'American Idol': The Goodbye Girl

The Atlantic Wire

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Well that's more like it. After last week's lamesville no-elimination cop out, Ryan Seacrest finally got to satisfy his insatiable bloodlust last night as a competitor was eliminated and the field was winnowed down to just three surviving souls. Which means we only have two weeks left of this thing before we are all dismissed for the summer. Better news there has never been. But first we must discuss what happened last night.

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American Idol has always been for sale, renting out its real estate to whatever raggedy old thing wants to spend the money, throwing itself over a rain barrel and waiting for passersby on the road to come have a go. Last night American Idol sold itself to The Great Gatsby, the new movie based on some old book or whatever. Everyone's talking about The Great Gatsby but is everyone enough? No it is not enough! Warner Bros. wants the few remaining tween girls who are still watching American Idol, the ones hiding out in remote places, watching the show on a grainy signal caught by a hand-fashioned antenna, to be talking about The Great Gatsby too. So they had the four remaining singtestants open the show with a song from the movie's soundtrack. The song? "Crazy In Love" by The Beyoncés. Yeah. That song. So OK maybe that song is in the movie but it's not from the movie, you know? That song is a decade old for heaven's sake. (Yeah. That song is ten years old. Meaning you are ten years older than you were when you first heard that song. Just pause and think about that and stare out the window forlornly for the rest of the day.) So that was kind of silly, but again any way to promote The Great Gatsby is a good way!

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The girls warbled it out in typical group performance fashion, meaning terribly, but that's what we've come to expect from these numbers over the show's forty years. After they jammed that out it was time for the Ford commercial, which unfortunately they were not able to tie into The Great Gatsby. A missed opportunity. Anyway, it had to do with some cool graffiti or comic book guy painting a couple of Fords in cool ways that the singers "designed." They came out looking like cars that no sighted human would ever drive, and only sighted humans are allowed to drive. This would have been the perfect moment for Ryan Seacrest to jump out dressed like a flapper and shout "Gatsby!" but he didn't, so oh well.

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After that we were treated to the premiere of Errol Morris's new documentary about Constantine Maroulis, a thrillingly in-depth look at how he was on American Idol once and now he's been in a couple Broadway plays. At one point Constantine said "I'm pretty sure I'm the first Idol to be nominated for a Tony," which is sort of like when box office reports say something like "It's the highest-grossing non-R-rated teen horror musical of this weekend ever." OK, sure, first American Idol to be nominated for a Tony. All right. Fine. Take it. (In fairness, taking off the Sir Jokes-a-Lot cap for a second, I met Constantine once at a party [I'm extremely cool and famous] and he was very nice and very good in Rock of Ages. I kid because I love, Constantine.) Constantine didn't perform, because they had to make time for the next great act.

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William, from the Black Eyed Peas, did another Gatsby song, a tune called "Bang Bang." The performance started in black and white, because the 1920s were in black and white, and it was so terrible. What does William do, really? He doesn't rap. He doesn't sing. He just sorta drones on atonally and we're supposed to enjoy that? Then he tried to do some kind of tap dancing thing and it wasn't terrible but it was amateurish, making it even worse, y'know? He's just not completely godawful. That's his whole thing. Why is this guy who can't really dance and can't really sing or rap or do anything relating to music so famous? It boggles the mind. William might currently be music's biggest mystery.

OK enough of this. Harry Connick did a song, sure thing, whatever. It was not from Gatsby, because not everything can be from Gatsby. Oh, ha, and David Cook came back from whatever Home Depot he's been working at to sing a song, being as David Cookian as always. He's fine, I'm sure he's a good guy, but did anyone really ever buy his whole cool dude routine? Because I did not. Maybe it's because I saw him perform at Idols Live in 2007 (I told you: I am very cool and very famous) and he was acting like he was freaking Bono, seemingly unaware that he was performing to a bunch of shrieking twelve-year-olds at a dumpy auditorium in Worcester. It sorta ruined whatever illusion one could ever have that he was Mr. Cool Guy. Actually, seeing the Idols Live tour is a really good way to disabuse yourself of any notion about who the Idol contestants are. It's sad and wonderful.

Time to send someone home! The big carrot dangled in front of the girls last night was that the top three get to do the big home visit, meaning producers were waiting by the phones to hear who was staying on so they could start calling small-town mayors and renting out parking lots in front of various Baskin Robbinses. So yeah, the thinking was that the girls would really want the home visits because it's a big deal and you feel like queen for a day, and I can dig that. But at the same time I can't think of anything more mortifying than the home visits. At this point, especially. Who's gonna show up? I bet you the producers are going to rent people. They're going to hire extras to show up to these concerts. Because nobody actually watches this show anymore, so who would come to the home visit concert of their own volition? Get ready to see a bunch of moderately paid extras next week.

So yes, the home visit was the prize and there were only three spots for four girls. Meaning someone had to go. Would it shock you to learn that Candice and Angie Mills were in the top two? No it would not shock you to learn that, because duh of course they were. That put Kree and Amber in the bottom, and I'm afraid to say that Amber, always something of an also-ran, was the one sent packing. She handled it gracefully and got a big hug from her always teary father and she almost made it through her goodbye song without herself crying. It was a typical Idol elimination moment, the tears perhaps more from relief at having finished this big crazy process than anything else. This is Survivor, after all. Of its own sort. And Amber finally gets to go to Ponderosa.

Three remain! I think we can expect Kree to go home next week, as has always been the plan. I mean, the plan being a Candice/Angie showdown. And Angie wins. Of course Angie wins. It doesn't mean much of anything, not now, not in season twelve, but she wins. And Amber? Recently departed Amber? Who knows what will happen to her. But something tells me she'll be all right. She's got a good head on her shoulders. Why just last night she was kicking around the asphalt behind the studio, squinting up at the sun and wondering what to do next, when Ryan pulled up in that Miata of his, beeped his horn and offered her a ride and a meal. "Come to my house for dinner," he said. But where so many foolish people have gone before — poor Lazaro, poor Paul Jolley — meeting their deaths at the hands, or jaws, of whatever creature lurked in Ryan's dark mansion, the one he called Tim Urban, Amber chose not to. "No thanks, Ryan. I'm good here." Ryan looked puzzled. This never happened. He wasn't sure that Tim would like, you know, a girl, but he was willing to give it a shot, Tim having gotten a bit restless recently, banging around a lot at night, starting to look a little warily, or was it hungrily, at Ryan himself. Ryan was getting scared and he wanted to keep Tim as sated as possible, and so he needed Amber to get in his car and go with him to the house but she was refusing. "Why not??" Ryan asked, trying to hide his desperation. "Because Ryan," Amber said, backing away. "I heard things about your house. Nobody's seen Lazaro since he left. But Angie was out here smoking a cigarette and she said she saw him get in that car right there with you. So no thanks, I'll see you at the finale." And she walked away, just like that. Good for Amber. Finally making her presence known.

Ryan was all panic by then, not sure if he was more scared of the fact that Amber was on to him (or was on to something at least) or that he might be going home to Tim empty handed. He put his head on the steering wheel and tried to breathe deep and calm himself until he felt a tap on his shoulder. He looked up, and there, oh just right perfectly there, was David Cook. "Hey man, want to get a drink?" David asked cheerily. Ryan smiled, sat back in his seat and laughed a little. "Sure," he said, leaning over and throwing open the passenger door. "Let's have one at my place." "Sounds good to me," David said, and folded himself into the car next to Ryan. And then they drove off, up to those darkening hills, Ryan feeling more relaxed by the mile, David staring out at the city, drumming his hands on the dashboard, enjoying the night, oblivious.

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