The show kicked off with an opening montage of the Top 24 celebrating when they learned they were going to Hollywood. Host Ryan Seacrest reminded viewers that this would be the largest elimination ever on American Idol. He also explained that, after the public heard who was in the top 10, the judges would decide who could sing again for a spot in the wild card round.
Beginning with the guys, we saw a montage of the guys' performances and then Ryan interviewed them. Stefano Langone said that nerves were running high because everyone had become friends and wanted their friends to advance, too. "If I'm not going home, it's Paul or Robbie," he said, which Ryan pointed out, made Paul react as if to say, "Whatchu talkin' about, Willis?"
This was followed by a montage of the guys talking to the camera about what songs they would sing, their strengths and weaknesses, and more. It was a fun segment, allowing them to show their personalities. Standouts were Casey Abrams, who challenged Ryan to a stand-up bass face-off, and Brett Loewenstern, who compared himself to a burnt cookie with frosting on it. [Montage of guys' interviews]
The lights were dimmed, and Ryan had Scotty McCreery and Robbie Rosen join him center stage. He milked the results, describing their performances, interviewing both of them, and talking to the judges about their strengths and weaknesses. Jennifer said she believed Scotty has what it takes, and Randy said that Robbie is a true singer-songwriter. Finally, he announced that Scotty is in the Top 10 and Robbie has not made it based on viewer votes.
Next, Jordan Dorsey, Jovany Barreto, and Clint Jun Gamboa were brought center stage, where Clint announced he was about to faint from nerves. After recapping their performances and interviewing them, with Jordan saying that, if he had it to do over, he would have sung a John Legend song, Ryan revealed that Jordan and Clint had not made the Top 10. Then, he told Jovany he hadn't, either! That's the cruelest kind of fake-out, Ryan.
Then it was time for the girls, beginning with a montage of the girls' performances along with some interviews. Lauren Turner liked having been compared to Bette Midler. She also joked later that, if she got cut, "I know where you live, America, and I will cut you." [Montage of girls' interviews]
Again, the lights were dimmed, and Ryan had Pia Toscana and Lauren Alaina join him center stage. Pia took the opportunity to praise her fellow contestant, calling Lauren "amazing" and "beautiful." Ryan announced, "After the nationwide vote, Lauren, you are in the Top 10." Lauren made her way to the safety of the couch, getting a hug from Thia Megia on her way to join Scotty. Then Ryan continued: "Pia, you are also in the Top 10!" Thank goodness for that; otherwise, I would have thought America had flipped its lid.
Ta-Tynisa Wilson and Julie Zorrilla stepped forward to get their results next. Julie said she was sad she'd let her fans down. Neither of them were in the Top 10.
Kendra Chantelle, Ashthon Jones and Karen Rodriguez were brought down together. Ryan said, "After the vote, I can tell you that Ashton, you have not made the top 10." Of Kendra and Karen, he said that "one has made it" and "the person in the Top 10 is Karen."
Then it was back to the guys. Tim Halperin, Jacob Lusk, and Casey Abrams were called down to center stage. When Ryan announced, "Jacob, you've made it to the top 10," Casey celebrated with him as if he, himself, had heard the good news: "You did it!" Ryan told them that one person would go on and one would be sent home, and "the person that will continue to compete is Casey." At this news, Casey almost seemed sad or resigned, hugging his buddy, Tim, before joining the rest of the Top 10 on the couch.
Back to the girls, and Thia Megia, Lauren Turner, and Naima Adedapo came forward for results. "One of you is in America's Top 10," Ryan told them. "Naima... I'm so sorry to say you're not." Randy looked shocked at this news, even though he was the one who told Naima that her version of "Summertime" had paled in comparison to Fantasia's performance in season three. Ryan announced, "Thia... you have made it into the Top 10."
A pair of guys was brought up next, Brett Loewenstern and Paul McDonald, one of whom had made it, and the other had not. "The person who will continue in the competition is Paul," Ryan said. This would have been a surprise throughout the audition process, since Paul was barely shown. It just goes to show it's the voting performances that count.
