With the group round over, the solo round is next and Ryan is here to promise some major meltdowns. Well, I don't know about you, but I plan to keep my shit together.
After the credits and some nostalgic reminders of a few of last night's more dramatic blunders, Ryan explains that for the upcoming solo round, they all had to pick out a song from a list, put together an arrangement with one of the apparent army of vocal coaches on hand and rehearse with the American Idol band. Ryan also says this is the first time in the competition they're allowed to play their own instrument, but I guess he means the first time since the initial auditions. There are 43 guys left, and half of them will be gone by the end of the day. So, you know, the pressure's on. But then... when is it not?
Paul Jolley -- who's done fairly well up until now -- is the poster boy for emotional tension when he kicks off the solo round. He hits the stage and even before singing a note, his voice is shaking. He mostly pulls it together for his performance of Carrie Underwood's "Blown Away." But from underneath a giant patchwork hat and behind giant shades, Nicki calls him out for his defeated attitude and begs him for one minute of professionalism already. "Be jolly," the other judges chortle, as though that's incredibly witty. Ryan quizzes him a bit backstage and discovers that, surprise!, he's not exactly suffused with confidence at the moment, but he'll have to wait a few minutes more because the judges are making cuts after every eight singers. This first group also includes Lazaro Arbos, who has found time to learn Lady Gaga's "Edge of Glory" and put together his own Enrique Iglesias version of it. Curtis Finch, Jr., the choir director, has "a lot to live up to with this final performance," Ryan narrates. Spoiler alert, dude! He goes with "Jar of Hearts" by Christina Perri and lounges it up so hard I expect dice to spill out of his pockets.
Ryan reminds us that it's "immediate results" for the first time ever: "No waiting, no rooms, but plenty of emotion." When the first group of eight comes out for judgment, Randy says it wasn't unanimous, but they went by collective performances. I think he means each individual singer's collective performances, not the collective performances they just heard from each group of eight. That wouldn't really be fair, even for this show. Paul, Lazaro and Curtis are the only ones through from the first group. Which means the end for... people I didn't get a good look at and will never think about again until a few weeks from now when I think to myself, Hey, what ever happened to so-and-so? Or probably not even then.
After the ads, we return to a bunch of dudes in near meltdown mode, displaying the kind of emotions they'd never dare to show if there were girls around. At which point I realize the gender segregation at this stage was probably a good idea. However, a live-action Tintin named Devin Velez from Chicago is pretty calm, having gotten a boost of confidence from a Randy Jackson standing ovation during the A capella round (not that we saw that). Tonight, he's doing a version of "What a Wonderful World" with as many notes as he can think of, which Mariah visibly loves. Gurpreet accompanies himself on guitar for "Georgia on My Mind," wearing a black turban instead of a peach one for some mysterious reason and Cortez Shaw learned nothing about starting slow and building from his Whitney debacle last night, but at least this time he picks a better song to holler. Matheus Fernandes is nervous about singing solo with a live band for the first time, but I think that what he should have been nervous about was turning Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger" into a power ballad, but without much power. "Kudos to the band," Keith says pointedly when he's done. In reference to his self-intro, Nicki tells him to stop talking about his height already and quit making it a pity party, because at this point they don't even notice that any more. I just hope her advice doesn't go over his head. For now, he leaves the stage feeling the opposite of ten feet tall. As the judges' deliberations begin, Keith says, "I've never had so many question marks in my life," which is a remarkable thing to hear from someone whose wife used to be married to Tom Cruise. I don't know about you, but I'd be getting in bed every night asking, "So, let me get this straight..."
When the group comes out for judgment, Devin, Gurpreet, Cortez and Adam are asked to step forward. Randy reminds everyone that this is based on their collective performances and Matheus's time in the competition is cut short. Sorry, not even Ryan said that. Still, Matheus vows not to give up and promises to go home so he can learn to sing with a band.
We come back at 2:12 PM and guess what? People are still nervous. Nicholas Mathis is among them, despite blowing away the group round last night with Curtis Finch, Jr. and Charlie Askew, but he's a little shaky soloing on "Locked Out of Heaven," even with the dramatic drop to his knees at the finish. He's got two kids at home to provide for and tells the judges he's chasing a dream, but Keith tells him it sounded like he was chasing the song. He leaves unsaid the part about how he never really caught it, but Mariah's long, theatrical gaze down at the judges' table in front of her says that pretty clearly. Ryan sinks about half an erg of energy into bucking him up as he lumbers past backstage, because it's time for Jimmy Smith and Papa Peachez. The latter goes first, deploying his Hootie and the Blowfish voice in the service of Lady Gaga's "You and I," to Nicki's great disappointment. She reminds him of how she warned him to step up yesterday and says, "I can't believe that you would allow this competition to just suck that amazing quality out of you." He apologizes, but it's clearly too late. Backstage, he cops to Ryan that he was pretty surprised at her reaction. And then Jimmy Smith, who we may or may not have seen before because he's that forgettable, comes out to sing "Landslide." Mariah liked him, all but adding, "For what that's worth." The groups come out and Nicki lectures that this was the one time to fight for their lives. "And if you didn't fight for your life..." They get killed? That'll learn 'em.
We have to wait through the commercials to discover the full extent of Nicki's wrath, which ends up taking down Nicholas Mathis (who walks off the stage in the middle of Nicki's speech) and Papa Peachez. Ryan lets us know that Johnny Keyser and Vincent Powell from that group are still safe, in case you were worried about either of them. Papa Peachez has realized belatedly that American Idol is not for him, while Nicholas rants all the way out of the building. I'm just glad I don't ever have to type the name "Papa Peachez" again, short of his turning up on Big Brother.
We flash back to Nick Boddington's ejection from the Vegas round last year, and then we cut to him on tonight's stage accompanying himself on the keyboard and sounding very in control vocally, almost enough to make him look less like a baby in a newsie cap.
Charlie Askew, whose social awkwardness is fast becoming his entire brand, does jumping jacks backstage and turns his performance of "Somebody that I Used to Know" into his own little episode of VH1 Storytellers, sharing the story of a girl that he claims to have dated for two years. Nicki tells him she's obsessed with him and says he became an artist today. "I glorify weirdness," Charlie agrees. And then their group comes out to receive judgment. Nick, JDA (wearing a veil as though dressed for his own funeral), Mathenee Treco and Charlie are asked to step forward, because they're still in it.
At 4:00 PM, we're suddenly in a "Jar of Hearts" mini-montage that includes Burnell Taylor and Marvin Calderon. They both stay in it, although presumably the six other mystery men in that group aren't so lucky. Moving on to Micah Johnson -- the dude with the botched tonsillectomy -- who is surprising