'American Idol' recap: Finding the Exits

idol-top-2.jpgTwo hours to find out something we've known for at least two months. That sounds about right, doesn't it? To tell the truth, though, I'm excited. Without an "Idol Gives Back" this is the closest thing we'll get to a Spectacular, and the finales are always bizarre fun. All I know at this point is that Tom Jones will be showing up, which is nice. It is nice that he is not dead, which is a thing that I didn't know. So there's that to look forward to.

Ryan, because this is such an important and elegant event, will be wearing a tuxedo. Or well, maybe there will be costume changes, I don't want to fence him in, so I'll amend that statement to say that currently he is wearing a tuxedo. It does not seem to be out of the ordinary. Not like one of those tuxedos that you can get that is also a weapon.

Jackson is wearing: An outfit that might be a weapon. Weaponized nerds are the scariest kind.
Lopez is wearing: Loveliness.
Tyler is missing: Most of his weave. He looks like a drain. Nice of him to dress down for this.
David Cook is wearing: A dour look.
The Top 13 are wearing: Baptism clothes. And some fake-looking silver-ish bling.

LITTLE MONSTERS, INC.

The Top 13 come out now and sing "Born This Way" with their hands on their hips. Durbin's gone blonde, and Casey still walks like that. Lusk can't quit with his penis at you. Karen Rodriguez is about, mm, I'd say she's about 33 tonight. Thia Megia is a class act; Stefano is embracing his sexuality; some of these people I can assure you we've never seen before tonight.

Haley still can't handle what is happening. There's a deathliness to her hallow.

They sing the whole song, which normally wouldn't be weird but in this situation makes it seem really, really long. I'm just glad Casey is having fun. That's what's important. No, that's not the most wonderful part. The most wonderful part is watching Lauren perform in a group of professionals. Wandering into their choreography, smiling manically, desperately trying to catch somebody, anybody's eye, galumphing about with zero percent of a single clue. It really shows you how she deserves -- DeWyzerves? -- to be where she is.

BEING A GAY METAL ROCKER: REDUNDANT, TO SAY THE LEAST

Ryan's "proud" to introduce James Durbin, playing with... Judas Priest! I was so close to saying that yesterday, it was "Journey or Judas Priest or some shit," but then I didn't want to jinx it or find out that they are dead.

Durbin is dressed as: Homosexuality.

I'm not familiar with the song so I can't tell you what is up with it, but Durbin is sleeveless and having a wonderful time, so that's fun. I don't really understand metal at all. It's kind of the opposite of country music, like, you open up the corpse of a demon and then surprise, there's Tweety Bird inside, wishing he had a bigger penis.

Part of the medley is that Beavis song about breaking the law, but mostly it's just that noise James Durbin likes to make, and then they goatee at each other for a while, and it's sweet. I am glad the Judas Priest guy made it out of the '90s, he seems like a nice guy and he has a good sense of humor.

Clearly.

WE REVISIT RANDY'S MANY CONTRIBUTIONS TO AMERICAN CULTURE

Various People are In It to Win It. Just kidding, this segment is the opposite of itself because Randy Jackson is a waste of a great deal of skin.

Says: "That was funny, dude, that was funny."

Means: " O that I were a man, or that I had power/ To execute my apprehended wishes!/ I would whip some with scorpions."

I CAN DO BAD WITH THE HELP OF GLADYS KNIGHT & RUPAUL

RuPaul* appears dressed as a blipster and plays the piano for Jacob Lusk to gay himself all around the place. They keep making "hey!" and "whoop!" and "come on!" at each other. He is joined by a Pipless Gladys, who God bless her does not know the words of the song or that her wig is straight depressing. It is supremely uncomfortable, in the way that Jacob Lusk is always supremely uncomfortable:

Kurt Hummell: "Why don't people accept me just as I am?"
Reality: "How about you stop begging the question?"
Kurt Hummell: "But It Gets Better! It's much easier to get offended by the way things actually are than to use that information to my advantage! Plus cyberbullying!"
Reality: "Meet me halfway. Maybe lose the skirt, for starters."
Kurt Hummell: "Nope!"
Reality: "Do you honestly not see the logic here?"

