April 18, 2013 at 10:30 PM ET
For the first time since the finals began, “American Idol” sent one of its women packing, though for a minute it seemed like the judges weren’t prepared to let any of the final five go.
Janelle Arthur was the lowest vote-getter, which wasn’t a shock onceAmber Holcombwas deemed safe. As the country singer performed her final song, the judges huddled together and talked things over.
They have one save that would allow them to keep a singer they feel has been unjustly eliminated, and they have to use it at some point or the show’s going to end a week early and a lot of product placement people are going to be mad. (In past seasons, the judges have had to use the save by the time they get to the top 5.)
Moreover, the panel really has to use it soon, unless FOX plans on stretching the finale -- scheduled for May 15 and 16 -- over two weeks. Given the show’s propensity for dragging things out, this isn’t out of the question. And as Randy Jackson did say at the start of the show, “This is the best top five we’ve ever had!” which is the biggest compliment he’s offered since he said the same thing about the talent a year ago, two years ago, three years ago and so on.
But though the judges made the to-save-or-not-to-save decision dramatic, Randy announced that only two of the four wanted to keep Janelle (with Keith Urban being one, (judging from his Twitter feed). The decision had to be unanimous, so Janelle finishes her "Idol" journey in fifth place.
It was hard to argue the result, since Janelle’s been the fourth or fifth best among the women all season. Saving her would probably have just bought her that extra week, two at the most. And she did get to hear Ryan Seacrest read a note from Dolly Parton praising her, even if it came in the form of the worst impression of the superstar ever. (Don't quit your numerous day jobs, Ryan.)
Candice Glover had better luck, as original judge Paula Abdul showed up in person to offer kudos for Wednesday’s “Straight Up” cover. This came after Randy claimed that he’d tried to text, call and tweet the woman who used to sit next to him with no response. What does it say about Paula’s reputation that this was a completely plausible thing to say, and that it looked like it genuinely fooled Candice?
Also looking surprised was Amber. She became the third singer declared safe, after Candice and Angie Miller, and seemed stunned she wasn’t in the bottom two again. All that love from the judges following her second solo on Wednesday clearly paid off. If only she could close the show every week.
Kree Harrisonwas the second-lowest vote-getter, and as perennial killjoy/realist Jimmy Iovine noted, she didn't have her best series of performances this week. She’ll have to start cutting loose like she did earlier in the season instead of playing it safe with the vocals, but she would almost certainly have gotten that save if needed.
Maybe we’ll find out for sure next week, assuming the save is still on the table.