“Welcome to the show that none of us were expecting.”
That’s how host Ryan Seacrest opened Wednesday’s ‘American Idol,’ although he probably could have altered that a bit to read “the show none of us wanted.” Perhaps inspired by its frequent use on CBS last weekend during the NCAA Tournament, Fox proved on Wednesday that it has discovered the phenomenon of instant replay.
After a rendered Tuesday’s show effectively useless, the network decided to turn Wednesday night into a first-run/re-run. Most of the episode was taken up by the rebroadcast of Tuesday night's songs, so the viewers who really liked Carrie Underwood’s channeling of Heart got to see it again. The judges’ comments were new, however, and the benefit of hindsight helped some contestants and hurt others.
Most of the contestants probably didn’t see their status changed, but conspiracy theorists take note: Nadia Turner mentioned that she wore her hair in a Mohawk as a tribute to the departed Mario Vazquez, and seconds later got a blistering dose of criticism from Simon. Turner was the big loser of the night, followed closely by the almost certainly soon-to-be-departed Mikalah Gordon. Scott Savol and Anthony Fedorov also had reason to regret the voter snafu, although it likely won’t affect Fedorov’s chances any.
Meanwhile, Nikko Smith and Vonzell Solomon each enjoyed a virtual lovefest from the judges, and went from being in slight danger to unlikely selections for the bottom three. The same goes for Jessica Sierra, a bottom three-finisher last week, who was praised by the judges Tuesday and got the same treatment the following night.
In general, it was a waste of an hour for viewers who actually saw Tuesday’s show, but there was one scoop. Bo Bice told viewers that there’s “no chance” he’ll be cutting his hair during the competition, since he’s had only two good haircuts in his life. If nothing else, he just won himself a contract to endorse hair-care products.
To read only the comments given on the Wednesday night show, read the sections marked "Upon further review" in the report cards given below. The other comments are from Tuesday night's show.
Anthony Fedorov, 19, Trevose, Pa.: One thing about Fedorov is that he doesn't lack confidence. He began the night by singing both parts of a duet, "I Knew You Were Waiting for Me" by Aretha Franklin and George Michael. Simon again had a problem with Fedorov trying to be a sex symbol, likening it to Randy Jackson taking his shirt off for a potential "Baywatch" episode, but nonetheless it was a nice performance from the teenager.Grade: B+The judges: "Anthony is back tonight!" – Randy Jackson.Stay or go: Fedorov sang very well, and doesn't have to worry unless all his fans tuned in at 8:05 and didn't catch the right phone number. But it has to be worrisome that Simon doesn't seem to be a big fan.Upon Further Review: It’s unfortunate for Anthony that Ryan asked Simon about his comments, rather than asking Paula and Randy, the two judges who were impressed by Tuesday’s performance. The king of crankiness called it “very karaoke, very ordinary,” but he’ll still easily make it past this week.
Carrie Underwood, 21, Checotah, Okla.: Underwood looked like she was late for her senior prom, with her hair poofed up for her performance of "Alone" by Heart. But the performance was fantastic, and if she had lost some of her luster over the previous few weeks, she gained it back on Tuesday.Grade: AThe judges: "It was your best performance yet. You were unbelievable tonight." – Randy Jackson.Stay or go: Um, duh. Underwood's a safe bet to stay until at least mid-April unless she totally falls off the planet in the meantime. She's certainly a lock to make it another week.Upon Further Review: This time, Ryan asked Paula to discuss Simon’s anointing of Underwood as the Idol of all Idols. Paula snipped that it was way too early to be making that statement, a natural reaction from the judge who loves everybody equally. But it didn’t change the fact that Underwood’s performance was the best of the night, and rebroadcasting it couldn’t have harmed her long-term chances.
Scott Savol, 28, Shaker Heights, Ohio: Savol picked "Against All Odds" by Phil Collins. Helped by a strategic removal of his glasses before the line "take a good look at me now," it was another strong performance from a contestant who needs one every week. But Simon was less of a fan, which really seemed to aggravate Savol. He rolled his eyes when Simon expressed his ambivalence, and it might not be such a great idea for Savol to antagonize someone with Cowell's potential to eviscerate a performer onstage.Grade: BThe judges: "I feel like you're getting better every week. I think you're in it to win it as well." – Paula Abdul.Stay or go: Abdul's praise aside, Savol's a long way from being at Underwood's level of security. He'll probably make it through the week, however.Upon Further Review: All the attention in the rebroadcast was focused on Simon, the judge who consistently likes Savol the least. That can’t be good for his chances, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him in the bottom three this week.
Bo Bice, 29, Helena, Ala.: Bice said he picked "Time in a Bottle" because Jim Croce is one of his heroes, but another motivation was probably to show his softer side. Beginning the performance sitting casually in front of the video screen, it was the classic ballad that wins fans and influences people. The judges and the audience loved it, and Bice is still among the favorites to win this completion.Grade: AThe judges: "Every time I see you perform, it's like I'm seeing someone who's already made it." – Simon Cowell Stay or go: Bice is perfectly safe.Upon Further Review: Ryan told Randy Jackson that he’d seemed the least impressed with Bice the previous night, but if that were the case, a good night’s sleep had totally changed his tune. Randy was effusive with his praise for Bice showing his “sensitive side.”
Nikko Smith, 22, Town & Country, Mo.: Smith turned Sisqo's "Incomplete" into a full-scale show, showing up in a long coat and hat and styling throughout the performance. Paula Abdul, who's clearly Smith's biggest fan, was moved enough to lock lips with Simon after Cowell praised the performance. Smith just has to hope that Abdul's ardor translates into votes.Grade: B-The judges: "Give or take a few pitch problems, it was by far your best performance." – Simon Cowell.Stay or go: Even with his best performance, Smith has to consider himself in trouble because he's already been voted off the show once. He'll probably make it to next week, but it wouldn't be shocking if he were in the bottom three.Upon Further Review: Smith was one of the big winners on Wednesday, getting his ego stoked by Paula (“You even sound better hearing it again!”) and Randy (“That was the best performance of last night.”) He went from being on the bubble to an obvious keeper.
