American Idol

Think you're safe on 'American Idol?' Not so fast

Feb. 16, 2012 at 11:32 PM ET

Contestants perform in front of the judges at the Cirque du Soleil's Viva ELVIS Theatre in Las Vegas.

There’s a concept that most of us learn as kids that the “Idol” folks haven’t yet grasped: It’s called “no give backs.” Once you give something to another person, it is the height of bad manners to take it away.

Poor social etiquette equals good drama, however, and when has “Idol” ever ignored the chance to add a little tension to the audition round?

The “Idol” judges hate to give bad news. Starting in a couple of weeks when the live shows begin, they will do so very rarely. But their reticence to do so in Vegas left them with too many people to fill the 42 slots that would make it to (at last!) the final stage in the audition round next week. So the survivors were trotted back out onto the stage after being told they were safe, and the judges went group by group to cut enough contestants to get down to the proper number.

Remember Schyler Dixon? She’s the girl who auditioned on her own, only to have the judges remember how well big brother Colton did a year ago and made her bring him in as well? Both siblings made it to Vegas, but Schyler was a late cut while Colton moved on.

“It’s not right,” Colton said. Maybe not, but it made for a good clip, and that’s what the show is looking for.

Angie Ziederman also got sent home. Ziederman looked from her audition like she’d be this year’s Ashley Sullivan, brought along for comic relief as much as for her vocals. We didn’t see much of her in Hollywood though, perhaps because Heejun Han has filled that role instead.

Gabi Carruba and Jairon Jackson were the biggest surprises, since they’ve been nothing but good every time we’ve seen them. Apart from Carruba, Britnee Kellogg was the most devastated – one of the oldest contestants at 27, she knows how close she came to getting a huge break and how hard it will be to find this opportunity again.

Others got the bad news earlier and took it with various degrees of grace. Jessica Phillips, the one with the husband who suffered a stroke, snapped, "It doesn't seem to me like they're looking for real artists.” That must have been comforting to her two groupmates who had advanced (though one was Kellogg, and her reprieve lasted just hours). Soon afterward, Nick Boddington became the first of the “Groove Sauce” group to be eliminated, which was sad for the other members who advanced.

And Ashley Robles didn’t even get a soundbite. She followed an “Idol” tradition by being a star in her initial audition and then was not heard from again until she got eliminated.

It was better news for others, of course.  The Vegas episodes feature some of the best group performances of the competition, since contestants have some fun with them and nobody is going through the motions (as what happens to the group numbers once the finals start).

For example ... Hey, look! Deandre Brackensick! Remember him from last year? He and Colton Dixon were among the last cuts in season 10, so odds are good they’ll have better luck this time around. But this was the first time we actually got to hear Brackensick sing, and he’s still got it.

David Leathers Jr. and his group advanced, and Leathers also showed he could do a mean Gabi Carrubba impersonation (in both senses of the word). Heejun Han and Peggi Blu became friends, which should serve Han well when he takes over for Ryan Seacrest as the host next season. Reed Grimm looks like this season’s Casey Abrams, straddling the line between pop singer and lounge act.

Adam Brock, Brielle Von Hugel, Skyler Laine. Eben Franckewitz, Haley Johnson, Creighton Fraker, Jen Hirsch, Shannon Magrane, Phillip Phillps ... all big names, and all still in it. At least for now.

But there's still one more solo performance, and then the final 24 are finally named. I know it seems like it just started 17 years ago, but by the end of next week, we’ll actually be set for the live performances and the audience votes.

Were you surprised by any of the last-minute eliminations? Who should've gone instead? Tell us on our Facebook page!

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

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