'American Idol': Invitation to a beheading
The season was sailing along so smoothly. The field was inexorably winnowing itself as the natural cycle of early promise followed by disappointment, flame out and dismissal drove the lesser candidates from the field. They fell first by thousands, then by the dozens, then four by four, finally one by one – not necessarily in expected order, but America’s wisdom proved to be 90% on the money as Darwinian selection played itself out.
Until this week.
Gina Glocksen is gone.
The red-streaked, season’s designated “rocker,” the high-spirited fun girl at the center of the contestants’ clique had her life cut short, out of nowhere. Without cause.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Pundits and predictors were unanimous across the Internet in foretelling curtains for Phil or Haley. And for the remaining contestants, each now so close to the ultimate prize -– this sudden unforeseen blow brings the cruel taste of death undeniably home.
Thus, I would like to attempt to recapture, blow by blow, tear by tear, the sights and sounds of elimination night, live from the Idoldome.
PRESHOW: Subdued crowd. Said to be “light on signage” by a stage hand. The strangest of all in-studio guests thus far -– film producer Harvey Weinstein -- takes a front row seat next to the judges. Bill the warm-up guy gets Sanjaya’s dad and Jordin’s mom in a little competition on how to act excited for the camera. Simon and Paula enter dangerously late with just two minutes to spare.
COLD OPEN: The Nine line up on stage. Melinda and Jordin hold hands. Phil and Haley are nervous smiles. The lights dim and Ryan intones, “Even Tony Bennett can’t help them now.”
FIRST COMMERCIAL BREAK: The audience screams their favorites’ names and they wave back eagerly, pointing out signs in the audiences to each other. They are placed in groups of three on stage. It is immediately obvious what this means -– the middle group is clearly doomed. Gina and Haley embrace hard. Phil still smiles nervously. Jordin-Melinda-LaKisha hold hands. Blake-Chris-Sanjaya stand casually awkward –- seem to not be sure how they are supposed to react.
FORD COMMERCIAL: They always love watching their commercial. Gina gets special praise from the others for her exuberant performance as the Ford owner. The center three cling together. Gina looks very tense.
SORTING THE GROUPS: The top three are sent to the couch, hug and walk off. Blake-Chris-Sanjaya go with little swagger, patting the middle three on their backs as they pass.
COMMERCIAL BREAK: The bottom three join the others on the couch. Everyone swarms to hug them, but extra love is given to Gina, who seems totally freaked out to find herself in this company. The flock around her is clinging as though she has just learned a loved one has died, which of course she has. Mezghan, Idol’s make-up chieftain, hovers nearby to touch up tear streaks. Should be noted that unlike last week when there seemed to be a wall between Sanjaya and the rest, this week, after his “at least he tried” performance, whatever was between him and the others is mostly gone as he freely hugs and joins the group hugs. Should also be noted, as has been seen throughout, the constant good naturedness of Phil Stacey, who, even through this torture, refuses to be glum and always reverts back to a big smile and pat on the back for his peers.
MICHAEL BUBLE: Gina and Haley cling like terrified kittens, completely unaware of the song. What can be going through their mind in these final moments, what will be the last seconds of one of their lives on the Idol stage? All the poor song choices, the pitchy spots, the botched repartee with the judges. So many regrets must an Idol journey create, so fast must one’s Idol days race by.
COMMERCIAL BREAK: Hayley fights back tears. Gina is really really grim and serious. Debbie the stage manager joins them on the couch before leading them back to center stage where the Angel of Death, Ryan Seacrest awaits, offering each hugs as they go into the count for airtime. Thirty seconds before air and the trio shares one dramatic, huge hug. (Hugging, even more than music, is the international language of this group).
THE VERDICT: Hayley looks as though she’s about to crack up. Phil is sent back to the couch. He walks back a little surprised, but with no swagger at all, sits down looking very glum. Simon tells Gina and Hayley “I’m not surprised.” Gina flinches like she’s been kicked in the stomach, the agony of this moment on full display. The verdict is read. The remaining eight are shocked, putting their hands to the faces. As Haley and Gina hug, their mikes catch Gina’s wrenching sob and a chill shakes the audience. Haley goes back and joins the others. Does it bother her to think that on any level, the shock and grief for Gina’s demise means they all thought –- hoped? –- it would be her instead?
GOODBYE SONG: Many tears on stage and in the audience as Gina pulls it together, rises to the occasion to sing the most eerily appropriate goodbye song ever. Always one of the most infectious spirits of the clan, her smile breaks through the tears and sorrow and lights up the screen one last time. The show ends -- huge applause for Gina who takes a long final wave to the audience as the house lights go up. Her mother joins her on stage for a big hug. The judges come up and all chat with her. Finally, she walks offstage with band leader Ricky Minor, turning to give one last wave to the crowd before she leaves the Idol stage forever.
Gina Glocksen’s Idol journey ended too soon, but as she reminded us, she’ll be back for the tour. America's wisdom may ultimately be infallible but tonight, thy will is very hard.
(Photo courtesy Fox)