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Ladies and gentlemen, we have our finalists! After months of auditions and eliminations and shocking twists, we finally have the two singers who will take the stage on Tuesday to sing their hearts out one last time. Am I surprised by the outcome? A little. Not really. After last week’s Chris Daughtry stunner, nothing can really faze us. Nevertheless, gotta give props to Fox for saddling us with an extra half hour of filler goodness tonight. There’s nothing I love more than sitting through an hour of meaningless pageantry, replete with shameless plugs for X-Men and a random Clive Davis filibuster. But enough about the filler. Let’s just get on with the show!Tonight’s show begins with Ryan back to the gray suit. Before I can even make an obligatory gray joke, we then cut to Ace Young and Kellie “Sal-mon” Pickler sitting in the audience. I’m happy to report that Kellie has cut her hair short, thus completing her transformation into a young Bonnie Hunt.
Before Ryan does anything else, he tries to insinuate that the two former idols are now a romantic couple. He then has to explain to Kellie what the word “couple” means. Okay, he doesn’t do that, but the two kids shake their heads and say no, no, no — they’re not dating! Just because a boy and a girl sit together doesn’t mean there’s any romantic activity, Ryan. Did your experience with Teri Hatcher teach you nothing?
Ryan then gets on with the business at hand. “Tonight, we will name your final two,” he says, pausing dramatically for applause. But alas, it’s just DEAD SILENCE. Everyone clearly is still distracted by Kellie’s matronly new hairstyle. Either that, or they’re wondering if CBS will ever re-air Keith Barry: Extraordinary!
We then learn that the show took in over fifty million votes, which is pretty darn impressive. Not that I really care, but hey, it’s still noteworthy, I suppose. Ryan then re-introduces us to our finalists who all look fairly nervous, and in the case of Elliot, trollish too. After we reacquaint ourselves with our jittery trio, we then take a look back at last night’s show — which is the perfect excuse to hit fast forward on my Tivo. It’s killing me that the results show is a full hour tonight. Don’t they know I have the two hour Amazing Race finale after this?
The recap ends, and we go to commercial, and when we return, it’s time for the weekly Ford music video. This one is by far the most disturbing. The idols are made to look like senior citizens (which meant for Taylor he’d have to dress like… normal), and then they all rap. Yes. They rap. In old people garb. I can appreciate the camp value and whatnot, but it’s AWFUL. And it only gets worse once we see a shirtless Taylor hanging out in a hot tub. All my nightmares come to life in that one moment. Everything wrong with the world seems to be personified by that image. On the bright side, the costume designers age McPheever by giving her a McFUPA. That’s right Katharine. Enjoy your upper pubic area now. It’s gonna be a beach ball in ten years.
The skit finally ends, and Ryan says, “I didn’t know Simon was having a party!” Oh! Kinda slam! You see, he insinuated that Simon hangs out with old people. That stings!
Ryan then talks about something or another, but I’m distracted by the world’s fastest crawl speeding by the bottom of my screen. It’s something about an Idol merchandise sale. I try in vain to read the words, but I find myself getting dizzy, and afterwards, when I train my eyes on the inanimate objects around me, everything looks like it’s slowly drifting to the left. I need a moment to regain my mental capacities.
Luckily, my brain’s processing power returns up to speed during a decidedly unchallenging segment featuring Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Romijn hawking X-Men 3 to the idols. Hugh tells the final three “I’ve been glued to the show. I think you guys are all amazing!” He then adds, “Especially that Chris Daughtry… with his masculine arms, that chiseled chest, and those soulful eyes that seem to say ‘It’s all right, Hugh. No one has to ever know. We can lie hear with each other forever.’”
Okay, Hugh doesn’t say that, but he does hand over some DVDs of the X3 press kit to the finalists — just in case they get bored over the next few days and decide to promote the movie on their own time. And of course, they do.
We then change gears from mutants and whatnot and head down to Alabama where Taylor enjoys his big homecoming. His day starts at 5:30 AM, and he visits what seems like every radio station and local news affiliate in the South. He does the weather, he plays his guitar, he rocks in his seat — the total Taylor experience. He then travels by motorcade to downtown Birmingham, marveling over his police escort along the way. He even makes a “Whoo-whoo-whoo” siren noise, but oddly enough, that’s just him warming up for his next song.
The big homecoming parade is gigantic — thousands of people line the streets to see their gray-haired hero. A cheerleading squad chants, “We Are / Soul Patrol! We Are / Soul Patrol!” I chant back, “You Are / Annoying! You Are / Annoying!”
