The camera comes in low over the marshes of southern Louisiana, like tonight's auditioners will arise spontaneously from the swamps. Of course, we already know that some of them do, so this isn't really news. Ryan refers to the "one-of-a-kind culture" over shots that look like B-roll from The Amazing Race before telling us from amid tonight's crowd of hopefuls, "This is Louisiana. And this... is American Idol." I bet he would say that in his sleep now. If he slept, I mean.
So we're in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the outlying areas are quite the contrast to the more developed environs of the audition venue. This is Randy's hometown, so Mariah is rising to the occasion by touching up his makeup. That provides a smooth segue into tonight's first contestant, Megan Miller. She happens to be Miss Baton Rouge, and she's got crutches and a cast on one leg as a result of an accident three days past, but that hasn't stopped her from stumping in for her audition nonetheless. In fact, she reveals to Ryan that she's scheduled for surgery right after the audition. Let's hope the judges don't get bogged down in arguments before the wound goes septic. Fortunately, they don't waste much of her time before letting her launch into "Something's Got a Hold On Me" which is a good showcase for a powerful voice that's several notches above that of your standard pageant contestant, even the winning ones. She even makes the most of things by singing into the end of one crutch like it's a mic stand. Keith makes a "Lean on Me" joke, but they're all impressed with her and she's got a unanimous yes. Now go enjoy your surgery. Ryan assures us with the hindsight of post-production that it went fine and she'll actually make it to Hollywood. In case you were worried.
A self-described "socially awkward" kid named Charlie Askew is made as uncomfortable in front of the interview cameras as the producers can manage as he tells us that he's from Little Rock, Arkansas. Before all the self-appointed spectrum disorder experts can weigh in, his mom says he's been diagnosed with "Charlie Askew" syndrome, saving us all a lot of time. The judges make some effort to make him comfortable and he croons "Breakthrough" by Queen, and turns out to have a crazy-powerful high and clear voice -- like Chris Colfer hooked up to an air compressor. They ask him for a second song, I think just because they want to hear more. Nicki is pleasantly surprised, Randy describes him as a "seemingly dark, strange, but cool guy," which since it's probably the most interesting thing he's ever said, he has to repeat several times tonight and will probably continue to do so for the duration of Charlie's participation in the competition. Keith says his tone is beyond gender and Mariah identifies with him somehow, so four yeses later he's got his golden ticket and promises to "kick some arse." Okay, now I'm on this kid's side.