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Back Stories Triumph on "American Idol"


After a very disturbing performance night, in which "American Idol" judge Paula Abdul started to make perfect sense, we're relieved to see her arrive at Wednesday's results show looking like she's come to the set straight from from a Real Housewives of Sherman Oaks Canasta Party, wearing some deep blue satin ruffled number.


'Idol' contestant Lil Rounds. (Michael Becker -- Fox)

"I think we have an amazing start of the top 12 going on," Paula says thickly, in answer to host Ryan Seacrest's inquiry as to how she'd compare this year's Idolettes to previous years.

"Very good," Seacrest says for lack of any better response. Paula's back!

Seacrest introduces this weeks' How They Got Here video, in which this week's batch of 12 performers vie for Best Backstory:

I'm a stay-at-home mom," Lil Rounds offers.

"I was born almost completely blind," Scott MacIntyre says, totally trumping Lil.

"I'm one of those kids that had been through a lot," Nathaniel Marshall reminds us. He hasn't got a prayer.

And the tears they are crying, it turns out, are real and their friendships are tight, Seacrest reveals. But how is their choreography, he wonders, as this week's 12 Idolettes erupt into a Group Sing of "Hot-n-Cold."

How do you choreograph Group Sing when one of the performers is blind? It involves having the men sitting down, crossing their left leg over their right, then their right leg over their left -- like exercise class at the senior home.

They've "hidden" an actual "Idol" audition into the first ad break, Seacrest says. Yeah, we fell for that once. Okay, we'll fall for it again. Because it's our job.

Wow -- some chick singing the theme song to "The Jeffersons" while Paula, made up as Marian the Librarian, rocks out. That's almost as good as that E*Trade singing-baby ad.

Back from the break. Seacrest introduces this week's How Last Night Went Down.

In "Idol's" altered reality, How Last Night Went Down had started Tuesday with Von Smith. So far so good. But he's followed by Ju'Not Joyner, then Felicia Barton, both representing great performances, we're told, after which everything started to fall apart when Alex Wagner-Trugman came out and imitated a hamster trying to be a tiger. Then, Arianna Afsar tried to kill her inner cute-as-a-button by getting all contemporary with an Abba tune -- one disaster after anther, until, finally, they reached the Land of Perfect Song Choice, inhabited by Kendall Beard and Nathaniel -- apparently Meatloaf tune as Disco anthem is a perfect song choice -- who knew?

But, Voiceover Seacrest explains, it was raw emotions that made the big impression during Tuesday night's performances.

"Raw Emotions" involves Jorge Nunez performing "Don't Let The Sun Go Down on Me," followed by Paula going all cougar on Jorge -- I think it's "puma" in Spanish:

"I am so proud of you fulfilling your dream and I just want to squeeze you!" she squealed.

In response to which Jorge began to tear up and said, in Spanish but tonight translated on the screen: "I am so happy to be here!" to which judge Randy Jackson shouted back "Si! Si!"

We also get to re-live Scott asking Seacrest to give him another high five, and Lil making sense of a Mary J. Blige tune.

Next, it's time for Seacrest's occasional "American Idol" Lawyers Made Me Do It segment:

"We had a little fun with you last night," Seacrest says to Nathaniel, in re Seacrest's and judge Simon Cowell's homophobic cracks about Nathaniel after his performance of the previous night.

"Did any of the feedback offend you in any way?" Seacrest asks Nathaniel, not putting Nathaniel on the spot in any way.

"I took it with a grain of salt -- you guys are amazing," Nathaniel tells the judges, taking the high road which makes him a better man then they.

Seacrest asks Jorge what being here on "American Idol" and having this opportunity means to him as an actual Hispanic person from Puerto Rico. Why weren't they this patronizing to our gal Tatiana Del Toro? She's from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

"When you grow up in such a small country like Puerto Rico and see how much talent there is in a small island and you struggle so much...then you get here..." Jorge says, getting pretty choked up. On the other hand, he also says he's pretty annoyed at how cold it is in Los Angeles, because if he were in Puerto Rico right now, he would be basking in the glow of 90 degrees. It's only in the 70's in Los Angeles, Seacrest reports.