Kurt Hummell: "Why must people give me the constant attention I am begging for? It's drastically unfair!"
Reality: "You're not wrong. But that is something we may never be entirely sure about, in your case, because you're dramatically refusing to play the game and then acting dramatically surprised that nobody will let you play the game. Tolerance is other people's problem right up until you make it yours."

Kurt Hummell: "The power of victimhood is all that I have!"
Reality: "Precisely as long as you believe that, yes."

Kurt Hummell: "You are homophobic and transphobic and other -phobics!"
Reality: "Not really. Either you're in or you're out. If you're out, be proud of it and strong. You can't have it both ways. You can't be simultaneously unique and just like everybody else. You can't be a brave gender warrior and also play men's reindeer games. You're either a Muggle or a Wizard. Pick what you want to be, and then be that. It will give you all the strength you need. The only price is other opportunities for validation, which means less than nothing. That's not a tragedy, it's a rare fucking gift."

RuPaul* yells about tornado victims, I mean, and Jacob Lusk manages to just destroy the idea that black gay dudes are the nexus of all dancing, having somehow split the difference and taking the wrong half, and there's a million people onstage, and the whole thing is just a perfect encapsulation of Jacob Lusk: Ambitious, half-assed, self-impressed and tedious to watch.

PLUS THAT STINKS THAT THERE WAS NO CHOIR

Yay! CASEY ABRAMS, grinning like a maniac, joined by JACK BLACK for a shouty weird rendition of "Fat-Bottomed Girls." Jack was hidden behind a couch at first, so that I did not see him, but now everything is so amazing. I've learned that it is fruitless trying to explain my thing about Jack Black, so I'm not even going to bring it up except to say I just don't understand how other people don't see it. On this very basic, like, "What if my green is your red" level. It gives me existential fits that Jack Black is not a universal sex symbol.

Casey and Jack make crazy weird noises at each other for awhile, and are apparently more interested in the fun that they are having than the fun that we are having. Then a bunch of R Crumb thigh-monsters come out on bicycles and shake their asses and make them clap and spank themselves and it's fairly bewildering, but then Casey and Jack put their foreheads together and break into smiles and goblin around on the stage and it's like... Sometimes you get a present you didn't even know you wanted.

SOMETIMES IT'S IN YOUR PANTS

Seacrest: "I swear I will not screw you by revealing the results after your DVR cuts it off this year. That promise is sort of implied every year, but this time I mean it."

The Ladies come out and sing "Single Ladies," in these swoopy red outfits, and that's pretty fun; then the medley goes to Thia and Karen singing the song about putting the things in the box to the left. They are accessorized with all the things there are in this world.

Oh my God, remember Thia and Karen from MySpace? Just kidding. Me neither.

Naima and Haley break it off with the Beyoncé song about being bodied that I've never understood really, and that strange young woman that might be Beyoncé acts disingenuous about whether or not she wrote this song, and then they reach way back to the song about wishing they were boys, and Naima still just cannot sing, which is always enjoyable, and Pia sings exactly like Beyoncé because that's all she is, and Haley pretends to think that any of this works for her, and then -- With so many songs has Beyoncé blessed us! -- mostly it's about Pia's boobs for awhile. Boobs and terrible harmonizing and then Karen from MySpace begins sloughing her skin into a new age and then... Beyoncé!

"Crazy In Love," in a long line of all the ladies and with Beyoncé being all amazing. I always wonder how they feel when this is happening, like onstage are you just like, "I cannot really believe this is happening. I cannot believe Lori Loughlin is sitting right there. I cannot believe that I just remembered Lori Loughlin's name. If I screw this up I am going to die, but it won't be that bad."

But then Beyoncé standing next to you -- hair blowing in the wind, okay, that exists only for her and comes from nowhere -- I think is the point that no matter how out of it you are you would be like, "Holy shit."

The presence of Beyoncé would just like wrest you from your reverie and instead of watching yourself be on this show suddenly you would just be like right here and right now, like a singing, dancing animal of the Eternal Now.

