'American Idol' Sets its Top Two
The elimination of Syesha Mercado sets up the long-anticipated David versus David matchup
9:00 p.m. ET. It's our penultimate Wednesday night Idol results show and whatever happens tonight can be blamed on 56 million voters or, more likely, 10,000 David Archuleta fans hitting redial a lot.
9:01 p.m. Paula and Simon are showing equal amounts of cleavage. Simon's is hairier.
9:02 p.m. The night's intimate Group Sing is set, with tin-eared harmony, to "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now." These are not three compatible vocal types and no effort has been made to blend them. The best of the group, tonight at least, is Syesha Mercado, the woman everybody in America assumes will be eliminated in 53 minutes. If this were a singing competition, perhaps that would be a bit ironic.
9:04 p.m. Next week's finale is rapidly approaching, which explains why the eliminated Top 12 contestants are sitting in the crowd looking variably comfortable to be tightly wedged onto a row. Kristy Lee Cook? Less comfortable. David "Pizza Boy" Hernandez? Just pleased to be on camera.
9:07 p.m. The Ford Commercial, set to "Heaven," has been placed far earlier in the episode than usual. If the Ford commercial is out of the way, what do I have to look forward to? Call-in questions? As if.
9:08 p.m. Sorry, Ryan. You can keep saying it over and over, but I don't buy your contention that this is the tightest race to the Finale ever.
9:09 p.m. Disappointingly, the clip recap of Tuesday's show doesn't include a montage of Randy telling David Archuleta that he could sing the phone book. Equally disappointingly, we don't get to hear Li'l' Archie sing the word "boo" again.
9:11 p.m. Even 24 hours later, forcing Syesha to sing the Penguin Song still seems cruel.
9:13 p.m. I'm not sure about the dancing, the red hair or her new-found linebacker shoulders, but in terms of sheer vocal ability and interpretational skills, Fantasia Barrino remains my all-time favorite American Idol winner. Simon is either perplexed, disgusted or amazed by Fantasia's energetic performance.
9:15 p.m. Am I hallucinating or did I just hear Randy Jackson say that David Archuleta is so gifted he could sing Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged? Yeah. Must be a hallucination.
9:20 p.m. I have a hunch which contestants are going to be in the Bottom Three this week.
9:21 p.m. Up first to face judgment is Li'l' Archie, who still hasn't figured out how to do anything more than guffaw nervously at the attentions of the squealing female fans. David went home to Utah last week, where he appeared on the local FOX affiliate, was tackled by a group of high school cheerleaders and guffawed his way through a mall appearance. The Mormon Mite was reduced to tears, as are many of his fans. He also says "Gosh" at least a dozen times.
9:24 p.m. Ladies Love Cool Dave. I don't think a single eager male fan popped up in that whole package.
9:25 p.m. Wait. Did Randy just interrupt Ryan's summation of the judges' comments to insist that Archuleta is so brilliant he could sing James Redfield's Celestine Prophecy? Ooops. No. It was just Ryan explaining to Simon that Americans don't use the word "gooey" very much. Thanks, Ryan, you noted expert on English-language usage.
9:27 p.m. Archuleta hasn't actually been eliminated, but we're still paying tribute to his journey on the show.
9:32 p.m. Presumptive Eliminated American Idol Contestant Syesha Mercado is up next to share her experiences going back to Sarasota, Florida. On her visit, she appeared on the local FOX affiliate, temporarily kidnapped a baby, dropped by her high school and took a helicopter ride. Like Archuleta, she shed many tears. Unlike Archuleta, she appears to have fans of more than one gender (and race). Sarasota's mayor can do a handstand, but she can't match the awesome facial hair sported by Archuleta's mayor.
9:36 p.m. I sense that Randy's about to announce that David Archuleta is so phenomenal that he could sing Tori Spelling's sTORI Telling or, at the least, the script for Mother, May I Sleep With Danger. He's just too shy to say it.
9:38 p.m. Syesha also has had a journey.
9:42 p.m. Up last to face his clip package is David Cook [the Thief His Wife & Her Lover]. In Kansas City, David visited the local FOX affiliate (where he does the weather), did a concert in the rain, surprised his elementary school music teacher and picked up a snazzy baby blue K.C. Royals jersey. Unlike Archuleta and Syesha, D. Cook wasn't quick to cry, but he sure brought a lot of people to tears. But eventually he couldn't resist breaking down either. He isn't made of stone, people.
9:49 p.m. Ryan asks Randy to explain his contradictory comments from last night. Ryan doesn't ask the judge how he thinks David Archuleta would do singing Aristotle's Poetics. That's a missed opportunity.
9:51 p.m. Yeah, the Cook-ie Monster had a journey, too.
9:54 p.m. It's crunch time, so Ryan says.
9:55 p.m. Randy tells the Top Three that they did an amazing job and should be proud of themselves. Paula tells them that they're standing in a path that's reserved for nothing but great things to come. Or something like that. Simon says that he likes the three and that we're going to have a humdinger next week if we get the finale he wants.
9:56 p.m. Ryan's announcing the Top Two (no viewer call-in!)...
9:57 p.m. It's David Archuleta... and David Cook. That means that Syesha's American Idol journey is over. Both Cook and Archuleta are admirably restrained in their displays of excitement. They don't want to show up Syesha. Or, possibly, they knew this was coming.
9:58 p.m. Syesha sings Alicia Keys' "If I Ain't Got You" for her departure. It's better than the Penguin Song. She had a good run. No shame.
10:00 p.m. Tune in next Tuesday when, if we're lucky, David Archuleta is gonna sing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Why? Because he's just that good.
So do we have the right Top Two? And how do you see the finale breaking down?