Because tonight, one finalist's triumphant top-three homecoming parade will be snatched away, the pre-credits sequence starts with an Instagrammed montage of past finalists' hometown events, segueing into how much all of the final four want just that. Of course they do, because after one of them wins, he or she will never see his or her home again.
The judges come out all dressed like dolls in their individual ways, and then Ryan makes his entrance with no tie and no vest, and gladhands an artificial rope-line crowd arranged on the stage in a totally unconvincing way. Then he flogs tonight's show and claims that buying tickets to this summer's American Idol tour will help fight heart disease. Not mine. He also breaks the news that everyone in the house gets tickets automatically, to which they react like an Oprah crowd getting cars. Then the top four come out to sing "California Dreamin'," I guess because someone figured they should finally sing something having to do with last night's theme. They all take turns singing the lead while the other three pretend that the entire choir's worth of harmony we're hearing on backup is only coming from them. The blocking is as slow and ponderous as an RV rodeo, but the audience applauds anyway. Perhaps they're already thinking about how much they can scalp their free tickets for.
The Ford Music Videos have gotten so embarrassing that now they spend a bunch of time showing us the shoot of it. And then they show part of the video, too. At least it's more boring than embarrassing this time, showing the finalists minus Phil driving an electric car and magically fixing the environment at the same time. That was innocuous enough that Phil probably didn't need to pretend to be sick to sit it out this week.
Speaking of Phil, he's the first one called to center stage. During the clips of his performance and feedback from last night, it sounds like Jimmy's setting up to mock Phil for picking "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?," a song by an acoustic guitar songwriter, and then putting a sax and no guitar in his performance. But then he says it was Phillip finding his voice. As for Phil's second song, "Volcano," he says Phil sang it like he wrote it, and it all came together. "If I had seen that in a club on a cold night one night, I'd sign him right there." Phil stands with his hands in his pockets on the stage and talks about how blessed he feels just to be there. "I want to go home for the good part," he adds. So maybe not entirely blessed. The lights come down, and Ryan says that after 70 million votes -- ten million more than last week -- Phil's heading back to the couch to wait for a while longer to find out whether he's safe or not. The audience is disgusted, as are the judges, and Phil, and probably Ryan with himself, if there's anything inside that suit above room temperature.