1. Headline
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Image: Crystal Bowersox, Lee Dewyze
Michael Becker  /  AP
On May 25, Crystal Bowersox and Lee Dewyze will battle it out for the title of "American Idol."
By
TODAY contributor
updated 5/19/2010 11:21:50 PM ET 2010-05-20T03:21:50
RECAP

To nobody’s surprise, and to the relief of the “American Idol” executives, it will be Crystal Bowersox and Lee Dewyze singing in the finale next week.

It’s hard to argue with the results. Bowersox has been strong all season long, and Dewyze has emerged over the past month to join her as a favorite. The contrast between the indie coffeehouse artist and the paint-store rocker — and believe me, you’ll hear that story line a zillion times this week — will be fun to watch.

Casey James didn’t seem surprised by his exit, which he had to know was coming. He even got in a zinger early in the show, after the judges tried to take credit for offering useful feedback: “I was thinking, ‘Not every single comment was usable,’ ” he said.

“Well, that kind of comment is why we like Lee and Crystal better,” the judges replied. OK, they didn’t really say that. But they were thinking it, for sure.

You have to wonder, however, if James will spend some of these next few days wondering what might have happened if he’d gotten a little more love from the judges, and a little more help from the production crew this week.

Not to make excuses, because James was his own worst enemy. Picking “OK, It’s Alright With Me” by Eric Hutchinson as his song choice Tuesday was a terrible strategy. It’s great that the song meant a lot to him and is the kind of song he’d record as an artist, but this isn’t the time to be personal and quirky. It’s the time to engage the audience with a song they’ve heard of, and you could see the “Huh?” thought bubbles go off over the audience when he began his performance. A contestant needs to be awesome to pull that off, and James was not.

But Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi did him no favors by making him sing John Mayer’s “Daughters,” which had no climax and little chance for a “moment.” Then it was more bad luck when he had to sing first. He showed up with his guitar and a simple melody, while Dewyze got the background singers, the fancy production values and the prime position closing the show. It may not have been the deciding factor, but it sure didn’t hurt Dewyze’s prospects or help James’.

It also didn’t help any of the contestants that the heartwarming videos of their homecomings last week aired on Wednesday instead of Tuesday. It was very sweet to see James go back to the hospital where he was treated for his injuries that put his life in danger a few years ago, to watch Bowersox choke up when she talked about how important it was to her that her original song “Holy Toledo” got some airtime, and to hear Dewyze’s voice break when singing “The Boxer” in his hometown concert. But none of that translated into votes because we saw it way after the deadline. I don’t get that decision at all.

Here’s what else I don’t get: Why did Perez Hilton get four minutes of airtime for himself and his “discovery,” pop singer Travis Garland? If he really thinks Garland sings “better than Justin Timberlake,” I have to wonder how he got that job as a judge for the Miss USA pageant, because I’m not seeing that at all.

Also performing (on tape) was Justin Bieber, Twitter trending topic and tween favorite. Everything that can be said about Bieber has already been said, so let me just add this: He makes Aaron Kelly look like a grandfather, or at least as old as Simon Cowell.

Finally, at 9:55 p.m. ET, Ryan Seacrest began to give us the results, and it was exactly what we all expected. James, who Randy once called “probably the best musician/guitar player we’ve ever had on here,” goes on to his musical future a week earlier than he had hoped.

Meanwhile, we’ll hear Bowersox and Dewyze square off for the season nine title.

Craig Berman is a writer in Washington. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/craigberman.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Video: ‘Idols’ down to two

Photos: Idol finalists

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  1. Two for the show

    Crystal Bowersox, left, and Lee Dewyze are the last two standing on season nine of "American Idol" in Los Angeles on Wednesday, May 19. (Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. One more battle

    Bowersox, left, hugs Dewyze as they learn they've made it to the end. (Frank Micelotta / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. So long, James

    Casey James performs his farewell song after being eliminated on "Idol" on Wednesday, May 19. Judge Randy Jackson once called James "probably the best musician/guitar player we’ve ever had on here." (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Kid 'n play