BEYONCÉ IS THE ZEN BULLET

But Steven Tyler is a regular one. Let's celebrate how you waste everybody's time as much as possible, talking your stupid nonsense and masturbating all the time and making everybody feel like shit, all while dressed like a gender-estranged apocalypse survivor who found shelter in a TJ Maxx. Let's do a whole lot of that and then wonder why our kids are so screwed up.

Oh, and then by all fucking means let's have Tony Bennett onstage. It's only fair. It only makes sense that you get the whole fucking bolus of barf down at once. One final insult.

Or whatever, I don't know Haley's business, he's famous and rightfully so, and she probably likes this kind of music; she'll probably put on that voice those girls put on for this kind of thing, and it'll just be everything awful at once and I'll lose my mind, so no. But she's happy and, again, that's what's important. It's just not how I want to remember her.

BLEEP-BLOOP

They do the tribute now to J. Lo, which there are some slim pickings here because they've been shouting her down this entire year, so it's mostly nerds hitting on her, boys hitting on her making her feel old, smacking gum, Steven Tyler desperately jealous of any attention she gets, Jackson getting passive-aggressive on her all through auditions, Stefano, her scary husband's scary dead face, Jennifer attempting to be classier than her surroundings; the Kiss; Steven Tyler trying to turn the Kiss into being about him, of course; and then her and Ryan being like, "We are the only two people that actually understand any of what's happening" and being entirely unable to be happy about that.

Then Ryan introduces TLC, but instead of TLC -- which is missing its L anyways -- it's Lil Jon screaming his stupid ass off like always and dressed almost like a person, but then TC come out and clearly are excited to be there singing "No Scrubs." Because why on earth would that seem like a grim nightmare to be doing that. They go to "Waterfalls," a song that is already a grim nightmare, and then the ladies of the Top 13 come out and grin and giggle their way through all of it: The AIDS, gang violence, the crack cocaine, whatever else horrible happens in that song. Like they were even alive that year.

We used to make up extra verses of that song about the most terrible shit we could think of -- pets left in hot cars, accidental theme park deaths, one night stands with brutal serial killers, that disease where you think strings are coming out of you -- and you know, I don't think I've thought about that in like fifteen years. Then it gets kind of grue because Ryan compliments C on her abs while ignoring T's newfound girth.

I bet they have grandkids, I bet if you looked it up they have grandkids.

SCOTTY SHOWS OFF FOR TIM MCGRAW

It's pretty tragic, this overexcited puppy love behavior of Scott for his man, but only because they're meant to be singing together and being cute, and instead it's like Scott's really hoping Tim McGraw's the boyfriend of his mom that will stick.

But then, you have to know that Tim McGraw has seen it all -- probably most guys act like this around him, actually -- so he's relatively unfazed. I find Tim McGraw a lot nicer to listen to with the sound off. Although it is true that his face is aging faster than his wildly sick body, which is why he keeps the hat pulled down so far, which is like the number one thing that is sad about country singers, when they start with the hat thing.

Q: Jesus, how long is this song?
A: How long do you want it to be?

PRECISELY THAT LONG

Ryan: "Coming up next... OMG you are going to love it, girl!"

I completely trust Ryan's judgment about all things, as you know, but when he flips into 100% WeHo like that without warning, and then smiles so hard like it didn't just happen and he's erasing it with his smile, that's when you know we are in for a fucking treat.

Steven Tyler mugs for the camera and plays with his belt a whole lot while Ryan is introducing the Crazy Idol Jokes from auditions. The worst part of every single finale, but something so ingrained in the DNA of the show that it will never die. A girl is crazy; a girl several injures herself -- hilarious -- and then a double-shot of that camera guy getting brained by the acrobat.

Retards, fags, nutcases. All, somehow, outclassing Steven Tyler.

We are better than this.

