The season 10 contenders still standing all boarded a bus bound for Vegas on Wednesday night's episode. Their first stop: Cirque Du Soleil's Love stage, where all 61 hopefuls were tested on their Beatles prowess (many failed), and later, a "spectacular hangar" (Seacrest said it) transformed into the court of judgment. Gone was the long elevator ride, replaced by a new Green Mile catwalk, but the results remained the same: 24 would go through, the rest were headed home.
But first there's the matter of new vocal coach Peggy Blu, who in short order, put nearly a dozen would-be semifinalists in their place the only way she knows how: by berating them. "You're gonna die onstage in front of all those people," she told Melinda Ademi and Thia Megia. "I'm gonna be laying in my bed watching you croak." Someone give this woman her own show!
The addition of Peggy Blu was one of several new faces rolled out during the episode, including Interscope Geffen A&M chairman Jimmy Iovine, who piped in on several contestants' song choices, though they were shown earlier picking tunes out of a hat. "If you sing it at a wedding or a happy hour at a bar or at karaoke, that's not what we're looking for," said Iovine, who was flanked by his dream team of producers, including Rodney Jerkins, Alex Da Kid and Ron Fair. Sadly, it seemed many of the younger contestants didn't know the difference, or perhaps it was their unfamiliarity with the songs that was tripping them up.
With that in mind, several favorites struggled including 16-year-old Lauren Alaina, who teamed up with Scotty McCreary and Denise Jackson for a choppy "Hello Goodbye," and Ademi and Megia, who bore the brunt of Peggy's venom with their muffled version of "Here Comes the Sun." On the opposite end of the spectrum was Jacob Lusk, who took male vocal gymnastics to a whole other level, leaving his groupmates Naima Adedap and Haley Reinhart fighting to be heard on "The Long and Winding Road." But they turned the volume up and ended up outshining their male partner, leaving Jennifer Lopez breathless. "Stupendous," declared Steven Tyler.
Naima and Haley, who both advance to the Top 24, were just two of the gals who made strong impressions on Wednesday night. Rachel Levita's "Eleanor Rigby" has just the right amount of quirk to it, Lauren Turner pulled out a formidable "Let It Be," and Julie Zorrilla who joined Tim Halperin for a Troy and Gabriella-esque duet of "Something," also wowed.
Still, outstanding was hard to come by for most contestants, including the threesome of Jerome Bell, Lakeisha Lewis and Tatynisa Lewi, who took on "I Saw Her Standing There," Sophia Shorai and newlywed Ashley Sullivan who attempted an Amy Winehouse adaptation of "We Can Work It Out," and Kendra Chantelle and Paul McDonald, who performed a shaky "Blackbird" but later redeemed himself by rocking a Gram Parsons-inspired suit while singing one of his own tunes, "American Dreams." Respect.
Carson Higgins and Caleb Hawley didn't fare much better, and even fan favorites Casey Abrams and Chris Medina seemed more show than substance. A somewhat odd pairing, the presumably Jewish Robbie Rosen sang "Got To Get You Into My Life" with a gigantic cross as his backdrop.
Video: Jennifer Lopez cries as Chris Medina is eliminated
Forty survived the Vegas round and headed back to LA for a final judgment and the dreaded Green Mile walk. First on the plank: Naima, who after a fake-out and many, many tears, is given good news: she's headed straight to the Top 24. Joining Clint Jun Gamboa, Reinhart, McDonald and the soulful Ashthon Jones, she's one of the lucky ones as plenty are given a sympathetic heave-ho, and Lopez, for one, really struggles with being the bearer of bad news. Which is to say, she has a complete meltdown.
The cause: Chris Medina. Although the 26-year-old Illinois native had viewers' hearts, when it came down to vocal chops, his rendition of Coldplay's "Fix You" just didn't cut it. But while making that decision was one thing, delivering it sent Lopez over the edge. Fighting back tears and the inevitable makeup malfunction, Lopez barely got her words out and, in the end, could only say, "I don't wanna do this anymore."
The episode's final note: to be continued. Tune in Thursday night when the rest of the Top 24 is revealed and tell us: what did you think of Jennifer Lopez's breakdown? And who do you want to see make the final 12?