Ryan Seacrest promised a surprise at the beginning of Wednesday’s “American Idol” results show. Sometimes that’s a relative term and means, “We’re going to actually end the show on time this week,” or “We spent the extra couple of dollars to make sure all of the microphones work.”
But give him credit — this time he meant what he said.
Michael Lynche the lowest vote-getter? Really, America? I mean, he wouldn’t be my preference to win this right now, or even to make the final, but no love at all?
Has Andrew Garcia’s “Straight Up” really left that big of an impression? After watching David Archuleta sing “Imagine” this week, do you really think Aaron Kelly and Tim Urban are in that ballpark right now? How many of you can tell me now, without peeking at the Tuesday recap, what Katie Stevens and Casey James sang this week?
Everyone was pretty much the same this week, giving good but not great efforts at the Lennon-McCartney catalog, so not much would have surprised me in the results. This did. But not as much as it surprised Garcia, who was with Lynche in the bottom two and spent all of Rihanna’s performance planning his exit speech and looking like a dead man walking.
Ultimately, Lynche didn’t get kicked off, especially since he went back to “This Woman’s Work” for his final song. The judges used their save to keep him around, a much better selection than last season when they gave Matt Giraud the extra lifeline just to keep it from going to waste.
Simon Cowell tried to milk the announcement, apparently unmoved by all the shots of Lynche’s sobbing wife and the frequent Seacrest reminders that Mike’s a young father trying to make a better life for his newborn. But it was such an obvious call. That’s what the rule was made for, to give a second chance to a favorite who had a bad week or tried something tricky that didn’t work.
Here’s what that means, though: Two singers go home next week, and the judges can’t rescue us again. And this field isn’t deep enough that it can afford any mistakes.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the talent this season is better than many of the show’s critics say. There’s nobody left who’s terrible. Even Urban has moved way beyond the Sanjaya zone. Everyone is mostly fine every week.
That’s the problem. “Fine” is not awe-inspiring or DVR-inducing. “Fine” is “I won’t change the channel, and maybe I’ll vote if I’m not on the phone when the show ends and I remember my favorite’s phone number.” That leads to unpredictability and the random results that send favorites packing early.
What we have is Crystal Bowersox in the lead and a bunch of people with a lot of potential, but less of a track record. Before this week, Lynche would have appeared to be next in line, and he’ll probably dial back his arrangement next week to avoid the hodgepodge that was his “Eleanor Rigby.” If his fall scares his fans into voting more often, he could still last a very long time or even win this.
Aside from Bowersox and Lynche, Lee Dewyze and Siobhan Magnus have the talent to get to the end if the former continues to improve his stage presence and the latter her consistency. James just needs a real showstopping performance, which he hasn’t had yet. Garcia, Urban, Kelly and Stevens are pretty much marking time until their inevitable exits.
That’s not a deep field, and there’s a real chance that we could get a final three or four where everybody is pretty good and nobody is great. And by using their save this week, the judges lost their last chance to prevent that from happening.
“American Idol” fans, we’re now on our own.
Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/craigberman.