Seacrest asks Ju'Not to bring us up to speed on the previous night's cortisone-shot-in-the-heinie storyline. Yeah, cause we really want to hear loads more about that -- no detail to0 small, Ju'Not.

Turns out, Ju'Not had his very first asthma attack in the middle of rehearsal, and had to go a doctor and get that shot. But he's good now.

Only three of this week's 12 will be sent to claim finalists stools which this year look like Lemuel Gulliver's martini glasses -- the Stemware of Massive Opportunity.

Seacrets asks Idolette Lil to stand up. We know she's through, because she won this week's WaPo TeamTV Totally Unscientific "American Idol" Poll in a landslide -- 72 percent of the votes.

FYI, Scott MacIntyre came in a distant second with 9 percent of the votes, followed by Jorge with 4 percent. We'll see how the poll does tonight.

Lil is sent to the Stemware of Massive Opportunity after judge Kara DioGuardi instructs her to bring "ridiculous vocals" every single week. "Ridiculous vocals" is to Kara what "you can sing the phone book" is to Paula.

Next Arianna, Taylor Vaifanua, Alex, Kendall, and Scott are asked to stand up. "Take a good look at these faces -- one of these people is through to the top 12, but who is it?" Seacrest wonders.

"Duh -- Scott," we reply.

After the break, they drop like flies: Arianna, Taylor, Alex. That leaves Kendall and Scott. One nano-second of suspense later, Kendall gets the hook and Scott is through to the finals.

Randy forecasts Scott is "gonna keep it hot always."

"Keep it hot always" is to Randy what "ridiculous pipes" is to Kara, and "you can sing the phone book" is to Paula.

While Scott performs, we close our eyes and listen, so as not to focus on his virtual blindness. Nope, still not that good.

Next, Nathaniel and Kristen McNamara are sent to their doom. Too bad, we liked Kristen -- she was kind of blowsy and real.

Next Felicia and Von must stand. They know they're doomed because two of this week's best backstories -- Ju'Not and Jorge, aka asthmatic dad of world's cutest child, and actual Hispanic from actual Puerto Rico -- are still sitting next to them. Felicia and Von are shot down.

Ju'Not and Jorge come stand at center stage. It's a a very tough call: Ju'Not had an asthma attack during rehearsal, but Jorge cried on-air. We're sticking by the WaPo TeamTV Totally Unscientific Poll and -- we are rewarded. Jorge is told not to sing but instead head straight to the Stemware of Massive Opportunity.

They've trotted out no former Idolette to sing his/her single new single and advise the Idolettes, leaving the producers enough time to unveil the eight Wild Card candidates who will perform Thursday night.

First, Seacrest asks Simon to explain why this is necessary.

"Because the ratings were down last season so we decided we needed to bring the Wild Card back," Simon says.

Okay, we made that part up. What he really says is "Historically, this process enabled people like Jennifer Hudson and Clay Aiken to make it into the 12; if we didn't have the Wild Card pick, they wouldn't have made it...One of these wild-card picks could actually win this show."

Notice how nicely he worked in the reference to Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson, even though she did not win "Idol" and wasn't even a runner up -- to "Idol's" everlasting shame.

Randy gives the first Wild Card spot to Von Smith. Paula tells him he "only need to be himself," but Simon advises him to wear a hat.

Kara gives the second Wild Card spot to Jasmine Murray and warns Jasmine she needs to kill them Thursday night.

Paula unveils Wild Card-ian No. 3: Ricky Braddy. Simon announces Wild Card-er No. 4 Megan Corkrey.

They take a break to make some money. We see the E*Trade singing-baby ad. Everybody wins.

Then Randy pulls the stunner of the evening, announcing that, after staying up all night, the judges have decided to bring back the loopy but ridiculously piped Tatiana Del Toro.