Haley Reinhart and Rachel Zevita got their results next. Haley made it through; Rachel didn't. Again, Rachel was a former favorite who'd been highlighted throughout the audition shows.
Finally, Stefano Langone and James Durbin came forward to hear their fates. Ryan reminded them there was one spot left, and "that spot goes to James." This wasn't a huge surprise for anyone who'd been watching.
The wild-card competition began, with the judges selecting three guys and three girls to sing again. They could sing any song from the competition so far.
First to sing was Ashthon Jones, who went with "And I Am Telling You" from "Dreamgirls," because "I'm not going." Dressed in a super tight raspberry dress with black stripes, she had a lot of orchestrated stage moves, including coming down the front stairs to get closer to the judges. It wasn't as good as Jennifer's Oscar-winning performance, but it was good. Steven Tyler told her, "You brought it like you brought it before." Jennifer Lopez said, "I felt your passion and how much you wanted to be here." Randy remarked, "I still love the attitude." [Ashthon's performance]
Next, Stefano Langone was asked to sing. Wearing a white T-shirt and black baseball jacket with jeans, he sang a ballad, "I Need You Now." His performance was full of drama with a lot of runs designed to show off his voice. Randy liked it. J. Lo said, "You have me shaking up here." She added, "There's no way to not get it right with this group of kids, and there's no way to not get it wrong." To Stefano: "You came through, baby." Steven told Stefano, "You gilded the lily of your own passion." [Stefano's performance]
Kendra Chantelle sang the Ray Charles song "Georgia on My Mind," wearing a white sleeveless V-neck with black beading. She began low and kind of whispery and gave the song sort of a jazzy delivery, with a sustained high note at the end, all of it in perfect pitch. She threw in lots of extra runs at the end to try to impress the judges. Randy thought she'd started a little low, but "You rocked it at the end." [Kendra's performance]
Jovany Barreto, when he got a chance to sing again, went with "Angel," dedicating it to someone he once loved. He wore a black riverboat shirt and started off the song in Spanish. Unfortunately for him, he had a few problems with the melody. J. Lo told him, "You did all you could do." Doesn't exactly sound like an endorsement! [Jovany's performance]
Naima Adedapo, who Steven called "my own little 'Porgy and Bess' rolled up into one," would be to be last girl to sing in the wild-card round, which spelled the end of the line for Lauren Turner, Ta-Tynisa, Julie and Rachel.
Naima selected "For All We Know" by Donny Hathaway. She started out a little wobbly, probably because of nerves, but it soon becomes a very heartfelt performance. Naima truly put it all out there, dissolving into tears after singing the last note. Steven praised her: "You came from way deep inside again. You brought it. Thank you." [Naima's performance]
The last guy to perform was Robbie Rosen. At this news, Brett wanted to hug the judges again and ran down with Ryan urging him to make it quick. Robbie selected the Elton John song, "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word," which he performed wearing a white T-shirt and black Members Only jacket. He did a very slowed-down version of the song so that he could embellish it. I thought it was a bit overwrought, but at least he got a chance to showcase his voice. Randy called it "very nice, very tender" and declared, "The Robbie we fell in love with is back." He said the good performances in the wild-card round would make this "the toughest night ever" for the judges. [Robbie's performance]
All in all, the contestants who were eliminated without singing again were Ta-Tynisa Wilson, Julie Zorrilla, Lauren Turner, Rachel Zevita, Brett Loewenstern, Tim Halperin, and Clint Gamboa.
After the commercial break, J. Lo said the judges weren't ready with the results: "We know it's live TV, but we need a little time." So Ryan rolled the debut of J. Lo's new music video while the judges continued to deliberate.
The judges were finally ready to reveal their results. Randy said, "We've chosen Ashthon." She was shocked and ran across the stage screaming, where James hugged her. Jennifer revealed it would be a Top 13 rather than a Top 12: "We have two more. Stefano is going through."
Steven announced the final person: "Naima, you're in." She was in tears as she joined the rest of the Top 13.
Next week, the Top 13 take the stage and the competition truly begins.
The hardest thing about such a talented lineup is choosing between them.