First off, the "Idols" opened with a Lennon/McCartney medley that was practically near-palatable! And Billy Preston's "Will It Go Round In Circles" actually made for a great song choice for the week's Ford ad. Even Casey was inspired to loosen up.
Ryan Seacrest started off the evening by calling each girl, one by one, to the center of the stage, then asked Randy if he thought one of them would be headed home. Randy said no. Crystal was then pronounced safe and asked to take a seat. Ryan then relieved both Siobhan and Katie by sending them back to their seats, too. Three safe, six more to go.
Next came an interesting performance by Jason Derülo, an artist protégé of Kara DioGuardi's whose performance was a bit Usher-esque. After that came the year-belated encore of John Lennon's "Imagine" from former "Idol" David Archuleta, who won me over (hey, better late than never!) with the great command he has of his vocals.
Then the lights came down. Two groups of men were asked to take center stage -- Casey, Lee and Tim on one side; Michael, Aaron and Andrew on the other. When asked which group was going home, Ellen said, "I hate this part" -- then guessed the "Big Mike" group. She was right: Casey, Lee and Tim were safe.
Here comes the shocking part: Aaron was sent back to safety immediately, leaving Michael and Andrew the last men standing.
Clad in a black pleather catsuit, Rihanna then came out (looking like Prince and Grace Jones had had a baby) to perform her latest hit, "Rockstar 101" -- a very odd amalgam of aggro guitar riffs (courtesy of '90s guitar virtuoso Nuno Bettencourt) and her atypical Rihanna vocal. The whole thing was over-conceptualized and rather painful to endure.
Finally, it was time to reveal the results, with -- as Seacrest said -- "two fathers both trying to make a better life for their families" awaiting the verdict. Are you sitting?
The "Jennifer Hudson" moment of the competition arrived when Andrew was pronounced safe, leaving Big Daddy Mike's fate in the hands of the judges. Such blasphemy! As Big Mike reprised his phenomenal take on "This Woman's Work," the cameras panned to his wife and Crystal Bowersox in tears, and the judges deliberating -- with Kara visibly pissed.
The verdict? The judges exercised their right to save one contestant, and Big Mike was it. The whole place went up in applause. And so did I. Michael Lynche is one of the few artists up there with a clear sound and vision of who he is -- a pending R&B success story if ever there was one.
But what will happen next week, when former "Idol" Adam Lambert mentors a special theme? Will it be goth? Death metal? Show tunes?
Tune in to "American Idol" on FOX next Tuesday, and then be sure to check us out for the recap!