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The songs of Lennon and McCartney go through the blandifying machine. Then Chikezie and Amanda sing.

I knew I'd need something to hop to after finishing the Taylor Hicks memoir, Heart Full of Soul. Because I'm like Amanda Overmyer, always with my nose in a book, you see. So I chose Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul. I was serious when I said it really existed. And I found a cheap copy online, way less than the retail price of $14.95, but so far it's been worth every penny, each page reminding me that you can't really put a price on inspiration. It's so true. Just today I read about how Clay Aiken helped a young female fan's body image by appearing to enjoy the company of a plus-size young woman in his hit "Invisible" video. From that moment on he requested that only regular-looking people be in his videos. This had nothing at all to do with making him look less geeky. He had love and inner healing to deliver.

And it's been a banner week for my mailbox, re: all things Idol, because Fox sent me a promotional magnet and stickers. It's pretty elaborate, a very large glossy paperboard thing with 12 boxes on it, which in turn are meant to frame sticker-photos of the top 12. Then, as each failed singer gets eliminated, there are red "X" stickers you can put over their faces. I gave a few seconds' thought to simply eBaying the David Archuleta sticker and buying a new iPod with the money, but then I remembered that I have a very important job to do here and that it would be cheating y'all out of your chance to see me interact with this bit of promo swag. Once I get my shit together I'll have some photos taken of me X'ing off discarded Idols. It's going to be fun for all of us.

They've got new opening credits now. After years of use, the Fame Elevator has been razed and the lady-man-robot-singer-thing digitally erased for all time. It was nice knowing you, lady-man-robot-singer-thing. In place of Fame Elevator, there's now a giant SuperFameCocaColaStadiumDome that looks a lot like the Theme Building at LAX. It does to me, anyway. An identifiable man and identifiable woman give each other a sultry glance, one of them grips the microphone, and out they march, side by side, to the Cathy Dennis Battle Hymn, ready to stake their rightful claim on appearances on Us Weekly's worst-dressed pages, lunch at the Ivy, and/or future stints on Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew. Then the whole thing turns into a theme park roller coaster with spinning, gyroscoping American Idol logos speeding past as former Idol winners are more or less represented on flashing JumboTrons. The More: Kelly, Carrie, and Jordin. The Less: Ruben, The Boogie, Fantasia. In fact, The Boogie, who was unceremoniously decapitated in earlier Fame Elevator credit moments this season, actually gets more face time than Ruben and Fantasia, even though all of them require hitting TiVo's "slow" button to be fully seen for anything more than 1/25 of a second.

More excitement: I'm watching tonight's show over at a friend's house with a bunch of gays. These gays have a new HD TV. I've never watched anything in high-def before tonight. I'll be interested in seeing Seacrest's pores and pockmarks. Microstitching and bolts too, provided he's got those. Anyway, after a few seconds I'm already a little freaked out by the HD. I can see Seacrest's makeup job a little too well.

"Say hello to our new set, America," implores HD-Seacrest. All the gays in the room say hello. But we don't mean it. The new set is overwhelmingly huge, spinny, and probably seizure-inducing if you're standing inside it. The band is on the second story of it. And as an added bonus/threat, former Top 12 contestants with stalled post-Idol careers have been encased in blue aluminum and affixed to the ceiling, a warning to those below. Only Jim Verraros, wily gay that he is, managed to escape. This is a good thing because I'm sort of looking forward to Eating Out 3. Anyway, the set gets a standing ovation from the Idol audience. Those people are already in crushy love. But I'll need it to woo and court me. Bring me a cookie bouquet. At the very least call me the next day. HD-Seacrest is very excited about the new set and eager to prove to America what a Regular Joe he is by asking crew members to show off the set and lights. My favorite part is how he calls them out by name and adds "buddy" and "my man" to the end of each request. And you know that's not fake either. I bet he's one of those guys who memorizes the first and last names of the crew, learns the names of their significant others and children, researching their backgrounds so he can bond more efficiently in their weekly moments together and then managing to keep it all straight from job to job to job to job to job. Sleep is for Jeff Foxworthy.

Mosh pit. HD-Seacrest just called the brand-new area in front of the judges where foxy young people are allowed to stand and be overly excited a "mosh pit."

Ha ha. Good one, my man. Also buddy.

Then HDS introduces the judges. Banter involving Simon's open-shirted, chest-baring exhibitionism ensues. Friend on the couch Gary says, "Those two are the new Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson." I find this to be an accurate assessment.

