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"Expect the unexpected," warned the cold open of Thursday's "American Idol" top seven results show, adding weight to the afternoon's TMZ-perpetuated rumors that this week's eliminations would be shocking indeed. Most pundits had predicted that Hollie Cavanagh, who'd received the harshest criticism on Wednesday, would go home, or that Skylar Laine, who sang in the problematic first slot this week, might be the one to go. But those two girls were both safe. Instead, it was the amazing Joshua Ledet, the amazing Elise Testone, and the amazing Jessica Sanchez who shockingly comprised the bottom three--and even more shockingly, it was JESSICA SANCHEZ who was the overall lowest voter-getter of the week.
"This is a ridiculous bottom three, America!" shouted Randy Jackson, looking as outraged as he did that night Pia Toscano went home and Fox censors had to bleep out his reaction. Steven Tyler agreed, instantly revealing, "We are going to use our Judges' Save tonight, especially with an outcome like this." And he said this before he even knew that Jessica was the one at risk.
So after what felt like the longest commercial break in television history, Ryan Seacrest returned to give Joshua and Elise the good news that they'd be sticking around another week, at which point Jessica's mother, sitting in the studio audience, burst into tears; apparently Mrs. Sanchez hadn't believed Steven, and was still worried that her little girl would get the boot. But she didn't need to worry for long, because Jessica barely made it through the first verse of her Save song before Jennifer Lopez bumrushed the stage and practically wrestled the microphone out of Jessica's trembling hand.
"Gimme that mic! This is crazy! Of COURSE we are using the Save!" J.Lo exclaimed. It was probably the first time Jennifer had ever seemed so eager to get near an activated microphone, and it was certainly the first time a judge had ever physically interrupted an "Idol" contestant's performance. Steven and Randy then hopped up there as well, at which point Randy grabbed the mic and hollered, "This girl is one of the best singers in America! EVER!" And suddenly, what had started off as a somber and suspenseful night turned into one big onstage party.
The episode actually started off giving me squirmy flashbacks to another infamous top seven elimination night, in Season 3, when Ryan split the contestants into two groups and then revealed that it was Fantasia, LaToya London, and Jennifer Hudson who were in the bottom three. Jennifer Hudson went home that night (there was no Judges' Save back then), but she did all right for herself, obviously--and ironically, she triumphantly performed on this week's results show (along with James Durbin, another one of "Idol's" all-time most shocking cuts). So clearly having a setback like Jessica suffered during this season's top seven week doesn't mean the end of her chances. But still, this Thursday, when Ryan sectioned Hollie, Skylar, Phillip Phillips, and Colton Dixon off into one group, then put Jessica, Elise, and Joshua in the other, and then revealed that the second group was the bottom group...well, I can only imagine what J.Hud was thinking as she watched from the wings. She was probably having flashbacks too.
Though I'm fine with the judges opting to save the very talented Jessica this week, when I look back at the series' previous three Judges' Save recipients--Matt Giraud, Michael Lynche, and Casey Abrams--and realize that none of them came close to winning "Idol" (they placed fifth, fourth, and sixth, respectively), I have doubts about Jessica's future as Season 11 goes on. At one time, I thought she seemed destined to make it to the finale, but now, with Colton and Phillip being the only two contestants who have never been up for elimination so far, it looks like Season 11 is going to be another boys' season after all.
But really, it's anybody's game now--and starting next week, with the Save no longer up for grabs, everyone will be playing that game without a net. It's going to get interesting, for sure.