Another “American Idol” Shocker

The “American Idol” results show kicked off with a montage starting with video clips of the Top 9 in the audition stage, as well as highlights from last night.

Host Ryan Seacrest promised a “very shocking results night” on Idol. How shocking would the results prove?

The Top 9 started the show with a rock medley, starting with Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll,” where Pia Toscana outshone the other girls. Why didn’t she sing something like this the previous night? The medley led into “The Letter,” then ” Sweet Home Alabama ,” mashed together with “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll,” with the guys singing the ” Sweet Home Alabama ” part and the girls singing “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll.”

For this week’s Ford video, the Top 9 did a mini action movie, with Pia and Paul McDonald breaking into a secure building and stealing a mysterious silver suitcase from a safe. Outside, some of the other stole it from them, but when they opened it, they discovered it was a decoy, and Pia and Paul still had the original.

In another video package, Russell Brand stopped by to talk to the contestants about their stage performance and hair. They asked him for his “best rock move,” which is funny, because he’s only played a parody of a rock musician. If the purpose was to get them to loosen up and relax, as it seemed to be, he did his job. “Loosen up, take your clothes off, you’re fired,” he told them as he walked off.

And right to the results. Casey Abrams, Stefano Langone and Lauren Alaina joined Ryan at center stage. Ryan said, “Sorry to tell you that one of you is in our bottom three. After the nationwide vote, Lauren, it’s not you.” She went to safety on the couch. Ryan reminded Casey and Stefano they’d been in this same position two weeks ago. After the votes tonight, “Casey goes back — to the safety of the couches.” Stefano was in the bottom three.

After the break, season four finalist Constantine Maroulis performed “Unchained Melody,” over a world beat accompaniment. With his long hair and his patented smoldering glances at the camera, he tried to recapture the old magic. He’s grown a lot in terms of performance, but it seemed like, at least in the early part of the song, his mike wasn’t mixed high enough compared to the band.

Ryan talked to him briefly, revealing that Constantine will be going on tour and is the father of a baby girl, whose picture was shown on the screen. Adorable!

This week, the female idols were styled by Gwen Stefani, and the next video package showed her working with them. Some of the items came from her own personal wardrobe, and you could imagine how she would look in them. They showed the process, with the idols trying on different outfits.

Then it was time for more results. Paul McDonald, Scotty McCreery and Pia Toscana were called to center stage. After reviewing the performances, Ryan sent Scotty to safety on the couch. He announced one of the two remaining contestants would be in the bottom three. “Just like last week, I’m going to send you to safety,” Ryan told Paul. The crowd booed about Pia being sent to the bottom three, and somebody swore (it was bleeped out).

For media training, the Top 9 met with the folks from “TMZ,” the show known for following celebrities. The TMZ staff gave them tips based on things that have happened in the show so far. One of the guys told Stefano that his Twitter is boring, and he encouraged him to start a Twitter war. They told Scotty he’s been making a lot of funny faces. They recommended that Pia hire a lawyer because people are already putting her face and name all over everything. Harvey asked them if Ryan wears platform shoes, and Casey jokingly answered yes.

Afterward, Ryan said, ” Harvey , we’re the same height, but I’m a quarter your age.”

Then he called James Durbin, Haley Reinhart, and Jacob Lusk to center stage. Ryan told them, “After the nationwide vote, James, you are safe.” He was sent to the couch. “After the vote, I can tell you that Haley, you are safe.” At this news, Jacob nodded briefly. A shot of Randy showed him looking stunned. Ryan reminded the booing audience that they’ve got to vote for their favorites every week.

Performing next, it was Iggy Pop! He sang “Wild Child,” and he did get a little wild, as evidenced by the fact that the camera cut away to a shot of a balcony, with no sound, at one point, and he was bleeped at least one other time. I wonder what it was like for him to sing “Wild Child” on the “Idol” stage? A little bizarre, maybe? Shirtless and running around the stage, he looked like he hadn’t changed a bit in 20 years.

Ryan remarked, “I’ve got to cut out carbs after seeing that.”

After the break, the bottom three held hands and waited for their news. Ryan told Jacob, “I can tell you now, Jacob, that you will be leaving us…” Jacob nodded, “and going to safety on the couches.” Whoa. Now, the final result: “The person who leaves us tonight after the nationwide vote is Pia.” Cut to Randy looking amazed and upset. The audience booed.

The judges were stunned. In tears, Jennifer Lopez said, “I have no idea what just happened here.” Randy and Steven were equally shocked, both saying that Pia did not deserve to leave the competition. But having used their only save on Casey, they could do nothing about it.

Ryan invited Pia to sing one more time, asking Randy what she should sing. He left it up to her. She chose “I Stand By You.” The band, clearly not prepared for this, began with a clashing chord. There was a lot of dissonance in the performance, and it was hard to tell whose fault it was. As soon as she was done, the other contestants and the judges joined her onstage. Pia collapsed into Jacob’s arms, sobbing loudly as he consoled her.

So why did Pia get cut? Many viewers are enraged, wondering why someone with such vocal strength was eliminated this early in the season. I can explain it in two words: song choice.

From the beginning, Pia has opted for ballads, which she would croon while solidly rooted in place. While critics raved over her solid vocals, they often complained that they were bored.

For weeks, the judges have been trying to get her to do something else, to challenge herself. This week, she tried, but on a rock night, she chose a song that almost seemed more of an upbeat pop song. What’s more, her performance of it was flawed: her command of the stage was weak as she moved stiffly around, and more importantly, she faltered on her notes.

Perhaps if the judges had been harsher, they would have scared some viewers into voting to save her. But they raved about her performance and told her to watch some of the greats to learn more about how to perform onstage. Overall, her performance wasn’t so bad that her fans feared for her safety; nor was it so good that they rushed to vote for her. And on a night filled with strong performances, that proved her undoing.