Country night with Kenny Rogers, who has been replaced by your high school drama teacher and had his colors done. The assumption is that Kellie and Bucky will do the best of everyone tonight, because they are from the swamp, but in fact Kellie and Bucky are the best of the night, because they...do the best job. Neither of whom I care to look at, ever, with my eyeballs.
Taylor starts us off with some "Take Me Home Country Roads" while giving the impression that he's going home to die. It is pronounced variously "just okay," lifeless, "safe, boring and lazy," and then likened to Simon's sex life. Perhaps, but with less getting peed on. Kenny Boondocks Mandisa for being "articulate," and it's...all uphill from there, basically. Except not, because it's boring and even Rachel Bilson can't be arsed to cheer. Simon accuses the bescruffed Ryan of trying to look like someone from Desperate Housewives, but I think He-Man is a better reference, because only Beast-Man ever tried to fuck Skeletor. Kenny tells Elliott to "sing it simply," thereby circumventing his entire niche, and he...does, and is boringly lovely-sounding, and looking closer and closer to acceptable week by week. The judges love it and Simon calls Paula a vapid fool, but she doesn't get it. He admits to being more nervous each week, just like Ace. Paris is dressed like Tom Cruise in Legend and sings "How Do I Live Without You" with exactly the same heart-stopping originality that you'd expect with that song, but with some Paris sugar on top. Randy and Paula aren't entirely sold, but Simon thinks it was awesome, because he's actually heard the song before.
Ace, fresh from Kenny's offer to put him up in a real nice apartment in Westwood, shivers through "I Wanna Cry" by Keith Urban, a song apparently so boring it doesn't matter which nostril you sing it through. Ryan asks Kellie to sign an affidavit that she's actually retarded, and she does, but then rocks the fuck out of "Fancy," like I wanted! Chris's total lack of qualities bores its way through "I'm Gonna Love You" (also Keith Urban), but at least he didn't uncover the Five Doors Down version, so I shouldn't be a hater. Simon tells him we "at home" deserve better than the boring songs they've all done the last two weeks. Katharine vamps it out with "Bringing Out The Elvis in Me," a not-very-country Faith Hill song, and it's great but there's not much to say. Kenny tells Bucky not to mumble, Bucky replies in some fashion, and then he non-mumbles his way through "The Best I Ever Had," by somebody or another, and is so fantastic I think that I actually might like a country song or two, just like with "Wave By Wave" a while back? Bucky is ruining my entire self-image. I just wish I could look at him directly.
What's Left Of Kenny Rogers tells the kids that country music "tells you a story," and leaves you with "an emotion of some sort." Kellie: a story of prostitution, a feeling of being stunned! Chris: a story of crying, a feeling of being stalked! Ace: a story of wanting to cry, a feeling of wanting to cry! Paris: a story of a Ren Faire waitress, a feeling of being bored! Katharine: a story of the Elvis within, a feeling of wanting to go on a date with Katharine! Mandisa: a story of hubris, a feeling of horizontal stripes! Elliott: a story of a Queer-Eyed leprechaun, a feeling of tomorrow never arriving! Taylor: a story of a tuberculosis victim, a feeling of pity!
What's Left Of Kenny Rogers sings one of those bullshit country songs with the clever wordplay, all, "I can't unthink about you, I can't not unremember the unthinking rememories of whatever." The pimpomercial involves Taylor obnoxiously destroying Kellie's ghetto car with the help of the Idols, and then Mandisa using electric Jesus to create a Ford Fusion from the pieces, and Ryan cracks that Kellie's so stupid, she probably thinks that's how cars are made.
Ryan splits the Top 9 into three groups, one of which is the bottom three. These are the groups: The Fakes (Chris, Taylor and Kellie), The Surprises (Mandisa, Paris and Elliott), and The Huh? (Kat, Bucky...and Ace). The Fakes immediately get sent back, of course, but it gets weird, because Kat and Bucky were awesome, while Ace is...Ace; but on the other hand, the Surprises have never been in the bottom three in any configuration.
