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"A Sophisticated

"A Sophisticated


At least until Rod Stewart shows up and Kellie Pickler sings "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" on this week's American Idol

Affair" " >

Marilu Henner's in the audience, kids! Wow, it's Marilu Henner! She was on Taxi! was a show in the '70s. It also starred Judd Hirsch. Look, Kenickie from Grease was on it too. Nothing must stop the camera from cutting to any formerly well-known person. Nothing.

Seacrest, tentatively revisiting the unshaven look and riding the wave of excitement over Marilu Henner's attendance, starts the show by saying one weird thing and two lies.

The weird thing: "The family unit shrinks again." If I were to touch that line I'd suddenly be guest-starring on Queer as Folk.

The Lies:

1. "It's a sophisticated affair," in reference to tonight's theme, The Great American Songbook. It's a musical concept the Final 7 most likely had to have explained to them (possible exceptions: Hicks and Elliott, maybe McPhee).

2. Then he calls Rod Stewart, the ridiculously dressed, Klute-haired Brit of "Hot Legs" fame and current reigning mauler of American music's Top 100 nursing home classics, "the ultimate performer."

Cut to Rod in a prerecorded segment, explaining away his newfound leech-like attachment to this music in rock and roll terms, claiming that it was the foundation for rock. That's right. Chuck Berry and Little Richard had nothing to do with it. It was all Rodgers and Hart's doing. "These songs," he says, "they're really in my blood."

Cut to Rod's Gen Y fiancee and the latest infant recipient of his DNA. That lucky kid will never have to spend a moment of his childhood being tormented by any of his father's rotten pop radio hits in heavy rotation on the radio like I did. The gruesome, syrupy, possibly carcinogenic "You're in My Heart" followed me around for months in 1977. Punk was in full swing by then. Just not for Rod. He was on the cusp of plunging headlong into leopard-print jackets, "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" and crotch-announcement spandex leggings, so his recent reinvention as a standards crooner for lame-os is no surprise. He's mercenary above all else. The other thing about that baby in wife-to-be's arms is that he'll be insanely rich. That makes me hate him already. Yes, I hate a baby. What are you going to do about it?

Rod Stewart thinks Daughtry is great. He says so in a little clip that shows them working together and having a grand time. Then Daughtry announces in his personality reel that he's going to do "What a Wonderful World." YES! HE'S GOING TO DO THE JOEY RAMONE COVER OF THE SONG! THIS IS GOING TO BE RAD! IT'S ABOUT TIME DAUGHTRY ROC--Oh. The slow version. He's showing how versatile he is. So tender. So earnest. And just look at that glad-face he's got on. The ascot is a nice touch too. It really complements the wallet chain. He thoroughly yawns it up. The judges enjoy themselves, though. Randy, always ready with a thoughtfully considered comment, yells, "It was da BOMB!" Paula agrees. So does Simon. Seacrest congratulates Daughtry and notes that Mr. Rock got rid of last episode's one-week beard growth. "And the eyeliner too!" he says. Daughtry chuckles sheepishly about his bad-decision goth moment. Good thing he kept the Swanson Frozen Dinner logo sideburns. Those, like the wallet chain, go with everything.

Rod Stewart thinks Paris is great too. But Paris is conflicted. Does she leave the studio in her smart pink middle-aged lady suit and phony ponytail and trot off to her new job at Washington Mutual, or does she stick around and sing "These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You)?" These are tough choices for a young girl to make. She doesn't want to be late on her first day. But there's some sangin' to get done, so she stays put. And she really stays put, standing stock-still for the duration of the ballad. I'm bored until I see someone in her family has made a supportive sign featuring SpongeBob SquarePants and suddenly I can't stop wondering what the connection is. Every family has inside jokes. Randy yells, "It was da BOMB!" Again. I've decided, like just now, that Paula's opinion matters more than Randy's and always has. Paula tries very diligently to make sentences. Different ones every time. She fails a lot at this, but she tries. Her thinking wheels are always spinning in her head, making whirring noises and smoking from the friction. If her skull were made of glass, you could see it happen. But all Randy wants is his own catchphrase.

