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First contestant stripped from pack on ‘Idol’

David Hernandez becomes the first of the final 12 to exit the show, but Kristy Lee Cook and Syesha Mercado shouldn't get too comfortable, they joined him in the bottom three.
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

The “American Idol” judges had nothing but nice things to say about the audience this week. Not only did Simon Cowell acknowledge that American singers were better than the Brits, a response to a viewer question that may well cost him any chance at knighthood, the judges also thought the voters got the bottom three right when they placed Syesha Mercado, Kristy Lee Cook and David Hernandez in danger.

Hernandez ultimately got the boot, to the disappointment of very few aside from perhaps the patrons at the establishment where he used to work. Cook, who joined Hernandez in the bottom two, was so unsurprised that she asked host Ryan Seacrest where her microphone was before he even could tell her she needed it. Each of the bottom three got the chance to sing again, so she wanted a head start to get ready for her close-up.

Hernandez and Cook gave two of the three worst performances Tuesday night, while Mercado was a middle-of-the-pack singer who had the misfortune of being first and forgettable in a two-hour show. But the person who sang the worst was not in the bottom three, which is a good sign for both David Archuleta and the show itself.

Favorites all safeArchuleta has been anointed the early favorite to win the title this season, and while the coronation may be premature it’s a status that he earned throughout the first two months of the season. He has looked the best of any teenage male in “Idol’s” seven-year history.

However, he was awful on Tuesday. “We Can Work It Out” didn’t work at all for him; he forgot the lyrics early and never recovered. Anyone making their decisions based on that episode alone would have no reason to pick up the phone and vote for him.

That’s the nightmare scenario for the “Idol” producers at this stage of the game. The shows now are so long that it’s relatively easy for someone to slip through the cracks and be forgotten.

To a lesser extent, that’s what happened with Mercado, a talented singer who hasn’t connected with the audience yet. Part of her problem was that she was off the stage 10 minutes into a two-hour show.

Apart from Mercado and Ramiele Malubay, the early singers all did a nice job of making themselves memorable. All of the favorites were quickly sent to safety, and the executives in charge of the show breathed easier.

Either could have goneFox treated the viewers to an hour-plus long results show, the better to work in all of the promos for “Horton Hears a Who!” The animated characters appeared in the show’s introductory sketch and the “Idol” finalists got lots of screentime while attending the film’s premiere.

Moreover, star Jim Carrey was in the “Idol” audience dressed as an elephant. “When you do a movie with Fox, there’s a contractual responsibility,” he said, likely adding under his breath, “which is why I need a new agent.”

When it came down to the five minutes that actually matter at the end of the show, Mercado was the first to be sent to safety. That left Cook and Hernandez on the block.

Ryan kindly did not ask the judges who they thought should go, because the probable answer was “both.” Cook is the more unique talent, but has been utterly mediocre throughout the competition. Hernandez was much better in the three-round semifinals, but has a more ordinary voice and not much of a ceiling.

Cook got a week’s reprieve, but she shouldn’t get too comfortable. Ryan announced that the show went so well yesterday, the theme for next week won’t change, which means once again she’ll have to try and turn a Lennon-McCartney song into a country tune. She’ll need all the luck she can get.