Tonight's episode begins montage-style, with a title card telling us it's Audition Day in Portland, Oregon. The famous Rose Garden is clearly the venue (the indoor part of it, that is), and after a few quick clips of nervous hopefuls, Ryan's in the middle of what he calls an "eclectic crowd," telling us this is the show's first trip to Oregon. "And this is American Idol. He never seems to get tired of saying that.
Idol titles, and then Ryan welcomes us to the city with shots of its bygone days, downtown, the Columbia River, the bridges, etc. Basically everything but Ramona Quimby's house on Klickitat Street. Ryan says there were "thousands" in line, which probably means two thousand. Ryan works the holding room by pretending (possibly) to get his fleece caught on the door handle while trying to enter.
And then we meet our first Portlander, Brittany Zika, who's a 21-year-old blonde, wearing Clark Kent's hat and glasses. She shares a dream she once had of singing "Gravity" onstage with Sara Bareilles, which actually came true, if you can believe that shit, which, in this day and age of audience members routinely and successfully soliciting a shot onstage, you probably can. So now, why not parlay that success into an American Idol run? She trips trying to step onto the oval and claims they call her "Tripster the Hipster." Okay, I like Sara Bareilles, but I already hate this chick. She sings "The Story" by Brandi Carlisle and, surprisingly (and disappointingly) pulls it off quite well. Her eyes pop out in surprise when they compliment her voice, making her the opposite of most contestants. Then they make her take her hat and glasses off, because it's never too early to transform the nerdy girl. Anyway, she got three yeses, so we'll be seeing more of her, even if she can't see us without her specs.
We come back from the ads at 10 AM, and Ryan hearkens back to the weirdness that went down the last time the show came to the Pacific Northwest with a freakshow montage from Season Six's Seattle auditions. But Ryan assures us that five seasons on, people know better.
So of course we next meet a skinny 18-year-old goofball from Philadelphia named Ben Perdom, who burps and cleans his nose out and talks about how sick he's been. So this should be spectacular. He explains to Ryan that he sells cable TV on the street, which just makes me picture someone going up to people with a long coat and quietly singing, "Would you like to buy an HBO?" His demonstration to Ryan, alas, is a lot more prosaic, and a lot less impressive. Ryan: "If your singing's as good as the pitch...anywhere near the pitch...let's just get in there." Of course the pitch is not good, and neither is his singing. He throatily croons both "Born This Way" and "Superbass," and the best thing I can say about him is that he can tell which way the room is going. But they make him stand there and listen to their nos anyway. Out in the hallway, he makes the excuse that he was too sick to attempt his falsetto, but luckily the wacky editors are prepared with a remix of his audition in Alvin and the Chipmunks mode. Hilarious!