This is the final "American Idol" audition stop before Hollywood Week. 

How ready are we? 

Very.

Let's get down to business, eh?

8:00 p.m. ET Oh, Carrie Underwood. I remember her. She had a dream and that dream began at "American Idol" auditions in St. Louis. Six or seven robotic months later, she was an "Idol" winner and the biggest star in all the land. Will we meet a new Carrie tonight?

8:02 p.m. A crowd of 10,000 has arrived at The Gateway to The West. A taxi driver named Walter is grumpy. But whose taxi driver is he? Will he be relevant again?

8:03 p.m. All thoughts of Walter are pushed aside by Jennifer Lopez' red top. [But seriously, will Walter have a purpose in this episode?]

8:04 p.m. The day's first contestant is Johnny Keyser. You may recognize him from the picture accompanying this story. You may also recognize him from exhaustive pre-season promotion. He's a 22-year-old whose triumph-over-adversity story includes his parents getting a divorce and... nothing else. Surely you remember his mediocre, hammy, smiling white soul brutalizing of "Change Is Gonna Come." Sorry, but I'm a fierce protector of the legacy of this song and I don't care how impressed the judges are by him. This is is a CHEESY cover of the greatest pop song of the past 50+ years. The judges love Johnny. He's going to Hollywood, carried on a tidal wave of cheese.

8:08 p.m. CHEESY.

8:09 p.m. I get that Johnny's all blandly pretty and all, which means he could definitely *win* "American Idol," but that was pure cheddar.

8:12 p.m. Nothing good has ever followed from a clip package led by William Hung. We're paying tribute to "The Artist" with a silent film-style montage of awful contestants. Including... UGGIE! Or Fake-Uggie. Oh. It's only one contestant who's getting the "Artist" treatment? Weird. Cute. But weird.

8:13 p.m. "American Idol" brings people together, at least until it tears them apart. Wait. There was a girl whose *parents* auditioned for "American Idol" in Season Four. Now that's strange.

8:14 p.m. Meet Rachelle Lamb and daughter Madison. Rachelle is the latest in a long line of female contestants who were previously held back by the boors they were dating/married-to and now, free, want to prove to themselves and their children that they're still worthy of dreams. Rachelle even gets to bring Madison with her into the audition room. Daughter giggling sweetly by her side, Rachelle launches into a powerhouse audition, which is even more impressive when you realize that she's trying as hard to entertain her daughter as she is to entertaining the judges. Steven Tyler likes her moxie. Randy liked her pure tone. She gets three "Yes" votes and we'll see how good she is when she can perform solo without Madison bouncing next to her. 

8:23 p.m. Walter the Cabbie is back!

8:23 p.m. "St. Louis is turning into the Gateway to the Worst," Seacrest observes. Clever. 

8:25 p.m. That would be "No Surprize" Steven Tyler just quoted, if you're curious.

8:26 p.m. Formerly bullied glee kid Reis Kloekckner tells the judges a heart-breaking story of his attempts to find his place in the world. Then he does an OK version of "Lean on Me" that they're able to read his whole story onto. Steven Tyler's in tears and Reis ends up with three "Yes" votes. Tyler is still overwhelmed minutes later. I'm not sure what by. 

8:31 p.m. Steven Tyler goes backstage to give a couple kids a pep talk. I think he meant to step out to pee and he went through the wrong door.

8:32 p.m. The first of the kids Tyler pepped is Ethan Jones, who just dropped out of school to become a full-time musician in a band with his dad. Ethan's dad was part of a big local band, but he got involved with drugs and alcohol. "It's so good that he can be a power of example to you," Steven says. Ethan's fine, but he's singing that awful Edwin McCain song that I hate in ways that words can't express. After a million renditions on "Idol" and elsewhere, I simply can't listen to this pandering song at all. Ethan is good, but I'd have made him sing something else, just to get "I'll Be" out of my head. Ethan checks in with his father, who insists he's clean and sober. So, yay!

8:39 p.m. As I just tweeted, I'd like to pitch a "Hunger Games"-esque franchise set in a post-apocalyptic future in which reality contestants who perform "I'll Be" are hunted for sport. Carnage ensues.

8:42 p.m. Wait. Was that the whole Madonna video? Or just a tease? Or was that just a joke? I'm so confused...

8:42 p.m. Day Two in St. Louis. 

8:43 p.m. Our next contestant is an auditor at the hotel where "Idol" is holding auditions. Wait. ANOTHER Silent Movie homage? Really? Anyway, Mark Ingram shows up with half of the staff of the hotel, all of whom have encouraged him to audition. Initially it seems like Mark might be decent. Then he gets to the high notes and it rapidly becomes clear that he's not so good at all. Steven tells Mark that his ability to keep the tune wasn't so good. "I love everything about you except the melody," Steven says. J-Lo says she wants to say "Yes" to him, so Mark launches into an even rougher second audition song. He's sent packing, but at least he doesn't have far to go to get back to his day job. The bellboys and maids all agree Mark should keep singing.

8:51 p.m. Let's wrap this up...

8:52 p.m. Lauren Gray's family owns and runs a one-stop wedding shop. It's just like that FOX drama that you don't remember FOX ever airing! Today is make-it-or-break-it for Lauren and since she's the episode's last performer, I'm guessing this Arkansas native is going to "make it." She tackles Adele and she's only made it through a half-dozen words before the judges start saying "Wow." She's a little "big" for this room, but I can see how on an "Idol" stage she's gonna be much better. She has some problems on the high notes and she doesn't hesitate to acknowledge as much. Lauren gets a slew of "Yes" votes and calls this the biggest thing that has ever happened in her life.

8:56 p.m. The judges are very impressed by Lauren. And the show is so impressed that we're comparing Lauren to Carrie Underwood and spinning our wheels for a full four minutes to end the episode.

8:57 p.m. So Walter wasn't driving anybody important? He was just some random cranky old cabbie? Weird.

8:58 p.m. Off to Hollywood... This is strange. I missed three full audition episodes while I was in Sundance and every one of the positively highlighted contestants in this closing montage has been from the episodes I saw. Do I need to bother catching up on those other episodes? Probably not?

 

What'd you think of St. Louis' talent? Much better than Portland last night, right?