Tuesday (Feb. 10) night's episode of "American Idol" is the hour I like to call The Dance of the Four Rooms or the "Alias" episode.

The first nickname is self-explanatory. It's the episode where the remaining Hollywood contestants are divided into several rooms and everybody in the rooms looks around and freaks out because they're grouped with that girl who forgot the lyrics or that guy who swore at Simon, or they get cocky because they're in the same room as the 16-year-old homeless girl with the golden pipes or the that pretty boy who keeps making Paula giggle like an imbecile. Then the judges shock one room that you were sure was heading home by keeping them around and they shock another room by sending home a former favorite for no good reason. 

I prefer, though, to call it the "Alias" episode, because it's the hour that begins at the end, just like so many episodes of "Alias" began doing once the writing staff got lazy. We'd see Sydney in a weird costume, in a weird country about to get shot by somebody we'd never seen before. And then we'd get the card reading "36 hours earlier..." And yes, I know that many shows have used this trick, but for some reason I associate it with "Alias" and with this episode of "Idol," where we start at the end and thanks to Ryan Seacrest's voiceover, we get caught up to the present.

[More after the bump...]

I'm really looking forward to the end of this week of "Idol." It's time to stop recapping stupid auditions and Hollywood stuff and get down to the business of actually seeing who can and can't sing. To this point, it's all about the "American Idol" producers playing silly editing games to try to trick viewers.

After Tuesday's episode, I'm feeling ticked off about Laneshe Young. You remember Laneshe, right? Louisville auditioner? They teased her heartbreaking story for an entire hour and then it turned out that really she was just poor, which is sad, but not heartbreaking, at least on a show with dead wives and M.S. and that sort of thing. Then she sang her own song and turned out to be surprisingly awesome? And then we didn't see her for an entire week of Hollywood episodes? And then she popped up on Tuesday's show and again sounded fantastic? Well, Laneshe got sent home. There probably was a reason she got the boot, but we didn't see it, so the decision was hard to fathom.

Tuesday's show was, in general, about confusion.

Take the room that featured Joanna "I Was Annie and On Two Different Record Labels" Pacitti, Casey "I Look Great in a Bikini" Carlson and Stephen "I Have a Prodigious Afro" Fowler. As noted by Nathaniel "I Cry Choosing What Cereal To Eat For Breakfast" Marshall, Joanna, Casey and Stephen all botched the lyrics in their last solo performances and how many times does Simon need to say "If you forget the lyrics, you're going home!" before it actually becomes true? Those folks were also in the same room as Kai "I Lost My Voice and Couldn't Hit a Single Note" Kalama. So it looked bad for Michael "Have You Heard I Worked On an Oil Rig?" Sarver, Alexis "Sexy Teenage Mom" Grace and Jasmine "I'm Just Good" Murray. But surprise... That room was safe! Remembering the lyrics doesn't mean anything.

You know what else didn't mean anything on Tuesday? Being awful.

Double case-in-point, Tatiana Del Toro and Nick "Norman Gentle" Mitchell, who have now moved in to replace the departed Bikini Girl as this season's inexplicable jokes. Both advanced on Tuesday and my only theory is that the "American Idol" producers have decided to distract the Vote-For-the-Worst conspirators. 

See, Vote-For-The-Worst can only work if a contestant has a small, but viable genuine fanbase. Somebody like a Danny Noriega or an Amanda Overmyer or a Kristy Lee Cook or a Taylor Hicks could very nearly skate by on their own fanbases, so the support of Vote-For-The-Worst could help to put them over the top and extend their runs for an extra week or two.

But nobody's going to vote for Norman Gentle because he can sing. See, he can't. There was that possibility lingering in the background in his first two performances, but his rendition of "George On My Mind" was 100 percent camp, zero musical substance. He could maybe perform in a small, dingy cabaret, but nothing more than that. But if the judges keep advancing him, even if it's completely a joke, Vote-For-The-Worst will have no choice but to support him because he is, indeed, the worst. They'll be the only ones and their protest votes will vanish into the ether. 

The same will probably be true for Tatiana, who went from very, very annoying to unbearable when the producers exposed her refusal to just shut up and accept judgment after her performances. She wasn't even good in her last solo performance and her crazed reaction to being in the last judging room probably had ever other person there wanting to throttle her. Nobody is likely to find her appealing enough to vote for other than the Vote-For-The-Worst people, so those votes will vanish.

If the "Idol" producers are smart, they'll put both of them through to the Round of 36 and make sure they're in different groups, thereby insuring that two sets of results will be tamper-proof. 

Who seems like a good candidate to be the third Vote-For-The-Worst favorite? Nathaniel Marshall is probably close. I don't think he's a bad singer necessarily, but he's imbalanced and every time you push him forward, all you're doing is increasing the chances of a very public total meltdown. He's not built for this kind of show.

I hate to say it, but Scott "Blind Dude" Macintryre might be a good Vote-For-The-Worst candidate. He was OK in his first audition and looked goofy dancing for two seconds before the group round, but you kind of figured that he was just twiddling his thumbs waiting for the chance to get behind a piano. Then he finally got on native soil and got to tickle the ivories and his rendition of "Home" was... really disappointing. It wasn't vocally strong, nor was his piano playing an asset.

He did get off the line of the night: "I just found out Paula gave me a standing ovation. I didn't see that."

Tee-hee. He didn't see it, because he's blind. That will just be endlessly fun.

Who else did we lose on Tuesday? Michael "Clifford the Muppet Jr." Castro, India "My Rapping Was Fine, But I Couldn't Sing" Morrison, Kaylan "They Called Me a Favorite From Kansas City Even Though They Never Showed Me" Lloyd and Moorea Masa. I'm sure there were others, but there wasn't much time to spend with them.

There were plenty of good performances that we saw on Tuesday. Most of them were from singers in Room One. Some rooms get to be worried, but anybody who saw Room One with Danny-n-Jamar, Anoop, the overpraised Lil Rounds, Jorge "I Make the Female Judges Go 'SQUEE!!!'" Nunez, Adam "Never Let Me Sing Cher *Ever* Again" Lambert, Jackie "I Annoy HitFix's Recapper" Tohn and Megan "I'm So Cute, Why Haven't They Shown Me More?" Corkrey had to be pretty confident.

I'm also a big fan of Mishavonna "I Was Also In Room One" Henson and Stevie Wright, who have fantastic tone and don't seem to need to shout, like Lil Rounds or Kristin McNamara. And where did Junot Joyner come from? I thought his version of "Hey There Delilah" was far better than Jamar's...

Tomorrow night is set up as a two-hour version of The Chair, which seems like much too long for me. I'll be doing a minute-by-minute blog of the whole two hours, because otherwise there's no way I'll be able to stay awake.

Til then...

What'd you think of Tuesday's show?

 

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