Paul McDonald and Stefano Langone
Over 53 million votes came in, but as host Ryan Seacrest said, "that doesn't lessen the blow of elimination." The idols would once more be performing in groups, instead of one main group number. The first duo to perform Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery with Lady Antebellum's "American Honey." Scotty started off the song, in a brown leather jacket with black T-shirt and gray jeans, and she wore a yellow sundress with a ruffled off-the-shoulder top and huge gold earrings.. She outsang him in the duet, but the audience seemed to like it. [Lauren and Scotty's duet]
After the break, we saw a behind-the-scenes video of the Top 8 shooting a zombie video, including extensive makeup for some of the idols. [Behind-the-scenes video]
Then we saw the debut of the video, shot for a Ford commercial, where James, Scotty, Lauren and Stefano came after the other contestants and then got in their Ford to jam out to "Animal," the song used for the commercial. Cute. [Ford commercial]
Next to perform were Casey Abrams and Haley Reinhart, performing a jazzy number, "Moanin." Haley in a slinky black and gold minidress with lacy straps, and Casey in a dark suit. There you go! That's where Haley belongs. Maybe they ought to start a group after the show! I've never seen her so alive on stage as when she was reacting to him. Their scat battle was magic, too. For the first time, I found myself hoping that Haley doesn't get sent home. [Casey and Haley's duet]
Ryan went to the judges on it, and they raved about the performance. "Thank you for whipping that out," Steven said.
Then it was time for the results for Casey Abrams, Haley Reinhart, Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina. After recapping their performances, Ryan sent Scotty to safety and then Lauren. "The person who finds themselves back in the bottom three this week after the vote is Haley." Casey gave her some encouraging words before she headed over to the tulip chairs. [Results for Casey, Haley, Scotty and Lauren]
We finally found out why Rob Reiner was in the audience on performance night. In a video package, Rob Reiner coached the idols about performing movie songs, including a very funny part where he "sang" the theme to "Chariots of Fire" based on the action on screen. [Rob Reiner's coaching session]
Kelly Clarkson, "the girl who started it all," season one winner, performed with country star Jason Aldean. His cowboy hat was so big it covered half of his face, including his eyes. But their harmonies were pleasant. Not so sure country is a good fit for Kelly. In the interview afterwards, Kelly yelled at Ryan for rephrasing her tweets and called Casey "delicious." [Kelly Clarkson and Jason Aldean duet]
James Durbin, Jacob Lusk, Paul McDonald and Stefano Langone sang a "The Sounds of Silence" and "Mrs. Robinson" mashup, all wearing more casual outfits. The harmonies were strained, so hopefully they won't be doing this number on tour. [James, Jacob, Paul & Stefano perform]
After the nationwide vote, James was sent to safety. Stefano, however, was once more in the bottom three. Ryan reminded people that last week Paul was safe while Jacob was in the bottom three, but this week, the tables had turned. Jacob was safe, and Paul was in the bottom three, eliciting boos from the audience. [Results for James, Jacob, Paul and Stefano]
Chaka Khan and Anita Baker were in the audience and got special recognition for Ryan as he introduced Rihanna's performance. She performed "California King Bed" on a stage with smoke and long silver curtails suspended from the dceiling a mane of bright red wavy hair backlit from her dimly lit enclave. Her vocals were weaker than in previous performances. It seemed like the song was too low for her. [Rihanna's performance]
Then it was time for Paul, Haley and Stefano. Ryan reminded everyone that only girls have been cut so far. "She falls in the footsteps ... of the others on the couch. You are safe." So it was down to Paul and Stefano. Would Paul fall prey to the Stefano curse? "After the nationwide vote, that guy is Paul." Get out! More bleeping as someone couldn't control themselves, apparently. Cut to some women in the audience crying. [Bottom three results]
For his swan song, at J. Lo's request, he sang "Maggie May," accompanied only by a very basic band arrangement. He seemed unaffected by the results and was still bouncy and cheerful as he sang. "Let's not be sad about this," he said. [Paul's swan song]
After so many weeks, why did Paul go home the second time he found himself in the bottom three? As judge Steven Tyler said, he was a "cool dude," a factor that might have won him more votes on his rough weeks than a less charismatic contestant would receive.
Much has been made about Paul's white teeth and his devil-may-care attitude. Certainly, those characteristics probably attracted some viewers, but that wasn't the whole story. Even on the weeks where his vocals weren't as strong as other contestants, his performance was. He owned the stage, and in the early phases of the competition, where his competitors were still finding their "sea legs," so to speak, that mattered a lot.
This week Paul's performance wasn't as strong as the others, and he went first, meaning that he could be easily forgotten. Plus, an impassioned plea from judge Jennifer Lopez to save the two remaining girls might have translated into fewer votes for Paul.
As he said, though, let's not be sad. By being cut now, Paul gains extra time to get his voice back into shape for the summer tour. It wasn't as widely publicized as Casey's problems with colitis, but Paul was diagnosed with throat nodules early in the competition, which have been affecting his vocals. Like a trooper, he kept going, but now, he'll get a well-deserved rest.