‘Idol’ Recap: Who Survived Group Night in Hollywood?

Welcome to Hollywood! Boys prepare for group night on "American Idol" (Fox)

Hollywood! We survived three weeks of “American Idol” auditions and what’s our reward? The annual cesspool of ego and emotion among the not-quite-yet-famous, Hollywood week! Only this year, we get two batches of Hollywood week(s), because producers split up the boys and the girls to prevent sexual tension from contributing to any further distractions on group night.

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It begins, as always, with a line of contestants who each sing a couple lyrics and then get an immediate elimination. To remember who these people are, we get little tidbits learned in their auditions, like firefighter, or wife with cancer, or guy so small you want to put him in your pocket.

But before it starts, our judges come out on stage to address the contenders, and we get the rare rear shot of them all standing at once, and find out that Nicki Minaj, in a tight yellow knit dress, and Mariah Carey, in a tight blue gown, both have a lot more in common back there than we ever realized. And that’s a lot a lot.

The first contestant we’re reintroduced to is Micah Johnson, the guy whose nerves were damaged during tonsil surgery and speaks with a lisp that goes away when he sings. And go away it did, when he sang a pretty good “Bennie and the Jets” and made it through to the next round. We also visited with successful contestants Gabe Brown, the baker/rocker from Iowa; Gurpreet Singh Sarin, who wears turbans; and Nate Tao. Lazaro Arbos, the other speech impaired contestant (with the stutter) also rose above his communication issues when he sang Robbie Williams’ “Angels” and made it through as well.

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Bryant Tadeo was new to us, but apparently Nicki was pretty familiar with him, as she gave him the absolute meanest fake-out of the night, telling him that because he said he was tired, he could rest soon because he was being sent home, and then telling him she was kidding. It’s definitely a fresh, new tactic on the boring and stupid fakeouts a la Ryan Seacrest, like “I’m sorry to have to tell you this….. but…. you made it through!!” Nicki didn’t string Bryant along like that, she just flat-out lied and then took it back. That’s one technique, I guess.

Failing to survive the first round of cuts were hyper-active Karl Skinner, aforementioned firefighter Dustin Watts, Dr. Calvin Peters, and Brian Rittenberry, whose wife had a cancer. Lucky for those guys, they were spared.

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Next up was what’s usually the best part of the whole season, Group Night. But this time, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe came out and made an announcement that the producers decided who the groups were going to be. Well, that took out most of the fun right there, because it was always a joy watching those stragglers’ confidence crumble when they realize no one likes them because they can’t find a group to join.

And while some of the groupings were obvious—like the four youngest boys in the competition—others were just quizzical. A glitterified person named JDA (pronounced Jada) and a sensitive nanny (Joel Wayman) along with Trevor Blakney, an army sergeant and apparent homophobe who didn’t like how “queened out” his team was. Who came up with the idea of throwing those guys together?

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As usual, the first group to go and the one with the most sleep did great, and that group included vertically challenged Matheus Fernandes, big bear baker Gabe Brown, Season 11 Hollywood reject Nick Boddington, and Mathenee Treco. They sang “Somebody to Love,” and it was so joyous when they all made it through that Gabe gave Matheus a ride on his shoulders. It was exactly what you wanted to see happen when you put two guys like that together, and it was totally wonderful.

Another ghost from Season 11 past was Johnny Keyser, who forgot the words when his group sang “Reach Out I’ll Be There” because he never heard the song, which astounded Keith Urban (who admitted that even in Australia they get the oldies station), but STILL the judges gave him another pass. Everyone keeps saying how attractive he is, but I’m sorry, I’m going to set the record straight here and now. His eyes are too far apart and he looks like he’s made of wax. There, I said it. I’m not proud, but that’s the way I feel. And for those reasons, I want him sent home.

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Some more good guys who are moving on: socially awkward and aptly named Charlie Askew, Micah Johnson, amazing soul wailer Curtis Finch, Jr., Nate Tao, Gurpreet (who forgot his words, too), Lazaro Arbos, and JDA and Joel.

Guess who else showed up from last year: David Leathers! I’m so glad. They told him to come back and he did! And he was the best one on his team of young boys, which included Kayden Stephenson, the 16-year-old with the terminal illness. David in, Kayden out.

The last team of the night including Charles Allen, subway singer Frankie Ford, adorable Adam Sanders and Papa Peachez. After complaining all night long that he couldn’t understand his teammates’ talk about technical words like “octaves,” Frankie was a crying mess two minutes before showtime, and was a crying mess throughout the song, and continued to be a crying mess when he was the only guy on the team who was eliminated. Papa Peachez came close to being sent home, too, but Nicki fought for him and then gave him a scolding, saying he’s too complacent. Well, wouldn’t you be complacent, too, when at least you already know what an octave is?

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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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