    Justin Bieber performs on the "Idol" elimination show on Wednesday, May 19. Msnbc.com's Craig Berman says of the teen singer: He makes Aaron Kelly look like a grandfather, or at least as old as Simon Cowell. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Crystal fest

    "American Idol" finalist Crystal Bowersox performs at the Ottawa County Fairgrounds in Oak Harbor, Ohio, on May 14. The show's top three contestants visited their hometowns, performed for fans and reunited with family. (Jeff Kowalsky / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Comfort of home

    Bowersox hangs with family and friends during her hometown visit in Toledo, Ohio, on May 14. (Ray Mickshaw / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Deep in the heart of Texas

    Casey James is mobbed by fans during an appearance in Grapevine, Texas, on May 14. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Key to his success

    James holds a key to the city during his hometown visit in Grapevine, Texas, on May 14. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Off and running

    Lee Dewyze performs during a concert at Arlington Park Racetrack in Arlington Heights, Ill., on May 14.. (Jeffrey Phelps / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. All for me?

    Dewyze rides in a car with his parents, Lee and Kathy, during a parade in Mount Prospect, Ill., on May 14.. (Jeffrey Phelps / Picturegroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Top three

    And then there were three. The final contestants on "American Idol," from left, Lee Dewyze, Crystal Bowersox and Casey James, in Los Angeles on Wednesday, May 12. (Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. No longer safe

    Michael Lynche performs "Will You Be There" as his final song after being eliminated on Wednesday, May 12. Lynche would have been gone five weeks ago, but he was the recipient of the lone judges' save this season. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Oh, my girl

    Lynche hugs Crystal Bowersox onstage in front of his baby daughter on Wednesday. Big Mike was hoping to make the top three so that he could get a parade in his hometown of St. Petersburg, Fla. (Frank Micelotta / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Waiting game

    Ryan Seacrest and "Idol" squeezed ever ounce of stress out of the elimination announcement as Bowersox found herself in the bottom two with Lynche. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Back to where it all began

    Former contestant Fantasia performs her new single "Bittersweet" on "Idol" on Wednesday. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Go sit down

    Lee Dewyze gets the word from Seacrest that he's safe. Casey James was the first singer to move to the final three on Wednesday night. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. There goes my hero ...

    Bon Jovi performs "Superman Tonight" during the elimination show on Wednesday, May 12. (Frank Micelotta / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Texas bound

    Casey James, left, greets his family after being declared safe. The finalist gets a trip home, complete with a parade and a welcome-home party. (Frank Micelotta / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. 'Stay hungry'

    Fifth-season "American Idol" contestant Chris Daughtry performs his latest single, "September." When Seacrest asked what advice the rocker might have for the remaining contestants, Daughtry told them to "stay hungry and don't compromise the music you love -- stay what's true to you." (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. The final 4

    The four remaining contestants on "American Idol," from left, Casey James, Crystal Bowersox, Lee Dewyze and Michael Lynche, pose backstage in Los Angeles on Wednesday, May 5. (Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Fly him to the moon

    Aaron Kelly performs his farewell song during the elimination episode of "American Idol" on Wednesday, May 5. The 17-year-old failed to advance past Frank Sinatra week. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Don't break him

    Michael Lynche, left, hugs Kelly after the hammer dropped on Wednesday night. Once again in the bottom two, Lynche "has more escapes than Houdini this season," said msnbc.com's Craig Berman. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Channeling Ol' Blue Eyes

    Harry Connick Jr. performs on "Idol" on Wednesday, May 5. The singer served as mentor this week and offered up his own critique of the show. "The word 'pitchy' does not exist, judges," Connick griped. “We need to stop saying that. 'He's singing out of tune' -- that's how we say it." (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Rat pack

    Harry Connick Jr. mans the piano as the contestants, from left, Michael Lynche, Lee DeWyze, Crystal Bowersox, Aaron Kelly and Casey James perform the group sing on Wednesday, May 5. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Something's fishy

    Singer Lady Gaga performs during the elimination show on Wednesday, May 5. Msnbc.com's Berman wrote, "Pants, or no pants?" The answer was "no pants." And also "no shirt." Just something that looked like underwear covered by a black fishnet. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Five alive

