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Real fun starts on 'Idol' with Group Performance Day

Note: Lisa de Moraes will be back next week after her satellite dish has recovered from the Snowpocalypse -- in the meantime, WaPo Team TV member Emily Yahr recaps Day 2 of Hollywood Week:

On "American Idol," Hollywood Week isn't truly Hollywood Week until Group Performance Day. That's when the real drama kicks in; because until now, we have only seen minute-long snapshots with everyone on his or her best behavior.

But on pressure-packed Group Performance Day, all bets are off. Force highly competitive strangers to join together, give them 12 hours to choreograph a flawless song routine, and add in zero sleep? Let's just say you have one entertaining hour of trainwreck television.

Ryan Seacrest tells us 96 singers remain in the competition, and that they must quickly split into groups to learn a song that they'll perform for the judges the next day. One bad decision can cost everything, Seacrest warns.

And with that, the contestants are let loose into the wild, scrambling to find friends, or just people that won't forget the lyrics.

The drama starts fast and furious. Mary Powers, the Cliche Rocker Chick that the judges seem to love, has two girls elbow their way into her group, Dreamers, (the groups have fun nicknames this year), making the ratio four girls to one guy. Moorea Masa, who made it to Hollywood last year (and sang with Danny Gokey) insists on her group rehearsing in the same spot to bring good luck. Speaking of Gokey, Maddie Penrose seems to be the contestant this year who wears new glasses each day to match her outfit. Maddie's group can't figure out how to choreograph their dance moves, but no one seems to care.

The 'Idol' cameras are trained to hang on to dear life for any ounce of conflict, and they follow along as Mary's group starts fighting about whether they really have room for two more members. Meanwhile, two other groups have already become rivals -- Neapolitan and Destiny's Wild are both performing Lady GaGa's "Bad Romance," and everyone glares at each other as they practice in very close quarters. And Moorea gets on the nerves of her fellow singers by creating a terrible arrangement for their song.

As the hours tick by, the cameras take a break from the fighting to track down Michael Lynche, the man awaiting the status of his wife, who's in labor with their first child. But that's a brief feel-good story of the night -- we're taken back to Mary's group, as she's taken over and managed to annoy everyone including "Idol" music director/pianist Michael Orland. "I'm not trying to be pushy," Mary protests. "But you are," Michael snaps. Why can't he be a guest judge?

After some more feuding between Destiny's Wild and Neapolitan, as Destiny's Wild hogs time with vocal coach Debra Byrd, it's the next day, and time to perform for the Simon, Ellen, Kara and Randy. Even the paid "Idol" staff, however, is getting fed up with the lack of preparation. "Do any of you know the lyrics? It's ONE verse you have to remember," complains music director Michael. Seriously...guest judge potential?

Just as Cliche Rocker Chick Mary starts to have a major meltdown about how much better the other groups look compared to hers, 'Idol' takes another quick break to check in with Michael Lynche. Michael's wife is now eight centimeters dilated, and in an "Idol" first, we witness a man talking his wife through labor via his phone, as she delivers a beautiful baby girl.

But this is 'Idol,' so even the miracle of life can't slow things down. This is Hollywood Week, people! We immediately cut back to the Kodak Theater stage with the first group of the day, Faith, with Michelle Delamor, Charity Vance and Ashley Rodriguez. The girls sing Beyonce's "Irreplaceable" well enough, and the judges keep them all in the competition.

New father Michael Lynche has hustled back to the stage, where he, Seth Rollins, Tim Urban and Michael Castro (brother of Season 7's Jason) comprise Team Awesome. They sing "Get Ready" by the Temptations, but only new dad Michael and Tim Urban get through. Seth had the adorable son with autism, and sadly says he's headed home to focus on his family. After several attempts at "Idol," the dream was not meant to be.

The two rival groups face off next -- as Neapolitan (Liz Rooney, Thaddeus Johnson, Jessica Cunningham and Paige Miles) breaks it down to Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance," members of Destiny's Wild look positively furious. Turns out, they're convinced that Neapolitan stole their performance ideas. "Oh no she didn't!" hisses Destiny Wild's Theri after Simon praises the group's effort, and Paige beams back, "We just wanted to have fun with it." All four members make it through.

Destiny's Wild (Todrick Hall, Theri, Jareb Liewer and Siobhan Magnus) try the Gaga tune, and though they sound better, they start doing flips and make the whole spectacle distracting. "It was really weird," Ellen admits. "You gotta know that. You're dressed like it's going to be Cirque du Soleil or something." But just like their rivals, the whole group makes it through, and they continue to trash talk Neapolitan.

A few more groups make it, but then the Mighty Rangers (Tori Kelly, Maddie Penrose, Danny Jones, Kimberly Kerbow and Mark Labriola) start the sad trend of forgetting the words. Tori and Maddie are voted through after singing Ne-Yo's "Closer," but Danny, Kimberly and Mark all blank on the lyrics, and are subsequently sent packing. Mark cries and begs for another chance, though the judges don't fall it.

The first real disaster comes with Moorea Masa's Phoenix, which also includes Jermaine Sellers, Ben Honeycutt and Jeff Goldford. The group had included Kat Nestel, but she tearfully decided to quit the competition, explaining, "I knew that I would mess up, and I didn't want to humiliate myself." After Kat bails, the foursome performs Kansas's "Carry On Wayward Son" with unfortunate results. Kara says so, and calls out Moorea for forgetting the words. Moorea makes the mistake of copping an attitude. "After all we've come though, I think we're gonna feel okay whether we make it or not, because we went through a lot," she sniffs. Simon, amused, informs her that having to learn a song in 12 hours is not exactly a hardship. Ellen tries to jump in and defend them for the last-minute ditching from their fifth group member, but it's too late -- Ben and Moorea are both booted.

A few more groups butcher Gwen Stefani song lyrics as the day winds up. This includes Big Dreams (Matt Lawrence, Amanda Shechtman), who destroys the song so badly that the judges can't even pretend like any of them have a chance. "It was as bad as I've ever heard in my life," Simon throws in for good measure, right before sending them all home.

Middle C (Jannel Wheeler, Jermaine Purifoy, Casey James) and Three Men and a Baby (including Andrew Garcia, Katie Stevens, J.B. Ahfua) sail through after great versions of Ne-Yo's "Closer" and Alicia Keys's "No One," respectively. Anyone get the feeling that the producers really, really like Andrew and Katie?

Group Performance Day, ends on a sour note for the most dysfunctional group, which has Mary Powers, Hope Johnson, Margo May, Erin Hundley and Alex Lambert. Unfortunately calling themselves "Dreamers," they sing Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams," which Randy says was painful. Simon begs them to stop singing, and even Kara throws in a "It's like the dream died somewhere on stage." Still, they choose to keep around Mary, Hope and Alex, but send home Margo and Erin. "I love 'em all and I wish 'em all the best, but I'll never work with them again," confides Mary, becoming more charming by the minute.

Finally, Seacrest tells us that's it for today -- 71 have made it through, and will make it to sing again in Hollywood one more time next week.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  February 11, 2010; 7:10 AM ET
Categories:  "American Idol"  
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Next: Ellen explains relationship with Simon Cowell


I am so over Ellen already. And Kara is just a waste of a chair. Oh Paula I miss you!!!! I just wish Idol would dial back the back stories and hand wringing and focus on the singers! I mean, I didn't even know Michael Castro had made it to Hollywood week again. I never saw him sing.

Posted by: tmeintermedia | February 11, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

They sure milked the contenders last night, situation wise. Whew. Glad that's over. I love Ellen and don't miss PA at all!!

Posted by: MrsKirby | February 11, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

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