SOMETIMES GOODBYE FEELS EASIER THAN OTHER TIMES

Marc Anthony -- did we know he was a singer? I just thought he was like the host of something unearthly and that was his job, mostly. In any case, if you're not familiar with whatever it is that he does, let me tell you that it is weird. There are Vegas dancers, and a drummer lady, and he's singing quite powerfully, and then the band kicks in, and the ladies dancing is about half of the show, and he keeps going and going. It's nice. I mean, it's not really my thing, but it sounds nice and he is a good performer. I'm struck dumb with how to proceed further, but I wanted to note that it, in fact, happened.

Oh, J. Lo! She stalks out onto the stage in a collection of strings hanging from all over her and the reddest lips, and does an aggressive dance at her husband for awhile, and then shakes her booty like you're going insane. I suppose this is what it's like for them, at home. Shiny suits and tons of textured curls.

If I were either of them I would make sure that it was like this all the time. You're in the kitchen making a sandwich, and out comes J. Lo in a wild dress doing an amazing dance. You're in the shower kind of humming to yourself and there's Marc Anthony just wailing on it outside. Salsa 24/7. Every Sabado more gigante than the last.

Ryan: "Now we know what they do at home!"

Oh, Wonderwall. We still got it.

IN THE PINK

Durbin and Casey talk about what it was like getting eliminated. Casey's pretty cute about how he got thrown twice. Stefano says he was shocked at Durbin's elimination, and they have a cute fight about it in dueling talking-heads.

Casey: "Um, I was supposed to win this show, so that's pretty bizarre."
Durbin: "I think DAUGHTRY is real."
Casey: "I was told I was in it to win it."
Durbin: "We are both equally crybabies."
Pia: "Hey, what are you guys talking about?"

Shit gets real funny at this point. She's even wearing a sash and crown that says MOST SHOCKING. So they act like they weren't just fighting about it, because clearly Pia should have lasted longer -- and given what happened this year, I guess that is true, but the show took a couple turns at a couple points, where it wasn't that show, and now it is again -- and then they make fun of her behind her back. I don't know, it's the best sequence so far.

WHAT'S OLD, MCDONALD?

There's something of a Boys medley -- Old McDonald on "She's a Lady," Durbin on "What's New Pussycat?" -- and it's ever so terribly relevant. Durbin beeps Casey on the nose, that's pretty amazing. They sound nice, for the first time I can think of, even with Paul death-rattling his way through a line or two. Then it gets all dumb with Scotty as the centerpiece of this kind of dorky dinner of boys, and then even worse with Jacob Lusk arching his back and slinking around like a housecat, fluttering his eyelids and begging for it. I will say that he looks well-preserved. I cannot say the same of Old McDonald, who is still just a collection of clattering mossy bones, but Lusk looks absolutely as good as he can.

The medley continues, with Scott and Casey kind of getting flirty and then Jacob inserting himself into every frame and thinking that any of them are his friends, and then it gets kind of drunky on "Why Delilah." You know how boys like to sing Irish songs or "Sweet Caroline" because they saw it in a movie and it gives them brotherhood feelings? Kinda hard to watch? That thing. Endearing.

Casey crawls around on the stage and sings directly into the fisheye lens, which is unnerving, and then Tom Jones comes out with his leathery self, looking like the nicest grampa, and the boys -- including Jack Black down on the floor, let's not forget him -- get really into doing a dance about Tom Jones.

All of this makes, I'm surprised to say it, a little more sense in context. They sang so many songs and it went on and on for so long that you kind of feel like he's a thing that still happens. Is he one of those with the Vegas show? It seems like his kind of thing. That's what this is like. This whole episode feels like a museum piece; it's like, you knew there would be old people without really much else to do, but the sucky thing is that they're mostly the standouts so far. Even the Boy Idols are sort of hired-helpy, in that "No Amount Of Six Flags Gigs Will Ever Get You In The Guild" kind of zombie way.

SCOTT MCCREARY WILL DO THAT TO A FELLA

Ryan compares buying a single from iTunes tomorrow with "owning a piece of a superstar." Which, as corporate entities wholly subsidized and programmed by this ugly little business, I guess you kind of are. Lauren Inc. God, what a bleak concept.