This is a brilliant move on the judges' part. Tatiana does a deep curtsy before Seacrest, then begins to emote:

"I want to thank the whole world," she gushes. "I want this so much -- this means so much to me and I worked so hard to be here and I want to sing for you more than anything in the whole world, thank you so much!"

Matt Giraud, Jesse Langseth and, of course, Anoop Desai round out the Wild Card list.

And, as we bid adieu to this night in "American Idol," Jorge sings "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" one more time.

Join Lisa for a live discussion every Friday at 1 p.m. ET.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  March 5, 2009; 8:27 AM ET
Categories:  "American Idol"  
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Comments

OMG! Tatiana the Twit? Really? I'm so glad I didn't watch last night.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | March 5, 2009 8:36 AM | Report abuse

"Exercise night at the senior center" Lisa, you slay me. And I ask again, why is your column not in the WaPo print version???? fools.

I was SO upset that they brought crazy "not Hispanic ENOUGH" Tatiana back. Like it's not obvious they're only doing it for the drama.

Don't AI producers know their cred is in deep jeopardy and this doesn't help? I'm just bummed because contestants with really good voices and actual talent are not getting a chance. I really liked Ju'not, for instance, and the Hawaiian guy was so cute.

I think it's funny, though, that AI and Secrest keep poking at Tatiana to get her to act really crazy and she's attempting to revamp her image as a "serious" performer. The Vote for the Worst people must be over the moon about this!

Posted by: tmeintermedia | March 5, 2009 8:42 AM | Report abuse

I was really bothered by the group performance last night. Anyone else think it was lipsynced? Last week might have been too. I noticed several people screwing up, especially Alex. There was also an effect on the voices, so that helped it sound prerecorded.

I knew they had to do something with Scott, and now that he's top 12, the group sing will be more entertaining than ever. Maybe his helper dude will come out and help him dance. He'll be around for at least a couple rounds judging by the group that's forming.

In honor of Tatiana, with every question that I get asked today I am going to respond with a string of "Thank you's". I guess I'll have to start crying to make it authentic.

Yay, Washing Machine Girl is getting a second shot! Tonight is going to be highly entertaining.

Posted by: MaltyCharacter | March 5, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Lisa,

You mentioned two weeks that Jamar Rogers would be on the Wildcard spot with no question. How come you make everyone like me eat your words??

Posted by: poresident97 | March 5, 2009 9:03 AM | Report abuse

So, what have we learned so far? (no need to point out that LdeM's recap is the best part of AI - it goes without saying, like the sky is blue, or Tatiana will cry).
1. the new format bites the big one
2. slouching, slumping Kara is actually making Paula look articulate and pithy
3. less talent than in the past
4. bringing back Tatiana proves the producers have quit trying to pretend they aren't juicing the ratings
5. the E*Trade singing baby is the best ad since the E*Trade, I rented a clown ad
Discuss among yourselves. . .

Posted by: otdoc321 | March 5, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Did Danny Gokey's friend make it to the wild card round? It's been so long since he's been on, I forgot his name.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | March 5, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Yay, Tatiana the Terrible is back!

Posted by: DontWannaMyPostID | March 5, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

I've lost whatever little respect I had for the judges and AI. If this is going to be a back story show and or drama queen show, then rename AI and do an actual show about discovering new singers. Tatiana is a jerk, I can't stand watching her, and she isn't that great of a singer - the judges are idiots. Big time.

Posted by: MILW | March 5, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

waterfrontproperty -- Danny's friend didn't make it to the 36, much less to the Wild Card.

Posted by: otdoc321 | March 5, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the recap, Lisa, I hate the results shows.

Not suprised one bit they brought back that superfreak, Tatiana. And no doubt it is for ratings. I'm sure they will milk it for all it's worth and then make sure she doesn't win (like she has a chance). What producer would want to work with someone as histrionic as she? Perhaps we should vote her through just to teach them a lesson.

Glad Drama Queen Nathaniel is gone. I liked him less than Tatiana the Terrible. With him and that blonde girl gone, I can imagine that somewhere that red-headed African American drama queen that was in their Hollywood group, is laughing her a$$ off.

