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Eliminated Contestant backstage at 'Idol': 'I Woke Up ... With a Little Gut Feeling.'

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May 11, 2012 | 4:36am EDT

ALTForget about a bottom three! This week, America and the studio audience at CBS Television City — where I watched Thursday’s elimination show — were kept in suspense. Sneaky trick, Ryan Seacrest — waiting until the final moments to reveal which Idol’s California dream had ended? Brutal! But, as the family sitting in front of me in the theater called it from the start, Hollie Cavanagh who sang her swan song and was sent back to Texas.

In fact, Hollie’s elimination seemed to shock few in the audience, or at the judges’ table for that matter. While listening to Hollie’s final song, best bud Joshua Ledet was clearly the most emotional person in the room. He barely found his seat on the couch as tears streamed down his face after receiving a hug from her.

It wasn’t until the end of her song that the audience and judges rewarded her with her last American Idol standing ovation. Unlike in weeks past, the judges were the first to greet Hollie post-performance, shortly followed by her mom, Nigel Lythgoe, and Joshua, who still had tears streaming down his face.

Backstage, Hollie revealed that she all but knew that it was her time to leave the competition. “I woke up this morning with a little gut feeling, just like, okay. You just know,” she said. “You take this whole journey with people and when you get eliminated, it's emotional. I was fine, but when I saw Joshua crying, I got teary-eyed!"

With Joshua in tears, Phillip Phillips became Hollie’s backbone on stage. As they stood together during the final commercial break, he put his arm tightly around her back and even allowed her to lean her head on his shoulder. (Lucky girl.) He also seemed nervous, but was bolstered by the fact that the audience was screaming for him mere seconds before Ryan’s announcement.

Without revealing the bottom three, each contestant was brought to the stage for a rundown of their performances like a typical elimination night, starting with Phillip, who was nervously rubbing his hands together at the start of the show. With the audience cheering, Phillip hugged Ryan after he announced that he would return to couch for the time being. But then he glanced back at the host, seemingly annoyed that he wasn’t simply safe for the night. Like I said, sneaky Ryan.

Hollie then took to the stage to hear the mixed reviews of her performances. Even this early in the show, the audience knew that Joshua was on her side — the contestant watched Hollie, appearing nervous as he waited to hear what Jimmy Iovine would say about her. When she returned to the couch, Joshua quickly put his arm around her back.

As for Joshua himself, his only competition for screams came from Phillip. Even as Joshua nervously shifted from foot to foot during his video package, the audience continued to cheer for him. And, despite his nerves, he managed to crack up the judges — Steven Tyler laughed and tapped his hand on the judges’ table as Joshua commented that J. Lo was attractive.

Finally, it was Jessica’s turn to take center stage. During her package, her fellow contestants and audience members cheered for her performances like they were hearing them live. There were boos in the crowd when Jimmy began to critique her first performance — but no one seemed as disappointed as Phillip, who appeared genuinely surprised by the feedback.

In addition to the elimination, the Top 4 also took the stage to sing, predictably, “California Dreamin’,” which got the audience clapping their hands in the air, no matter how awkward the choreography. However, the crowd was being a little selective about their standing ovations — this performance didn’t receive one.

But American Idol season 7 winner, David Cook, did get his standing ovation. While the judges were nodding their head in approval of “The Last Song I’ll Write For You,” Phillip seemed to enjoy the performance most, leading the crowd and other contestants in a standing o.

Following the performance, Randy Jackson hugged the season 7 victor, and introduced him to Steven and Jennifer. After the foursome posed for pictures, David was also greeted by Nigel, who seemed thrilled to have him back on stage.

The night also included a pre-taped performance from Jennifer Lopez. Why my section felt the need to stand for the video, I will never know. Regardless, they too seemed unhappy to not see “Dance Again” live.

But, Jennifer Lopez did bring a different show for the audience. In addition to having boyfriend Casper Smart in the audience (and getting close to him during the “Dance Again” performance), her twins, Emme and Max, gave her hugs and kisses at the judges tables’ during a few of the commercial breaks.

After an action-packed night at Idol, Are you happy with the top 3? Who will take the cake? Come back next week for more behind the scenes intel from CBS Television City!

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