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Where do ‘Idol’ contestants live?

Did "American Idol" contestants give up their mansion? How many votes did Tom receive on "Survivor"? Will there be a "Contender 2"?
/ Source: msnbc.com

The reality-show finales were coming fast and furious for a while, and now they're almost done. This week features the long-awaited "American Idol" finale, in which Bo Bice and Carrie Underwood will face off at last. So it's fitting that the first question we tackle this week is about "American Idol."

Q: Last year at “American Idol,” during the Top 12, we caught a glimpse occasionally every week that the singers were at a big and fancy house.  But now, I can see that [the] “American Idol” [finalists are] living in some apartments.  How come?    —J.F.

A: The mansion that “Idol” finalists used to inhabit is no longer their home. But they weren’t evicted and forced to live backstage; instead, they’ve just moved into more private quarters.

Executive producer Nigel Lythgoe says in the “American Idol” season four official fan book that “the Top 12 finalists live in an apartment complex that’s located not too far from the American Idol studios. Each finalist has at least one roommate or shares an apartment.”

Why the change? Lythgoe says that they get “more privacy and space” and producers “want the finalists to be comfortable during what little private time they have.”

At the apartments, they have curfews: 10 p.m. on evenings before live shows, and 11 p.m. all other days. Even 29-year-old Bo Bice has to abide by the curfew. But don’t feel bad for them: someone does their laundry, others clean their rooms every week, and a chef prepares meals for them sometimes.    —A.D.

Q: Can you please tell me? I want to know who voted for who on "Survivor."    —Lorna

A:  A CBS spokeswoman told us that the final vote was 6-1 for Tom, with only Coby voting for Katie (or, as he wrote, "Kat"). That means Tom got the votes of Gregg, Jenn, Janu, Stephenie, Caryn and Ian, even though it was Ian's request that put Katie into the final two with Tom in the first place.

Many viewers asked this same question, because during the finale, host Jeff Probst only read 5 of the 7 jury votes, since that's all that was needed to give the win to the NYC firefighter. Longtime "Survivor" viewers know that if Katie had received any more votes, it's almost inevitable that Probst would have read those too, sandwiching them in with Tom's votes to make the competition seem closer.

We've heard from some viewers that all of the jury members were shown reading their votes during the reunion show, as is usually seen at the end of regular "Survivor" episodes. That may be the case, but either we just plain missed it, or our local stations chose to cut that part of the reunion show off, as neither of us saw it. Some confusion may stem from the fact that, at press time, CBS still hadn't updated the part of the "Survivor Palau" Web site showing how the votes fell out.   —G.F.C.

Q: Is there going to be another season of "The Contender"?    —Tracy

A: Probably not. "The Contender," which concludes Tuesday night with a two-hour live finale from Las Vegas, hasn't been a ratings hit for NBC, and isn't on the fall and mid-season schedules that the network just released. That doesn't mean it definitely won't return, but chances are slim.

Recently, host and executive producer Sylvester Stallone told Variety, "I don't think The Contender's gonna be back. We had a very bizarre time slot." That time slot has the show facing off against ABC's powerhouse tear-fest reality series "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," and has been getting less than half of the viewers who tune in to watch Ty Pennington shout into a megaphone.

Mark Burnett has said that "The Contender" is his favorite series he's produced so far — and his body of work includes the "Eco-Challenge," "Survivor," and "The Apprentice" — but not a whole lot of people are watching, even though it offers both physical and emotional punches in every episode.    —A.D.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is MSNBC.com's Television Editor. is a writer and teacher who publishes , a daily summary of reality TV news.