Oh, this is going to be tough. One at a time I can handle, but two out of six people I all basically like? At least Bon Jovi's going to perform. Okay. Simon says that Blake was the best last night, and Chris looks on in adoration, and they will be total boyfriends throughout the episode, which is nice. After the usual highlights package from last night and the now-depressingly-regular man-on-the-street interviews (and ouch for Jordin on both counts), Ryan talks to the contestants, and they manage to be gregarious and not palpably nervous. Ruben shills for Idol Gives Back, and I don't remember everything about fashion trends from when he was on the show, but I'm betting the horizontal-striped shirt he's wearing wouldn't have worked then, much as it isn't working now. An endless montage of stuff from last week is followed by Robin Thicke performing, and I'm running out for patience for this bullshit. Get it over with! No, first it's Fantasia's turn to beg for your money, and then a creepy circus-themed pimpmercial set to "Paint It Black," but at least someone saw fit to put Chris in a sleeveless vest. But then it's time for some results: Melinda, Phil, and LaKisha are called to the middle of the stage, and we learn that 135 million votes were cast over the two weeks. Melinda is the first one safe, so apparently one of the other two is going home. After a tense standoff, we see that Simon is way smarter than I, for LaKisha is safe, and Phil is going home. Video montage set to Carrie's "I'll Stand By You" of Phil in the hospital with his kid, in the audition room, meeting all the mentors. Melinda and LaKisha both cry, but Phil smiles big through the whole thing, giving a lot more credibility to all his "I'm blessed" talk, and he has a singout that's slightly impeded by all his glad-handing, but he hugs all the judges, which is nice, and then there's a group hug with the other contestants, which is even nicer. So Chris going home is even more of a foregone conclusion than it was last night, given that Jordin and Blake aren't going anywhere. The three of them start to get up, but Ryan tells Jordin not to even bother; she's safe. So tragically, Chris and Blake are going to be separated by death instead of simply breaking up, but first Bon Jovi performs "Make A Memory," which is sweet and completely fitting given what's going on tonight. JBJ gives props to the contestants (minus Phil, who's apparently already on the train home) and then it's Taylor's turn to (very soberly, much to my surprise and his credit) ask us for some cash. Chris and Blake declare that they're "best friends" and are going to tour together and are cuter than newborn puppies, and then Chris is of course going home. Video journey: Auditions, his awesome dad, mentors. Chris looks like he might lose it during the montage, but smiles big again once it's over. He sounds good and has fun during the singout as Melinda and Jordin struggle to keep it together, and then of course they all storm the stage and hug him while he's still singing, which is beautiful, as are the group hug, the standing ovation from the judges, and the live comments we hear from the contestants. Leaving us with: Melinda, Blake, LaKisha, and Jordin. It's absolutely the correct Final Four, but damned if I'm not going to be sniffling myself to sleep anyway.
Ryan informs us that last week was about being nice, and this week is about sending two people home. We do the usual pan across the contestants; Blake gives the camera/audience a cute smile, Chris looks like he's going home, and Melinda appears uncharacteristically nervous. That last is probably because her little family is going to be sadly smaller after tonight. "THIS is American Idol."
Ryan enters, wearing a businesslike gray suit and brown tie. Oh my God, is that Antonella? She was there last night, too, and I completely didn't even recognize her. I guess one way or another, she has to be sucking to be noticeable. Seacrestiana; round of applause for the last six. This will be important, so I'll just mention the seating arrangement now; the bottom row is Melinda, Phil, and LaKisha, and the top is Jordin, Blake, and Chris. Ryan "promises" that there won't be any filler tonight, and reasonably amusingly lets his face drop, but then tramples the joke by adding a "Sure." Not that it's funny overall anyway, given the amount of cereal and bread crumbs that's being shoved into the Idol stew tonight. Ryan tells us that we will be seeing the three Idol winners that didn't perform last week. He does not tell us that we will not be seeing three other people that didn't perform last week, those being Gwen Stefani, Pink, and Borat. Not that I missed those last two, but it's not like we didn't notice, show. He also promises "R&B superstar Robin Thicke." Well, if you say it, it must be true, huh? Vox Seacrest, vox Dei. We will also have an actual superstar, as Bon Jovi will be performing live. The judges are introduced, Paula giving cute devil horns and Randy, I think, booing Simon? Are we going even more retro than I thought tonight? Ryan asks Randy why "rock and roll" (meet you at the malt shop after the show, Ryan) worked for the contestants, and Randy blathers that he didn't think it would, but they "stepped up their game" and "brought it" and "worked it out." Now, Ryan's typical vaudevillian personality is why he gets paid to do this show. But it's things like his offhandedly snarky response of "Indeed" that allow us to forgive him for it.
Ryan tells Paula that in the past, contestants have been criticized for getting away from the original track too much, but last night, "it kind of worked." Paula gets all "kind of?" so I guess we know which diminutive contestant's performance she was dreaming about last night. Her head then starts to shake like she's having a 'sode, but then I realize that that's because Simon has his hand on her neck and is pretending that he's her puppeteer. If you look at the left edge of the frame, you can see Randy looking over and giving a priceless "The hell?" look before taking Simon's hand off Paula's neck. God, this crew is weird. Paula mildly spazzes at Simon, although she let it go on for ages so clearly it was at least partially scripted, and everyone's giggling until Ryan cuts in with a "We've seen his puppet. You're much prettier." Everyone's like, "Oh, SNAP!" and Simon actually gapes in shock. Given that the last time I saw him this off-guard was with Sligh's Teletubbies reference, it appears that puppets are Simon's Kryptonite. Ryan, I think, knows he's flirting with getting bogged down on this one, and tries to get things back on track, and Paula's with him as she gives Blake props for his "career-defining" performance last night. Chris looks admiringly at Blake, who gives him a big smile in return. Aw. Simon's grinning again here, so I'm not sure how offended he is, but he plays it up, saying that if Ryan's going to be obnoxious, he's not going to answer his question. Ryan tries to get out of it by saying he learned from the best, and there's a chaotic mess about Simon trying to get Ryan to apologize, with Randy taking Simon's side, and Ryan being all dodgy and not owning what he said, with Paula backing him up. Basically, Simon thought Ryan was insulting his girlfriend, while Ryan says that's not the case, but I don't know what else he could have been talking about. A blow-up doll, maybe, but "puppet" is pretty far away from that. It makes so sense either way, and anyway: God, I am so tired of these two and their little dramas. Maybe Simon wasn't consulted on this particular line, but seriously: It was cute for a while when it was a joke on people who didn't know what gay subtext was, but it's all so scripted, every single week. I mean, even if they are sleeping together, it's by contract and in their day planners, so let's all just ignore it from now on, okay? The joke's on us at this point, and I'm tired of it.