‘American Idol’ Packs A Decidedly Mixed Bag

Tim Urban on American Idol (FOX)

Tim Urban on American Idol (FOX)

Tonight’s elimination episode of ‘American Idol’ was full of surprises, both pleasant and un. A relatively quiet night for Kara! The return of two season-eight contestants to make us reflect on how good we all had it last year! Awkward group sings! And an eliminated contestant maybe exploding in a judges’-incoherency-fueled rage? Let’s run it all down.

Who’s Out: As expected, this season’s first two eliminated women were Janell Wheeler (whose wan performance of Heart’s “What About Love?” had me wondering “What About Good Vocals?”) and Ashley Rodriguez (whose take on Leona Lewis’ “Happy” was even more unfortunate the second time around). More perplexing were the eliminations on the men’s side — especially given the overall lousiness of Wednesday night’s roster of contestants. The gentle Joe Muñoz and the overly self-conscious “frontman” Tyler Grady were both eliminated, leaving in much lousier specimens like the terrible-but-adorable Tim Urban and the preternaturally aged Aaron Kelly.

Who’s (Inexplicably) In: Tim Urban? Really? After one of the worst finalist performances in ‘Idol’ history on every level — song choice, quality of vocals, persona, everything — he was saved. The combination of Vote For The Worst’s support and a perfectly teased Justin Bieber Blowout might have confused people voting for “the cute one” this week, but he can’t hang on that much longer, can he? Or are we staring at the spectre of This Year’s Sanjaya Malakar?

Who’s Making Me Sad: How did Joe Muñoz — my favorite contestant from last night — get dinged? How did he not survive the first round, when so many male singers were so bad? It was perplexing to watch — especially when he did his sing-out, which was a bit subdued but still without any major trainwrecks.

Who’s Going To Be Super-Entertaining On Tomorrow’s Eliminated-Contestants Conference Call: As soon as Tyler Grady was announced as the fourth eliminee, the sound dropped out, and lots of confusing camera cuts ensued. Did he swear in the heat of the moment? (Or was it the clearly relieved Alex Lambert, who seemed legitimately shocked that he wasn’t being exiled from the ‘Idol’ stage?) Either way, he was really angry during his pre-singout interview, claiming that the judges had misled him by telling him over and over that his style was so ’70s — and then berated him for playing to type. Oh, silly Tyler. Apparently in addition to working on your moves more than your singing — complete with the David Lee Roth-esque stunt of showing up to rehearsal clad in a bathrobe, socks, and Greg Brady boots — you assumed rationality on the part of the judges’ table? That is a no-no, even in the post-Paula era. Heck, maybe especially in the post-Paula era! Anyway, I look forward to him continuing his tirade during tomorrow’s phone call with ‘Idol’ beat reporters, and then on Twitter, and then on MySpace, and then…

Karannoyance Quotient: Not much Kara on tonight’s episode, which was a blessing. (Although was I the only person who noticed Casey James’ full-body cringe when Ryan made a reference to all the ridiculous shenanigans from last night?) You know, it would be so great if Allison Iraheta — who stopped by in an adorable black dress to perform her new single “Scars” — just stuck around for next week, and let Kara sit somewhere backstage drawing “KARA LOVES CASEY” graffiti in her notebook. Dare to dream!

Hey, Let’s End On A High Note: In addition to the announcement of this year’s “Idol Gives Back” charity episode, which will air on April 21, Kris Allen stopped by to talk about his trip to Haiti, where he helped out with the United Nations’ Haitian relief. He performed a super-emotional version of “Let It Be” as footage from his trip played, and hey, it was for a good cause!

If you buy Kris’ Beatles cover or donate to the Idol Gives Back foundation before 8 p.m. ET on Friday and all the proceeds will go toward relief efforts in Haiti; donations after 8 p.m. will be distributed to all Idol Gives Back beneficiaries. You can donate here, and buy Kris’ version of “Let It Be” at the iTunes Store.

Next week: More hopefuls warbling hits! And an inexplicable third chance for Tim Urban, who should really buy a Powerball ticket with the recent string of luck he’s been having.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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