Our long national nightmare is over! Hell yes! Jared's gone! Group sing happens before we even hear from Ryan. It's an especially lyric-dropping version of Stealer's Wheel's "Stuck In The Middle With You," and the "I'd rather have Mr. Blonde cut my ears off" jokes are far too easy to come by. Results are given to the boys and girls at once. Blake and LaKisha are in. Sligh's in. Jordin's in. Phil's in. Jared, as I mentioned, is not. He's far more surprised by this than he should be. Melinda and Brandon are...in! Awesome! Chris R. and Gina are...also in! More awesome! I'm sorry, here I am with my biases exposed for all to see. Nobody take a photo and put it on MySpace! Then Carrie Underwood comes back, and -- here are those biases again -- that's awesome too. She's as jarringly skinny as you've heard, and I could give a shit about country, but I do love her voice. Back to the carnage, Ryan calls up Stephanie and Antonella, and THANK GOD Antonella's going home. I did not need that headache for another week. She's crying, I suppose, but I care even less than I did when she was still on this show. Stephanie's in. Next up for execution: Haley and Sabrina. One spot left. And it goes to...Haley. Whoa. The early season airtime monster strikes once again, this time claiming Sabrina. Meaning that, if you were a girl and you got airtime during auditions/Hollywood, you had to be as bad as Antonella not to make it to finals. And even she almost made it. But they totally should have cut Hollywood down to one hour this year. Before the final elimination, Seacrest announces the Big Idol Event we've been hearing about. And, as has been speculated in the media, it's a fundraising event for Africa and New Orleans that will take place the week of Top 6. Thanks for making me have to snark on poverty, Seacrest. Jerk. The final guys' elimination comes down to Sundance and Sanjaya, a shockingly appropriate bottom two. Eliminated is...Sundance. Meaning we'll still get the Sanjaya freakouts, but the bright side is that Jacob apparently has the reverse juju running strong, which is even better than simply being rid of Sundance. Check out who he turns it on next week when Jacob recaps the Top 12 with special guest Diana Ross (damn it!). She's totally gonna abduct Sanjaya and raise him as her own, and it will be phenomenal.
So as Ryan Seacrest welcomes us back to the show that never ends, and the camera pans across the sixteen guys and girls looking to fill twelve spots in the finals, who looks frozen in terror? Sundance, for one, looks like he's in front of a firing squad. Stephanie's smile doesn't reach her eyes. Sanjaya can barely look at us. Jared's eyebrows can tell something's up. Antonella looks like she's still working through all the rosaries she has to pray to make up for the other thing. Sabrina's about to vomit out her eyeballs. Melinda is, of course, petrified that her mascara's going to run as she cries over the non-Melinda people due to be eliminated. Hell, even Blake's hair looks limp and unsure. Only Ryan Seacrest looks excited for the carnage that's about to go down.
There's just so much to get to tonight that Ryan doesn't even get a chance to talk to us about stupid stuff and introduce the judges. Of course, that doesn't mean we're getting out of listening to stupid stuff, because: it's group sing time! The familiar opening chords to Stealer's Wheel's "Stuck In The Middle With You" begin, and I immediately start looking around for Michael Madsen in the hopes that he'll lop my ears off so I won't have to listen to it. Why are all the group songs '70s rock songs? Is it a rule? Because if that's the case, I vote to ditch the Eagles and make them sing some Rush next time. It's going to be a train wreck anyway, right? Sligh starts off, and he's got the voice for it. Haley gets two whole lines to sing, and I'm not sure if she got even a single lyric right. Kudos, Haley. Blake, Melinda, and Stephanie take center stage, making center stage a pretty cool place to be for a few seconds. Blake's wearing a baggy black button-down with oversized white cuffs, and it all gives the impression of a smoking jacket. So now you have to imagine Hef when you imagine Blake. Sorry. Phil still hasn't learned to hold a mic with all five fingers. Chris R., Gina, and Brandon form another fairly awesome trio, though Chris has settled on a lyrics-optional approach. The camera rapidly retreats from Sabrina and Sanjaya, not that I entirely blame the camera for doing so. And nobody sings along with Antonella, and again, can't blame anyone there. Sundance takes center stage at the end, because this is his kind of music, I guess. The kind which allows him to break off a painful falsetto at the very end. I suppose I shouldn't begrudge Sundance one last moment in the spotlight, but I kind of want to.
Ryan descends the staircase from the RC Cola Lounge while he explains what's in story tonight: Carrie Underwood performs, plus that big "Idol announcement" we've been fearing all week, where they finally announce that Idol video walls are to be installed in every living room in American and the chip implants that should allow us to vote subconsciously while we watch should be ready by mid-April, just in time for Gwen Stefani to guest during Ska Week while Sanjaya steals Blake's Mighty Mighty Bosstones song. That was at least my assumption going into Thursday. Oh, and also, the top 12 finalists will be announced, no doubt in the most drama-queeny way possible. We're then reminded of the performances whose merits were no doubt ignored as America chose that Top 12. Blake got praised and, offstage, enthused about bringing the "reggae" to Idol for the first time. You sang 311, Blake, calm down. Chris R. and Phil both did country, but only Phil got panned. Tepid reactions to Jared and Sanjaya give Ryan's voice-over an opportunity to talk about what a hard-ass Paula was this week. Sundance gets super-shitty backstage about how unfair Simon was to him, considering "that was a rock song and that's pretty much how it shoulda been sung." And won't that be a comfort to him as he nurses his grudges from home for the next eleven weeks. Brandon's "I Just Want To Celebrate" gave Simon a horrible premonition. And Sligh's performance, of course, gets boiled down to his manly man hug with man's man Ryan Seacrest. Then, the girls: Jordin and Gina got props for rockin' out. Backstage, Gina's all happy and relieved and doesn't ever want to leave the stage. As harsh as Paula was on the guys, she was equally forgiving to Stephanie and Sabrina. Haley and Antonella, meanwhile, were Simon's picks for worst in show. LaKisha sang Whitney while Ryan goofed around with her Momma and Auntie. And finally, Melinda was so good that he made Simon go to his "naughty little mink" place, which sounds weird, but only if you didn't see the performance.