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"American Idol": Countdown to Six

In a suspicious show of collegiality and generosity, our real TV columnist once again has given the keys to "American Idol" blogdom this week to Tamara Jones, auxiliary backup Designated Idol Watcher.

Sell the horse, suffer the consequences: Kristy Lee Cook is headed back to the Ponderosa, leaving six wannabe American Idols still standing.

Or not.

Actually, they're sitting -- cross-legged, in the middle of the stage -- in the first-ever live "American Idol" protest, led by dangerous teen anarchist David Archuleta, who is probably being reprogrammed by special Fox "counselors" at this very moment. Send donations to Free Baby Elmo, care of this newspaper.

Kristy Lee Cook gives her "Idol" farewell. (Frank Micelotta/FOX)

But first, a word from their sponsor: Ford has some wicked fun in its commercial, casting the seven Idolettes as marionettes singing "I want to break freeeeee." Carly Smithson looks like one of those dolls that will hide in your closet with an icepick after you go to bed. David A.looks relieved to have the strings attached again, so natural in this role that we expect to see Geppetto the Toymaker claiming dad's seat in the "Idol" audience.

Host Ryan Seacrest slips into his familiar Results Night mode, too, almost audibly smacking his lips over the torture to come. Tonight, he targets David Cook like a tabloid jackal circling prey.

David C. maintains his composure and dignity when Seacrest probes ruthlessly about his emotional state this past week -- a shameless attempt to exploit the reportedly grave illness of the finalist's brother.

Fortunately, most of the evening's interviewing is in the more capable hands of the viewers. Denise phones in to ask judge Simon Cowell to explain the difference between his favorite criticisms: theme-park performance, piano-bar performance, karaoke, and hamburger-without-meat performance (which Nanny Boohoo Brooke said hurt her feelings the night before). Alas, Simon has misplaced his Clever Rejoinder cheat-sheet tonight, and says they all mean "horrible."

Judge Paula Abdul is asked what song describes her relationship with Simon, and needs to have clues shouted at her by Seacrest and fellow judge Randy Jackson. For once, we think her confusion has nothing to do with whatever is in her sippy-cup. No, tonight it is clearly oxygen deprivation because a gigantic cabbage rose is strangling her, with assistance from a chainmail choker she is also wearing around her throat, which is further constricted by the knot on her halter dress.

The prelude to the night's high drama comes with guest mentor Mariah Carey performing a song called "Bye Bye" from her new album, waving like a malevolent homecoming queen at the finalists miserably waiting to see who is going to get whacked this time.

Despite such cruelty, Mariah does dress thoughtfully in what appears to be one of the postage stamps -- or maybe just half of one -- being hawked to raise donations for Idol Gives Back. (Is that feedback on the microphone, or is Mariah going for a sixth octave? Her breathiness fades in and out, too, as if someone keeps trying to smother her with a pillow mid-song).

Speaking of giving back, inordinate attention is devoted for the 748th time to the "sacrifice" Kristy Lee had to make to get to "Idol": selling her favorite barrel horse. Kristy Lee reveals that the buyer now doesn't want to sell the pawned pony back to her. Imagine that. Look for Kristy Lee to make her acting debut soon in the after-school special "My Former Friend Flicka."

Desperate to gin up suspense, Seacrest whiles away half the show shuffling the finalists around like so many cards in a deck stacked with mostly fours. Irritable and still not surprised, we are left with Syesha Mercado, Brooke White and Kristy Lee in one group, and David C., Jason Castro and Carly Smithson in the other.

David A., looking queasy backstage in a too-small red leather jacket (but thankfully, no weird black leather Dieter pants like the night before) is summoned forth, pronounced safe and ordered by Seacrest to go stand with whichever group he thinks is safe.

Plop. He sits down instead.

"I just wanna stay here," he whimpers.

Okay, okay, so maybe it was more an act of paralyzing indecision than bring-on-the-pepper-spray civil disobedience, but unless he's the surprise guest mentor next week, this is as close to Gandhi as "Idol" is going to get.

After failing to goad the 17-year-old to his feet, an increasingly annoyed Seacrest finally discloses that Brooke, Syesha and Kristy Lee are in the bottom three. They all make perfectly cute pouty faces that we're sure they didn't practice even once in front of a mirror, and Seacrest orders David A. to join the "safe" group.

Uh-uh. Still won't budge.

Which leaves Seacrest no choice but to summon the other "safes" over to join the Little Engine Who Wouldn't. David C. happily slides over on the floor to join David A., as does Jason, who is so mellow he would probably join a suckling pig in a pit barbecue. Carly ruins the moment -- so like her, she does it to herself all the time! -- by being unable to figure out how to sit down while wearing a dress. David A. finally gets up and Carly reaches out to throttle him, which is doubtless what happened when Scary Stage Parents got hold of him later, anyway.

Moving back to the more malleable Group of Doom, Seacrest grants Syesha immunity, while Simon predicts the obvious: "Maybe, Kristy, your time's up this time, sweetheart."

Adds Seacrest: "To that guy out there: Can she have her horse back?"

By Rose Jacobius  |  April 17, 2008; 6:43 AM ET
Categories:  "American Idol"  
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