'American Idol' results: And the summer tour will include ...
Holy "American Idol" bleep sign! E to the Z and the tweedlydees or whatever insane thing Steven Tyler might say in this situation. "American Idol" really ripped itself a new beauty mark on its top 11 results show Thursday night.
Ryan Seacrest warned us right at the start that, after more than 30 million votes poured in to determine who would stay and who might be denied a spot on the "Idol" tour this summer, the outcome of that vote "may shock you."
But we've heard hyperbole from Ryan before, and plenty of it, so perhaps we can be forgiven for not getting too worried about our favorites as we contentedly watched Jennifer Lopez's husband, singer Marc Anthony, give the "Idol" contestants a lesson in using the in-ear doohickies that kept the judges from having to use the word pitchy even once on Wednesday night's show. Then we were treated to a group number that culminated in Stevie Wonder singing "Happy Birthday" to Steven Tyler (who turns 63 on March 26) as a bunch of the female contestants presented Steven with a colorful cake and an even more colorful Warholesque Tyler portrait. (What was that painting? Did Naima paint it?)
Steven was surprised but, I'll tell you what, he wasn't the only one who was shocked by the goings-on on the "Idol" stage Thursday night. (If you haven't watched the show and you like surprises, you might want to hold off clicking through to the rest of this post until you do. Don't say you weren't warned.)
"We're looking for the bottom three," he reminds us, gathering Lauren, Pia and Scotty on stage.
"The judges all had positive things to say about you," he tells them, "but because of the vote, I'm afraid you'll all be packing your bags …" [cruel pause] "… in a few months" -- they're all going on the "American Idol" tour.
A shot of the stools, empty, awaiting the bottoms of bottom three; a commercial break; Sugarland performing "Stuck Like Glue" (Does Jennifer Nettles need a new stylist, or what?); and a long video about how much James Durbin – and to a lesser extent, Paul McDonald – loves pro wrestling and idolizes Hulk Hogan.
We finally get a couple more contestants -- James and Paul -- called to the center of the stage for their results. Ryan positions them carefully, a few feet apart.
"The nation has spoken and both of you guys are not safe," Ryan says. Then adds, "I mean, you're really not safe tonight."
Enter … Hulk Hogan. Paul is excited, but James appears to be having a heart attack.
Then Hulk growls, "I've got some really, really good news and some really, really bad news – the good news is that both of you guys are safe and both of these guys are going on tour. And the bad news is you, Mr. Ryan Seacrest, you're not safe."
Hogan chucks Ryan into the audience and rips off his shirt, the scraps of which are later given to James as a special keepsake as we get more results.
Jacob, Thia and Stefano are called to the stage. Jacob is quickly sent back to the "safe" zone, while Thia and Stefano are both sent to perch on the stools of doom.
So there's one chair left as Ryan calls up Naima, Haley and Casey. Naima and Haley have both been in the bottom three – Haley twice – but Casey, an early favorite, never has.
Naima is sent to safety, while Haley and Casey are left to sweat it out. By now, you've probably figured out what's coming, and you're right. It's Casey who's in the bottom three.
"Idol" alum Jennifer Hudson sings a grammatically incorrect but impressively performed song and Thia is sent back to safety.
Leaving Casey and Stefano.
Surely it can't be Casey, right? He's so talented. But we've increasingly got a bad feeling. He's pushed "Idol" boundaries by singing Nirvana and his "Heard It Through the Grapevine" really wasn't terribly good on Wednesday night. Plus a commenter on my recap Thursday totally predicted that he was in danger.
And yes, Ryan breaks the news: "The person with the lowest number of votes and in danger of leaving us tonight is Casey. Stefano, you are safe."
Stefano gets Casey in a clinch, and when he finally lets him go, Casey looks completely shocked. He sings (oh, the irony) "I Don't Need No Doctor," returning to form. Then Randy stops him short. They know what Casey can do, Randy says. He doesn't need to sing.
Steven says, "This is crazy wrong. We made a decision here to keep you on."
The judges have used their one save of the season (of course they did) but Casey starts to hyperventilate and I suddenly become deeply concerned about his health. Maybe he really does need a doctor. "Are you OK, buddy?" Ryan asks.
But Casey recovers enough to chant "I can't believe it. Oh my god. I can't believe it." He thanks the judges, later explaining that he'd never imagined they would use their save for him, especially so early in the season. He hugs his mom and tells Ryan that when Randy stopped him from singing it "scared the stuff out of" him.
Jennifer tells Casey to knock off the growling and "just let people feel your soul" and he'll be OK. "You deserve to be here," she says.
And as the credits roll, Ryan explains that Casey's save means two contestants will be sent home next week, but that Casey will go out on tour this summer with the top 10 finalists, making it a top 11.
For me, the biggest surprise was how badly Casey actually seems to want this "American Idol" thing. I think the voters were punishing him for what has come off in recent weeks as overconfidence and a refusal to kowtow to mainstream tastes. If that's true, his (hospital-related) absence during a results night and Steven's comment about his ego this week probably didn't help.
What about you? Where you surprised by "Idol" tonight? Or did you see it coming?
-- Amy Reiter
Photo: AMERICAN IDOL: Final 11. Clockwise from top left: Pia Toscano, Stefano Langone, Lauren Alaina, Paul McDonald, James Durbin, Scotty McCreery, Naima Adedapo, Jacob Lusk, Casey Abrams, Haley Reinhart and Thia Megia. Credit: Michael Becker / FOX.