    After the elimination show on Wednesday, April 28, the final five "American Idol" contestants are, from left, Michael Lynche, Aaron Kelly, Crystal Bowersox, Lee Dewyze and Casey James. (Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. So long, song

    Siobhan Magnus performs during the "Idol" elimination show in Los Angeles on Wednesday, April 28. Msnbc.com's Craig Berman said of the singer: She seemed like the dullest person on Earth in her pre-show videos, but one of the most colorful performers once the music started. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. 3-2-1 ... gone

    Magnus, left, hugs Casey James after host Ryan Seacrest delivered the bad news on Wednesday, April 28. Michael Lynche was the other singer in the bottom three. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Reaching for the stars

    Shakira, left, performs with Rascal Flatts on "American Idol" on Wednesday, April 28. Msnbc.com's Berman reports that when Seacrest asked Shakira to give the contestants advice, the singer said: "It comes to my mind that sentence, that quote from Roosevelt: … Keep your eyes on stars, but remember to keep your feet on the ground." To which Ryan, Rascal Flatts and millions of viewers shouted, "That's Casey Kasem! 'Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars!' " (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Just what we 'Need'

    Lady Antebellum performs "Need You Now" on Wednesday, April 28. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Green with envy

    Actress Cameron Diaz, center, takes the stage for a "Shrek" montage. Seacrest Seacrest has a bit part in the new movie "Shrek Forever After." (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Safe again

    Contestants Aaron Kelly, left, and Crystal Bowersox had no trouble moving to the next week after the vote totals came in on Wednesday, April 28. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Six shooting for the top

    The final six contestants on "American Idol," from left, Aaron Kelly, Crystal Bowersox, Casey James, Michael Lynche, Siobhan Magnus and Lee Dewyze, on Wednesday, April 21. (Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Blinded by the white

    Dressed in their best charity whites for 'Idol Gives Back" night, the final final 12 contestants perform together on Wednesday, April 21. (Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. His time to go

    Tim Urban, center, is eliminated from the competition on "Idol" on Wednesday, April 21. Craig Berman of msnbc.com had this to say about Urban: There has never been a contestant with a better smile, or one who showed it as often. He was always just happy to be there, even when he was being ushered out the door. (Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Lending a hand

    Fergie and the Black Eyed Peas perform at "Idol Gives Back 2010" on Wednesday, April 21, in Pasadena, Calif. (Vince Bucci / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. The lucky ones

    The final seven contestants on "American Idol," from left, Michael Lynche, Aaron Kelly, Lee Dewyze, Crystal Bowersox, Siobhan Magnus, Tim Urban and Casey James are seen backstage in Los Angeles on Wednesday, April 14. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Big Mike safe again

    Michael Lynche, left, and Katie Stevens are the last two standing with host Ryan Seacrestt and it was Stevens who learned she was out of the competition on Wednesday, April 14. Lynche survived elimination the previous week on a judges' save. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. King for a day

    Former "Idol" contestant Adam Lambert performs as part of the elimination show on Wednesday, April 14. Lambert was serving as mentor to the singers for Elvis week. He performed an extended version of his single "Whataya Want From Me." (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. First of two to go

    Andrew Garcia, front left, soaks up the love one last time after being eliminated from "American Idol" on Wednesday, April 14. Msnbc.com's Craig Berman said Garcia was the "calmest, happiest exit interview that I can remember." (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Dreamy

    Former Idol contestant Brooke White, left, and Justin Gaston perform a duet of "If I Can Dream" on the show on Wednesday, April 14. (Michael Becker / Picturegroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Line of nine

    The top nine contestants perform at the start of Wednesday's elimination show in Los Angeles. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. Still nine lives

    The "American Idol" contestants remain unchanged after the judges used their only save to keep Michael Lynche, center, in the mix on Wednesday, April 7. The rest of the pack includes, clockwise from left, Tim Urban, Crystal Bowersox, Andrew Garcia, Casey James, Siobhan Magnus, Aaron Kelly, Katie Stevens and Lee Dewyze. (Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. Big Mike's big finish