Rod Stewart thinks Taylor is great too. A pattern of almost unsettling, genuine-feeling niceness on the part of Rod Stewart seems to be taking shape. No Stevie Wonder "don't hug me" diva moments. No Barry Manilow stiffness or superiority. None of Kenny Rogers's inscrutable, expressionless double-talk. Rod acts like he enjoys being here and would do it even if he didn't have a terrible album to promote. But then, Rod is probably getting more sex than all three of those other dudes combined. I would lay down money that every day is like going to Your Body Is a Wonderland theme park for him.

Taylor Hicks is in a decent suit. Who made that happen? But hold up--before I talk about his song performance, I have a minor announcement to make. Taylor Hicks no longer makes me want to stab myself in the head. I've decided that he's the most entertaining thing about this show. I still think he's 47 and comes off like the kindly teacher who has to chaperone the other contestants on their field trip to the dinosaur museum. But his wacky antics last week finally won me over. He's still a writhing mass of affectations and mental-case physical tics. But that's the part I've decided I like. I hate it when he's normal and boring. I like it when he spazzes it up. I need loony bar-band sax-solo insanity. I need contortions. I want him to always be the lusty wolf in an old Tex Avery cartoon, eyeballs popping out of his head and tongue unfurled to the floor. But I draw the line at that effing harmonica. If he whips that out again, it's no deal. I'll revert back to my old position. Really quickly. But for now, there it is. Now the people at can stop placing burning bags of dog poop at my front door.

Hicks sings "You Send Me." All quiet and normal. WAIT A SECOND, MAN! I JUST SAID I WAS STARTING TO NOT WISH THAT YOU WOULD BE DEVOURED BY WOLVES! MAKE SOME CRAZY HAPPEN! But just when you think all is lost, he starts in with the hunching and bouncing and yelling. It's almost like he forgot his signature moves until the middle and then made up for it in the last chunk by doing them all at once. I approve of this. After his big finish the crowd goes mental. The camera cuts to an enthusiastic delegation from

It's commercial time. A trailer for Poseidon, a remake of my all-time favorite movie, The Poseidon Adventure. I haven't seen this commercial yet, so I'm kind of excited.

Oh, shit, it's Fergie from Black-Eyed Peas. Why is Fergie from Black-Eyed Peas in this commercial? She can't be in the movie, can she? Black-Eyed Peas is the worst hip-hop band ever. Don't people understand this? 2 Live Jews were better than Black-Eyed Peas. And she's the worst singer in the worst band ever. That makes her the double-worst. I'm freaking out now.

Then my friend Michael, at whose house I'm watching the show, busts out an old VHS tape of Kids Incorporated to prove to me that Fergie has indeed had a long career in entertainment. There she is, singing with the Kids Inc. crew (a prepubescent gang that included Martika) at their parallel-universe nightclub for elementary-school children. I later learn that she also voiced Sally Brown in 1984's It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown and appeared with Mr T. in Be Somebody... Or Be Somebody's Fool. I think I might start crying.

OK, back to the show. Rod thinks Elliott is great. So does some dude who looks like Taye Diggs who's just hanging around for the rehearsal. He's never identified. He's just some guy who looks like Taye Diggs that Rod occasionally starts dancing with. Elliott lays a thick oily coat of smarm on "It Had to Be You." My friend, you are not Vince Vaughn in Swingers. You're not. Please keep it together or you're going to blow it. You're already on shaky ground, in spite of being the most talented male singer on the show. Lay off the Brian Setzer Orchestra bullshit. Oh, no, a teeth close-up. Whose decision was that? I smell conspiracy-to-remove now. Look, everyone, Elliott has diabetes. Doesn't that tug at your heart? Please vote for him in spite of his weirdness.

When he finishes up Paula struggles mightily to create a sentence: "You are contemporizing a genre like Michael Buble but with more soul, like Harry Connick Jr."

1. Yes, "contemporizing" is a word, even if Paula was probably trying for a different one. 2. Yes, Harry Connick Jr. has more soul than Michael Buble. It's visible only with a microscope, but it's a fact of science that was discovered in the AbdulCorp Research Labs. 3. And finally, yes, Elliott was just as good as Michael Buble and Harry Connick Jr. tonight. But both of those guys suck.

