“American Idol” Top 9 Sends Another Girl Home in Shocking Elimination

I expected tonight’s “American Idol” Top 9 results show to have a few surprises, and I guessed Stefano would be in the bottom 3. I really didn’t see tonight’s elimination coming, though I’m not shocked that yet another girl got sent packing. Tonight’s “AI” results show was a strange event, with an odd mix of guests and some censored moments leading up to the fateful ouster of a gal who I thought had an unshakable fanbase.

Tonight’s group number led off with “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” a rousing rock number made famous by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. All three girls got featured solo parts in the tune and hit it out of the park, and they blended well with each other. The tune melded into “The Letter” and then “Sweet Home Alabama.” Like last night, it was amusing to watch the wildly varying dance moves of the contestants, especially Paul bouncing back and forth off of the other players like he was in a pinball machine. The vocals were pretty solid, the choreography was only slightly cheesy, and they all did look like they were having a blast up on stage. Somehow it worked.

Next we got the obligatory Ford video, which was a little more entertaining this time. It was a mini espionage film that was very slick and chic, and the music didn’t sound like it was coming out of a can for once. After enduring the product placement, we got the treat of a visit from Russell Brand. Though of course he’s pimping his current films, at least his segment was more about the contestants, thrown in with some stand-up and his trademark playfully sexual humor. Brand gave the kids advice on how to have stage presence and be sexy, but mostly he was there to get them to relax a little and find the humor in the “American Idol” machine.

First to be called down to the stage by Ryan were Casey, Lauren and Stefano. All three looked very nervous. For the first time this season, I think every contestant felt like they might be in danger. Ryan did his usual wordplay with Lauren, but then sent her over to the couches. She quickly stomped off to the side, shouting “OMG, he scared the crap outta me!” Once again, please sing Lauren, but take advice from Gwen Stefani and “Don’t Speak.”

Speaking of Gwen, we learned from the behind the scenes segment that the contestants actually were responsible for their own outfits. For the most part, what Gwen had picked out for them was more flattering than what they chose themselves–though I understand Lauren not wanting the all-black vixen-y number. They really should just let this girl wear frilly dresses and cowboy boots like she wants to. She’d probably be a lot more comfortable on stage.

We learned that Stefano was in the bottom 3, and none of us–including Stefano–was surprised. Then we got a performance from Season 4 contestant Constantine Maroulis, singing “Unchained Melody.” I feel the same way about this guy now that I did then–he has a good voice, but he doesn’t feel authentic to me. I picture him in a coffee house with a guitar, doing beat poetry and making granola girls swoon. I just can’t buy him as a rocker.

Next up for judgment were Paul, Pia and Scotty. Scotty was probably the most confident out of the Top 9 on results night, and he was, of course, safe. Both Paul and Pia looked worried, but we were expecting Paul to hit the bottom three as he had the previous week. In a shocking moment, however, Pia landed on the stools of doom. There were several vehement boos from the audience in response.

We then got video of the “American Idol” Top 9 heading over to TMZ to get advice on their PR. Stefano got told to spice up his Twitter, since it was boring, and they told Scotty to ease up on the crazy facial expressions. James was told to scale back on his reactions, like his joyful howl at Hulk Hogan’s appearance. James wasn’t one to take criticism lying down, and he actually shot the employee down with hoots of approval from the other staff. Overall the contestants took it well, and managed to give as good as they got. Seems like they may be ready for primetime after all.

The final three were James, Haley and Jacob. All three looked very concerned, and Haley had her usual, “Yeah, it’s probably me” expression on. James was sent to the couches first, where he was greeted by the outstretched arms of his fellow safe contestants. When it was announced that Jacob was in the bottom three, Jennifer Lopez looked stunned. Randy looked at J-Lo’s face, and then approximated his own expression of exaggerated horror. Way to have an opinion there, Dawg.

The shock didn’t end there. The home audience wondered what would happen next when Ryan somewhat sheepishly introduced the musical guest–Iggy Pop. Yes, the 64-year-old rocker was shirtless, doing his usual crazy strut around the stage as he performed “Real Wild Child.” Haley seemed the most enthused when Pop hopped over to the Top 9 side of the stage and busted a move with her and Jacob.

There were a few times when Pop himself looked a little uncertain about the crowd he was performing to, but he barreled on. The sound dropped out once or twice, and at one point they cut to what seemed like previous footage of the audience–so it seems perhaps Pop was not PG-13. He finished up his act by taunting the judges a little with his bare-chested self, and daring J-Lo to a staring contest. Diva ain’t scared a’ nobody, I tell you.

Ryan seemed to be hiding on the side of the stage as Pop completed his performance, and we were promised the results after the commercial break. When we came back, we were at center stage once again. Ryan brought up Jacob’s line about being sent home because people at home “didn’t want to look in the mirror,” and then told Jacob he “would be leaving us….for the safety of the couches.” Jacob went through 20 emotions at once, and then it was down to Pia and Stefano.

At this point, we’re all thinking, of course it’s going to be Stefano. Even Stefano is thinking it. So when Ryan announced it was actually Pia going home, there was probably a full minute where time stood still. No one seemed to believe what they had heard, and there was some confusion, and then Stefano was stumbling back to the safe couches with a milder version of the Tim-Urban-expression-of-shock we knew so well from last season. For the rest of the episode, we got several shots of James Durbin with his arm around a stricken Stefano, who seemed to need consoling for being saved.

The judges were all stunned, particularly Jennifer, who looked to be shedding genuine tears this time as she expressed her shock and anger. Ryan asked Pia if she would sing a final song, and Pia chose “I’ll Stand by You,” giving one of her most emotional performances. The other contestants slowly crept forward as she neared the end, and eventually they all gathered together in a huddle of tears.

While I honestly think that Pia had some flaws in connecting with her songs, and in straining too much for perfection, she certainly did not deserve to go home this early. I would have accepted a bottom 3 spot to shake her up a little, but this was a totally unexpected result. Most of the guys had weaker performances last night, or had weak performances in previous weeks. It’s ridiculous that we are now down to six guys and only two girls in the Top 8.

Several posts on Twitter no doubt echoed the sentiments of many “American Idol” viewers and Pia fans–this is what happens when you use the save too early–and on a guy, no less. Jennifer has said several times lately that she didn’t regret their decision to save Casey at all, but I wonder if she’s rethinking that decision now. Yes, Casey does have talent. But it’s the third season in a row when girls are going home in staggering numbers, and the third season in a row that they used the save on a male contestant.

All I can say, “American Idol” voters is, dial and text and click for Haley and Lauren next week. Dial like crazy. Otherwise we’re going to end up with an all-male Top 6.

What do you think? Did the right person go home? Were you shocked that it was another girl, or just shocked that it was Pia?

Watch “American Idol” on Fox, every Wednesday and Thursday night at 8/7c. Check your local listings to verify times.

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