    Michael Lynche sang "This Woman's Work" for his final song after being eliminated, and apparently it worked on the judges. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. Not the best Beatles

    Lynche, left, was in the bottom three with Aaron Kelly, center, and Andrew Garcia on Wednesday, April 7. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. Michael Jackson-like

    Jason Derulo performs his single "In My Head" during the "American Idol" elimination show on Wednesday, April 7. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. The safe set

    "Idol" contestants, from left, Lee DeWyze, Casey James and Tim Urban remained safe during the elimination show on Wednesday, April 7. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. Ax to grind

    With guitar in hand, Rihanna performs her new song "Rockstar 101" on Wednesday, April 7. Ryan Seacrest introduced her as "a superstar who dominates both pop culture and the charts." (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  49. The girls are safe

    "Idol" contestants, from left, Siobhan Magnus, Crystal Bowersox and Katie Stevens survive to sing another day on Wednesday, April 7. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  50. The kid's allright

    Former "Idol" runner-up David Archuleta, left, takes the stage with Seacrest. The singer performed John Lennon's "Imagine." (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  51. All together now

    The final nine, from left: Casey James, Lee Dewyze, Katie Stevens, Tim Urban, Siobhan Magnus, Andrew Garcia, Crystal Bowersox, Aaron Kelly and Michael Lynche. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  52. Down to single digits

    The top 9 were revealed on Wednesday, March 31. They are, clockwise from bottom left, Katie Stevens, Aaron Kally, Lee DeWyze, Casey James, Andrew Garcia, Tim Urban, Crystal Bowersox, Siobhan Magnus and Michael Lynche. (Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  53. Didi's last hurrah

    Didi Benami, with Ryan Seacrest at her side, watches a video of her time on "American Idol" after being eliminated on Wednesday, March 31. (Michael Becker / Picturegroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  54. A real idol

    R&B star and guest mentor Usher performs his new single "OMG" on Wednesday, March 31. (Michael Becker / Picturegroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  55. The bottom 3

    This week's lowest vote-getter were (from left) Didi Benami, Katie Stevens and Tim Urban. (Michael Becker / Picturegroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  56. The Teddy Bear returns

    Season 2 winner Ruben Studdard performs "Don't Make 'Em Like You No More" during the Wednesday, March 31 show. Studdard announced that he was going on tour with season 2 rival Clay Aiken. (Michael Becker / Picturegroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  57. Final 10

    The remaining finalists after the Wednesday, March 24 elimination show are, clockwise from bottom right, Aaron Kelly, Crystal Bowersox, Michael Lynche, Andrew Garcia, Katie Stevens, Lee Dewyze, Siobhan Magnus, Casey James, Didi Benami and Tm Urban. (Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  58. Taking her final bow

    Host Ryan Seacrest presents eliminated contestant Paige MIles for her final round of applause on Wednesday, March 24. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  59. Show stopper

    Celebrity mentor Miley Cyrus took the stage on Wednesday, March 24 to sing her new song "When I Look at You." (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  60. The bottom three

    Paige MIles (from left), Tim Urban and Katie Stevens had the dubious distinction of the being the lowest votegetters during the second week of the finals. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  61. Oh so young

    Singers Joe Jonas and Demi Lovato perform during the elimination show on Wednesday, March 24. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  62. Snore

    The top 11 perform Wham's! "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" during the group sing on Wednesday, March 24. Perhaps they should have stayed asleep. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup) Back to slideshow navigation
  63. These Stones keep Rolling

    The top 11 contestants on "American Idol" after the elimination show on Wednesday, March 17, from left in back row: Katie Stevens, Tim Urban, Michael Lynche, Siobhan Magnus, Lee Dewyze, Didi Benami; from left in front row: Andrew Garcia, Casey James, Aaron Kelly, Crystal Bowersox and Paige Miles. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  64. First to go

    Eliminated contestant Lacey Brown performs in Los Angeles on Wednesday, March 17. She sang "Ruby Tuesday" as part of Stones' night and Simon Cowell said she performs like an actress. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  65. Le$$ is more

    Ke$ha sports a Native American headdress while performing on Wednesday, March 17. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  66. Miles ahead

