Jermaine Jones, the proclaimed "gentle giant" who was brought back to the show after being eliminated prior to the semifinals, was announced Wednesday night (March 14) to be off "American Idol" -- for good this time.
His elimination follows the revelation of a previously-unknown criminal record, and as executive producer Nigel Lythgoe stated in an interview with Jermaine, the show is not allowed to have contestants with arrest warrants.
Though most knew of the elimination prior to the episode's airing, it was revealed officially about halfway through the show. Why did "Idol" televise Lythgoe and Ken Warwick's talk with Jermaine? Your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps producers expected the singer to break down into tears as he did when he was first eliminated. Was it a ratings grab?
So with one contestant already out, you might think the remaining 11 would be safe this week. Nay! The show will still eliminate another one of its own Thursday night.
The theme was "Songs from the Year You Were Born," which is always a great way to make viewers feel suuuuper old. The range this year was 1983 to 1995 (!).
Song choice was an issue, according to both the coaching team of Jimmy Iovine and guest will.i.am , as well as the three judges. Very rarely did a performance end without someone noting this. Perhaps, then, the powers that be should be putting better tunes on the potential songs list?
As usual, here are my picks for the singers who will be through to the next round, who should be through, and who may be in trouble. I feel pretty good about these picks, but as we saw last week with Joshua Ledet, even I have my off-weeks.
Joshua Ledet - "When a Man Loves a Woman"
I know, I know -- if he was in the bottom three last week, is he really a definitive yes? Are viewers even feeling the guy? After last night, they should be. J-Lo called his performance "the best thing she's ever seen" on "Idol," and all three judges were on their feet -- halfway through the song. Joshua showcased a brilliant falsetto that might leave even Deandre squirming. Even if he's in the bottom again -- and dare I say it, the lowest vote-getter -- he'll be fine, because the judges WILL use their save on him.
Hollie Cavanagh - "Power of Love"
Hollie had been a bit quiet until last week, when she took on "All the Man That I Need." This week? Celine Dion . Concerned yet? Go ahead, it's okay to be. It's a big song, but Hollie pulled it off nicely. She was pitchy in some parts, but she does power ballads in the way J-Lo thinks Erika Van Pelt can do them (and in the way Erika wishes she could). Winning potential? Maybe not just yet, but she's improving.
Phillip Phillips - "Hard to Handle"
I'm probably never going to be able to say that Phillip's got even a shot of going home until the very end -- the cheers from the crowd last night solidified this. He's a popular guy, and his rendition of the Black Crowes'  version of "Hard to Handle" fit him like a glove. He performed with no guitar, which was weird to see (remember when Crystal Bowersox  performed alone two years ago?), but even after a kidney stone operation days before, he's still one of the men to beat.
Skylar Laine - "Love's Sneakin' Up on You"
Skylar and Bonnie Raitt  -- a fine combination. After being dubbed 'ghuntry' - ghetto country -- by will.i.am, the country girl came out with a rockin' version of the tune that showed off her country pipes yet again. It was nothing spectacular, but it was yet another solid performance from the teenager -- and at this stage in the contest, consistency is good.
Jessica Sanchez - "Turn the Beat Around"
Here's where the song choice woes began. Jessica sang the up-tempo Gloria Estefan  hit, but the judges seemed to be expecting another ballad. Why pigeonhole her? Sure, staying within your comfort zone works, but very rarely do singers make a career of singing just slow ballads, so I'm not sure what the judges want here. But Jessica still commanded attention with the performance, with only minor pitch issues, so it's hard to see her leaving just yet.
Colton Dixon - "Broken Heart"
Colton sang a song that apparently no one knew (what?! No one remembers two-hit wonder White Lion ? For shame!). Verdict? A solid performance for the rocker, who's beginning to show a frontman's presence with his performances. According to will.i.am, the song is now Colton's. According to Steven Tyler, it was the wrong song choice. Can't win them all, I suppose. But the performance should keep his fanbase fairly happy.
Elise Testone - "Let's Stay Together"
I'm saying this in my best pleading voice, guys -- can we PLEASE keep Elise around this week? If her performance was any indication of how the votes will go, she's good. But barely being saved over Jeremy Rosado last week causes concern. She did the Tina Turner  version of the song, and the rasp and unique tone of her voice was perfect for it. "Elise is back!" proclaimed Randy. Let's see if the voters agree.
Deandre Brackensick - "Endless Love"
The coaches thought Deandre's first choice -- "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" -- was a wrong step, so they chose another song for him. And you could tell he wasn't feeling it through the entire performance, especially at the song's end. That doesn't bode well for Deandre, who needs solid showings every week in order to stay alive. I'm glad he's not relying on his falsetto like he was early on, but this was just uninspired. I'm not blaming him for it, but something good needs to happen for him and his luscious hair soon.
Erika Van Pelt - "Heaven"
Erika's issue -- as it has been since she joined the competition -- is connecting with the audience. I don't want to call her performance of the Bryan Adams  classic karaoke-esque, because the vocal was much better than that. But Erika simply isn't giving the performances that will make viewers want to vote for her. This is a singing competition, yes, but there needs to be more to the performance than the vocal.
Heejun Han - "Right Here Waiting"
Would it pain the guy to move around when he sings? The fan favorite is starting to get really boring, really fast. His Richard Marx  cover was just about the same showing we've seen from him each time. He sang, he stared into the camera, and he took Michael Stipe's advice of standing in the place where you work. If Heejun stays next week, he needs to make his performance a little more exciting.
Shannon Magrane - "One Sweet Day"
Shannon needs to catch up to the other contestants in a hurry, because they're starting to leave her in the dust. There's been no progression with the young singer, and she tackled a big song by attempting Mariah Carey . She's just not good enough to do that, and it showed. She's young and has potential, but she's just not showing it these last few weeks. I see Shannon being most in trouble this week, along with Heejun.
What did you think of the contestants' song choices? Should the judges and coaches lay off or keep bringing the pain? Do you miss Jermaine? Who's your vote this week and who's going home? Tell us in the comments, and check out the results show tonight at 8 p.m. on FOX.
- Reality Check