Before the credits, Ryan and the producers pimp out the whole show to serve as an advertisement for the upcoming animated movie Epic, which would probably bother me a lot more if I didn't fully expect to enjoy that movie more than this show. The judges enter with Nicki doing a bizarre sashay down the stage, and Ryan says that tonight we'll all find out what we've been waiting for months to hear. That Randy Jackson is leaving? No, who the top two will be. There's also some other stuff happening, which we'll get to when we get to. Ryan alludes to someone leaving the show while turning Randy's chair from behind, and then introduces tonight's group sing from the top three. The Epic characters must still be running the control room for it, because there's no sound from their microphones going out over the air -- just whatever the house mics are picking up. Eventually someone fixes it, but gradually enough that they're clearly hoping we didn't notice. Don't worry, though, it's just "Who Says" by Selena Gomez. By the way, did I mention that Randy Jackson is leaving?
Tonight's Ford Fiesta mission requires only one car to transport all the remaining finalists to a high school, where they sneak in the back to show up at a high school choir practice. Which is totally impromptu, as we can see by how twenty-odd high school kids all chose to wear black today totally independently. The finalists sing a song with them and get out of there as fast as they can. But the choir is here for tonight's taping, right there in the audience. And not all wearing black, either. Not even that poor man's Kurt Hummel kid.
Ryan fires up some clips from last night, and we see parts of the entire first round of Jimmy's picks before hearing from the man himself. He says he purposely picked difficult songs to challenge them and to see what they can do because they'll end up on his label. He says he gave Angie the piano song to give her a big moment, but she passed that up. He's declaring her the winner of the round anyway. Yes, we heard that from him last night, too.
After an ad break that features spots for both Epic and an upcoming Glee episode featuring last year's runner-up Jessica Sanchez, Ryan is back with us and making Jessica stand up from her seat in the audience. I'm prepared to declare this week's real winner: cross-marketing. Then we get an intro clip of Lauren Alaina, who was supposedly 15 during season ten, even though she's obviously 38 now. Tonight she's singing "Barefoot and Buckwild" from her upcoming second album, which is her first co-writing credit. "So if people don't like it, it's one-third my fault," she says. Way to hedge your bets, there. You are wise beyond your claimed years, Lauren Alaina. It's an up-tempo Shania-lite thing that doesn't do much for me, but by the end of it I've decided that she looks pretty damn good for 46. Ryan comes out afterward for a little chat, during which she says she's now 18 and about to graduate from high school. Are we sure she means "graduate" and not "retire"?