Happy birthday, Anthony Fedorov. You get one more week on “American Idol.”
But the real present went out to the legions of the show’s fans who have spent the past few weeks trying to figure out how Scott Savol stuck around while their favorites were biting the dust.
The much-maligned Savol shocked many by even making it to the final 12, then outlasted contenders Nadia Turner, Anwar Robinson and Constantine Maroulis, which not even his friends and family would have predicted back in February. Even the revelation of his 2001 arrest on domestic violence charges didn't slow his momentum, though it definitely turned off some viewers.
Simon even said he had escaped more often than Houdini, but on Wednesday night Savol finally ran out of chances, becoming the eighth finalist voted off the show. Though Fedorov is no longer the only teenager left in the competition – he turned 20 Wednesday night –he got another week’s reprieve instead of a birthday ticket home.
In making that choice, the American public did the “Idol” producers a favor.
On a week where most of the attention was on the promised ABC feature that was going to reveal an alleged affair between Abdul and season two contestant Corey Clark, Savol somehow elbowed his way into the spotlight courtesy of a web site that asked people to vote for him specifically because he was the worst remaining contestant.
It didn’t seem to bother him; Savol boldly predicted during Tuesday’s show that he’d be spending the following night thinking of what songs to sing the following week instead of mourning his own ouster. But coupled with the Abdul media circus, it did impugn upon the show’s credibility – if people could propel a lesser candidate to victory just for kicks, it wouldn’t say much for the show’s ability to find America’s next pop idol.
In the end, all Savol’s extended stay proves is that every year, one person seems to last a lot longer than many expect. It can’t be too encouraging that previous how-did-they-last-so-long? contenders of previous seasons, Nikki McKibbin and Jasmine Trias, aren’t exactly tearing it up on the pop circuit, though Josh Gracin is doing very well for himself on the country circuit.
Fedorov has never had Savol’s kind of bravado. More than anyone else, he has always seemed well-aware of the danger he faces each week. That was apparent again this time around, as he was the first of the five remaining finalists to get his orders.
Ryan Seacrest, bizarrely-dressed in a cream suit, white shirt and baby blue tie (maybe it was laundry day and he ran out of t-shirts), told Fedorov to go have a seat on the couch — pointedly not adding the customary “you’re safe.” Vonzell Solomon was told to stay standing on stage, and the least-savvy audience in reality television history booed.
Seacrest asked Savol to join Fedorov in the seats. Savol pointed at the sky and exulted, but calmed down quickly when Fedorov gave him a patented “what are you, an idiot?” look.
Savol may have had delusions of grandeur, but Fedorov has known for weeks that Ryan inevitably plays the role of the elementary school bully who forces him to leave the popular table and go sit with the outcasts in the corner every Wednesday.
And he was right. Ryan left the three most-popular singers — Carrie Underwood, Bo Bice, and Vonzell Solomon — standing on the stage, and had the bottom two sit down instead.
Of course, despite the lack of any noticeable popular support, Savol had managed to avoid the bottom three last week despite Simon’s telling him to pack his bags. He had to be more confident after a week that featured what Simon called probably his best performance (which caused Ryan to ask Simon on Wednesday, “are you awake during the show?”).
However, Simon was once again less than perfect in predicting Savol’s future. Maybe he figured than if put-downs caused Savol to get enough sympathy votes to stick around, perhaps he could kill him with kindness instead.
Literally, no finalist has come a longer way than Fedorov, who as everyone knows by now was born in Ukraine before emigrating to the United States as a child. But figuratively speaking, Savol traveled a lot farther than anyone.
That was apparent at the end of the show, during the customary video montage honoring the departing contestant. Savol said on Tuesday’s show that his favorite part of being an Idol contestant was the fashion consultants who helped him with his wardrobe, a comment that lends itself to a hundred and one possible punchlines since Savol is still much closer to “What Not to Wear” than “America’s Next Top Model.”
However, compared to how he looked at the Cleveland auditions Savol has grown by leaps and bounds. He still looked out of his league when compared to some of the more polished performers, and he can’t expect to have record producers beating a path to his door. But the surly Ohio native who told the judges at their first meeting that his father said he’d never amount to anything proved his dad wrong by making it far enough to keep his dreams of a musical career alive.
When Ryan asked Paula to comment on Savol’s performance, she said simply “However [the voters] take it is how they take it. Scott knows who he is.”
During the montage, Savol closed with “I just want to be remembered as the guy who everybody loved.” Clearly, he came far short of the mark on that one – he was the guy everyone couldn’t wait to see leave the party. But as he sang “On Broadway” as his swan song, at least it was possible to imagine that Savol could make it at least in community theater, which is a long way from his future before the show.
Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C.