Posted by: hodie | March 5, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

You guys are crazy dissing draaamma queen Tatiana; if Tatiana didn't make it no one would watch. I was cheering from the balcony when she was put through. I mean no one in the world is going to give two shakes if Lil Rounds (is that the breakfast homefry thing from Hardees?) sails through. If we have to listen to Jorge and blind guy and dead wife guy - man I can't watch that stuff, too schmaltzy. But Tatiana is real; seriously you cannot fake that psychotic behavior. That, my friends, is reality TV at its best and finest.

Posted by: bdean1 | March 5, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

A couple of observations:

- Anoop and Corkey are both almost locks to make it into the final 12, IMHO.

- Yes the Tatiana thing is a joke, but let's not pretend this is anything new to AI.

- I love the over-use this year of the word "Commercial." "Commercial" is AI speak for "Pretty." We get it, Jasmine is young and gorgeous, but she really can't sing very well at all. Stop pretending like "Commercial" means anything other than "Your face would sell records, and we could run your voice through a computer to make it listenable." Another wasted WC spot, IMHO.

- I was sad Kristen didn't get a WC spot. She was pretty enough, IMHO, but a little short and a little chunky (not "fat" by any means)...I guess she wasn't "Commercial" enough.

- To the person yesterday who said I didn't "get" the style of music that Lil Rounds sings, and that's why I don't "get" her...I'm going to have to disagree. I get that genere just fine, I just didn't think she did a great job. She was stumbling all over the low notes, it was a mess. It's not even an issue of an unfamiliar song, I've heard that song hundreds of times.

To me, Lil exemplifies something that I see alot in the singing word, esp. in musical theatre - people confuse the ability to belt with the ability to sing. I've seen a lot of people whom others though were "great" that couldn't sing a solid medoly if they tried, but when given the oppoertunity, they sing one loud, long sustained note.

That's what I see with Lil, every song she sings is the thing that she has to do to set-up her end of song belt. That's going to get old quick, IMHO.

Posted by: VTDuffman | March 5, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Regarding Scott's handicap to choreography: here's Plan 1 -- Recall that a wheelchaired dude at Louisville has his Dad push him around during halftime shows at their football games. So maybe his handler-guy can, y'know, do something similar? No? Then here's Plan 2 -- handler-guy can wear a Scott mask and join the dancing since the group sings are apparently lip synced anyway.

Regarding Scott's other handicap (his vocals) -- 'nuf said.

Posted by: redrocket | March 5, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Great ideas, redrocket! Or Scott can stay in one place and the others can move around him. Move back when he is to be featured, up when he is not. But have to say I like the mask idea best!

VTDuffman, ok, Lil is not your cup of tea. That's ok, I respect that. But disagree completely that you feel she lacks technique, talent, etc. Encourage you to go back and listen again if you Tivoed it. She was really the only singer who was controlled and consistent. Hopefully she will change your mind later, give her a chance. And I thought the opposite of what you thought, noting that her song was not just runs and holding long notes. But again, it's ok. I like that we all have different opinions. More interesting when results are unpredictable.

Posted by: hodie | March 5, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

In my humble opinion:

1. Of course the producers brought back Tatiana. She has "mantal breakdown" written all over her. Counting the days until she is voited off (again) and has a complete sh*t fit on live tv!

2.Loooooove Anoop Dawg! He def screwed up his first song choice but he rocked all through auditions and Hollywood Week so I am confident he will come back strong.

3. Wish Ju'Not had made it. I thought he was good and deserved a shot.

4. I do not think Megan, Jesse or Jasmine have a prayer against Alexis, Allison, and Lil. These girls can sing - the others are doomed to look like high school musical rejects when the real competition begins.

Posted by: AmuseMe | March 5, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Encourage you to go back and listen again if you Tivoed it.

I encourage you to go listen to the Mary J song first, and then listen to Lil. Not only is her performance copycat, she chokes all over the verse.