Vonzell Solomon, 21, Fort Myers, Fla.: Solomon, in her first week singing as a 21-year-old (her birthday was Friday) went with "Best of My Love" by The Emotion. One thing's for sure – it was the best of Solomon's world. She came through with a nice performance on a night she sorely needed it.Grade: BThe judges: "Your personality came out, but more importantly your vocals came out." – Paula Abdul.Stay or go: Solomon is probably safe, but she's another performer who may wind up in the bottom three simply because everyone else was strong as well.Upon Further Review: Solomon was another big winner in the rebroadcast, with all three judges plus Ryan Seacrest agreeing that she was great on Tuesday and is getting better every week. Simon praised her for having fun, saying that “This isn’t life and death, this competition. You should have fun.” Perhaps Simon should remember that kum-bah-yah attitude the next time he wants to eviscerate someone.
Constantine Maroulis, 29, New York: A 29-year-old from a hard-rock band taking on the Partridge Family's "I Think I Love You"? It was an odd choice for the rocker, and the other members of Pray for the Soul of Betty were probably throwing up in the bathroom afterwards, but Maroulis made it work. He has all the mannerisms of a rock star, and that's enough for now.Grade: B-The judges: "You pulled it off, in a little over-the-top kind of way." — Randy JacksonStay or go: Maroulis is still a distant second to Bice on the rock-star-o-meter, but it would be a surprise if he were voted off so soon.Upon Further Review: The judges softened their already tepid criticisms of Maroulis — Simon just said he found the notion of a hard rocker singing the Partridge Family song comparable to “someone from Metalica singing Donny Osmond’s greatest hits.” But Paula responded by giving Maroulis way more credit than he deserved, saying Maroulis was attempting to allude to David Cassidy's status as a pop idol in the 1970s. Because he’s not an idiot, Maroulis ran with that explanation.
Nadia Turner, 28, Miami, Fla.: Nadia sang "Time after Time" by Cyndi Lauper in a getup that paid tribute to the ’80s. After saying that she wasn't crazy about the theme because she considers herself more of an artsy-fartsy person, Turner came out with her hair styled in a Mohawk. That probably distracted from her performance, which was fine, but not the show-stopping number she's come up with in previous weeks.Grade: B+The judges: "You definitely are a star on that stage, all the time." — Randy Jackson.Stay or go: Turner's another one who's a lock to stay on the show until late April. She's even money to become Simon's next anointed choice to win it all.Upon Further Review: Turner was the big loser of the night. Though she said she wouldn’t have done her hair any different, she got slammed by Simon for a performance he called “even worse the second time around.” Simon said that if Turner gave many more performances like that one, she’d be out of the competition really soon — quite a change from a judge who’s praised Turner in the past.
Mikalah Gordon, 17, Las Vegas: If the judges have had one consistent criticism of Gordon, it's that she acts a lot older than her age. She didn't take that into account for this week, singing Taylor Dayne's "Love Will Lead You Back." It was very average on a night when everyone else was better, and leaves her in grave danger of being cut.Grade: CThe judges: "It was a complete and utter mess." – Simon Cowell Stay or go: Her song started with the lyrics "Saying goodbye is never an easy thing." She may have to sing those words for real on Wednesday.Upon Further Review: Gordon was the overwhelming favorite to be voted off after Tuesday night, and the only benefit she really got out of Wednesday’s show was the chance to throw herself on the mercy of the court. She came out in a T-shirt with “My job is to annoy you” on it — oh, the joke almost writes itself — and once again seemed much more confident on the stage when she wasn’t actually singing. She also had the most honest comment of the night: “If I were perfect and didn’t make mistakes, I wouldn’t be on this show.” Still, Gordon's probably made too many mistakes to last another week.
Anwar Robinson, 25, East Orange, N.J.: Robinson chose to sing "Ain't Nobody" by the legendary Chaka Khan. It was a strange choice, but Robinson handled it nicely. Solid but unspectacular, it was good enough that he'll likely continue to sail through these early elimination heats.Grade: B-The judges: "I'm really proud of you for taking on a female sensation like Chaka Khan and really rising to the challenge." – Paula Abdul Stay or go: It wasn't the best Robinson performance of the season, but it was good enough. He'll advance.Upon Further Review: Again, the judges didn’t exactly shower Robinson with praise. Randy pointed out that “When you sing ['Ain’t Nobody'], you compare your vocals to Chaka Khan’s — and you don’t want that comparison, believe me.” But Robinson handled himself well, and he shouldn’t be in any danger this week.
Jessica Sierra, 19, Tampa, Fla.: Sierra closed the evening with "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler in a performance nearly good enough to convince Simon to take back his Carrie Underwood pick. The song's arrangement was odd and did Sierra no favors, but the judges loved it.Grade: AThe judges: "You and Carrie outsang everyone else in the competition tonight." – Simon Cowell.Stay or go: After being in the bottom three last week, Sierra needed to come up big this time around. She did. She'll avoid all suspense this time around and be an easy pick to make it to next week.Upon Further Review: Sierra was the contestant with the most to lose; though she was uniformly praised Tuesday night, she spent the previous week in the bottom three and couldn’t afford to lose any momentum. She didn’t. Paula and Simon each reiterated that Sierra had sang well, with Simon again calling her voice one of the strongest in the competition.
Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C.