'American Idol': The Riddle of the Sphinx
It's Hollywood week, so naturally "American Idol" opens in pretend-Egypt with host Ryan Seacrest sitting atop a sphinx with Hayden Christensen, star of the Fox flick "Jumper," about how the hotness gene is somehow connected to the ability to travel without having to suffer through airport security. Through the miracle of corporate synergy, Seacrest and Hayden are magically transported to the "Idol" auditions scene, where Seacrest suggests Hayden and he get together afterward. Secure in the knowledge this extremely uncomfortable moment will cause millions of "Idol" fans to run right out and see this flick over the weekend, Fox gets to the business at hand: winnowing down a pool of 50 contestants to just 24 semi-semifinalists.
Cut to scene of carefully lit judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell arguing about the mixing and matching of their semi-semifinalists and then they're done. It's time to break it to the contestants.
As in years past, contestants will have to take the Elevator of Unbearable Suspense, then walk the Hall of Terror to get to the Folding Chair of Horror in which they must sit to learn their fate.
Ronald Hodge goes first.
Ronald Hodge gets whacked.
Not Ronald Hodge!
We have absolutely no idea who he is, having not seen him for a nanosecond on the show to date!
This is such a shock!
Nina Shaw. Gone.
Mycale Guyton. Gone.
Lisa Aukerman. Gone.
Devastating losses, to be sure, had we any interest in these total strangers. Which we do not.
Ah, but here comes someone we know. Carly Smithson, the Irish work-visa-challenged former professional singer who sold, like, only 300 albums.
Paula bats Carly around like a mean old cat with a little tattooed mouse, making her sit in the Folding Chair of Horror while she prattles merrily on about how the judges look at the competitors' personalities, how they present themselves, that San Diego was not Carly's "shining glory," she came to Hollywood and had some really nice moments and then became that shy girl with self-doubts. Simon tells her to shove a sock in it.
"I think she wants 'yes' or 'no,' " is what he says, now that I think of it.
"I think you should be quiet, Simon," snaps Paula, who proceeds to spout some drivel about Carly knowing who she is as an artist, while we curse the Writers Guild of America for taking off the negotiating table its demand to represent reality series.
Finally, having exhausted her supply of pabulum, Paula breaks it to Carly that she's one of the semi-semifinalists.
"You tortured her," Simon admonishes. Right as usual.
Delusional David Cook and his crayon-red receding hairline get through, which gives the lie to the producers' statement that this year's group is the most talented ever.
Amanda Overmyer, the rocker nurse who sounds like a chain-smoker, turns out to be a respiratory nurse. We love the irony and that she's through to the semi-semifinals.
Amanda Hawkins. Buck Smith. Gone. Gone.
Again, we have absolutely no idea who these people are, but we're happy for them that they're being executed quickly and humanely, rather than discovering the hard way that Idolettes who have received no airtime during the auditions phase are always quickly given the heave-ho by viewers.
Ah, but here's someone we know.
Brandon Green, Fingernail Hoarder. He's also cut. Nope -- can't work up any outrage. We're happy he can go home and get that much needed therapy.
David Archuleta, former "Star Search" winner, gives a totally unconvincing performance as a modest kid, telling the "Idol" camera he's always doubted his talent and thinks all the people who lavish praise on him are "kind of tone deaf" and are just being nice to him " 'cause I'm so little." Millions of "Idol" viewers at home experience simultaneous rising nausea.
Naturally he's through to the next round, though the judges try to make it sound like it was a tough call, with Simon saying they took into account the fact he's only 16 and they "have to spend a little more time on people under 18 to make sure you are confident enough with what could happen next."
Pretty blonde kick-boxing, horse-selling Kristy Lee Cook, former kinda professional singer, is told she's made it to the semi-semis. Ditto No Smokin' No Cussin' No Drinkin' Brooke White who, contrary to what we were shown the previous night, made a hash of her piano performance in Hollywood, causing Simon to cringe. How he went from cringing to that "you have this whole Carole King/Carly Simon thing going on" rave, we don't know.
Danny Noriega, who "knows who he is," gets through as do Luke Menard and Jason Castro, who will learn the hard way that without airtime during auditions weeks they are as good as dead in this competition.
Shaun Barrowes -- who? -- won't have to find out the hard way 'cause he's out.
Alexandrea Lushington and Ramiele Malubay make it. But Miami Sound Machine Chick Lorena Pinot does not -- ouch! Ditto Farmboy Drew Poppelreiter, who tells Randy, Paula and Simon this means he won't miss turkey season.
Former professional singer Michael Johns is a semi-semifinalist, which hopefully means more "Bohemian Rhapsody."
Paula tries to torture Syesha Mercado:
"How do you feel about where you stand in this competition, blah, blah, blah," says Paula.
But Syesha is armed with the perfect comeback line: "I don't know -- I'm just waiting for whatever you guys have to say."
Paula tries to attack from another angle: "What word is inside your name?"
(Hint. The answer is not H-A-M or C-A-D. It's Y-E-S.)
Did you know Paula could spell? Me neither.
"You made that very confusing for her," Simon scolds. Again -- always right.
Robbie Carrico, boy-bander/possible Britney boy-toy turned rocker with razor phobia, gets through.
The producers are running out of time. Paula's running out of words she can spell. Simon's running out of patience. Garrett Haley, Kady Malloy, Chikezie Eze, Amy Davis, Alaina Whitaker and Jason Yeager all zip through to the semi-semis.
Asia'h Epperson reminds us -- again -- that she lost her dad the day before her audition. We are officially over that. But she has a good voice so we're not displeased when she's put through.
David Hernandez likewise, though Simon tells him he's going to have to work much harder if he's going to have any chance. Sounds ominous, except he got airtime in Hollywood.
Lives in Car Guy a.k.a. Josiah Leming, is next to take the Elevator of Unbearable Suspense to the Hall of Terror to sit in the Folding Chair of Horror. He tells the camera he thinks he's going to be put through to the semi-semis. But, sadly, we know he's a goner, because they only have one more guy slot left, and that slot is always decided by making two guys simultaneously take the Elevator of Unbearable Suspense, walk the Hall of Horror, and sit in Twin Folding Chairs of Horror. He takes it hard.
That leaves just Colton Berry -- who? -- and Running for Governor Guy, the extremely likable Kyle Ensley. Colton makes it, Kyle does not, which, Simon wants us to know, makes him very, very angry because, while he thought Kyle wasn't a very good singer, "you have something I thought people would have enjoyed."
So, all this time we thought the annual Idolette Dweeb Guy was put into the competition over Simon's objections when, turns out, he's the guy behind the tradition. That Simon has hidden depths.
Of the last two chicks competing for the one remaining chick slot, Cardin McKinney and Joanne Borgella, Seacrest says, "there was no doubt both girls had the talent," as we see a clip of Joanne screaming and Cardin flouncing around off-key.
Inexplicably, they choose Joanne.
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