Back from commercial, The Huh? are sent back, leaving Mandisa, Elliott, and Paris. That is so weird. I know all three of them sucked, but they...have fan bases, no? Elliott's fine, and it would be funny if Mandisa went home, because everybody loves/loved her. Mandisa looks calm and cool, Elliott's jumpy, Paris is keeping it together -- all as usual. Then Ryan sends Paris to sit down so fast you might blink and miss it. Simon says that Mandisa and Elliott were screwed by song choice, but at least Elliott's song, "If Tomorrow Never Comes," is recognizable. Always important. Ryan wishes them luck, then dismisses Mandisa. She rocks her sing-out, which is always nice -- really the featured player is Bucky, who keeps singing along and then clamming up when the cameras find him -- but brings an unnerving amount of Jesus into things at the last second. Later!
Ryan's back in the Brightside black-and-whites, with some aggressive scrubble on his little chin. You know, I love Ryan, but it's hard to think of him as a boy or attractive in the conventional sense -- but darn, he looks nice this week. A lot of people seem to find it laughable, but like, the dude's pushing 60, I think, so it's nice for him took like something other than a mid-'50s cleaning product mascot. I mean, he still looks like everybody's mom's favorite costume fallback, Halloween Hobo, but at least it's the kind that looks fantastic, and I'm happy for him. Keep the beard! (Heh.) Ryan tells us that we're live, and that the week's theme is country. Which is exciting in that I am really freaked out by the awesomeness of Bucky Covington, and this week will probably prove to be no exception. And who better, Ryan wonders, to usher in tonight's irritating festivities, than one Mr. Kenny Rogers? He then goes on at length about Kenny Rogers, but the person we'll see tonight is...not Kenny Rogers. I don't know whose palm got greased for this shit, but whoever they're trying to pass off as Kenny Rogers, I'm not impressed. Or maybe I'm just confused about who Kenny Rogers is? Because I thought he looked like a truck driver, whereas the person we see tonight looks like he owns an antiques 'n' sundries store somewhere in the Valley. He looks like my grandma, but with a goatee. Mystic Tan. Something kind of overripe and Eric Roberts-y about the face. That burnt-looking chemical-peel skin, with the baby eyes blinking...he looks nice, for a type, and he's got the lovely white hair, but if you told me this was Merv Griffin I wouldn't be surprised. And considering he seems to spend the entire two days trying to bed Ace Young, it would be a tight fit.
It's all very Hollywood, Kenny's look these days, and we get a short shot of him singing the gambling song with the kids -- Bucky playing guitar and on the edge of exploding with glee -- before we're in the thick of things. We cut to Kenny's clips with, and about, Taylor. Whom Kenny seems to think sucks. Basically, Kenny says, if he can "make the song his" and "make it feel important," he'll be okay. But that's not what Taylor does. It's hard to take anything seriously, hard to feel "important" about a song, when the person singing it is twitching and wriggling -- or, as this week, singing it from the fetal position.
Because Taylor, folks, he is not well. I don't know for sure what's going on here, or what the prevailing issues are, but as with Bucky, I really do enjoy his voice if I keep my eyes shut tight, and this week...no. He's singing "Take Me Home, Country Roads," which is a song I don't mind. There's a whole Ricky Skaggs/Eddie Rabbitt/Crystal Gayle/John Denver axis of country I genuinely like, but I've always felt quite warmly toward John Denver because all through high school and college I spread rumors that my mother was a Denver groupie. When I finally told her the story -- "From 1974 to 1977, my mother was on a Rocky Mountain High she'd never forget" -- she laughed so hard chalupa came out her nose. My favorite is "Annie's Song," because I am almost too gay to function. Somebody cool needs to cover that song STAT. There's a fiddle shouldering a lot of the heavier work, because it's country, and Taylor's doing this thing I call The Mary J. Blige Explains It All For You, which is a singing move where you constantly wave your hand around, palm up, like you're showing people the housewares on offer at a Tupperware party. "Voila!" He's so, so tired, and it's like he's explaining this complicated concept about the "country roads," but the situation is direly, deceptively simple: he's on his deathbed, he sounds shitty, and his heart is not in it. It looks like someone pretending to sing while having the Avian Flu. I hope he's okay. I didn't want him to drop dead, I just wanted him to stop twitching. Apparently he did that last week -- when my TV was being hoisted by every boy I know above the crowd like in Crocodile Dundee while I downed truffles and bellinis with a very self-satisfied smirk and a parasol for the harsh winter sun -- and I missed it. The fiddler looks like the Pied Piper, with crimped lady hair.