Ryan's intro tonight is laced with superlatives: "The most sought-after title in television history," "the most intense week of their lives," "the best singers in the country," "this judging panel...will accept only the very best," and "shocking eliminations that will shake you to the core." Okay, that last one was hyperbole rather than a superlative, but you get the idea: it's Hollywood week, when the contestants will be winnowed down to twenty guys and twenty girls. Would that it were only a week.
Montage of people being awakened by their parents to go to Hollywood, because if they weren't living with their parents, they wouldn't have auditioned in the first place. Planes, LAX, buses, hotel rooms, and a few score of uniformly excited and variously deluded people, all of whom are cut loose to stand on the stage marveling in awe. Ryan points out something unusual about this batch: it's only males. Damn, Frank Herbert's White Plague has struck American Idol! No, it's just that the female contestants will be covered next week. See, already the "Hollywood Week" thing is exposed as a lie.
The judges show up, and from the stage they address the one section of auditorium seats that's actually occupied before getting things going. This early on, there's no fine-tuning; guys will come out in groups of ten and take turns singing a capella for the judges, sudden-death style. And to add to the pressure, the contestants' families are up in the balcony. Ryan doesn't say that the losers' loved ones will be dropped through a trap door to certain maiming, but the implication is clear.
The first group includes Micah Johnson, the guy from the Long Beach audition with a nerve-damage-caused speech impediment. Again, it disappears when he sings, "Benny and the Jets" this time. Keith gives him a standing ovation and everything. Now Ryan tells us that he has to wait until the rest of the line sings before they all hear the decision. I guess he did say "sudden death," not "instant death," so my bad. A few more guys I don't remember also sing, as though to build suspense, but obviously Micah is through, as well as the other three guys we heard. And then so do some more guys, like Nate Tao, shouty mop-head Gabe Brown (who earns more standing ovations from the audience), and Gupreet Singh Sarin, otherwise known as The Turbanator for his trademark headwear. It's like he's the only Sikh on network television or something.
Then we're reintroduced to Karl Skinner, an already energetic spaz who outlines the lengths to which he's already unnecessarily over-caffeinated himself this morning. So he should be good as long as he doesn't go into V-tach. He sings "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," which now that I think about it should be this show's theme song. Some hairy weirdoes make him seem like a shoo-in by comparison, but he's gone. So is Dustin Watts, the firefighter from Baton Rouge who looks better than he sounds, and Dr. Calvin Peters, who is going to continue being a singing doctor rather than becoming a singer who used to be a doctor. Then Cortez Shaw uncorks a high-volume version of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" that he hasn't even bothered to change the key on. There seems to be some disagreement among the judges, so that'll have to be milked for maximum drama. Which of course means a commercial break right here.