Recap: 'American Idol' - Final Judgment, Part 1 - Live-Blog

The contestants perform one last time and the judges deliberate

<p>FOX had no pictures from Wednesday's &quot;Idol,&quot; so I'm going to assume these four people were involved.</p>
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FOX had no pictures from Wednesday's "Idol," so I'm going to assume these four people were involved.

Credit: FOX

Is everybody ready for tonight's 12-hour "American Idol"?

Oh, I kid. It's only six hours.

I kid again!

Wednesday's (Feb. 22) "American Idol" is only TWO hours.

See? It doesn't sound so bad anymore, does it? 

You're welcome.

On to the recap, after the break...

8:00 p.m. ET Tonight... One Final Performance. 

8:01 p.m. The Nation Awaits! Why aren't we starting this episode with "The Final Countdown" playing in the background?

8:02 p.m. It's January 19! No. Really. It's no longer February 22. The contestants, 42 of them, are back in Las Vegas. For their final performances, the contestants will be backed by only one instrument on a song of their choice. 

8:03 p.m. There's a "dramatic walk" to face the three judges at The Chair. The walk is dramatic because of all of the fog. The contestants are having editing-assisted flashbacks to what went wrong.

8:05 p.m. We're starting with... Jen Hirsh. She's not really suited for "American Idol," but she has a fantastic voice. We'll be putting her out there as a sacrificial lamb to whichever guitar-playing white boy America falls in love with and she'll be eliminated 8th or 9th. In her final solo, Jen was only so-so and she's feeling a little lopsided. Steven Tyler says this wasn't easy. Randy tells her, though, that JEN HIRSH is the first person in the Top 24. "This day changed my life, forever," Jen says.

8:14 p.m. Self-doubt is hanging heavily. Nerds are high. Oh. Nerves. Up next? Cartoonish Creighton Fraker. He's not entirely untalented. But Ryan refers to Creighton's "signature sound," which is almost certain to alienate more viewers than it woos. His dad was the lead singer in something called Flotsam & Jetsam. He doesn't want to be any other artist. He just wants to be Creighton. J-Lo tells him that everybody is different and everybody has something to offer. J-Lo's looking for somebody who will touch America, so CREIGHTON FRAKER is the second person in the Top 24. I'm betting that he doesn't make the Top 12...

8:18 p.m. On to Lauren Gray, the Kelly Clarkson-esque blues singer who is definitely one of the most talented people we've seen this season. He dad has been trying to make it big, so she's living her own dream and her dad's dream. Lauren's got terrific pipes and she puts a ton of emotion into her singing. I can imagine her having a decent run on this show. Randy tells Lauren that the competition got more difficult for her after Hollywood Week and Lauren says she just didn't want to disappoint the judges. "You guys have made me believe in myself," Lauren says. WOW. Lauren didn't make it. They tell her that she needs to believe in herself more. That's... stupid. "I still love her," Randy insists. Then why, Randy, did you make such a dumb decision?

8:23 p.m. If they had a disco ball in the Emerald City of Oz, it would look like J-Lo tonight.

8:28 p.m. Joshua Lidet wasn't so great at his first audition. He was hammy. But whenever he's popped up since them, I've thought he had tremendous potential. He still hasn't come close to harnessing his voice and final solo was a return to some of that early hamminess. Joshua thinks that "American Idol" could change his life and he warns us that a "No" would crush him. Joshua tells the judges that he gave it up completely, but Randy tells him that sometimes on these shows, the better singers don't always make it. Randy teases, but JOSHUA LIDET is in the Top 24.

8:32 p.m. Time to send people home. Bye, Blair Sieber. I don't know who you were. Bye, Naomi Gilies. I don't know who you were. 

8:33 p.m. Will Haiey Johnson be luckier? Apparently Haiey has been shining since Las Vegas. To my mind, she's not in the same league as Lauren Gray. I'm gonna be annoyed about that one for a while, "Idol." Haley also has struggled with her confidence. The judges think she's got more confidence than Lauren, so HALEY JOHNSON is in the Top 24. Heejun Han likes hugging her. 