So tonight the Idols are going to attack the songs of Lennon and McCartney. I'm not afraid of this. I saw both Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Across the Universe, so nothing can hurt me anymore. Also, I used to watch Providence, where "In My Life" was kicked in the face each week over the opening credits. I'm not proud that I watched Providence. But it happened. It was kind of a dark time for me. HD-Seacrest explains to the kids who Lennon and McCartney were and that, as the '60s rolled on and "their lives changed radically," they drew "inspiration from art, literature, and the world around them." Translation: drugs.

First up is Syesha, performing the Earth, Wind & Fire version of "Got to Get You Into My Life." In HD her dream-catcher earrings are blinding me, like when someone holds a compact disc up to catch the sun's rays so they can intentionally scorch your retinas. The song is less memorable than the jewelry. Simon disagrees with me and praises her with some words that I forget, mostly because now in HD I can count every filament of his awful hair. This new technology is making me pay attention to all the wrong stuff.

All the gays in the room are into Chikezie's name. One of them is into Chikezie himself, but most of us are just down for his name. We've all agreed that it sounds like a dessert at Taco Bell. And these are some dessert-loving gays in this room, so that's not a diss of any sort. His parents thought outside the bun. And while I'm talking parents, he's got the best ones of the season so far. Every time the camera lands on his mother she's got the Holy Spirit and she doesn't give a damn if it caught her praising Jesus for Danny Noriega's elimination. I want to see more move-busting from her tonight.

In HD, I can see each drop of sweat on Chikezie's head as he manic-episodes his way through "She's a Woman." It starts out all "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" and then he gets mental and shouts and huffs and puffs and does some foot-shuffling that would make Taylor Hicks sue for copyright infringement. This is all very entertaining. The judges like it too. Naturally, this makes Chikezie's parents convulse with joy. His mother is waving her hands up and down in tiny short motions like she's struggling to lift an imaginary anvil. Go, Chikezie's Mother! Lift it! Meanwhile, HD-Seacrest has been possessed with the same Holy Spirit. He's yelling at and shoving Chikezie, throwing out more "my man" endearments, jumping around in a big circle, rubbing his hands all over the guy's head, shouting, "SOAKING WET!" and calling him "Baby!" Then he realizes that he's got the fluids of another human being on him now and he rubs his hands together frantically. During the commercial he'll fire his personal assistant for not anticipating his needs and having a vat of Purell on tap at all times.

Ramiele sings "In My Life" and dedicates it to Danny Noriega and that other little blond gayish boy whose name I never learned (well, actually, she says it's for "my close friends who've left the show," which could also be a kind of careerist taunt). And you know what? HD is very kind to her. She's adorable as always. Her giant white belt, however, is not so kind, threatening to engulf her entire tiny body into its width. Also? The new set hates her too. The stairs she starts the number on seem to have been designed for people with way longer legs, and you can see her nervously descend them. So that's kind of awesome. Thanks, Set. I'm warming up to you. If you prove seriously treacherous, then we're going to get along just fine. As for the song, it's a snooze.

Jason Castro is fond of attending Idol photo shoots with tiny flowers decorating his gross dreads. He ditches them onstage, though, and sings "If I Fell," flaring the shit out of his nostrils. They're so big that Judd Nelson lives inside them. I keep reading about how people are so in love with this kid. I don't get it. But I'm willing to listen. Jason Castro fans are invited to state their case in respectful e-mails. But be nice to me when you do this. I'm very sensitive, as I think you can tell from reading these recaps. Paula is the lone judge who's into him this week, talking about how she can feel his heart and how America can feel his heart. Well, that's nice, Paula, but the show's not called American Heart Feelings, is it? Sing that shit, kid. I'll check in on your heart feelings later.

Oh look, the Kardashians are here in the audience. What do they do again? I know their dad was one of O.J.'s lawyers. I think. Are they just sluts? If they are, then I guess I should watch their show. Sunset Tan is less interesting with each passing repeat.

Irish immigrants are overrunning our borders, coming to steal fame-jobs out of the hands of deserving Americans. First Bono. Then Sinead O'Connor. Then B*Witched, who kinda failed. Then Colin Farrell. He's finally making inroads. My husband/partner/whatever says, "What about the Dropkick Murphys?"

"Not from Ireland," I say.

"What about House of Pain?"

"Also not from Ireland."

"What about Lucky, spokes-leprechaun for Lucky Charms breakfast cereal?"

"He's actually Welsh," I'm sad to inform him.

Why is it that I am the only gay in the village (or least this gay-full living room) who loves Carly? She sings "Come Together," and I like it. No one else does. Am I just being all wrong? Is she blander than I want to admit? Have I been sympathy-voting her all this time? At least she seems less nervous this week. Doesn't that count for anything?

