There's a fancy, over-edited recap of last night that talks about the respective journeys of Jessica Sanchez and Phillip Phillips and ends with the onscreen text, "In the end, there can be only one." Prepare for the quickening, everyone.
After the titles but without preamble, we're dropped right into a group performance of "Run Away" by the top twelve through three. They're all dressed in white, as though they're not just eliminated from the competition, but actually dead. I'm a little embarrassed for Josh, having the same status as Jeremy Rosado and Erika Van Pelt (who is at least blonde again), but then he slips and flails during his one dance move, and I'm even more embarrassed. And then there's an extended dance break, both break- and swing, and I'm just embarrassed for everyone on earth. There's some dutiful applause at the end, and then they all part to make way for the judges' entrance, and that of Ryan, who's turned out tonight in a tuxedo. "Yeah, yeah, yeah, Ryan Seacrest," my seven-year-old groans wearily. Ryan says there were 132 million votes last night, a new world record. I didn't even know Guinness tracked that. Ryan calls Jessica and Phil, also in white, and asks the burning question on everyone's mind tonight: did they sleep? Phil, looking like a hippie cult leader in his white pants and Henley mildly informs the world that he slept about nine and a half to ten hours last night. He did better than I did. By the way, so far in the audience I've spotted Scotty McCreery, Jane Lynch, Lisa Rinna, Harry Hamlin and Carrie Underwood.
After the ads, the big guns come out with John Fogerty duetting with Phil (no longer in white) on the latter's song from the California round, "Have You Ever Seen the Rain." After the initial surprise, it gets boring in a hurry. They don't harmonize all that well, possibly because they just met for the first time today. Behold your possible future, Phil; if all goes well tonight, one day you'll find yourself in a courtroom defending yourself in a plagiarism suit. But they're not done! John Fogerty switches from acoustic to electric guitar while Phil mumbles a humble speech and they launch together into "Bad Moon Rising." We are clearly in no hurry whatsoever here.
In further support of this, there's a clip package of the wackier moments from the audition rounds, which I've already recapped once. And in some cases more than that.
Then Joshua comes out to sing "Take Me to the Pilot" by Elton John. It looks like it'll be more of the same, but then he invites on stage "the biggest inspiration of my life," and here comes Fantasia, looking deranged with long, straight hair and a spangly bodysuit with the outsides of the legs missing. As you can imagine, it's a festival of restraint and subtlety. That's a lie, obviously, but fortunately the commercials cut into their scream-off. Mercifully. Turns out a little F/Mantasia goes a long way.