This episode introduces American Idol contestants and audiences to Hollywood Final Judgement. Our trusty panel of judges, Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban, are faced with the task of whittling the remaining pop star hopefuls down to a total of 30 contestants, comprised of 15 men and 15 women. The focus is on the judgement and less so on the performances, with some contestants pitted against each other in a last-minute, head-to-head a cappella showdown.
Harry kicks things off with a stern lecture to the awaiting contestants, warning them not to complain about being sick before they sing because nobody cares. Ha! After this speech, the words, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” drift across the screen. We learn that the solo performances took place the night before. Contestants wait in the holding room, waiting for their name to be called to receive their final judgement from the judges.
Emily Piriz is the first contestant to face the panel. We are treated to footage of her singing “Stars” by Grace Potter & The Nocturnals the day before. Dressed in a fitted black dress and sitting at a keyboard during her performance, the 17-year-old quite literally emerges as a dark horse when she learns she is the first to be chosen to continue in the competition.
Spencer Lloyd walks into the judgement room after a goofy original performance. Following a commercial break cliffhanger, however, he learns he is staying and gets a hug from Jennifer. Jillian Jensen is another contestant who chose to sing an original song. Strumming her guitar, she channels Melissa Etheridge during her solo. Harry starts telling her how hard the decision was and poor Jillian is already near tears when she hears the surprise news that she’s still in the running. Sporting the same cheetah print as Jennifer, she gives great TV by bursting into tears when the judges hug her congratulations.
Madelyn Patterson looks like a country JWoww from Jersey Shore as she steps before the judges to hear her fate. Sadly for her, she’s the first contestant to learn she’s going home, but accepts this news with grace. This sweet country girl then tells her new friends goodbye and wishes them luck. This kicks off several more rejections.
The tide turns when George Lovett sings Jason Mraz‘s “I Won’t Give Up” and is the next addition to the remaining 30 contestants. Several contestants sing original songs, one of whom is young, freckle-faced Sam Wolf. He explains that he wrote his song, “I Tried,” after his mom moved away. He easily makes it to the next round. I’m just going to say it now, this kid is going to win.
This is followed by several nos. Keri Lynn Roche assaults the judges with a weird Amy Winehouse/Courtney Love impersonation in what Jennifer rightfully calls “a stylized voice.” She’s going home.
Malaya Watson starts off in the wrong key. Harry interrupts her to fix it with the band. After looking like she’s going to pass out, Malaya, then kills it so much so that she has JLo pointing to the heavens. And you know I love a good vocal stomp. Her adorable reaction to the good news that she’s made it has her running out of the judgement room like a muppet.
Maurice Townsend gets a green light for his version of the Miley Cyrus song “Wrecking Ball.” Randy Jackson shows up for a brief cameo and it’s about as interesting as you would imagine it would be, which means not at all. Bria Anai gives a very spirited version of “This Is a Man’s World” and runs off when she hears her good news.
Jessica Meuse, who fared so poorly during the group competition, sings an original, “This Is Done.” Before the song, she says the name of the song, explaining, “This is about an idiot.” And with that, I’m Team Jessica. She is followed by Jesse Roach, who sings Dixie Chicks‘ “Wide Open Spaces“ but forgets the words partway through. The two receive their judgement together, with Jennifer announcing, “We’ve run into a problem with the two of you.” She explains in not so many words that there can only be one gravelly-voiced, Southern rock girl with black hair and heavy eyeliner. And just like that, we have our first lightning elimination round! The two face off and at the end, there will only be one Jess left standing.
Jessica goes first and sings, “Simple Man” from Lynyrd Skynyrd while Jesse counters with her version of K.T. Oslin‘s “Do Ya.” They then both retreat to the elevator to await the judges’ decision. Jennifer, Harry and Keith whisper among themselves until Jessica learns that she’s the chosen Jess. And just like that, I have the theme song from The New Girl stuck in my head. “Who’s that girl? It’s Jess!”
Dexter Roberts learns that his country boy authenticity has earned him a spot in the top 30. Emmanuel Zidor has a breakdown before the judges can say a single word. Luckily, he gets good news and this emotional encounter gives JLo a chance to showcase her ability to cry beautifully. Truly, she is a beautiful crier, guys.
Androgynous Emkay Nobilette needs to handle that flesh wound on her nose. Someone give the woman a tube of Neosporin. She sings, “The A Team” as the judges describe her as “interesting serious.” The self-proclaimed “obviously gay” Nobilette cries endearingly as she hears from the judges that she’s sticking around for another round.
Kristen O’Connor belts “Unconditionally” from Katy Perry and we are treated to lots of JLo bobbing her head like a snake as she dances. Despite a fake out, she makes it through. Another happy contestant is Savannah native Jordan Brisbane, who learns the good news on his 16th birthday. After that, several contestants find out that they sang their swan song the day before.
Leah Guerrero and Andrina Brogden are sent up to the room together. They walk inside holding hands. We see flashbacks to their earlier performances, with Leah singing “I’d Rather Go Blind” from Etta James and Andrina taking on Ellie Goulding‘s “Burn.” When we abruptly find out from the judges that Leah is going home and Andrina is staying, it’s unclear why both girls learn this news at the same time, other than to cause a serious awkward moment.
Another talent Jennifer Lopez reveals during the episode is that she gives good sendoff. Nobody hugs goodbye like that woman.
Malcolm Allen does his version of Mary J. Blige‘s “I’m Going Down” in his bow tie and glasses. He learns his fate while wearing a bright yellow sweater. The cutie pie jumps for joy when he hears he’s one of the chosen few. As for Alex Preston, he never goes anywhere without his guitar, including the judgement room. His version of “Makes Me Wonder” from Maroon 5 was enough to win over the judges.
Finally, C.J. Harris and Casey Thrasher are summoned into the judgement room together. They have a singoff. C.J. volunteers to go first and sings, “Whipping Post” from the Allman Brothers. Casey follows with “Don’t Ya.” After a very short deliberation, Harry starts to tell Casey…something we will have to wait till the next episode to hear as the words, “To Be Continued” flash across the screen.
In the next episode, we find out who the remaining 30 contestants will be, one of whom will either be C.J. Harris or Casey Thrasher. Till then, my pretties…!
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