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‘American Idol’ Recap: Michael Johns Eliminated

[IMG:L]Not since Chris Daughtry finished in fourth place during season 5 has there been a more shocking American Idol elimination: Michael Johns is gone!

The vocally versatile Australian singer, who was at one point considered a serious contender to win it all, was ousted Thursday night, while Syesha Mercado and Carly Smithson, the other two who comprised the bottom three, remained safe for at least another week.

Idol threw viewers a slight curveball on Thursday night, as Ryan Seacrest directed each of the first five contestants towards the “safety” couches one by one, leaving Johns, Mercado and Smithson as the clear bottom three for this week. That wasn’t the only surprise of the night, however.

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After Seacrest’s announcement that Mercado and Smithson were safe, thus eliminating Johns, the host said something that almost restored the oxygen into the mouths of everyone in the audience and on stage: “Last year we didn’t eliminate anyone during ‘Idol Gives Back’ week…”

Unfortunately, he didn’t end that sentence the way we’d all hoped, continuing, “…but Michael Johns leaves us tonight.”

It was somewhat cruel to lead us all on (or maybe I’m just bitter), especially Johns himself, but crueler still is the fact that this guy will go down as the eighth best singer of season 7!

Clearly his front-runner status had slipped of late and his chances of being the next Idol dwindled into oblivion, but still, was Johns really less talented than, say, Kristy Lee Cook (no offense, Kristy)? Syesha? Granted, the show is not all about pure talent–which was never more obvious than during Sanjaya’s lengthy stay last season–but c’mon, voters!

Here’s hoping the talented 30-year-old finds the success he deserves with a proper music career. (Johns reportedly signed a recording contract with Maverick Records in 2001, so he’s no stranger to the biz.)

The rest of the show (aka the first 50-plus minutes) was something of an extension of Wednesday night’s (taped) “Idol Gives Back” charity special.

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Actor Forest Whitaker and U2 frontman Bono gave their second video reports/pleas from Africa, while celebs like Kobe Bryant, Selma Blair, Kyra SedgwickRob Schneider and others lip-synched to the Monkees’ “I’m a Believer,” urging more donations.

Seacrest announced midway through that the amount donated thus far had exceeded $60 million; Idol bosses said earlier this week that they’re ultimately hoping to exceed the $100 million mark.

Easily the most fascinating segment of perhaps the entire week came when Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama asked viewers via video to donate money. You could hear a pin drop during Hillary and McCain’s pleas. Then Obama came on, and the crowd went crazy…

So, the good: $60 million donated thus far; the bad: Michael Johns (!) eliminated.

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