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Stuck in the Middle With You

Who says "American Idol" producers don't have a sense of humor? After all these weeks listening to contestants blather on about how much they love each other and give each other "strength," and weeping crocodile tears when one of their number gets whacked, the producers compel them to open the results show with a group-sing of Stealers Wheel's "Stuck in the Middle with You."

About 37 million votes were cast this week to determine the 12 finalists. All 16 wannabe's are seated on one side of the stage. Show host Ryan Seacrest, dressed like a Savile Row tailor, makes LaKisha Jones and Blake Lewis stand up; he sends them to the 12 Chrome Tractor Seats of Glory on the other side of the stage.


Next up, Chris Sligh's lush curls blushingly confess to Seacrest they're hopeful they'll be put through to the finals. They are. Lush curls bob happily over to their Tractor Seat of Glory.

Jordin Sparks also sails through, as does Phil Stacey, who is so shocked he weeps, for which we like him better because his performance this week really was not good.

And as shocked as Phil is, that's exactly how shocked Jared Cotter is NOT to be put through.

"You surprised?" Ryan asks.

"Very!" Jared says.

Ryan asks the judges for parting advice. Simon Cowell advises Jared to work on his singing. Paula Abdul tells him America loves him, which the voting does not seem to support. Randy Jackson recommends originality.

Ryan cleverly calls up the two backup singers simultaneously: Melinda Doolittle and Brandon Rogers. They're safe.

Ditto Gina Glocksen and Chris Richardson who are holding hands, which inspires Ryan to ask them how well they get along. Gina tells him to shut up because her boyfriend is in the audience. Gina is no fool.

OMG, it's American Idol Carrie Underwood! Could Carrie look more bored to be there? At least we now know where former Idolette Kellie Pickler got all that fat for those new "shoes" and bum she was showing off the other night on the show; it was obviously sucked out of Underwood, who looks rail thin. And wasted -- no wait, that's the name of the song.

Now, the big moment we've all been waiting for. Ryan calls up Antonella Barba and Stephanie Edwards. Ryan becomes very serious, so we know one of them is going home. It's Antonella, who assumes the But, I'm So Popular! look of shock.

Ryan wants to know what are Antonella's memories of being on "Idol."

"So many -- too many. I can't even think about it right now," she says. "So many great ones but..." she stops herself.

Ryan wisely does not ask the judges to give Antonella parting advice, instead telling Antonella "I know your fans would love to hear you sing one more time." Which is true, only in a T-shirt and undies, splashing in the World War II Memorial on the National Mall -- but you can't have everything.

Next, Ryan calls up Haley Scarnato and Sabrina Sloan. Sabrina is already crying. She has cause; Ryan tells her she's going home. Haley Scarnato is safe.

Haley Scarnato!

(That's my new favorite imprecation: "Haley Scarnato!")

The judges look surprised.

"Randy, should Sabrina be going home?" Ryan asks.

"Sabina should be in the top 12, dawg.... America got that one wrong," Randy complains.

Time for the Big Announcement Ryan has been promising us all week. It's called "Idol Gives Back" and during one week in April the producers hope to raise millions for poor children in Africa and the United States, by having Sacha Baron Cohen appear as Borat on results night that week (along with a mess of pop singers including Pink and Gwen Stefani) and by getting their sponsors to pony up money for every viewer vote cast on performance night that week.

We see footage of Ryan and Simon in Africa, looking like two colonial bureaucrats being greeted in the village where they'd come to collect taxes. The children are heartbreakingly adorable. Ryan is paid in bananas, which are loaded on his head.

Back to the business at hand.

Ryan calls up Sanjaya and Sundance Head. Who will get the final Chrome Tractor Seat of Glory? It'a a no brainer, of course, because this is a singing competition, not a hair-off. But Ryan announces Sanjaya is through to the finals -- Sundance is out.

The judges are shocked.

"I'm speechless," Paula says and then immediately begins to talk: "This is a singing competition," she says.

We know, we already said that, but you cannot say it too often on this show.

"Simon, what happened?" Ryan asks.
"The volume was turned down?" Simon says.

"Somebody give me a job - I need a job," Sundance tells about 30 million viewers.

Won't somebody, please, give Sundance a job?

By Lisa de Moraes  |  March 9, 2007; 2:25 AM ET
Categories:  "American Idol"  
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