8:40 p.m. Still bitter about Lauren Gray.

8:41 p.m. We're on to Neco Starr, who has a great name. I'm not at all sure about his voice. That final solo performance? He was sharp on almost ever name. The judges don't think that Neco isn't a star, but they also don't want him in the Top 24. Bye, Neco.

8:43 p.m. Clayton Farhat? Gone. River St. James? Another great name, but he's gone. And we finally say farewell to Caleb Johnson, whose final solo was brutal and required an awkward mid-performance restart. 

8:44 p.m. On to Elise Testone, who has been gigging constantly. I think that with some "Idol" restyling, Elise could improve dramatically. She's got a fine, booze-and-cigarettes voice with real texture, but she looks, as I've said before, like a far older Jersey bartender. And she's much too young for that. Randy doesn't want to drag things out, so he lets J-Lo tell ELISE TESTONE that she's in the Top 24 and that she's "very, very talented."  Elise claims she was worried, but Ryan doesn't believe her.

8:52 p.m. Reed Grimm has to make the Top 24. I'm not completely sure why. He's not really an "American Idol" contestant? But he's definitely a manifestly talented goofball. His parents met in a band, produced kids and brought them into the band. But his father recently died of cancer. Poor Reed. His final Vegas solo also included a drum kit. He wants to show the world what's going on in his head, but will he get the chance? Randy wants Reed to show off his vocals more and Steven adds that they're looking for an "American Idol" singer... And REED GRIMM is in the Top 24. He's very pleased and J-Lo is pleased that he's pleased. Ryan Seacrest is also pleased that Reed's pleased. Randy calls him "mad talented."

8:56 p.m. Brassy Torch singer Erika Van Pelt has a big voice and a big personality. But she has a tendency to oversing in a way that takes her into a cabaret realm. J-Lo says that some people blew the judges away, but a lot of people didn't do as amazing as they hoped for and Erika was in the second group. Will Erika make it? After the break!

9:05 p.m. After the break, we learn that... ERIKA VAN PELT is in the Top 24. They tell her, though, that she's not allowed to disappoint them again, or they'll kill her. I may be paraphrasing. "This doesn't happen to girls like me," Erika says. Waht does that mean?

9:05 p.m. We've got a country double-dose next, with Chelsea Sorrell and Baylie Brown. Up first in the chair is Chelsea, who hasn't been all that memorable, though we've seen her here and there. The judges tell Chelsea that the bar has been raised on talent this year. "I can't even remember what I did," Chelsea says when asked to reflect on her performance. CHELSEA SORRELL is in our Top 24. "I love y'all. Y'all are awesome," Chelsea says.

9:08 p.m. But what does that mean for Baylie Brown? "Idol" wants us to remember that while Baylie is 21, she was once 16. In that, she's apparently unique. Baylie had a really, really rough final solo, seemingly overcome with emotion on big notes that just miss. Baylie tells the judges that she could have done better on some performances, but she had some good ones. Steve Tyler also wants more consistency from her. But... BAYLIE BROWN is in the Top 24. She does a fine job of pretending to be surprised.

9:15 p.m. Back to the Wynn. Great buffet at the Wynn. 

9:15 p.m. Our next pairing is Heejun Han and Cowboy. Team Heejun.

9:16 p.m. Nobody likes Cowboy? How could "Idol" possibly think that America will? We've all met Scotty McCreery and Richie Law is no Scotty McCreery. Will the judges think they can dupe America into believing that Richie *is* Scotty? Because that's crazy talk. Richie tells the judges that he's had a lot of great moments, but there's a lot that he can work on. Randy praises Richie for singing some good low notes, while J-Lo says she thinks he gave it all in every performance. Fortunately, it's the end of the road for Richie Law. "I don't want to see your personality go," Ryan tells him. 