David Cook is here to give you some "Eleanor Rigby" by way of Collective Soul and Tenacious D. I'm supposed to dig this guy? He aims right for Iron Maiden-ville on the last note, getting up high and screechy. That he comes off as Metalocalypse's Dr. Roxxo the Rock and Roll Klown instead is either sad or awesome, depending on your perspective. I'd vote for him every week if he'd just scream out, "I DO CO-CAINE!" The judges are more or less into it, blah-blah-blahing about making it your own and being who you are, etc.

Brooke White is going to sing "Let It Be." Before she starts the room is in agreement that we want her to do the "Letter B" version of the song made famous on Sesame Street. This is not what she has in mind, however. She chooses, instead, to be simple and meaningful and barefoot and heartfelt and FUCKING BROOKE WHITE STOP MAKING ME LOVE YOU! FUCK! I FIND YOU ODD! STOP IT! SHUT UP!

David Hernandez is the guy who can't stop cramming more notes into the songs. His version of "I Saw Her Standing There" has, like, 3,000 of them. And this is not right. I don't care if he was a gay stripper or a gay-for-pay stripper or whatever. I don't care if he was in "Goddess" and pushed Cristal down the stairs. None of this counts when you're ruining a totally fun song. Which is what he does. He can beat it.

Amanda Overmyer has her Beetlejuice pants on. They will help her sing "You Can't Do That" with more zing and zip and growl and slur and gurgle and mumble. They work. Has Paula mentioned that this is the best season so far yet? She has? OK, well, she's going to do that again. Then she interrupts Simon, who takes offense and tells her to shut up. Paula is offended. Then Simon is offended. Then everyone's offended. Amanda leaves the studio go change the oil in her Harley.

Michael Johns sings "Across the Universe." I have nothing to say about this. I've sat here for a long time trying to build some kind of meaningful commentary around, him but I'm so bored by every single thing that he is that it's impossible for me. He makes me actually want to watch the movie Across the Universe again instead of listening to him sing one more note.

Kristy Lee Cook performs "Eight Days a Week" in a mind-blowingly frantic, fiddle-blazing country style. It's the fault of whoever arranged it that way that she can't keep up. I like to think it's intentional sabotage. Not because she deserves it or anything. But in my fantasies there are puppet masters lurking in tricked-out, tech-heavy sanctuaries pulling levers and issuing pronouncements about who stays and who goes, votes be damned. And this week the head puppet master said, "Get rid of her. Blonds are season 4." It makes me want to listen to the super-fast '90s techno version of "Cotton-Eyed Joe."

David Archuleta, like Ramiele, is in a battle with the staircase. Staircase wins. He's also in a battle with the lyrics of "We Can Work It Out." No one wins there. He forgets them. More than once. He also seems to have been the unwitting recipient of Carly's free-floating former nervousness. I hear he has an overbearing Stage Dad too. I don't know if that's true or not, but it's a fun rumor. But I have this idea that ruining the song tonight is all part of his strategy. Knowing he's safe, he's intentionally gone and fucked it up just to make people feel sorry for him. Message: "I'm human too."

Sayesha Mercado, David Hernandez and Kristi Lee Cook wait to see who will be eliminated.

Chopped and Screwed Night, the Countdown...

1. An animated sequence featuring the cartoon cast of Horton Hears a Who! all gathered around to watch American Idol opens the show. I actually anticipated this happening.

2. Jim Carrey in an elephant costume is something I did not anticipate happening. But there he is, mugging. After The Number 23 he's got hearts and minds to win back. He's grinning quite a bit. His grin always freaks me out.

3. Beatles medley time. They start with "All My Loving," a song Brooke White thinks is racy. Jim Carrey stays in the audience, still in the elephant costume. The camera wants his reaction. He gives reaction. He loves that David Archuleta.

4. New feature tonight: People call the Idols live and ask them stupid questions. Naturally, one of them is someone who wants to know why he's auditioned six times and can't get through to Hollywood. The whole thing is a big fail.

5. The bottom 3: Syesha Mercado, David Hernandez, and Kristy Lee Cook. They all take turns on their crap songs from the night before.

6. Kat McPhee comes on to sing "Something in the Way S(He) Moves." See comments on Michael Johns above.

7. David Hernandez is out. Whatever.

8. My verdict on HDTV is that I don't like it. Too much stuff I'm not supposed to see. Ramiele's fillings are her own. So are Simon's ashy knuckles. I'm not into it. I like medium-definition TV better. Y'all can keep your intricate visual details to yourselves.

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