American Idol

'American Idol' finds the eclectic -- and the gross -- in Portland

Feb. 1, 2012 at 10:42 PM ET

Brittany Zika, Ben Purdom and Britnee Kellogg gave it their best on "Idol."

“American Idol” usually goes for the low-hanging fruit when it decides on storylines for the audition episodes. So it’s no shock that host Ryan Seacrest started Wednesday’s show by walking through the throng of hopefuls and noting that “with an eclectic crowd like this, there’s no telling who – or what – we may find.”

What we found was pretty much the same thing we find in every audition episode. Some good singers, some good stories and some hopeless cases designed to make everyone else sound better by comparison.

In deference to Portland, Ore., there was a slight emphasis on the wacky. OK, that was mostly because of a weird bit where Ryan moved a potted tree behind where the judges were sitting, in a move that must have seemed like a laugh riot when it was scripted but fell flat on the air. But anyway ...

Brittany Zika, for example, showed up in a funky hat and glasses, tripped while walking to the stage and called herself the Tripster Hipster. The odds of that earning a ticket to Hollywood didn’t seem good. Then she proved the doubters wrong by singing well, taking off the hat and glasses, and transforming into ... well, if not exactly a beautiful swan, at least a singer worthy of moving on.

Meanwhile Britnee Kellogg’s hook was that she was a single mom of two boys who was finally getting the chance to fulfill her dream after being held back by her mean ex-husband for years as she pursued his basketball dreams while he was cheating on her. Oh, and then she sang “You’re No Good.” And she brought her whole family in matching T-shirts of support. Not to be all cynical here, but this is a storyline that works 100 percent of the time at this stage of the game.

In other heartwarming tales, Romeo Diahn continued his journey from war-torn Liberia to an African refugee camp to the Hollywood round, and Jessica Phillips will get a chance to better provide for her husband, who suffered a stroke, if she advances farther in the competition.

There was also Jermaine Jones, who informed everyone that he was 6' 8½" -- and don’t forget the half! Perhaps he was hoping that the local NBA team was watching, since Trail Blazers center Greg Oden is on the injured list again. But then again, the way Jones was sweating during the auditions, he’d be a mess on the basketball court. And considering he made it to Hollywood, he might not have the time anyway.

“Idol” also set a season-high on the gross-o-meter, with the frequent shots of the under-the-weather Ben Purdom wiping his nose on a tissue, his clothing and his hand, spoiling the appetite of those who were trying to eat dinner while watching. And it dodged a bullet with Ben Harrison, who didn’t impress with Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” but said, “I didn’t puke or pee my pants, or any of the stuff I was scared about.”

Portland might be eclectic, but at least it’s conventional enough to keep it together when it counts.

Were you amused by Ben Purdom's audition, or just grossed out? Tell us what you thought of him and the Portland auditions overall on our Facebook page.

Want more "Idol" during "Idol"? Follow @CraigBerman as he live tweets each show!

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