‘American Idol’ Judgment Day: Who Makes the Cut?

American Idol (FOX)

Tonight’s so-called “Final Judgment” – oh wait, don’t forget the “Part 1” — played out on a Vegas Cirque du Soleil stage, surrounded by rushing water, and sometimes bubbling lava, a giant Audrey 2-style flower, large glowing bug cocoons and other oddities.

The purpose of this week’s four, yes, four hours of “American Idol” is to whittle down the remaining contestants to a manageable 24, whereby we can finally vote them out and crown Heejun Han victor come May.

But before we get to the fun of actual participation—and next week’s six hours—the judges need to pointlessly try to trick each and every contestant into thinking they are going home when they are staying. And we need to relive all the least boring moments of the past five weeks. And Steven Tyler needs to wear one of his weirdest outfits yet—a colorful ensemble that includes mirrored ’90s surfer pants.

His cohorts, however, looked pretty sharp. Jennifer Lopez’s face glowed green from the reflection of her sequined dress (although in flashbacks from the days prior, she was in a long blue animal-print gown during performances that seemed to be missing its front panel). And Randy Jackson dressed up in a light gray suit jacket with white trim.

One by one, we got a recap of each contestant’s “journey,” from first audition to Hollywood solo to group night to final Hollywood solo to Vegas group night to final final Vegas solo to… yeah, I think that’s it.

Some of the Winners

First up was Jen Hirsh, who had a false eyelash problem, but made it through nonetheless. Then came Creighton Fraker, who, we learned, has a very strange family relationship—with both adoptive and biological parents there rooting for him (his biological dad was the lead singer of an ’80s metal band, to boot).

Joshua Ledet was the next to make it to the Top 24 and when he got the news, he busted out in some Jesus-thanking gospel. JLo tried to do the same with a couple of weak, high-pitched refrains of “I’m blessed, I’m blessed.” And it was a fail.

Reed Grimm—I love this guy. He’s the closest to someone I think I’d actually be friends with. In his final final solo, he again accompanied himself on the drums—or rather, on one drum—and continues to be surprising and at the same time technically accomplished. Can’t wait to see him wind his way toward the finale.

Erika van Pelt is the most like a Kelly Clarkson reincarnate. She has so many of Kelly’s early qualities: raspy, powerful voice; chubby arms; back tattoo. Erika actually has a back mural. There were stanzas of music, a torch or lollipop draped with ribbon and laying over…roses? Um—no more strapless tops for Erika.

Heejun Han got one of the more interesting judges’ comments when he learned of his ascent to the Top 24. Steven Tyler told him: “You’re a better star than you are a singer.” That sounds an awful lot like “X Factor” rhetoric, but we’ll take it, at least so we can continue getting gems from Heejun like this one: Ryan: What are you sweating? Heejun: Mostly water. Also: as Heejun departs from the stage after getting the good news, the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” plays, and I think it’s because the producers think “Hey Jude” sounds like Heejun. Thoughts?

Brielle von Hugel leaves me with a few reservations. I liked her voice ever since she sang with Pia Toscano during group night back in 2011. And I still like it—and I love her Staten Island accent. But she also showed a dark side during group night this year. And her mom, despite saying things like “I love alla yas” that is music to my ears, is just outright crazy.

Some of the Losers

We said goodbye to Blaire Sieber, Naimo Gillies, Clayton Farhat and Calbeb Johnson. No surprise there, since we have no idea who these people even are. Very subtle, “Idol.” Don’t show any footage over the past five weeks of the people who are going home anyway.

We also lose Neco Star, River St. James, cowboy Richie Law (THANK you!), and ended on a cliffhanger with Adam Brock.

Last week, I gave my picks for those I hoped would make it to the Top 12. Now halfway through the Final Judgment, I’m eight for nine of the contestants who have so far been given their verdict.

My only wrong call was Lauren Gray, and I’m still convinced she should have made it through, purely on the merits of giving the absolute best audition of the season back in Galveston. But the judges told the smoky voiced singer that she didn’t have enough confidence to go all the way. And then after a few more one-on-ones, it became clear to me that there were several smoky voiced singers exactly like her and they couldn’t all make it. Therefore, I’m replacing Lauren with Elise Testone, who differs from Lauren only by looking about 15 years older.

Of course, my Top 12 can’t actually happen; there are only three girls on it, and if my DVR is correct, next week we have a boys’ and a girls’ night, in hopes of balancing the lineup. But a girl can dream.

The Judges’ Top 24 So Far

1. Jen Hirsh
2. Creighton Fraker
3. Joshua Ledet
4. Haley Johnson
5. Elise Testone
6. Reed Grimm
7. Erika van Pelt
8. Chelsea Sorrell
9. Baylie Brown
10. Heejun Han
11. Jessica Sanchez
12. Phil Phillips
13. Colton Dixon
14. Brielle von Hugel

My Top 12

1. Joshua Ledet
2. Lauren Gray Elise Testone
3. Heejun Han
4. Phillip (now “Phil”) Phillips
5. Jen Hirsh
6. Reed Grimm
7. Creighton Fraker
8. Colton Dixon
9. Adam Brock
10. David Leathers, Jr.
11. Brielle Von Hugel
12. Jermaine Jones

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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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