Now I know you might think this is an ad, but I seriously love Allstate Insurance." No, you don't. Just run an ad.

There were also two other performances: One by Orianthi, which I had to Google to make sure I spelled correctly, and one by Ke$ha, which is also seriously how it's spelled. Both were terrible, but Ke$ha took gutter-howling shit to new highs and lows with her mentally challenged prancing and grunting, with her lyrics (such as they are) all about Jack Daniel's and an outfit that made her look like a stripper from Planet KISS. At one point she donned a Native American headdress and just kind of staggered around. I couldn't help but laugh at the sad irony that these two terrible vocalists already have record deals, while the better singers trying to win Idol had to sit and watch. That's just mean.

Anyway, the results: Everyone you think would be safe was safe, like Crystal and Big Mike and Didi and that malnourished boy Aaron. The bottom three vote-getters were Tim, Paige, and Lacey, and at the end Ryan revealed that Tim was safe. Then, after more filler, Paige was also given a reprieve. Here's the thing though: Even then, Lacey wasn't technically eliminated. This season sees the return of the Judges' Save, which can be used to rescue one contestant up until the top five round, provided it's a unanimous vote among the four judges. So basically, even after auditioning and being cut, Lacey (or whoever) has to do it again just to hear the judges say no, as happened tonight.

Then -- then -- we still had a montage about Lacey's season, which was of course presented in a split-screen that let us watch Lacey watch herself, as she and the other contestants cried and grouped together. Idol is like Machiavelli meets Christmas a serial killer when it comes to planning out voyeuristic emotional torment. See you next week.

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