9:19 p.m. Time for Heejun. "What are you sweating?" Ryan asks him. "Mostly water," Heejun replies, awesomely. Heejun has great tone, a fantastic deadpan sense of humor and he works with special needs kids. I liked Heejun's "New York State of Mind" solo and I like that he refers to hugging J-Lo as the American Dream. Heejun tells a somewhat disturbing story about how whenever he sings, somebody else climbs into his body. "You're a better star than you are a singer," Tyler tells him. HEEJUN HAN is in our Top 24. Yay!

9:24 p.m. "Idol" needs to know that this use of "Hey Jude" here is just a wee bit racist. I hope they learn something from ESPN's "Linsanity" mishaps.

9:29 p.m. I feel like we've seen too many of our favorites already. What are they saving for tomorrow?

9:29 p.m. Jessica Sanchez is only 16? Really? Wow. She's a crazy over-singer, but she's much more impressive in light of her youth. Jessica's family has spent a lot of money on her and her mom is unemployed to support her music career. There's more than a little Thia Megia to Jessica, which isn't an insult if Jessica avoids the sort of idiotic song choices that doomed poor Thia. "I've been doing this all my life," says the teen. She's got a huge family waiting for her backstage and she's already crying when she sits down with the judges. JESSICA SANCHEZ is in the Top 24. This is the biggest thing that's ever happened to her. 

9:34 p.m. Will Phillip Phillips have more luck? Y'all know my thoughts about Phil. With his guitar, he's gruff, growly and unique. Without his guitar, he's twitchy and struggles with melody. He's in my Top 12 easily if I could guarantee that he could play the guitar every week. And don't forget: In addition to being a guitar-playing white guy, his family works in the pawn shop business. He's made for reality TV. But we won't find out his fat for a few minutes.

9:41 p.m. Oh right. We never got a result for Phil-Phil. J-Lo stops Phil's blather and reveals that PHILLIP PHILLIPS is in the Top 24.

9:41 p.m. It's Colton Dixon time and we'll relive the story of Colton upstaging his sister's audition. I still don't approve, especially since sister Schyler is gone. in his final performance, Colton piano-ed it up on "Fix You," paying tribute to his sister. It's very emotional. But he should fix that skunk hair before fixing anything else. The Chair comes on the one-year anniversary of the last time "Idol" sent Colton home. Will they do it again? Because that would be diabolical. Bah. They're not that evil. COLTON DIXON is in the Top 24. Awww. Schyler was there to hug (and resent) him.

9:45 p.m. Time for Brielle Von Hugel with her awesome name and her disturbingly unpleasant stage mother. Like Colton before her, Brielle made it to Hollywood last year, only to be eliminated. That final solo version of "Killing Me Softly" was pretty good, but nothing we'd seen earlier was nearly as impressive. Brielle describes herself as passionate and Tyler praises her get-up-and-go. BRIELLE VON HUGEL is in the Top 24. "I love all of yous," Brielle's mom tells everybody.

9:53 p.m. We've filled 14 spots already on tonight's show. Our last contestant tonight is Bearded Adam Brock. He's had some standout moments that we've already seen, including his rendition of "Georgia On My Mind." Adam misses his daughter. Why did Ryan imply that Adam's final solo for the judges may have blown his chances? It did not. At all. J-Lo didn't love the arrangement of the final song, though. Uh-oh. Adam takes his place in The Chair and cries and blows his lose with his lucky hankie (explained in a previous episode). "I have to sing," Adam says. "It's where my joy comes from. It's how I know that God blessed me," Adam says. "Amen," adds Randy. 

9:59 p.m. The judges' decision was not unanimous and... IT'S NOT COMING TONIGHT.

10 p.m. Stupid "American Idol."

What'd you think of the 14 picks we saw tonight? Do you like the choices? Would you have kept any of the eliminated singers? Other than Lauren Gray, of course. We all know sending her home early was just dumb.

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Daniel Fienberg
Executive Editor
A long-time member of the TCA Board and a longer-time blogger of "American Idol," Dan Fienberg writes about TV, except for when he writes about movies or sometimes writes about the Red Sox. But never music. He would sound stupid talking about music.
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