American Idol
Final Judgment, Part 1

Episode Report Card
M. Giant: B | Grade It Now!
Define "Final"

Every week, it's like the start of a different series. Tonight, we're informed that the live shows begin next, and that I personally will vote and decide. A lot of people are going to be disappointed, if that's the case. But tonight, there is one final cut for the judges to bring it down to the Top 24 from the Top 42. Of course, we were supposed to be at the Top 40 already, so the 24 is probably a rough estimate, give or take half a singer.

After the credits, Ryan tells us that twelve male and twelve female singers will be selected for tonight's show. We flash back to January 19th -- incidentally, the night the second show of the season was aired -- when the Top 42 were delivered to the Wynn hotel and allowed to watch a private performance of the watery revue show Le Reve: The Dream. And that's where they'll be performing for the judges later, although on a platform over the pool instead of in it. Ryan tells us that the Top 42 sang for the judges "yesterday," confusing the timeline further, with a song and a single accompanist playing the instrument of their choice. We flash back to Jennifer's meltdown at this phase last year, and Ryan pre-enacts the walk down the runway onto the circular platform where each contestant will sit down in the chair to face the judges for the last time before the live shows. It's totes dramatic.

I'm hoping (vainly, as it turns out) that the timeline-futzing is done for now as we join the remaining contestants wondering at 10:00 AM what's next, and thinking back on all their past performances. Jen Hirsh is the first one called out by Ryan, and we get flashbacks of her first audition in Galveston, her successful Hollywood week group rounds, and killing it with "Georgia on My Mind" as her last Hollywood solo performance. And then we're back in a past we haven't seen yet, as she gave a loosey-goosey blues performance for the judges yesterday that didn't seem to leave Randy entirely impressed. Finally she makes it to the chair in front of the judges. Steven says it's not easy, which freaks her out, but Randy overplays the pause, telling her she made it through after she's already figured it out that he wouldn't be making her wait this long for a no. "Did you have to string it out so long?" Steven asks him as Jen heads back. Jen reunites with what looks like the whole Hirsh clan. And there's only going to be two more hours of this? How are they going to fit all 42 in? Hold me.

The next singer to take the long walk is Creighton Fraker, the busker who's been in groups with Jen all along. There's a replay of his "What a Wonderful World" performance, and we learn that he was adopted and grew up as a preacher's kid, with a rock-and-roll streak he attributes to his absent heavy-metal-singer birth father. But he was there yesterday, when Creighton sang "New York State of Mind" over a red-lit pool that looked like a volcano, putting him one false step away from turning into Darth Vader. Now, in front of the judges, he's nervous and un-groomed while he waits for the news -- and Jennifer tells him he's in the Top 24. His birth dad seems pretty excited. Nice of him to show up now that the kid's on the verge of fame.

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American Idol




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