Lauren and Scotty attempt to harmonize over the last Ford Focus ad, which is some song that may well have been written by volunteers about all the many memories. Remember when Lauren fell down the stairs? Remember the omelet? Remember... Anything else? I'm blanking. Remember that time Scotty took Jaycen or whatever his name is, the sweet little fat kid, remember when Scotty took him down to that ravine? He didn't want to, he tried to avoid it, he lost sleep over it, but never let us forget that a young chubby boy died that day. Died so that horrible Junebug could be given life.

At least Scott knows enough to sing with an air of embarrassment.

BUT NOT QUITE ENOUGH

Let's ask Scott and Lauren which teacher impacted their lives the most. Let's totally do that.

Lauren: "I choose the lunch lady. She was my friend."
Scott: "I slept with most of my teachers. This is going to be weird."

THEN SOME FOLKSY NONSENSE

Ryan remarks on how pretty the two teachers are -- especially Scott's, who is like the hottest girl -- and then they give their teachers some free cars. And then Ryan flips the script on them because instead of giving the two Idols whatever awful looking thing they're selling this year like the Aztek or whatever, Scott and Lauren get to pick any Ford vehicle. This is because Scott drives pickup trucks. That's the only reason.

Then it's Lady Gaga, who is here in person instead of on a TV, to promote her new single. So don't you know she straps some egregious mess onto herself and then hangs out on top of a fake mountain from Legends Of The Hidden Temple singing the "Edge Of Glory" song, a fair song as songs go, and of course it is a lot of stuff and nonsense with ladies dressed like Madonna dancing around while Lady Gaga just shakes and sings her ass off. And it sounds amazing, her voice. And then she takes off her wizard cloak and it's bikini time, which is always awkward when she feels like it's bikini time, and still the Madonna ladies down there doing the work.

I guess the cliff rocks are because of being on the Edge in the song? I have unlocked part of the secret. And there's a hidden synth up there inside one of the rocks that she uses to play like about five notes, and then a half-naked gay fella climbs up there and dances with her, kind of, during the saxophone solo. Which is being played by the ghost of an Old West lawman. And then the gay man fucks her on the rocks while she keeps singing.

I knew that they were revamping Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark but I can honestly say that watching a gay dude fuck Lady Gaga covered in black latex was not... Oh, they've jumped off the cliff and into a blue volcano. That happened while I was busy being puzzled.

PUZZLED BY GAGA

You know, one of the turning points of my entire life was fairly recently, when I finished watching the movie Kaboom and I was like, I no longer feel the need to mentally force myself to think that was good. I mean, it was awesome, don't get me wrong, but... When I think about college it's about 76% trying to get my brain to agree with me that Gregg Araki had something important to say, and that he had said it. That there was no difference really between a Gregg Araki movie and a real movie, because it wouldn't be enough to just like things, they had to compete. Do you remember that age? When nothing matters except as an extension of yourself.

Anyway, that's how I feel about Lady Gaga. In some ways it feels like settling for being old, or giving up some kind of Neverland favor I didn't know I could call in. But that same activity turns down the brightness on things, so that you can look at them and see more of what they actually are and not just yourself reflected in them. I would say it's harder to be authentically affectionate, or supportive, of something or somebody that blinds you like that.

Nothing special about her music, although it's fun; nothing special about her persona, although it's powerful plant food for our culture at this time; nothing special about her aesthetic at this point, but not unimpressive either; nothing special about her message, which is getting confused and Glee-diluted and mass-produced all the time. Just an awkward genius of a girl, making art-school decisions, taking the path of least resistance. Hope she lives through it without getting hurt, or so rich that she stops being hungry, because then it's Next Stop: Kabbalah.

I'm actually assuming she'll be okay. The kindness and magnanimity and generosity that comes across from her is the most inspiring thing about her, and it's that provisional authenticity that lies at the bottom of the thing and informs everything else, which is why automatically blowing her off seems really empty and grody to me, like, the idea that anybody could ever think that Lady Gaga is about music, when actually if you had to resolve the whole deal down to one idea I think it would be more like:

Art exists purely to show you a way out -- of loneliness, of darkness -- into a very select club of unique individuals which, as it turns out, includes absolutely everyone.