Rod really likes Pick Pickler. He's got that "Wanna be my ninth wife?" look on his face. They rehearse, and then Pickler says to Rod, "You took a load off my chest." Now, think about this for a second. This is not a live Pickler-saying-moronic-stuff moment. This was shot, selected, and edited for your enjoyment. This is character creation. You are now being sold Dumb Pickler as a sweet and lovable product. If you buy it, then you're part of the problem. She launches into "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered." And it moves along fine. Blandly, but fine.

And then all hell breaks lose. She gets weirdly pitchy and, worse, gets ahead of the band. She's two steps in front of them for the entire last chunk of the song. She knows she's choking. You can see it on her face. The camera pulls back to show Simon drop his head down to the table. The only way she survives this is if America is stupid and forgiving. But I think she's going home tomorrow night.

Then the judges do something so weirdly fishy. They more or less absolve her of blame. Simon included. He would have eviscerated anyone else. But it's like they're all in on trying to keep her around.

Rod likes Ace, etc. And that's how you know Rod is senile now. Ace is suited up. Like a really good one too. No dumb hat. No beads. No stupid West Hollywood shirt-one-fifth-tucked-in nonsense. His unruly locks are slicked back. Then he turns his head. There's a bun back there. A Granny on Beverly Hillbillies splashing around in the CEE-ment pond bun. I have to close my eyes to deal with this.

He's way better than he's been in weeks. Way better than Pickler. But I still wish Bucky were here instead, maybe singing "It Must Be Him." That would be cool. The camera slowly pans Ace from feet to bun. Remember how hot he is, America, even with the bun. Oh, wait. It's not a bun. It's one of those awful middle-aged public radio listener mini-ponytails. He's not Granny after all. He's Steven Seagal.

Seacrest, after the judges congratulate Ace on a job not destroyed and after the camera cuts to Michael Rapaport, star of the awful Fox sitcom The War at Home, asks, "Does that hairstyle hurt?"

Ace assures Seacrest that it does not. Seacrest drops the ball. He could have come back with "Well, it's killing me." That one is a classic. Never not funny.

And finally McPhee. She's shown talking to Rod. "I've got a couple of [song] choices," she says. Rod's thought balloon = I can see them and they're lovely. The Taye Diggs guy is still hanging around, function unknown. Rod continues to wrestle with the temptation to look at McPhee's major boobs. More Taye Diggs.

Then she sings. "Someone to Watch Over Me." Is there anyone more buttery soft than this woman? Like on the planet? The camera is so in love with her, it's practically up her nostrils. Which are also probably beautiful to look at if you could only get up there for a tour. She's better than everyone else tonight.

Paula says, "This reminds me of Mr. Holland's Opus." I have no idea what she's talking about.

On to "Chopped & Screwed" Night...

I just realized that Simon has a "signature introduction face." He starts by looking somewhat lovingly at Paula and then Seacrest says his name. Then Simon looks into the camera and half-smiles, his godawful parted-in-the-middle hair screaming for attention at all times.

Ford commercial time. Most boring one ever. Everyone's on his or her own animated billboard. The contestants literally have been turned into advertising. The car drives past the billboards. The end. Applause for the Ford commercial. Seacrest announces that last night's episode is being "hailed" by "critics" as "the best American Idol ever.

Oh, really.

Seacrest intros Rod Stewart. Stewart walks out on the stage to the opening bars of "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy." He's wearing some leathery blazer. Because that what people think when they think Great American Songbook. I saw him once in fancy-pants store Fred Segal here in Los Angeles. He was with some young blond woman. I was, unfortunately, involved in a small "incident" at the time with a salesperson, and Rod started gawking at us. After resolving the problem with the superevil person who worked there, I successfully stared down Rod. I'm not making this up. I totally won and feel victorious over Rod to this day.

So Seacrest does a little Q&A with Rod. He asks, "Why did you decide to sing the classics?" At this point I pause the TiVo and solicit possible responses from my friends in the room. I give extra points for delivery in raspy Rod voice:

1. "No other choices." 2. "I have to put my wife and eventually my latest baby through college." 3. "Rock and roll was making my dentures slip." 4. "I lost a bet with Eric Clapton." 5. "I'm bloody old, mate."

