I know what you're thinking: how did this happen? Why did Pia Toscano, the frontrunner of all "American Idol" frontrunners, get sent home in ninth place? And how is it that Ryan Seacrest didn't better prepare us for the outcome? Where was the buzz of a "shocker you don't wanna miss?" What happened to the build-up? Or some foreshadowing?
In a way, what went down really is unbelievable. Think of all the former "American Idol" finalists who've made it further than this position. Jennifer Hudson is nothing to sneeze at, sure, but how about Sanjaya Malakar in season 6? He made it to Top 7, as did Season 7's Kristy Lee Cook. Neither could hold a candle to Pia's powerful pipes.
So what happened? We have some theories…
1. Girls don't like girls: It's a longstanding trend on "American Idol," whose audience is overwhelmingly female -- girls don't vote for the female contestants. Blame it on same-gender envy or the crush factor (this year's prime beneficiaries: Scotty McCreery and Paul McDonald), as Naima pointed out after her elimination last week, but it's simply a fact of "Idol" life. One by one, the girls get plucked like the petals of a flower. Watch them go…
Video: Pia Toscano performs on "American Idol"
2. Lack of guidance by the judges: With the new judges so positive pretty much all the time, the audience seems unsure of who to vote for. It's not like the show needs a bully to function, but when you're faced with the decision of choosing the best in a group of greats, some professional insight is called for and these judges are failing on that front. Suggestion: let Jimmy Iovine have a turn to tell it like it really is. Even a short segment at the end of the live show running down his thoughts on all of the finalists would work, no matter how disjointed it might turn out.
3. Presumptive Winner Syndrome: Or PWS, as I like to call it -- it's when everybody is so universally convinced that a contestant will win, that they basically neglect or forget to vote for that finalist. It's been Pia's problem from the very beginning, when it was insinuated that she might be a plant. Why? Because she's so perfect! That's why I criticized her pageant queen-ness, but I was also one of the millions who simply presumed that she'd be the victor.
4. The producers deemed it so: Now I'm not one for conspiracy theories, but it has to be mentioned -- maybe, just maybe, the producers fudged the results for some inexplicable reason, or simply to f**k with America on the brink of a government shutdown. Although it's worth pointing out that after the credits had rolled, several people in the "Idol" studio audience demanded a recount.
5. You can't touch Tina: Personally, I thought Pia slayed what is arguably the best piece of music to come out of the Ike and Tina Turner catalog -- with Phil Spector's production, no less (listen to the original here), but there were plenty of rumblings around the web about her robotic movements, unattractive outfit, and simply the fact that you don't touch the mighty Tina Turner. Pia had, of course, already taken on several of the divas, so why not? At this point, it was part of her "Idol" oeuvre. Still, the purists might balk, and perhaps they did.
What do you think sent Pia packing on Thursday's shows? Have any theories to share?