I will admit it, I was holding my breath a little on Thursday night, right up until American Idol host Ryan Seacrest told Casey Abrams that he was safe.
It seemed unlikely that Casey would go home just a week after a dramatic judges' save and a pleasing Wednesday performance of Elton John's "Your Song." But you just never know how these things will turn out.
Scratch that: I did believe who was going home. Naima Adedapo seems every bit the free spirit that Ryan said she was on Thursday and I have enjoyed her spunk and the fact she enlivened her performances with dance and reggae rhythms. But she's been at the bottom of my rankings most weeks and Wednesday's outing was another "pitchy" mess.
As for Thia Megia, who seems like a sweet girl, you only get so many chances to stop being boring. Thia has a lovely voice but was unable to bring any passion to her performances, no matter how many times she promised the judges she'd do better.
The surprise in the bottom three was Paul McDonald (right), although I can see how his quirky voice wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea. But Paul dodged the bullet this week and made the top nine.
As for Casey, we got a fuller look at his emotional distress after last week's save, courtesy of backstage cameras. We'd already seen Casey being helped off stage by a doctor after seeming about to collapse in Ryan's arms. We didn't see him crouching and sobbing after telling the doctor, "I feel so guilty right now."
There were more than 55 million votes on Wednesday night, a record for this stage of the competition. Ryan, whose hair was back to its usual gelled state, told Casey, "My friend, if you knew how many you got, you'd be very proud. You're safe."
Way to go Casey!
One other pleasant surprise was the absence of the dreaded group performance (although we can't be sure it won't reappear next week).
Instead, contestants were grouped in twos or threes or fours, and performed songs as opposed to medleys before Ryan gave them their results.
The most successful were the duets: Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery sounded fabulous on the country love-gone-wrong ballad "I Told You So," earning a standing O from the judges (although Scotty's got to get those wandering eyebrows under control).
And I liked Naima and Jacob Lusk better together than separately: they tackled the Ashford and Simpson duet "Solid." No standing O, but they looked like they were having a blast, grooving around the stage.
Less successful were Thia, Pia Toscano and Haley Reinhart doing Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" (I like the Glee version better). Casey, Paul, James Durbin and Stefano Langone also took a kick at "Band on the Run" with their guitars.
"Does this band have a future?" Ryan asked judge Steven Tyler.
"I think so. You can open up for Aerosmith next tour," said Steven.
The episode also featured Season 3 winner Fantasia performing "Collard Greens and Cornbread" (no, I'm not making that title up). She told Steven that she loved him during the song (why should she be any different than the rest of the audience?). And when asked by Ryan to share one thing she wished she'd known when she was competing on Idol, she said, "Keep good people with you. Keep people who not just going to tell you yes."
Jamie Foxx and will.i.am of Black Eyed Peas also performed, but I didn't pay much attention to what.
The top nine perform next Wednesday. You can catch it on CTV at 8 p.m. and then look for my recap.
By the way, we've been having some technical difficulties with the new website, which is why I'm posting here as well as there. Onward and upwards, hopefully the glitch will be fixed by tomorrow. The place to find my posts in future is www.toronto.com/blogs/remotecontrol.
(The photo of Paul McDonald performing on Wednesday is by Michael Becker for Fox.)