Then Rod sings "The Way You Look Tonight." That's a lovely song. But Rod's version involves doing a jaunty little Running Man move in the middle. Is he trying not to pee? And when he gets to the line that ends with "but to LO-O-OVE you," his voice does this high cracking thing, killing the song's sweetest moment. Suddenly, Pick Pickler feels better about herself. Rod doesn't know this yet, but he's going to get voted off tonight.

Now, on to the bigger issue. WHO LIKES THIS SHIT? No, not the Great American Songbook. Anyone with a brain and a not-corroded soul likes those songs. Who likes to hear ROD STEWART sing them? Because, for real, Lena Horne--who'll be 90 next year, by the way--could still kick his ass while holding a gimlet in one hand.

Next we learn that Andrea Bocelli is next week's guest coach. Suddenly I feel bad about harshing on Rod so much. Bocelli is the dude Celine Dion, and I guarantee you he was one of Il Divo svengali Simon's dream "gets." A clip reel of Bocelli's pop-opera grossness unspools. According to the clip, Bocelli's bastardized arias cause fireworks to explode in the sky. Then some fire-twirling guy dives off a bridge into water. Is that part of a Bocelli performance too, or do people just spontaneously set themselves on fire and jump off bridges to get away from his music?

Now it's finally time to kick someone to the curb. Seacrest divides them up into two groups. Pickler, Elliott, and McPhee in one group. Daughtry, Ace, and Paris in another. Now everyone knows that the secret of the group dividing game is that you want to be as close to Daughtry as possible. A piggyback ride if he consents to give you one. But I'm confused. Why is McPhee with Pickler? It's been universally hailed by all critics, even Gene Siskel from beyond the grave, that Pickler sucked it and McPhee knocked it out of the park. How could McPhee be in the bottom three?

Hicks is left sitting on the couch. Seacrest tell Hicks that he's safe but that now he has to go stand with the other safe group. And he has to guess who they are. In other words, he has to pass judgment on who he thinks should be in the bottom three right after the break.

Commercial for Unan-one-mous. Is anyone watching that? Meanwhile, Taylor Hicks, here's your chance to do a little culture jamming. You have an entire live commercial break to think about your plan of action. Yes, you are under contract to 19 Entertainment, but you are not under contract to obey Ryan Seacrest. He's not the boss of you, Gork. Say NO to this. What are they going to do if you refuse to play this cruel little game, kick you off? Maybe scold you a little after the show? You still have some control over your own destiny. Don't play. Say, "I am the decider!" and decide to be Switzerland. Come on now. I just said I finally liked you. Don't go douche-ing it up.

Break over. Hicks has a look of "I can't f&*ing believe they're making me do this" on his face. And he fails me by obeying the Seacrest command. Naturally, he walks to the Daughtry side, because why on earth would Daughtry be in the bottom three? But HOLY CRAP, DAUGHTRY IS IN THE BOTTOM THREE. So Hicks is wrong and quickly about-faces and walks to Pickler's trio. Pickler is stunned and starts hugging Hicks, who looks like he wants to set himself on fire and dive off a bridge to get away from it all. It's now official that Pick Pickler would have to defecate onstage and begin hurling it at the judges and Marilu Henner to get herself voted off. Perhaps re-create Divine's final scene in Pink Flamingos. Maybe not even then.

And I have a theory. Daughtry is just placed there in the bottom three with Ace so the producers can get one last chance to make them look like archnemeses. I think it's a fake-out.

Paris is safe. Seacrest calls Daughtry and Ace "the best of friends." Why haven't we heard about this buddy-buddy situation until now? I sense another big fake-out here.

And Ace goes home. Finally. I've been wanting his weak ass out of here for a while. That simpering "Had a Bad Day" song washes over his You're Dead reel. Dang, that song is gay. Like Type 2, 3 and 4.*

(* You're going to have to go back and read an earlier recap if you don't know about the Four Types of Gay. I can't keep explaining it every week, you know.)

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"A Sophisticated

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