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'American Idol' recap: Erika Van Pelt departs, leaving nine

March 22, 2012 |  8:00 pm

'American Idol' final 10

You had to figure, when the bottom three came down to DeAndre Brackensick, Erika Van Pelt and Heejun Han on "American Idol" Thursday night -- a show on which both Lana Del Rey and last season's third place "Idol" finisher Haley Reinhart performed and Joe Perry appeared to strum a birthday tribute to Aerosmith bandmate Steven Tyler -- that the judges probably weren't going to use their save. (For the record, no, Del Rey did not look nearly as twitchy and uncomfortable as she did during her "Saturday Night Live" appearance. See video below.)

Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Tyler can save only one contestant per season, and Brackensick and Van Pelt, both of whom the judges had rescued as "wild card picks" for the final 13, stood out more for their hair in recent weeks than for their performances. Plus, the judges know what it's like to use up a save early and then find themselves powerless when a possibly more deserving contestant is sent home (e.g. Pia Toscano).

As for Han, well, Lopez was practically waving him goodbye when she told him -- with genuine feeling, it seemed -- that he was a star, shouldn't sell himself short and should go home and share his gifts with the kids he works with. It was a benediction of sorts, a final blessing before sending him on his way.

INTERACTIVE | 'Idol' vs. 'The Voice': Who's the best?

But the voters did not send Han on his way. Apparently, his irreverent take on "My Life" didn't tick them off nearly as much as it did Tyler. (The shirt shtick at the beginning was a metaphor, Han explained; he was saying, "This is really who I am.") Or maybe they just wanted to see what the unpredictable contestant would do next, in which case they must have been pleased to hear him promise more surprises next week.

Neither did they dole out the ultimate punishment to Brackensick for bouncing around too much during "Only the Good Die Young." He too will live to sing again.

Van Pelt? She didn't seem that surprised to find herself alone on the "Idol" cliff. Singing Whitney Houston's "I Believe in You and Me," she didn't really appear to believe it would do her much good. Her voice wasn't at its most passionate, and as she made her way through the notes (most of them, anyway), you could almost imagine her thinking, "Well, at least I got a cool makeover out of the deal." Or maybe, "I can't believe I lost to Heejun." Or perhaps, "Man, I hope I can still hold my head up at Red Sox games now that I've stood up in front of millions and paid tribute to the home of the Yankees."

But even if we weren't shocked to see the gutsy gal who agreed to lop off her hair and dye it black because Tommy Hilfiger thought it might get her votes (Oops! His bad!), we may have found ourselves at least a little sad. Van Pelt had a nice tone. She had a lovely smile. And she had turned in a stronger performance this week than many other contestants, including Brackensick. Could voters have been turned off by the bold new 'do? Or had she simply failed to connect with them regardless of hair hue? We may never know.

Refusing her the save, Jackson couldn't have sounded less genuinely regretful. "Unfortunately, Ryan, uh, no, sorry," he said, offering no explanation, no pat on the back.

And so EVP will go the way of Shannon Magrane and Jeremy Rosado (and yes, Jermaine Jones, though under different circumstances), which is to say -- home.

Are you sad to see Van Pelt go?

Poll: "American Idol" vs. "The Voice"

Beginning Friday, three Times writers, including Amy Reiter, will rank their top five performances among "American Idol" and "The Voice" contenders each week. Readers are invited to cast their votes too and those results will appear alongside the critics. Vote for your favorite below. Polling will remain open until the next round of singing begins Monday. Readers' choice will change daily until then.  


The top 10 take on Billy Joel

Jeremy Rosado heads home

Shannon Magrane heads home, leaving 10

Jermaine Jones is out as final 11 perform

-- Amy Reiter

Photo: The "American Idol" final 10 were Phillip Phillips, Elise Testone, DeAndre Brackensick, Hollie Cavanaugh, Colton Dixon, Skylar Laine, Heejun Han, Jessica Sanchez, Josh Ledet and Erika Van Pelt. Credit: Michael Becker / Fox