Anyway, Taylor gets the key to his city and then treks out to Hoover, AL where he went to high school. He winds up in a packed mall where he sings some more, and sadly, we see the full extent of his influence. Turns out that Taylor’s spastic, uncoordinated dancing has motivated thousands of Americans to hit the dance floor again, no matter how untalented they are. This is best evidenced by the mayor of Hoover who rigidly dances by himself in the corner. People: Taylor cannot dance. Do not mistake his status as national curiosity for a source of inspiration!
Taylor then heads to the Governor’s mansion (which comes full stocked with its own Confederate Flag in the foyer! Yay!) where he meets Bob Riley and his chipper wife, Patsy. The three have meaningless chit-chat before heading outside to greet more fans. Taylor reveals the Soul Patrol now has two new members: Bob and Patsy. Let me tell you something: Patsy could not be happier. I half expected her to unhitch her bra and throw it at Taylor right then and there.
At the end of the day, it seems like all of Alabama comes out to cheer on Taylor — or at least, all the white people in Alabama. Yeah, I wouldn’t call Taylor a “crossover” artist.
We then return to the live show and learn that Taylor will be performing the song he just so happens to sing on the new American Idol CD. How convenient! Anyway, the song is easy listening staple “Taking It To The Streets,” the exact same tune Taylor will most likely be singing ten years from now at state fairs and amusement parks. As usual, he’s full of pure energy and even calls Katharine and Elliot up to join him on stage. This leads to a triad of bad dancers as the singers amble around, occasionally flapping their arms and bending their knees. Yeah, it looks worse than it sounds.
The song finally ends, and then it’s time for Katharine to go home. I mean, not go home. I’m just saying that we see her homecoming video. It’s not nearly as elaborate as Taylor’s. Maybe that’s because Katharine lives about six miles away from where American Idol is taped — Los Angeles doesn’t do homecoming parades. Besides, we just had all those immigration rallies. Everyone’s too tapped out to assemble fro McPhee.
Adding insult to injury, Katharine then has to endure an interview with Jillian Barberie on Good Day L.A., which is pretty much my version of hell. I once accidentally implied that she was a whore to her husband’s face. Oops! My mistake! Awkward…
Katharine then visits local radio station KROQ where she sits in with morning jocks Kevin and Bean. Also present is Ralph Garman, the man who supposedly coined the term “McPheever” — a.k.a. my McFavorite McTerm of the McYear. Katharine then puts in some face time on Ryan Seacrest’s radio station, KIIS, and then because she has no masses of people screaming for her, she passes the time by taking a random helicopter tour of Los Angeles. Eventually, she winds up back at her high school where finally she finds some rabid fans. It’s all rah rah rah McSchool McSpirit, and the event culminates with a Katharine hugging one very happy and hefty guy. The day ends with Katharine going to her parents’ house where she greets relatives and holds her new goddaughter. How lovely. And boring.
We return to the live show where we see Katharine’s dad happily wearing a button that says, “Proud McPhather.” I’m not sure he’ll be wearing it too much longer after Ryan’s next question. Our plucky host asks Katharine how having her family close by has helped. She says her fam is great and everything, buuuuut, “I don’t even talk to them that much. I don’t call them really.” That’s the way to win over America: shunning your parents who CRY IN THE AUDIENCE EVERY SINGLE NIGHT!
As Daddy McPhee crushed his “Proud McPhather” button and ran out of the studio (that’s how it played out in my mind), Katharine took the stage again to sing “Think” by Aretha Franklin — also on the new Idol CD coming out. Kat tries to spice things up by taking off her shoes and strutting barefoot across the raised platform behind the judges. Oh how I hoped she’d step on an errant nail or tack. Alas, she survives, bringing the audience to its feet. Enjoying the performance particularly is none other than convicted felon Todd Bridges. And I thought last night’s troika of Roseanne, Leeza Gibbons, and Zac Efron was bad. They seem like The Oscars compared to tonight’s celebrity wattage.
Lastly, it’s time for Elliot’s homecoming. I wonder how the producers are going to get all the way back to the planet of Melmac, but then I remember that we’re not actually watching ALF. Before we even see Elliot’s hometown, we pause to say hi to Gavin Degraw in the audience. Ryan makes a special note to point him out — probably hoping this will force any memories of Todd Bridges out of our brains. Gavin stands and waves to the audience around him. Okay, okay — just sit down already. You’re a one hit wonder. Don’t act like you’re freakin’ Paul McCartney.
