Okay, first things first: Sundance has a fauxhawk, and Sanjaya's been menaced by a flat iron. Thank the good lord Phil decided to wear a hat tonight. As for the performances, Blake bums me out, to start, by (1) going into costume as a redneck improv character he plays, and (2) by telling us 311 is his favorite band. But then he manages to make me like his performance of 311's "All Mixed Up," and even though Randy and Paula have never heard of the numbers 3 or 11, Simon assures me Blake's a lock for Top 12. I'm less sure, but okay! Sanjaya's special talent is the hula, and at the very least he tries to bring a little more energy to John Mayer's "Waiting on the World to Change." It's still a non-event, but I think the weird hair and hula might have been enough to put a dent in those votes if Simon would've effing shut up about the weird hair and the hula, you know? Sundance sings Pearl Jam's "Jeremy," which has no business getting dragged onto this show. Chris R. takes a break from being awesome so he can be boring for a week, singing some weak Keith Urban song. On the bright side, his voice sounds pretty. Jared sings Stevie Wonder. Dressed in argyle. If this doesn't send him home, I'm not sure what will. Particularly when even Paula is giving him cogent criticism. Brandon sings that "I just want to celebrate another day of living" song, and he's great, as always, but Simon and I are awful nervous about what's in store for him on Thursday. And then Ryan offers to let Brandon blow him for a place in the Top 12. I don't know! It happened! Phil steals the exact same "secret" that Chris had last year ("Pssst! I wasn't always bald!") and then sings Lee Ann Rimes's "I Need You." And despite sounding like a drag Toni Braxton at the beginning with the low notes, he brings it home with the power notes. The judges ding him in all the right spots (!!), and Simon absolutely hated it. Sligh sings yet another song from a band the judges have never heard before, and this time it IS a Christian band. So my religio-racial profiling only had a two week lag. He manages to look convincingly nervous even though he's totally safe. Meanwhile, Ryan and Simon are once again engaged in a fierce hour-long battle of "No, you're a homo!" Emphasis on fierce! Going home? Jared and...Brandon. Damn it.
Ryan Seacrest starts talking about...whatever he talks about before the credits. Rules and regs. Programming notes. His theories on Anna Nicole's death. Let's be honest, none of us are really listening anyway. But as he's talking, and the camera pans up the staircase past the top eight guys, we learn the following things in rapid succession: Phil Stacey is wearing Henry Fonda's hat from On Golden Pond. Jared is wearing a beige argyle sweater like he's come to meet your parents. Sundance has molded his hair into a fauxhawk, which does a lot of things for his appearance -- none of them good -- but mostly just makes his face look fatter. Blake is wearing a short-sleeved tee that's making him look quite delicious indeed. But you probably don't recall any of that because OH MY GOD SANJAYA FLAT-IRONED HIS HAIR! We will get into this later, but suffice it to say, if you don't have one woman in your life whose hair is exactly like Sanjaya's right now, you are in the distinct minority. This is American Idol.
"We're live," says Ryan Seacrest, and as is usually the case on this show, I distrust the factual accuracy of what he's saying. Ryan introduces us to the boys, but I've already told you everything you need to know about them so far, so let's just keep it moving. Then we meet the Girl Pound and the judges. Randy has his name on his shirt, Paula's dressed like a flowery pirate, and Simon's back in his signature dusky gray. Ryan (stubble alert level: yellow) tells us why this is a big week -- we're announcing our Top 12 finalists, and also on Thursday we're going to hear about the Big Idol Event the producers have been threatening us with for two months. My mind immediately goes to how many more hours of recapping this is going to add to the workload, because I know how this show rolls. A day-long Idol marathon or 24/7 internet live feeds or something. But we'll get to the nuts and bolts of that on Thursday's show. For now, because FOX has only budgeted a mere hour tonight, we're kicking things to Blake.
The ever-stupid and arbitrary Better Know An Idol talking point this week is "Things You May Not Know About Me." Pity folks like Nicole Tranquillo and Amy Krebs are already gone -- I would have been nice to see them answer with "What my face looks like" or "What I'm doing here all of a sudden." What we don't know about Blake? "I love improv comedy, character acting, and Halloween is the best time of the year for me." Wow. Lot of information to digest there. I mean, I love improv comedians, of course, but there's a whole lot of real estate between Marilyn Hack and Agent Michael Scarn, and when Blake ducks out of frame and pops back up with goofy false teeth, a sideways trucker hat, and a greasy black wig, I'm leaning towards the latter. This would be "Jimmy Walker Blue," one of Blake's "characters" that he plays. Okay! Here's what we're gonna do. We're going to file that one way, way, way in the back, in a bin labeled "things we'll forgive you for just because you're awesome," along with Buffy Season 7, Monica Lewinsky, and Billy Crudup dumping a pregnant Mary-Louise Parker for Claire Danes. Never do that again, though, Blake. For serious.
Down on the stage, Blake's embarking on something else I'm going to have to forgive him for: 311's "All Mixed Up." Whatever, I have this knee-jerk reaction against 311, and I'm not entirely sure why, but it is very real. Although I do approve of their "kicking Scott Stapp's ass" policy. The production guys give Blake this cool echo effect, which is nice. And he's bouncing all around, which is also nice, because apparently all the guys I like this year are bouncers. He self-censors with some vocal entendres when it comes to "get off of your ass," which means Blake even makes kowtowing to the FCC fun and enjoyable. Randy loves how "current" Blake is, with "the whole hip-hop kinda reggae thing." Gettin' warmer, Jackson. He says he didn't even recognize the song, but it was "hot" regardless. Paula says she didn't know the song either. Hey, Randy and Paula? It's called 1996. It's also called a radio. Familiarize yourselves with these artifacts accordingly. Paula stayed interested, regardless, because it's Blake, and keeping you interested is what he does. Blake's like, "311? Might've heard of them? Pop-ska invasion of '96? Poor man's Sublime? Ringing a bell?" To no avail, of course. "I didn't understand a word you were saying," laughs Simon, and Blake laughs as well. Simon speaks some truth, though, when he says that the most important thing you can do at this stage of the competition is stand out from the crowd, and Blake's doing that quite well. "You will 100% be here next week," he finishes. At the time, I wanted to believe him, but I had my reservations. Teach me to doubt Mister Simon Cowell, I tell you what.