After last week’s shocking and extremely disappointing elimination of Pia Toscano, it has become clear that it is almost impossible to predict what will happen going forward. Never in the history of American Idol has such an outstanding talent been sent packing so early on in the competition. Though the judges have been heaping praise on nearly every contestant from week to week, many performances deserved more constructive criticism.
If Simon Cowell was still a judge, the show would not be the weekly “lovefest” that it has become. He said as much in an interview this week. Perhaps Pia still would have been eliminated if Cowell were still there, but his harsh criticisms of others may have kept her around longer. There’s no way to tell for sure.
The one saving grace to Pia’s early departure is that there will be long-overdue changes made to the elimination process in the future.
With or without Pia, as the saying goes…“The show must go on.”
This week’s theme was songs from movies.
Here is this week’s breakdown (in reverse order):
 Paul McDonald – With his wild outfits and unique stage movements, McDonald is never accused of being boring. And yet, each week, I find myself thinking that his two minutes last forever. There is not much more that can be said about McDonald. He appeals to the judges, and that has probably why he is still in the competition. That, and the fact that he is male, which seems to be a big factor this season. His performance of “Old Time Rock and Roll” by Bob Seger was typical. The best part was the female saxophone player. Enough said.
 Casey Abrams – The judges and the studio audience gave Abrams a standing ovation after his performance of “Nature Boy” by Nat King Cole. I didn’t get it at all. Jimmy Iovine recommended that Abrams steer clear of this song for a reason. It doesn’t translate well in a competition. In a smoky, dimly lit room, this performance would have been fine, but on a big stage, it just seemed like Abrams was trying too hard to be different, which is a bit ironic given that his makeover has now transformed him from cool to nerdy. If this was a contest based on musicianship, Abrams would win for sure, but it’s not. It’s a singing competition. The judges loved his performance, but will the voting audience?
 Jacob Lusk – As one of the judges’ favorites, it seems that Lusk can do no wrong. But Jimmy Iovine thinks otherwise. It was great to see Iovine dress Lusk down for his arrogant pre-song ultimatum that he gave to America last week. “You’re gonna preach to 25 million people and you haven’t even put a record out yet? Don’t preach to people!” said Iovine. Lusk looked visibly shaken, and a little bit scared, which is probably why he agreed to take Iovine’s advice on his song choice. It didn’t matter anyway. Lusk’s performance of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” was basically the same as all of his other performances. He sings better at the top end of his range than the bottom. For some reason, his deep voice always seems to sound like Kermit the Frog doing “Rainbow Connection.”
 Scotty McCreery – Another week, another similar country song by McCreery. If you love country music, there is no reason not to love McCreery. For non-country music fans, McCreery’s performances are fine, but nothing special. It is a bit comical that Pia was constantly criticized for her stage presence when McCreery’s stage presence is nothing more than leaning to one side as he sings. I once thought that he would be sent packing early because of his limited range, but I know think that he may actually make it all the way to the finale. His performance of George Strait’s “I Cross My Heart” was exactly what you would expect it to be. Every week is just more of the same from McCreery. If you like him, then you look forward to his performance, if you don’t, then he will never do anything to make you change your mind.
 Stefano Langone – This was an interesting week for Langone because he thought that he was going home for sure when he ended up in the bottom two with Pia. When he surprisingly dodged elimination, he knew that he had to make changes if he was going to stick around. In his pre-song interview, he said that connecting with the audience is just as important as singing the song. He clearly learned his lesson after witnessing Pia’s elimination. To his credit, he made drastic changes this week. His performance of “End of the Road” by Boys II Men was probably his best of the season. He moved around the stage and kept his eyes open while still delivering a powerful vocal performance. It may not save him from the bottom three, but he doesn’t belong there this week.
 Haley Reinhart – Early on in the competition, I could not understand how Reinhart was surviving from week to week. To the judges’ credit, they saw something in her that didn’t show up on TV. But then things finally clicked for Reinhart, and she has definitely been the most improved since the show started. Her performance of “Call Me” by Blondie was one of her best of the season. She looked and sounded sexy, and used just enough of her raspy voice to make the song her own. Once totally awkward on stage, Reinhart has become a confident performer. The judges didn’t love her performance, which makes me question them. They told her that it wasn’t a good song to showcase her vocals, and Randy Jackson used the word “karaoke” to describe it. Regardless of what the judges said, this performance was entertaining and showed another side of Reinhart.
 Lauren Alaina – This has nothing to do with Alaina, but her pre-song meeting with Jimmy Iovine and Will I Am was a bit surprising and unintentionally funny. Iovine told Alaina that she has the opportunity to “snatch up” Pia’s voters. This wasn’t necessarily untrue, but it was surprising to hear Iovine say it. The funny part came when Will I Am kept saying “snatch em up” and reaching out to grab the air. It was reminiscent of a scene in Beverly Hills Cop with Eddie Murphy speaking in a very effeminate manner to sneak past a gatekeeper. Will Alaina “snatch up” Pia’s voters? That remains to be seen. But she did do a very good job with her performance of “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus. Iovine said that she would do it better than Cyrus, and he was right. Alaina has proven that she has the makings of a country pop star in the vein of Carrie Underwood. With the right songs, she can achieve the same kind of success as Underwood.
 James Durbin – The order of the contestants is supposedly random, but there is no way that having Durbin close out this week’s show was anything but careful planning. He has always been the best performer from the beginning, and he keeps getting better by the week. With Pia out of the competition, there is no one who comes close to him vocally either. If ever there was a time for a rocker to win American Idol, it is now! But even if he loses, it won’t matter a bit. This kid is going to be a rock star! His performance of “Heavy Metal” by Sammy Hagar this week was brilliant. To paraphrase a movie title in honor of this week’s theme…James Durbin is in “A League of His Own.” He is the headlining act every week, and should always go last. It’s hard to imagine what it would have been like for another contestant to try and follow up Durbin’s performance last night, especially since it featured Zakk Wylde on guitar. Durbin embraces metal with pride and refuses to back down from doing what he wants to do even when the mentors instruct him otherwise. If Durbin is not in the finale, then this voting system will have ruined Season 10 of American Idol.
THE BOTTOM THREE
WHO GOES HOME?
Last week’s vote has proven that predicting who goes home is an exercise in futility. Given the fact that the girls seem to be getting picked off one-by-one, and the fact that the judges didn’t give Reinhart high marks for her performance, she will probably be the one eliminated. Hopefully, the voting audience will deliver another surprise this week and finally get rid of one of the boys.