Time To Go: Kellie Pickler annoys even Rod Stewart with her shenanigans and then sings HORRIBLY, but totally cops to it the second she's done, which will probably convince some people to ruin their own priorities by voting for her instead of putting us out of her misery. Immediately thereafter, like they're punishing us for watching, Ace Young is dressed like the youngest, gayest hit man in history, which is apropos for many reasons, chief among them being how he frigging murders "That's All."
The Good: It was maybe the most consistently enjoyable night of the season, on vocals. Not as a train wreck, but like with the noises going in your ears, it was good. Elliott sings "It Had to Be You" with creepy smiles all over the place, but a very flattering purple shirt. A song which is difficult to sing in an interesting way, but since Elliott seems to have invented his own vocal style, it's fun. Mimi Rogers just loves him. Taylor sings "You Send Me" nervously, but gets back to his usual Taylor self towards the end. The judges are very kind to him, but he's clearly bored the shit out of LaToya London. Chris goes first and sings "What A Wonderful World," in the manner of one who would like you to adopt one or more starving children, while dressed as a gangster. It's very well done, but just as personality-free and Hallmark/Hot Topic disingenuous as ever.
The Great: Paris is dressed like British Airways, and finally gives voice to the many, many dead women who inhabit her body by singing "Foolish Things" at the very top of her game, giving what might be her top performance ever, and pimp-spot Katherine takes command of the entire night with "Someone to Watch Over Me," performed almost entirely in Face-O-Vision.
Should Go: Ace.
Will Go: Ace. There's nobody left who sucks, and he's definitely going home before Pickler. Look for her and Chris to join him on the Seal, though. At least if those letters I've been writing to Mr. Henshaw are worth anything.
Ace's departure is written in Ryan's fake, tight smile and super-focused energy from the first moment of the episode. All the rest is farewell. Much tongue is wagged regarding how last night was the best episode this stupid show ever had, but whatever, they're right. It was really good. Last night, the standards soared, Elliott looked the fool but sounded awesome, Chris looked like a serial killer as usual but sang "differently," Paris did what she was born to do and the judges wigged, Kellie sucked ass and Simon thought she was repulsive (she agreed), Ace looked like a rapist and Simon called him kiss-of-death "charming," Taylor looked like a neuropathic accident and was called "magic," Ryan realized that Simon was drunk, and Katherine was awesome and her dad cried, but only because his wife beats him.
After a promising pimpomercial ("Kids In America") that starts okay, gets a little funky in the middle with that methed-up rave freak-out dancing, then gets touching at the end, Rod Stewart comes up trying to bone Ace some more and then sings a song. Ryan splits the seven into two groups of three, one of which is the bottom three: Elliott, Pickler, Kat and Chris, Paris, Ace. Really? That either sucks or it...really sucks. It all comes down to Taylor, it's all about Taylor, the focus is on Taylor, which is how he likes it. Ryan tells him he's safe, and asks him to choose which group is safe like him. He milks it and milks it, heads over to Chris/Paris/Ace long enough for Ryan to start talking, then smiles and heads across the stage. Asshole fake-out! Hilarious! Not at all showboaty! Ryan immediately sends Paris to sit with everybody else, leaving Chris and Ace. Either Chris goes home, or his bullshit the last five weeks is vindicated. I choose C, where they both go home. America disagrees, Ace goes home, and we learn that next week, Joe R's dealing with Andrea Bocelli, so I guess the theme is "weird-looking blind people." Can't wait!
Ryan's out in the audience, saying hello to us, wearing that confusing tie with the diamond squares down the middle again, and all scrubbly still. A credits sequence later, he comes out of the FANT ASIA stage and...everybody screams. Even though he was just out there. Marilu Henner, looking like the Emperor of Ice Cream and refusing to let her kids have any dairy, is screaming. Why? Ryan reminds us about how Bucky left, and that's very sad, and if you don't vote, you can't "boo," and he looks down at the judges and laughs angrily to himself, because the judges have been chatting like a drunken, bored Sunday afternoon in the garden the entire time he's been talking. "Pass me that sangria," says one, and the other says, "We're running out of cigarettes." Ryan shakes them from their summery reverie and introduces them to us, and they nod sleepily, Paula in so much Fellini-esque makeup she looks like the brilliant Pamela Gordon in the late evening of her life. Ryan says something about how Simon's underdressed but everybody is going to class it up -- Simon asks Paula to clarify, just to show how drunk they all are -- even though Simon's wearing what he always wears and the kids are all going to end up looking like they're in Bugsy crossed with Godspell, as performed by Second City.
Ryan talks a blue streak about Rod Stewart's "tight pants," which he pronounces like "pianist," and we learn how Rod Stewart went from obnoxious "rock" songs like ZZ Top straight to obnoxious standards, like fucking everybody else. Is there a single pop star that doesn't eventually relocate to a mental Vegas hotel? And more importantly: what about the "broken arrow/bottle of rain" and "Forever Young" era? Back when Mike + The Mechanics and their ilk could make you feel better about being a mid-thirties white man than even watching The Big Chill sixteen times in a row? The best era not including "Maggie May"? He seemed like a nice man back then, and Rachel Hunter was so, so pretty. Now she's a dancing bag o' bones, and Rod Stewart looks like Jonathan Crane, MD, and he's been singing everybody else's songs as long as my youngest brother's been alive. He explains to us how there was blues, and then jazz, and then standards came from that, and also swing, and thence the apocalypse. He dances like you think maybe the Gentlemen would, but he looks okay in the right lighting. Every picture tells a different story about how old he is ["Don't it? …Sorry." --Joe R]!