Ryan "The Hook Up" Seacrest greets more shrieking fame whores to auditions in Houston as he reminds us in narration (and clips, of course) that we've already suffered through two nights of awful. In another amusing caption/narration deviation, Ryan merely tells us that "thousands" showed up at the Houston auditions, while the captioning fills us in that it was 7,000. I guess somebody in charge thought that wasn't a high enough number to brag about. Ryan wonders if they will find talent in Houston. No. Why should Houston be different from the last two rounds?
I'll bet the opening credits would be totally awesome in 3-D.
Ryan greets us pointlessly from some outdoor exhibits at Houston's space center, like he's suddenly the guest host for Trading Spaces looking for puns to throw at us before introducing tonight's couples. Will Kia's designs send them to the moon or will the homeowners go supernova? Uh, anyway. Sorry. Ryan reminds us that Kim Caldwell and Kelly Clarkson both came from Texas. At Kim's reference, I fully expected her to materialize suddenly to mug for the camera, à la Beetlejuice.
We get a brief countrified clip show (there's a bridge! And a rodeo! They ride wild bulls to work in Houston!) before tossing us to the stadium where the fame whores wait for the chance to torture us. Much to my surprise, they briefly rip away the pretensions that these kids all just walked in and sang for the judges by showing them all lined up at a bunch of tables, college-freshman-orientation-registration style, to briefly sing for groups of bored producers, so that they can weed out the good and the bad, and throw the rest away. Well, at least they weren't required to hold hands in a circle with some pre-fratties who had somehow already gotten drunk, like I did. Ryan narrates to us that "a storm of Biblical proportions" -- thanks for cruelly raising my hopes that all these people would be washed away -- descended onto Houston. It's not that horrifying a storm. Maybe there's a verse tucked away somewhere in the Old Testament where God punished a vexing (but not particularly evil) city with an afternoon thunderstorm that cancelled the day's harvest or something. They move the kids under cover as the haunted-house music tries to convince us that this storm is a big deal.
Finally, our judges -- Randy "(I Got That) Boom Boom" Jackson, Paula "Brave New Girl" Abdul, and Simon "Toxic" Cowell -- arrive. Ah, Paula's wearing that acid trip in fuchsia blouse we saw in the premiere. Randy psychs up the crowd waiting inside. Well, actually he talks to them, and they get psyched up because there are cameras there. Sweet, fame-providing cameras. Don't ever leave us, cameras! You're our parents now!