I cannot think of a higher purpose on this planet than to do your part in that great work.

Finding the exits, pointing them out. Being the first through the door to make sure it's safe. Opening the windows, letting the light in. Sometimes dragging people screaming across the threshold, but mostly just shrugging if they don't want to hear it yet. Because the thing about loneliness is, it's not a natural state and it's not something that finds an equilibrium: It's a negative space, a vacuum, with whole worlds poised and trembling to come rushing in.

Faith, Hope, Charity, Love: These are all verbs that accomplish it, on their way toward some other purpose. Art is the only human activity that was designed -- specifically, and solely -- for the purpose of reaching across time and space so that one person can say to another person, "There. I have felt this too. And now we are both so much less alone." To shred the dark into little pieces, and put things right again.

...AND THAT'S WHAT GLEE MISSED ON GLEE

So Lauren comes clodhopping out onstage to sing the Carrie Underwood song about vandalism, the best Carrie song I know about. You know how every year I wish they'll sing "God Bless the Broken Road," and this year I am surprised to say that I am also hoping for "Need You Now," which basically also ends the list of songs I know.

But you can't help but be happy for Lauren, singing her song with Carrie Underwood and being, geographically at least, on her same level for a minute. My presumption is that winning, which is not going to happen, would nonetheless take backseat to the wonderful experience of singing this song -- and you know she has sung this song in her bedroom until she was hoarse -- with her hero. It makes her glow; she sounds amazing. Finales always do this shit to me.

All I want to do is hate Lauren. Can't do it.

BUT CAN HER FELLOW IDOLS?

Lusk: "I am twice the diva that Lauren is."
Pia: "I am, as usual, unable to use words."
Paul: " Bleargh blurf bleyahh."
Durbin: "They are technically both children. Birthdays are kind of a thing for me."
Stefano: "Dirty words!"
Casey: "Literally they are schoolchildren."
Karen from MySpace: "Go to your Prom! Like I did in 1967, or 2009!"

Stefano: "Please stop asking me about this. It's not funny anymore."
Naima: "I have six children, I know how kids are."
Casey: " [I don't care, I don't know, he's just so... He's wonderful.]"
Stefano: "Didn't they cancel American Juniors? (And Nashville Star?)"
Casey, verbatim: "People who can't even read* are gonna just be... Singing. In the finale. They're just learning cursive! I've learned cursive for about five years now, and they're just starting."
Naima: Scary witch face.
Casey:

OH, CASEY

Beyoncé sings for us what we are assured is her very favorite song. I'm not sure what makes it stand out, but it sure is wonderful to hear her sing and watch her be Beyoncé on my TV. Where did she come from? Heaven, just Heaven. A city not unlike San Francisco, where it's just Connect Four and sunshine and angels singing like Beyoncé, but all the time.

*(That feels like... My nose getting beeped by God.)

Divas, no, entertainers, people who are beloved, it's a funny little thing, isn't it? If you don't like the person, the people who adore, batshit crazy adore the person, they're a faceless mass of people who either "get" it and you don't, or just don't get it. Like, the part of myself that loves Julia Roberts without explanation or reservation, you look at that and you think it says something about me. You know?

But if you love the person, it's completely different. It's personal. Maybe even like Pattinson and Bieber, where the love itself is a community exercise, you still feel very personal about it. It's directed straight at you. I mean, I don't love Beyoncé the way people that love Beyoncé love Beyoncé, but it never occurs to me to think about those people -- or whoever doesn't love Beyoncé, either, not that I would wish to meet these people -- when she's right there being Beyoncé. You know? It's between you and her.

I think there's something very specific about this show that plays into that, somehow. They are part of you but also not part of you; they take that part of you and make it shine. And usually this happens fully formed, Beyoncé just comes out from under the datura flower or walks up onshore dotted with seafoam and you say, "Yes, I will take one of those."

