Tonight’s ‘American Idol‘ elimination episode narrowed down the final two, and the interesting action didn’t take place during the recaps of each remaining contestant’s hometown visit, or during the Internet-ballyhooed appearance of Canadian teenpop sensation Justin Bieber. Instead, all the intrigue happened during the softball-filled opening interview segment, when Ryan Seacrest posed a bunch of questions to Crystal Bowersox, Lee DeWyze, and Casey James.
Most of the questions were met with standard answers — Crystal said that working hard made her a better person with more resilience, and that navigating her diabetes in the context of the competition was a challenge; Lee said that he wants to win, and that the judges’ advice helped him figure out where he needed to go as an artist; Casey intimated that he was the equivalent of a one-man switchboard with all the text messages he was getting, which was a switch from a few weeks ago, when he was claiming that a buddy of his was trying to get him to play a show in his Texas hometown despite his ‘Idol’ duties. (Continuity, people!) But despite that bit of producer-fed sleight-of-hand, Casey also had the best line of the night when he somewhat sardonically noted that he wasn’t exactly enlightened by all the critiques from the judges this season.
That bit of semi-frustrated insight was probably one of the best things that Casey, who is admittedly very easy on the eyes and whose version of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” was one of the best performances in this sorry-ish season, had to offer this year. His utterance was probably also a statement that resonated with a lot of the viewers at home who have been slogging through ‘Idol’ during this odd, transitional season, which in addition to lackluster performances was defined by all-over-the-map comments from the judges. The judges, who are pretty much charged with inspiring the viewers at home into calling and texting for their favorites, bordered on incoherent within the space of one episode too often, offering confused advice to too many contestants who weren’t previously divined favorites — one minute they were begging singers to “make songs their own” through the power of interpretation, the next they were telling singers to not get too weird with the original material that had been dealt their way. What’s a hopeful to do in this situation? I, personally, probably would have freaked out at the eight directions that I was being pulled in.
In any case, it’s probably not too surprising that Casey’s honesty in the opening 10 minutes of tonight’s program was a prelude to his being dispatched at its end — his ride from being “the hot one who took off his shirt” to “the guy who sang OK when he wasn’t so freaked out about navigating between his guitar and trying to sing” was certainly a bumpy one, but it wasn’t without its high points. Even last night, when he was clearly given inferior material in order to seem lackluster in comparison to his rivals, he barreled through and had enough charisma (and, it should be noted, good looks) to not completely embarrass himself. He even (physically) picked up a young, female audience member during his swan song tonight! If that’s not a sign that he’s a crowd-pleaser, than nothing is.
NEXT WEEK: Lee and Crystal face off! It sounds so anticlimactic when I write it out, especially given the blatant Lee-elevating shenanigans of last night. But I’ll be here!