Broken Dreams, Fainting and Cliffhangers: ‘American Idol’ Returns to Hollywood


Hollywood Week on American Idol (FOX)

It’s the last audition of the night. Symone Black phenomenally sings “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” But suddenly her eyelids get droopy. She wobbles strangely, one, two , three times, until she pitches forward and falls right into the pit. Someone calls for a medic. Her dad rushes down from the balcony. The camera zooms in on her in what appears to be a catatonic state. And then the credits roll.

Should we really be that mad at Nigel Lythgoe, “American Idol” producer, as he banks on cliffhanger ratings on the back of a clearly sick 16-year-old child? He’s just doing his job, right? If “Idol” miraculously beats “Big Bang Theory” in the 8pm timeslot tomorrow night, it might have a little something to do with the life-or-death situation this girl has now found herself in. I get it, but it’s just a little bit eww, you know?

Morality aside, I was at least amused by Lythgoe’s take, freshly Tweeted: “It’s not a ‘cliffhanger.’ She didn’t hang, she fell.” This dry British wit is how we know the girl is not dead.

We also know because she’s been posting on her YouTube channel as recently as yesterday. (She “likes” Floetry and Lauryn Hill. While you’re there, watch her cover of Jessie J’s “Who You Are.”)

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So, skip “BBT” if you dare, but we’re pretty sure Symone survives. Whether she makes it through to the next round, however, is anybody’s guess.

The Highlights

It was so nice to finally revisit some early audition standouts. Looking back on the last three weeks, I was probably most excited to hear again from Heejun Han (adorable Korean guy), Reed Grimm (“Family Matters”), Lauren Gray (made JLo cry), Jane Carrey (Jim’s daughter) and Haley Smith (log cabin).

Most of my favorites sang tonight, starting with Heejun, who did his signature nervous hand wave thing and was basically vomiting with personality. It was refreshing to have him up right after Johnny Keyser, who was an early favorite of Jennifer’s (“Keep singing!”), but despite a strong voice, he seems totally vacant behind those pretty eyes of his.

Reed Grimm is definitely the guy to watch for the unexpected: after doing a jazzy spin on a TGIF theme song in the auditions, tonight he crooned “Golden Ticket” from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

Lauren Gray’s bluesy deep voice won again on the same Adele song she sang during auditions in St. Louis, “One and Only.” It wasn’t as affecting as the last time, and singing with her eyes closed made her go on a few cracked notes too long after Randy waved her to stop. But now she’ll have another chance to sing something totally different and show us what else she can do.

Wow, Jane Carrey really looks like her famous dad mashed up with Miley Cyrus. But her song was too short and simple. She had a good voice, but ended quickly and awkwardly—just like her music career. In a night wrought with an ethical quandary — how best to make money off of someone’s life-or-death situation—I was impressed with the ethics the judges showed by not keeping the girl on just because her dad might show up in the audience.

More Results

Safe: Phillip Phillips, looking awkward without his guitar; Jessica Phillips (boyfriend had a stroke); Shannon Magrane (“Hot, humid and happening, just like your daughter,”); Erika Van Pelt (mobile DJ); Brittany Kerr (cheerleader).

Bye-bye: Travis Orlando (homeless in the Bronx); Ramiro Garcia (guy born without ears); Wolf Hamlin (wolf…must I say more?).

Overused Song/Artist Tally

Let’s see how many times we have to hear the same songs and artists from the vaults of “Idol”s greatest hits over the years. Starting now, I’m keeping scientifically sound tabs on this (disclaimer: accuracy is not guaranteed).

Celine Dion: 1
David Leathers, Jr., the tiny 17-year-old who once beat Scotty McCreery in a talent show, sang “Because You Love Me” and he totally hit the high notes.

Heart’s “Alone”: 1
Lauren Mink, who works with adults with disabilities, used up the “Alone” card way too early in the season. Will it be back? I’m pretty sure yes.

Final Observations

For the second time this season, the Carpenter’s seminal hit “Superstar” was attributed to Luther Vandross. Now, I completely respect Luther Vandross and his fine singing, but this is a Carpenters song and always will be. Credit where credit’s due!

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

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