We're in Oklahoma this week, so apparently Idol has decided to just get it the hell over with as quickly as possible. It's 5:18 AM and the sun isn't even up before people are shown singing, "Oooooo--" one after another, all edited together unmindful of various keys, like that old "Whasuuuuup" commercial. Only this time it's the song about that state where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain, sung by the thousands of people who have trekked to Oklahoma City to audition for the show and chase after their hats because of that jerk that came sweepin' down the plain.
So everyone's there and as the judges show up, Keith rattles off a list of famous Oklahomans, topped by, you guessed it, Carrie Underwood. There's a mini Carrie hagiography and then Ryan welcomes us to the venue: the Devon Boathouse, which is a training facility for Olympic rowers. I would have thought we'd gotten enough of the nautical theme last night, but I guess not. We're starting off tonight with someone found on the Small Town Audition Tour bus trip, a skinny, large-headed ginger dude named Karl Skinner, who auditioned when the bus showed up in his hometown of Joplin, Missouri 17 days earlier. Karl got married in March and seems pretty happy about it and with life in general, so I can't help feeling glad for him. He starts out his audition by making sure it's okay to move around and goes into a version of "I Feel Good" -- complete with James Brown-style dancing -- that wakes them right up. They invite him to sing something else while playing the guitar he brought with him, so he obliges with a folky little eight-bar blues number, written by himself, that has even more shouting. The judges debate about who he is and whether or not he should play the guitar. Randy thinks he could be a "mascot" and they decide he could be a replacement Ryan, whom comes in mock-impatiently demanding a vote already. Karl is through and Ryan keeps his job. For now.
At 10:30 AM, we start a montage of judges clowning around, featuring madcap moments like Keith putting his face against the camera lens and Mariah crowding the others at the judges' table. After a quick montage of sucking set to "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" (also from Oklahoma!, for those of you even less literate in musical theater than I am), which Nicki somehow manages to enjoy anyway, we return to the holding room to meet Nate Tao, who is an ASL teacher. He's got two deaf parents, y'understand. So here's another kid whose parents have never heard him sing, but this time it's not his fault. He sings "For Once in My Life" for the judges and he's perfectly pleasant and good, especially on the high notes. They all like him (although Randy lamely makes fun of Nate's tie a bit) and he earns a four-way yes. So now his parents are probably convinced. Nate's dad teaches Ryan the signs for "Congratulations," "I love you," and "Superstar," which I'm totally sure Ryan will be using on the live shows.