S11E12: Every single year, Randy Jackson tells American Idol contestants that they’re the best group he’s seen. And every year, it comes down to the top 24 and I find myself thinking, “Yeah, okay. That makes sense.” Somehow, trimming the fat is always much easier than I thought it would be. There are always a few disappointments or slight shockers, but for the most part, by the time we get to the top 24, we’re all in agreement that they belong there. Of course, there’s the all-important element of reality TV editing, but we’ll let that sleeping dog lie.
In the final episode before America gets to start calling the shots, we find out who the remaining 10 finalists are after trudging through two hours of buildup to find out the first 14 on the last episode. But Idol is not one to keep things the way they are, so we start this episode with the conclusion of cruel (for the contestant – we all knew he was going through) cliffhanger and we end with yet another twist in Idol’s never-ending and often fruitless quest to truly shock us (oh, and that vision of Steven Tyler in his skivvies permanently burned into our brains). Idol, that’s what America’s votes are for – only we, the voters, can be truly unpredictable.
The Last 10 Finalists
Featured Eliminations: David Leathers, Jr., Jermaine Jones, Scott Dangerfield, Shelby Tweten, Ariel Sprague
Of course, as soon as the episode kicks off, we find that Adam Brock is totally and completely safe. If Randy’s hyperbolic criticisms and Jennifer asking him about his hopes and dreams with a look on her face like she was about to euthanize a kitty weren’t proof enough that they were working up to a fake out, Brock’s sheer amount of talent is. The guy has got a strong, soulful voice on him – plus, he’s got a really cute baby girl. Idol is hanging onto that goldmine for dear life. Powerhouses like caramel-voiced Jeremy Rosado, unbelievable dynamo Shannon Magrane, and instant favorite Hallie Day are clear shoe-ins – and their final performances prove that, causing Jennifer to happy dance and speak some language only a Nicktoons character could understand.
Baby Reba McEntire, Skylar Laine’s humility treads that thin line between endearing and annoying, and she fears she won’t make it because the top 24 already has a country singer in Chelsea Sorrell. Luckily, she’s wrong – because of a little something called a killer set of pipes – and she’ll go on to Reba it up in Los Angeles. My possible favorite contestant of 2012 (other than my main man Heejun Han) might be returning contestant Deandre Brackensick. I barely remember him from last year, which is insane because his bouncing lion’s mane of unruly ringlets is kind of unmistakable, but in a singing competition, it’s the voice that needs to be unmistakable and Deandre’s got that. He’s got a twist on Maxwell’s signature sweet, haunting falsetto and he made Jennifer (and me) a happy camper when he took on the artist’s biggest hit, “This Woman’s Work.” Jennifer says they’d be crazy to not keep him around – and that’s an understatement. The kid is nothing short of amazing. It’s contestants like him that make this show so much fun.
And then there are the dearly departed. Jermaine Jones, the mama’s boy with a voice like molasses (sorry for all the food metaphors, folks). After showing poor Jermaine agonizing and crying for over 30 seconds – which is a long time considering this series’ attention span – you’d think they’d at least give the poor guy a happy ending, but the judges are right. He’s just not ready. Still, it doesn’t make it any easier to see a gentle giant weeping buckets in his mama’s arms.
When we got down to the final two contestants, we got as close as we were going to get to a shocking elimination. The final pair was David Leathers, J. and Eben Franckewitz, our two favorite baby-faced young crooners. Only one could go on, and they both faltered for opposite reasons: David has an overconfidence issue and Eben lacks some bravado. In the end, it seems the judges think ramping Eben up is more likely than toning David down, because the 15 year-old with the angelic voice beats out David of the Michael Jackson timbre. It’s a bit shocking that Eben beat out David, but Las Vegas did bring him out of his gentle singing safe zone so it will be interesting to see how he handles the crowd in the Idol auditorium.
And because Idol can’t just leave it there, the series ups the ante once more: next week, the judges will reinstate of one of four potential male candidates: Richie Law, David Leathers, Jr., Jermaine Jones, and Johnny Keyser. Call me crazy, but one of these things is not like the others – Johnny Keyser is the only one who didn’t make it to the final Vegas performance. And if he is coming back, you can bet there’s going to be a stimulating story to explain his sudden return –at least, there has better be one.
Who do you think the 13th man will be? Do you think Eben should have stayed over David? Which contestant were you disappointed to see eliminated? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or get at me on Twitter. @KelseaStahler