    Paige Miles, left, and Lacey Brown embrace at the end of Wednesday's show. Miles had laryngitis Tuesday while she was performing and could still barely talk on Wednesday -- but survived to sing again. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  67. 'You' go, girl

    Orianthi performs her hit "According to You" on "American Idol" on Wednesday, March 17. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  68. Shake, rattle, roll on

    Contestants Andrew Garcia, left, and Tim Urban managed to stay alive on Wednesday night. On Rolling Stones' night, Garcia sang "Gimme Shelter" and Urban sang "Under My Thumb." (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  69. Show 'em how it's done

    Season 7 "American Idol" winner David Cook performs during the elimination show on Wednesday, March 17. (Michael Becker / PictureGroup via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  70. Lucky dozen

    The top 12 contestants on "American Idol," from left: Tim Urban, Siobhan Magnus, Lee Dewyze, Paige Miles, Michael Lynche, Andrew Garcia, Didi Benami, Lacey Brown, Aaron Kelly, Crystal Bowersox, Casey James and Katie Stevens arrive at Fox's Meet the Top 12 event at Industry in Los Angeles on Thursday, March 11. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  71. Crystal Bowersox

    The 24-year-old mother, who's been playing music since she was 10, is an early fan and judge favorite. On Tuesday, March 9, after she nailed Tracy Chapman's Give Me One Reason," Simon Cowell declared her to be "the one to beat." (F Micelotta / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  72. Didi Benami

    The performer struggled for the first two weeks of the semifinals, but redeemed herself the third week with her version of Fleetwood Mac's "Rhiannon." Kara DioGuardi called the performance one of her favorite moments on the show this season. (F Micelotta / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  73. Katie Stevens

    The 16-year-old has struggled during the semifinals, with the judges repeatedly telling her to sing songs that reflect her age. She has the voice and is taking the judges' advice, so she could catch the leaders with time. (F Micelotta / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  74. Paige Miles

    The Michael Jackson fan hasn't wowed the judges so far. Simon warned her about pandering to the judges by singing one of Kara's songs, "Walk Away," in the second week of the semifinals, and she offered a rather forgettable "Smile" the following week. (F Micelotta / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  75. Lacey Brown

    The judges seem to expect future success from the 24-year-old Texas native. They panned her for her cover of "Lean On Me" the second week of the semis, but loved her the third week when she gave them Brandi Carlile's "The Story." Simon even said, "The 'wow' moment was the whole performance." (F Micelotta / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  76. Siobhan Magnus

    The 20-year-old glassblower has been considered one of the top female contestants of the season. She's got the confidence, and though she's lacking a sense of style, week after week, she impresses most of the judges with her voice. (F Micelotta / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  77. Michael Lynche

    The new dad has wowed judges and viewers since the beginning of the season. He's one of the few who seems comfortable on stage, and is the only one to have gotten a standing ovation from Randy Jackson and reduce Kara to tears with his singing. (F Micelotta / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  78. Casey James

    The 27-year-old full-time musician has certainly made an impression on Kara, but he has also offered solid performances week after week. (F Micelotta / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  79. Aaron Kelly

    The high-school senior is one of the guys who appears to have the confidence to be an "American Idol," though he's had his troubles. In the third week of the semifinals, he performed "I'm Already There," which, as Ellen DeGeneres noted, was a lot of song for such a young performer. (At 16, he's the season's youngest.) (F Micelotta / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  80. Tim Urban

    The 20-year-old Texan has had a rough time with his performances. But in the final semifinals round, he impressed the judges with Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah." Ellen even ran onto the stage to give him a big hug. (F Micelotta / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  81. Lee Dewyze

    The 23-year-old has been placing high on the judges' scorecards all season with his commercial-sounding voice. (F Micelotta / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  82. Andrew Garcia

    Garcia knocked the judges out of their seats with his cover of Paula Abdul's "Straight Up" in Hollywood, but unfortunately, that's all the judges can talk about. In the third week of the semifinals, he tried to make them move on from that performance with a cover of Christina Aguilera's "Genie in a Bottle." (F Micelotta / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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