She was really the only singer who was controlled and consistent.

I disagree, but that's fine.

Hopefully she will change your mind later, give her a chance.

If she sings a song well, she'll change my mind no problem. I'm just not buying that she's as good as the judges are telling me she is.

If you ask me, there's only one singer in this competition who has the combination of uniqueness, talent, and personality to win the whole thing and that's Alexis.

Posted by: VTDuffman | March 5, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

I wish Ju'Not had made it too. I really loved his voice.

Posted by: MILW | March 5, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

America voted and from the talented singers up there Tuesday, they picked...Scott? It's the bland leading the bland (no typo). Talk about condescending: if he wasn't blind would the judges be fawning over him? And Jasmine, having managed to get through her first song without a single note in key, gets to go through, but not Kristin? I'm also really disappointed about Junot -- he delivered a musically interesting, well-sung vocal performance, that had a lot of subtle phrasing. Instead we get Jesse and Tatiana -- I wish they didn't feel they had to balance this thing like Noah's freaking ark.

On the plus side, Ricky Braddy and Anoop ARE really good singers, so I guess there is some justice. And I would like to see Matt Giraud perform at the piano. If any of those guys get in to the top 12, I don't think oil rigger dude will stay there long.

Posted by: owingsmills | March 5, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

The audience tonight will be up at least 5 million because Queen Tat of Dramatatia is on. Idol producers ain't no fools. If she sings at least decently tonight, she's got a Silver Stool for her throne by program's end--probably the very end. How can they pass up this Massive Opportunity to spike the Finals ratings by millions of viewers? Simon will vote for Tatiana, and he only needs one more vote under the voting system (Simon wins ties). The Controlling Interests will see to it that he gets it.

Anoop or Jorge will be in for sure. Both? That would make 8 guys and 4 women in Final 12. Not likely. It's got to be Anoop Dog, duh. Megan is probably in, monstrous tatoo and all. I somehow like her style. Seat #12: Jasmine would be boring, Jesse is cannon-fodder, the 3 non-Anoop guys unlikely because of the above-mentioned arithmetic. That leaves the inevitable Love-Hate VFTW ratings-bonanza choice: Tatiana!

BTW, my choice by a mile for the ultimate 2009 winner: Alexis Grace.

Posted by: Brookelover | March 5, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

They'll end up going with at least two of the three girls, otherwise the final 12 will be disproportionately male. Which will be a shame, since that means that at least two talented guys will be passed over for one or two of the less talented girls. And if their intent is to start with 6 of each, then the guys may as well just not bother to show up at all, since they don't have a chance.

Posted by: belladonna0425 | March 5, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Yay, Tatiana's back!! Though I found her annoying as all hell in the beginning, once she left the show, things just weren't as entertaining anymore. And, as you pointed out, Lisa, she *does* have an incredible set of pipes, which makes her the worthiest of the 3 "entertainment characters" (Normund and Drama Queen Nate being the other two) and deserving of a spot in the Top 12. She was crazy as ever fluttering down to Seacrest after they picked her (that redneck that she tried to hug was so mean! She's insane, yes, but be a man and have the grace to pat her on the back at least!), but she was sincerely happy and, again, I felt bad for her when several people snickered in a very mean way in the audience. I didn't have much to like about her outside of her excellent voice before, but now that people are just being mean for the sake of being mean, I'm going to help VFTW out and throw a few votes her way every week too. If the poor kid STILL wants this so much after all the flack she's taken, I'll help her out.

