Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Kellie Pickler are all either trying to sell lots of Coca-Cola subliminally, or else they're part of a David Lynch dream sequence. Either way, the red is blinding. Last night, Mandisa and Katharine were amazing, everyone else was one degree of meh or another, and Barry Manilow knew exactly what was wrong with all of them. This week's pimpmercial isn't quite as brain-bleedingly funny as last week's Mushrooms Roasting on an Open Campfire extravaganza, but they're all at the beach and moving like they're in a flip-book and Kevin gets buried under a studly sand sculpture and Taylor gets a giant beach ball right in his ugly face. "We Got The Beat" could have gone worse, I suppose. Barry is a wordy motherfucker when he shows up and chats with Ryan. He sings "Love Is A Many Splendored Thing," which I didn't know was an actual song instead of one of those old-timey sayings that don't make sense anymore, like "Clean For Gene" or "Only You Can Stop Forest Fires." Bobby Bennett is there and he freaks shit appropriately. The elimination sequence offers nothing in the way of surprises. All the usual suspects -- Ace, Mandisa, Elliott, Chris, Paris, Katharine, Taylor -- are safe. Kellie is also safe, and she pushes the ignorant hick thing one step too far ("what's a 'ballsy'?"), past the point of no return into the realm of "diminished capacity," and Ryan is so very over it, indeed. Kevin, Lisa, and Bucky are sent to the seal as this week's bottom three. So far, according to plan. But then Lisa, the odds-on favorite for a booting, gets sent back to the seats, as Bucky and Kevin are the bottom two. Blinkiest bottom two ever! But it looks like Simon's reverse hex of faint praise actually worked, because Kevin is the one sent home. Good thing, too, because if it wasn't this week, it wouldn't have been for a long while. His singoff gets cut short before we get a chance to see Paris cry her eyes out, but I am confident that's exactly what she was doing.
Ryan emerges from the automatic doors looking quite put together and formal indeed. His tie is either purple or ice blue, which you wouldn't think would make a difference, except being an usher at Prince's wedding and being an usher at Cinderella's wedding would probably be two very different experiences. He is once again upbraiding the audience at home for their failure to vote -- the sin this time being allowing Ace to fall into the bottom three -- and as he says this, Simon turns his head around towards the audience in an unrelated maneuver which nonetheless gives the impression of "Yeah. What he said." Ryan says the eleven remaining contestants are "at [our] mercy," and if only, dude. Those eleven remaining hopefuls parade across our TV screens like the needy little attention monsters they are. They all try to pageant wave without exactly pageant waving, and no one does too well at it. Well, Elliott manages to wave like a child at Sesame Street on Ice, so I guess that's…something. Taylor, for the record, is dressed like Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber, when they try on the tuxedos. Looks like I'll be sticking with the hating of him, then. Good to know some things will remain constant. We meet the judges (as if for the first time!), and Simon does that thing where he just stares at Paula's shoulder, totally not paying attention, and then slowly turns toward Ryan like he just remembered he's on TV. You know, as affected as any of these contestants get, it's good to know none of them will ever be more affected than Simon. Of course, Ryan has to be a huge dork and try to organize a "thumbs down" movement in the audience, directed at Simon. This is such a children's show sometimes, I swear.
Ryan brings up this week's theme, music from the 1950s, and Randy says it won't be as challenging as Stevie Wonder songs (as the entire decade of the '50s begins writing angry letters), but he still thinks there will be a challenge. Paula gets super-cagey about "what I heard" and "who I heard worked with" the contestants, and I guess I have to remind her that Barry Manilow is not a spoiler! Her whole spiel has the black bars over it. Speaking of black bars, Ryan asks Simon about blabbing to the media about three contestants (Ryan will not say who, because he respects the Idolmerta code of silence) who he predicts will make it to the end. He said Taylor, Chris, and Kellie, okay? ["Okay, but don't ask me where the rat under your pillow came from. Fuckin' snitch." -- Jacob] And he said that because, for one thing, he knows what the vote totals have been like. Just like with Carrie last season. He's not going to risk making himself look stupid by going out on a limb for Katharine or Ace or Elliott when their support has been erratic. Shit, I don't have access to the vote totals and I'll still tell you Taylor and Kellie will be around near the end. But Ryan, because he is the nice one who wants fairness and truth and most of all wants to make Simon look bad, thinks it's too early to be penciling contestants into the finals. Really, Ryan? Weren't Clay and Carrie already slam dunks at this point in their seasons? I understand his desire to keep the other lambs from feeling like they're being led to the slaughter, but making Simon seem like an asshole for speaking what is essentially the truth…is how it's been going down for five seasons now. I'll shut up now. Ryan tells us we're headed back in time, to fifty years ago, in fact. And this week, the contestants got to learn at the feet of "a very special musical guest." The video package introduces us to the rat-like mug of Barry Manilow, he of "Mandy" and "Looks Like We Made It" fame. Barry was not, in fact, popular in the 1950s. ["But to be fair, he was finishing graduate school and didn't have a lot of time to socialize." -- Jacob] However, his latest album is called The Greatest Songs of the Fifties, and you're mad old if you're a fan of his anyway, so it works out fine. Also, okay, there's really no other way to say this, but Barry Manilow looks like a drag king. He just does. And it's fitting, of course, considering the company he's historically kept. Ryan keeps going on and on about the platinum albums and such before arriving at the most important point: aside from being responsible for the best punch lines of a generation, Barry is an accomplished composer and arranger of music, and it is in this capacity that he will prove useful to our young Idols. They flew the final eleven to Vegas, where Barry is performing his "musical showcase," Music and Passion. Okay, this show has lost the right to put down anyone as "a bit cabaret" for the foreseeable future. I understand that Barry is supposed to be teaching them "fundamentals" or whatever, but what kind of message are we sending to these prospective "pop stars"? Simon's gotta be super-pissed at this development. Barry's words of wisdom? Being original means "finding your own take on the songs that you choose." Fucking really? That's insightful. It's cool, though; Barry really loves helping these kids get better at what they do, and he says as much, and we'll see all evening that he's pretty good at it. He's also pretty good at telling us what sucks about a given arrangement, so strap in for that all evening.