— In what was the best results show in recent memory, “American Idol” had a little bit of everything Thursday night. It went from a Motown legend to a country-music duet to a wrestling icon to a surprising and dramatic finish.
There were also plenty of winners and losers along the way. Here’s a brief scorecard that tells the tale:
Casey Abrams: He came within seconds of not only being kicked off the show, but also denied his place on the “American Idol” summer tour. Singing first on the two-hour performance show Wednesday and styling his beard toward almost a gentleman level did not pay off, as he received the lowest number of votes.
That forced him to sing for his life, but the judges didn’t even let him get through the first verse before deciding to use their save. So he dodged a huge bullet and will live to entertain another day.
Pro wrestling: The obligatory “scenes from the ‘Idol’ mansion” montage talked about the love James Durbin has for the sport/entertainment/whatever-you-want-to-call-it. Paul McDonald’s also a huge fan, so host Ryan Seacrest called the pair on stage together for the results and told them they were in trouble ... and then Hulk Hogan emerged onto the stage. After declaring them both safe — and who would argue with him? He still has the guns — the wrestler then knocked Ryan into the crowd.
Well, he pretended to, but Ryan did most of the crowd pratfall on his own. But don’t say that too loudly, since I’m not sure Durbin knows that wrestling isn’t real. “They say it’s fake. OK. Whatever,” he said in the montage. Dude, it’s pretty much a matter of public record at this point. But congrats on getting Hogan’s torn shirt to keep, and if you don’t plan to wash it, James, please be courteous enough to keep it somewhere not downwind from the rest of the house.
Haley Reinhart and Naima Adedapo: Reinhart got a surprising reprieve from the bottom three, but had to be sweating her place on the summer tour when Casey’s good fortune was announced. No worries. Ryan revealed that because of the save, the tour would have 11 singers rather than 10, which means she’ll get that big paycheck regardless of the results of next week’s double elimination. As for Adedapo, who’s advanced with a wild-card save and survived a trip to the bottom three already, making it this far is a huge deal for her. When she hugged Jacob Lusk after hearing the news, she said this would buy her a house.
Steven Tyler: The rock legend probably thought he had seen it all in his hundred years of touring, but he was mistaken. Having Stevie Wonder call you up onstage to sing you a birthday song is pretty darned awesome, and Tyler seemed to be genuinely surprised and touched by the gesture.
Sugarland: The country duet of Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush would not seem at first glance to be “Idol’s” type of guest act. But they engaged the audience and the cameras very well, and here’s guessing the number of song downloads over the coming days will reflect that success.
Season three alumni: Jennifer Hudson returned to the “Idol” stage to sing her new release, likely in front of a lot of the same viewers who left her with a seventh place finish during her season. Apparently she’s gone on to some degree of success in the entertainment industry since the days when Simon Cowell used to make fun of how she dressed. At any rate, fellow “Idol” alum George Huff was also onstage with her singing backup ... and yes, Huff finished ahead of her in the voting back then. This just in: Sometimes the viewers lack foresight. Or perhaps contestants bloom later.
The judges: Seriously, gang, this is why you can’t just lavish praise on everybody every week. If you really like some singers better than others, or you think some are especially worthy of staying in the competition because of a particular performance, you have to let viewers know. And you do that by not offering the same kind of praise to the person who did the 11th best as the one who did the very best.
If the panel was shocked that the audience didn’t recognize how good Abrams is, it’s because the three of them have given little indication that he’s any better than the other 10 stupendously awesome singers remaining.
Thia Megia and Stefano Langone: Both were in the bottom three, which will add to the pressure on them in the coming weeks. That’s particularly true for Langone, who only made it this far anyway courtesy of the judges’ wild-card pick. As for Megia, she must be thinking that she took the judges’ advice and sang up-tempo ... and this was the result? Back to the ballads for her!
Abrams’ doctors: The guy’s already been in the hospital twice since the semifinals began, and he looked like he was about to have a heart attack onstage when the judges told him he was safe. Seriously, let’s just hope he can stay healthy.
The “Idol” censor: Let’s just say that the dump button was used more than once or twice over the show’s final five minutes.
Marc Anthony: Mr. J.Lo was awesome, both in how he helped the contestants figure out the tricks of the earpieces so they could accurately gauge how they were sounding, and for his critical comments on the judges feedback last night. But considering he’s married to one of them, he probably bought himself some quality time on the couch tonight.
The “American Idol” summer tour accountants: Traditionally, just the top 10 singers get to participate in this cross-country extravaganza, but because of the timing of the judges’ save, there will be 11 on this year’s event. That’s going to screw up all of the budgetary numbers, and probably result in a lot of spreadsheets with the new financial models being e-mailed back and forth over the coming days and weeks.
So, America, if you think the judges are unhappy with how you voted, that’s nothing compared to how these folks feel.