But this show, you actually see the thing getting made. They go from being somebody you might want to be friends with to being... Something else. Special. Achilles, probably his friends were a lot less stressed out the day before his momma dipped him in that river. Besides superheroes we don't really have a lot of demigods in our culture, we've sort of forgotten that part of things. Halfway between regular and not human anymore.

I guess sports players, players of sport, pick up some of that old hero magic. But I don't write about sports. Even when it's corny, or completely dumb like this year, I've always liked that part of this show. When you start overlooking the dorkiness of David Cook or the weirdness of Carrie Underwood to better appreciate the wonder of David Cook, or the gracious finished product of Carrie Underwood. The actual process of fame. It's comforting, isn't it?

WHICH WE ARE GOING TO NEED

Because the next thing that happens is, U2 shows up to do songs from Turn Off The Dark -- I mentioned it, it was summoned -- and I don't mean to make light of tragedy, but the first thing that happens is that everybody in the Nokia Theater dies. Instantly. And then, if you watched it and didn't just read the recap -- which I would recommend because let's be honest, the recaps don't make any sense at all -- I'm sorry to inform you that just watching a performance from the show means you are going to die within seven days, like The Ring.

Upside: Peter Parker over here is about the hottest thing, if you like 'em young and Andrew Garfieldy.

ACTUALLY THE PRESENCE OF BONO MIGHT SAVE YOU OR AT LEAST SPONTANEOUSLY CURE YOUR DISEASES

Spider-Man drops from the ceiling, upside-down, right in front of J. Lo -- this for real happened -- and she pulls back his mask and then... Sweetly beeps his nose.

I think I am having pre-traumatic stress disorder, because that made me tear up a little bit. Somewhere in the chaos of Lady Gaga and everybody beeping everybody's nose and the concept of kissing Spider-Man upside down being this like enduring cultural image and I don't know, maybe Bono's presence, definitely Jack Black's, and for sure Superbad's in there, the things you can and cannot do to show how much you love a person, the fact that it was J. Lo a little bit, like a blessing from J. Lo somehow, or like giving Casey back his Kiss, but I just felt a sense of, I don't know, loss or something. Glad Ryan wasn't onscreen or I probably woulda lost it.

Scenario: Andrew Garfield drops from the ceiling in front of Ryan Seacrest, who slowly peels back his mask and then beeps his nose.

FEELS LIKE A HUG, DOESN'T IT?

Sometimes I wonder what this job would have been like if I loved Ryan likes a boy loves a boy, instead of like a boy loves a high-performance vehicle or a cowboy loves a thoroughbred. The quiet and clear-eyed, full-hearted, absolute, dignified devotion with which a little kid, at that awkward stage, loves her babysitter and her babysitter's boyfriend just about equally. Glamoured.

Taking that to even the suburbs of Sextown would have been creepy as fuck, obviously, and I would not be the right person for this job, if that's even what I was. But also, I think, maybe impossible to actually do. It took me like three years to figure out how amazing he is, or even notice him period as something other than, like, the butler.

And now, having spent five years trying to explain why he is amazing, jumping at the chance to talk about why exactly Ryan Seacrest is important, I honestly feel sad about not dealing with him for two-to-twelve hours a week. Like, when the show isn't on and people say " American Idol is coming in January," what I hear in my head is, "Ryan. Soon." And that's over, and honestly that's kind of debilitating.

This show is the one show that I don't ever talk or even think about in real life, except for the couple hours I spend writing about it. It doesn't come up when people ask me what I do for a living, because it's such an odd little part of my year, that doesn't connect to any other part. Other than the friends it's made me, of course, and the readership I hear from year round, it is the one red apple thing in my life that doesn't make any sense at all, so I don't talk about it.

But I will tell your ass all about Kermit the Frog, and thank you for that activity, and the old nachos-and-Oprah fat-kid stories, and how every city has a soul and the soul of Los Angeles is either Katy Perry or Ryan Seacrest, and possibly all of our lives depend on solving that equation correctly. I will tell you without even rolling my eyes or bothering to be coy or self-effacing that of all the shows and all the jobs and all the writing I've ever done, I have never loved one single specific part of it as much as I love, specifically, Ryan Seacrest.