We then travel to Richmond, Virginia, and as Dave Matthews plays on the soundtrack, we watch as Elliot jumps from one morning show to another. Eventually, he winds up in the pharmacy where he used to work — and after some sentimental moments there — he heads off to a park where he sings for the masses. Then it’s off to meet the governor (hey, Katharine didn’t get to meet Ahnold. What gives?). The Yamins have a lovefest with the guv’nah, with Momma boasting that she voted for him and Elliot offering up a big hug. Then it’s off to the parade through town, and as Elliot rides past a section of the crowd, a little girl chirps, “That was Elliot!!!” I know I should be deriding her, but dammit if she wasn’t the most touching lady of the night. At this point, I surrender to the corniness and find myself oddly moved by Elliot’s mom, who begins to cry with pride for her son. What a wonderful moment for her and Elliot. A life of dreams and aspirations, now slowly coming true and –… WHAT THE HELL HAS HAPPENED TO ME? I’m supposed to be cold! A heart of stone! None of this mush!
Anyway, we see Elliot throw out the opening pitch at some minor league baseball game, and then it’s back to the live show. And guess what? Elliot’s crying. Aw. We then cut to Paula, and holy waterworks! She’s bawling! Her face is glistening from all the tears rolling down her cheeks. Somebody get her a roll of Bounty! We then see Elliot’s mom, and now she’s crying too. Everyone’s crying! There’s not a dry eye in the place, especially after Elliot says that the whole homecoming day was like “an early Mother’s day.” It’s kind of a marked difference from Katharine, who seemed unwilling to touch her parents with a ten foot McPole.
Elliot sings once again, and then it’s off to commercial. When we return, Ryan tells us all about American Idol‘s effect on the industry, which really boils down to two words: Kelly Clarkson. Ryan then says that through it all, one person has been there year after year. That person? Elliot’s mom! Yay Claudette! Actually, no. Ryan’s referring to Clive Davis, and suddenly the music giant walks out on stage, receiving a standing ovation in the process. I’m confused. Is he going to sing? We haven’t had a guest performance in quite some time.
Much to my dismay, Clive does not sing. Instead, Ryan presents him with a meaningless plaque, and then Clive dives into a rambling speech about how truly wonderful American Idol is. It’s all so impressive and awe-inspiring and… totally random and unnecessary. Do we really need to sit here and watch this show congratulate itself? No, not really. Three hours later, Clive finishes his extensive analysis of Idol record sales, and finally, FINALLY it’s results time. Well, after the commercial break, natch.
When we return, Ryan slaps three numbers up on the big Jumbo-tron behind him: 33.06%, 33.26%, and 33.68%. Without knowing anything else, the audience starts to oooh and ahhh. Then again, I’m sure he could have put the word “Butter” up there, and it would have caused yelps of anxiety.
Ryan then says, “That’s how the fifty million votes got broken down between the three of you.” Oh really? I thought he was just putting random percentages up there for fun. Anyway, Ryan focuses on the lowest percentage, 33.06%. Whoever has that is going home. But who is it? Silence in the theater. The camera focuses on Taylor’s family. Then Elliot’s family. Then McPhee’s family. Then all the contestants. Then the janitor! Then a spider in the corner! Then Todd Bridges! Okay, maybe not those last three. Point is, it’s so quiet, you can almost hear the crazy music that plays inside Paula’s head. Finally, a name flashes on the screen. The person with the lowest percentage of votes is… ELLIOT.
Aww. After that nice homecoming video too. I was all ready to jump on his bandwagon. Poor Paula. She looks like she’s about to lose it. Anyway, the audience protests but quickly comes to accept Elliot’s fate, giving him a rousing standing ovation. Ryan then tries to squeeze a few extra tears out of America by leading a round of applause for Elliot’s mom. Oh Claudette! This one’s for you! And just when this moment couldn’t get any sappier (not that I’m not totally into it), Ryan then makes Claudette express her love. “I love you Elliot!” she calls out. I sort of wish she’d lower her voice to a rasp, touch Elliot’s forehead with her index finger, and say, “Ellll-eeee-otttttt. I’ll be riiight heeeere.” She’d then hop on a space ship and fly off to another planet.
We then take a look back at Elliot’s journey, and what’s this? No Daniel Powter? It’s amazing! We can finally watch this montage without the distracting sound of his whiny voice. Gosh, it’s amazing to see how Elliot has changed over the course of the competition. He definitely wins this year’s award for most improved appearance. Alas, just as we’re getting into this whole video segment, the Honeymoon ends. Daniel Powter returns once again, ruining an otherwise touching tribute. Sorry Elliot. Even you can’t escape having the Bad Day.
After the video, we then see Paula who again is a total mess of tears and sadness. This is worse than the time she had the nightmare about MC Skat Kat getting run over by the train. And so ends another dramatic week of Idol. With only one more night of singing before the winner is crowned, it looks like the odds are in Taylor’s favor. It will be the battle of consistency and energy versus streaky brilliance and beauty. Who will win?
What did you think? Did Elliot deserve to go home? And who do you think will win? Who do you want to win?