Pop Culture

Surprise! Singer in 'Idol's' bottom 2 is a shocker

Jacob Lusk, the college dropout and spa concierge who had one of the biggest voices on "Idol" this season, had a problem on Wednesday. As mentor Jimmy Iovine saw it, Lusk looked and sounded nervous, and “when you lose confidence, everybody knows it.”

Most of the “Idol” audience agreed with that analysis. After the 60 million votes were tallied, Lusk became the latest singer sent home on Thursday, finishing in fifth place.

That wasn’t the most surprising news of the night. Lusk has been in danger before, and was the predictable choice to go. But the nervous girl standing beside him at the finish was 16-year-old Lauren Alaina instead of Haley Reinhart.

Alaina didn’t have her best night Wednesday. The judges, and especially Iovine, are starting to worry about why she isn’t letting it all hang out. Iovine noted that she pulled back from the power notes on “Unchained Melody” and said, “Her fear overcame her performance. It will keep her out of the final if it continues.”

However, she had never been among the lowest vote-getters before, and again reacted to the negativity by getting tense and teary. She was a favorite early and still could win this, but Thursday was a clear sign that if she can’t find it within her to try those power notes, she’ll fail to reach her potential on the show.

But she’ll get another chance to prove she can do it, thanks to Lusk’s exit.

Three get to relax
The biggest winners of the night?

Start with Scotty McCreery. Host Ryan Seacrest made official what seemed obvious by his careful choice of words last week: McCreery has never been in the bottom three. The country crooner’s position onstage along with Casey Abrams at the finish a week ago was because of “random order,” defined as “pair the lowest vote-getter with the guy the producers think will be the most shocking.” Perhaps as payback, he got the honor of finding out he was safe first, and then was told to stand with the two people he thought were also safe.

As an aside to the “Idol” producers, that gimmick actually hasn’t worked in years. McCreery may be a teenager, but he wasn’t born yesterday. He just said he wasn’t going to choose, and finally Ryan had to push him to join James Durbin and Reinhart.

Also a big winner: Reinhart. You would have gotten fantastic odds had you been able to bet money that she would be the last girl standing if you’d placed that wager when the finals began, but Alaina was in the bottom two this week and Reinhart wasn’t.

Plus, Reinhart got to hear Iovine say that she won the week, though that may not be the most unbiased view in the world. After all, Iovine did have to listen to J.Lo trash his advice for Reinhart to sing an unreleased Lady Gaga song. Iovine being extra nice to Reinhart had the added effect of telling J.Lo to go pound sand. If she did that well, then by extension, Iovine must have been right after all. So there, judges!

Finally, there’s Durbin. He also hasn’t been in danger yet this season and avoided even the whiff of trouble despite an off night on Wednesday. Based on the season-long results, he and McCreery have to be considered the favorites with just three weeks to go.

‘Heck’s Kitchen’
Gordon Ramsay contributed to “Idol” with a “Hell’s Kitchen” crossover, giving the final five a taste of what life would be like on his signature Fox show.

Well, it would have been a taste had Ramsay not taken the niceness pills that the “Idol” judges seem to consume before every broadcast. It was more like “Heck’s Kitchen” or “Moderately Unpleasant Kitchen.” Ramsay even scolded Reinhart for cursing, warning her, “Language please!” How much do I hope that one of the next “Hell’s Kitchen” contestants tosses out that line one of the million times Ramsay drops unprintable language this season?

At any rate, Alaina won the omelet competition as well as the blind food-tasting contest. In the latter, Lusk’s argument that a hot dog should qualify as a sausage and therefore his answer should be correct was summarily denied. As it turns out, it was that kind of week for Lusk all the way to the finish.

Craig Berman is a TODAY.com's "American Idol" correspondent. Follow him on Twitter   as he live tweets each episode.

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