None of which is particularly a revelation. Fully weird, yes. But not surprising.

YOU KNOW WHAT'S SURPRISING IS

Steven Tyler is very, very good at what he does. I totally forgot that about him. So he gets onstage and sings "Dream On," piano and everything, screaming, and honestly I loved it. Absolutely loved it. Center stage is where he belongs.

The problem is maybe that he doesn't belong anywhere else. And knows that.

CORNY NATION CORONATION

That same British dude brings the envelope -- Scotty and Lauren grab-assing adorably, Scotty readying his Honorable Winner Manly Face while Lauren retreats turtlishly into her own neck -- everybody holds hands with everybody else, and then it's Scotty.

He folds in half, crying, and the music starts, and Lauren is delightful about it, and all the other Idols are happy for him, and we've apparently dispensed with Sarver Etc. doing their hometown reportage, which was always at least good for a grin but possibly is Ryan's call, given his promise to keep this going on time.

Scott points out that he and Lauren have now been in this Shit for an entire year, which is pretty stunning if you think about that, and will continue to be buds. Also Jesus. Jesus gets in on that.

Then he sings the song about how he loves us This Big, and it's still dumb, and I'm sort of over this part anyway because I know that if I listen to him almost-cry his way through the song I'll start crying, and that is not happening. I cannot deal with the kind of person that I would be if I... Oh, damn. See I was writing about how I wasn't doing it and I got so busy typing that forgot it was happening and now it's happening. I'm doing it. Gross.

We don't cry about foregone conclusions. They're already Gone. There's not even much to talk about. That guy that was always going to win? Guess what.

INSTEAD

As a Very Dramatic Person, almost every year when I've done the Finale recap it's caused people to assume that I was quitting the job of writing about this show, when in fact I was just barfing emotions all over you, which I get is confusing, because the end of the TV season is like having teenagers replace all your vodka with water, only the metaphorical vodka is your actual soul, and by the end of things I am usually in quite a state.

But also as that Very Dramatic Person, I would never make an exit that way. I might quit in the heat of the moment, if something got real ugly, but it's not in me to make actual changes without at least declaring my intentions, because that's respectful. And I already did that, last night, and you can't drop the mic twice, so instead I will tell you a story. I will say thank you, and that I love you honestly, and ask that the next time you sit down to please remember that you have the secret of life in your back pocket, and it's this: Life is a flash mob cunningly disguised as a brutal fucking hassle.

And then I will tell you a story.

1974. Philippe Petit's been working since 1968 on his coup, something they're calling the "artistic crime of the century" but is actually the opposite: Walking back and forth between the Twin Towers, 140 feet across and 1368 feet up. Everybody's there, they came from miles around. It's weird to think about now, but people originally didn't like the architecture of the WTC. It's Petit that makes it beautiful.

I can't imagine what it's like to be Philippe Petit, but you easily can imagine being down there, staring up at him. This tiny speck. And you look around yourself, what do you see? Not rubberneckers, not photographers or particular fans of performance art. Just people who want to see it happen, this guy doing something so ballsy and so stupid and so magnificent, and to be a part of it. To hold him up, just by hoping, and take part in something amazing.

Maybe there's push-and-pull, maybe there's scuffles breaking out around you. Some guy loud-talking on his phone or some parent being shitty to their kids. Nobody's perfect, except for strangers. And even though nominally this moment is about Phillippe Petit -- about the door he's cracking open in the idea of cities, with his art -- actually it's not about him at all. It's about looking around at everybody else and realizing that in wondering why everybody else is there, you've somehow started thinking deeper about yourself.

It's about the relief you'll feel, the same smile on everybody's face at once, when he's pulled it off. Another exit found. Most of all, it's about the relief of knowing for certain that not a single one of us actually wants to see him fall. And the ease of looking up again, squinting into the sun, when you go back to holding him up. That you actually know all the steps to the dance, and so does everybody else.

And you say, because we're sure now: "We are in it to win it."

And you say: "There. Now we are so much less alone."