Aside from that, the 3 finalists picked tonight were about right (pleasantly surprised the country folks didn't rally behind their boobalicious blonde--she was cute and not too bad a singer). I'm REALLY glad to have Anoop and Jessie back--both great singers who didn't get to show their stuff during their weeks. Can't wait to see what they're gonna do tonight! My hopes are that Anoop, Tatiana and either Jessie or Ricky (I *think* I liked his performance, but I can't exactly remember anymore...) get through tonight~

Posted by: Kureno | March 5, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

poresident97 and waterfrontproperty:
Danny Gokey's friend, Jamar, did not make it to the WC round because he wasn't eligible. Only top-36 semifinalists were eligible to be picked. At the time that Pookie made the suggestion, TPTB had not announced what the criteria for selecting WC candidates would be. On 2/25, MTV published this based on speaking with an AI spokesperson:

http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1605830/20090225/story.jhtml

It's always interesting to see how peoples' opinions differ. I thought that Lil an above average job and pretty much locked up a final spot because we know that the AI voters love the black diva with the big voice and she's the closest we have. Jasmine has a pretty Motown sound, but not the big diva sound.

Ugh...Tatiannoying has to go. She has a decent voice, but although her non-singing persona is entertaining and annoying, her singing persona is bland and boring. She has a decent voice, but absolutely no personality when she sings. I also find Megan Corkrey to be in pretty much the same category.

belladonna0425--the producers and spokesmen for AI have said that they will not require any gender balancing this season so it can be unbalanced. However, we know that they'll do minority balancing so you can be pretty assured that Anoop will be in the finals.

Based on fan followings, I think the three that have the best chance in the finals are Ricky Braddy, Anoop Desai and Matt Giraud. My guess is that two of these three will go on and either Jasmine or Megan will secure the last spot.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | March 5, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

How the hell did Von Smith get picked over Ju'Not?

Posted by: TheRoss-Man | March 5, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

"When you grow up in such a small country like Puerto Rico..."

Last time I checked, Puerto Rico is an AMERICAN (US) territory/commonwealth and not a country. The US flag flies atop and the National Anthem is the Star Spangled Banner. Jeez, he's just another American who speaks in broken English.

"an actual Hispanic person from Puerto Rico" is like saying "an actual fat person from Wisconson" (It's just an example Wisconson no offense intended...but you do have a LOT of great food and nothing else to do).

This year is gonna turn into "who do you feel sympathy for the most" as we have a guy flaunting his dead wife, a blind guy, and a real Hispanic from Puerto Rico...the other nine better hope for a death in the family, amputation, or get their minority to the forefront quick ... or maybe they should just frickin' sing better than everyone else... no wait, that didn't work out so good for Melinda Dolittle or Jennifer Hudson.

Posted by: cdiasmd | March 5, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Lisa wrote: "a Real Housewives of Sherman Oaks Canasta Party."

Just like Mama Cass, I choked on my ham sandwich!

Why this woman hasn't won a Pulitzer Prize is beyond my comprehension!! :-)

Posted by: jpstang | March 5, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

I agree! Adam Lambert has already filled the "obnoxious theater singer" role so they did not need Von at all! Ju'not would have been a much better choice.

And I don't think balancing the genders is a concern. AI is all about niches - i.e. Diva, Frat Boy, Soul Singer, Emo - but gender equality is not usually a concern.

Posted by: AmuseMe | March 5, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Lisa-

I think you are by far the best writer about Idol. Not only is your prose amazing, but you often find amusing the exact same things I do.

Please continue to harp on Scott (who at home we call "blind guy"). I predict he is the new Sanjaya and probably three better people will be sent home before he is finally eliminated.

Posted by: idolguy1000 | March 5, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Lisa - you outdid yourself once again! When those guys were sitting on that bench crossing their legs I laughed knowing you'd have something to say about that! To day I was disappointed when Scott made it through is an understatement. He really is not that good...he obviously has a great heart and is a great guy, but not a great singer.

And Tatiana -- good grief! This year's Sanjaya or Chicken Little. I'm so glad Matt made it back in the wild card spot. I hope he "brings it" tonight.

Greatest disappointment of the evening was that my boy Jason did not show up.

Posted by: majorjasoncastrofan | March 5, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

To MILW - I think exactly the same. I just loved Ju'Not's voice and this was actually the FIRST time I ever voted for somebody! I like the song, too, but I just thought it sounded great the way he sang it. So sad he did not get through.

Posted by: anjacarolin | March 5, 2009 10:42 PM | Report abuse

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