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'American Idol' recap: Hollie Cavanagh ousted, three remain

May 11, 2012 |  4:30 am

Hollie Cavanaugh on "American Idol"
It was no pleasure to see Hollie Cavanagh go home on "American Idol" on Thursday night, just shy of earning a slot in the top three and a hero's homecoming. Despite giving uneven performances all the way through – a few rousing numbers ("The Climb," which she reprised as her goodbye song, and, just this week, Journey's "Faithfully") amid a sea of so-so ones – Cavanagh had been unfailingly likable, sunny and upbeat in the face of near-constant criticism.

The 18-year-old British-Texan seemed to embody a certain all-American can-do attitude, an optimistic stick-to-itivenenss, doggedly getting out there and giving it another shot, week after week, long after most people – including probably the "Idol" judges and Jimmy Iovine -- had expected her to stick around.

But Cavanagh's time was clearly up. And of course, it would have been far worse to have seen any of the others go. Jessica Sanchez, Joshua Ledet and Phillip Phillips are the perfect top three. Each so different. Each so talented.

Before the results were revealed, each of the top four contestants was called forward for a recap of the previous night's performances and a taste of Iovine's tough love. The "Idol" mentor had high praise for Sanchez, calling her "Dreamgirls" number "flawless" and saying that, immediately afterward, star maker Tommy Mottola had emailed him to say she was "the real thing" and he couldn't wait to go to her first concert. He gushed that, on Damien Rice's "Volcano," Phillips had "finally delivered" on his promise, giving a "magnificent" performance that would have prompted Iovine to sign him on the spot had he heard him do it in a club. And he said Ledet was practically speaking in tongues on "It's a Man's Man's Man's World," and while he had seen Prince and Bruce Springsteen do that, "I've never seen that on 'American Idol' … It was so, so captivating. I want to see it again and again and again."

Cavanagh's final number, though, Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me," didn't impress Iovine. "I assumed she understood the core of the song. Evidently, she did not," he said, adding that Cavanagh had neither the personal nor professional experience needed to do the song justice. "When the chorus came in, she hit the opera button," Iovine said. "And at that moment, I felt she crashed and burned and lost out to the other three singers."

So it wasn't looking good for Cavanagh, but it was only after Season 7 winner David Cook and Jennifer Lopez, "the matriarch of our 'Idol' family," as she was dubbed in her intro, had each performed, that the four contestants were assembled center stage for the revealing of the results. (Lopez, looking nothing like a "matriarch," shared a presumably unscripted moment with her backup-dancer boyfriend, Casper Smart. He futzed with her hair. She called him "so cute.")

After nearly 70 million votes, 10 million more than last week, had been tallied, Seacrest informed us, Sanchez was safe. Ledet was safe. With only Phillips and Cavanagh left, the Texas teen seemed truly doomed. A Phillips ouster seemed unlikely.

Ryan Seacrest tried to drum up a little suspense, reminding us that this stage of the competition had brought shockers in the past, but even he seemed to realize he was fooling no one.

So after a break, the host got down to it: The final contestant headed to the top three and a hero's homecoming was … Phillip Phillips.

That left Hollie Cavanagh to go out the way she came in this season, singing and smiling and shunning tears. Her "BFF" Ledet, however, was sobbing.

Will you miss Hollie? And which of the final three do you think will take this season's "Idol" crown?

"American Idol" vs. "The Voice"

Each week our experts and readers rank the best of the best between the two blockbuster singing competitions. Last week, readers put "American Idol's" Jessica Sanchez just slightly ahead of "The Voice's" Juliet Simms on top. Who will be the favorite this week? Vote below and check out this week's performances and see what our judges had to say at


Full coverage: 'American Idol'

'American Idol' recap: The final four duke it out

'American Idol' recap: Skylar Laine booted off in fifth place

— Amy Reiter

Photo: Hollie Cavanagh performs on "American Idol" airing Wednesday on Fox. Credit: Michael Becker / Fox.