I mean, obviously it was bullshit -- four other contestants could have more credibly been eliminated (Aaron, Tim, Paige and Lacey) -- but most bullshit Idol decisions are less confounding than this one was because none of the eliminated four were overtly bad this week, instead ranging from misguided (Todrick) to unmemorable (Katelyn, Lilly) to outright good (Alex). And it wasn't a whitey thing either -- though they eliminated the wrong minority this time.
[Incidentally -- Alan, Dan and I prehashed the expected elimination of Andrew Garcia and tried to determine who the previous biggest flameout during the semis was compared to hype/expectations coming out of Hollywood, and settled on Sundance Head and Asia'h Epperson with neither even being close to what an Garcia ouster would have represented.]
So what happened here? It's not enough to say that "it's better to be actively bad than unmemorable" -- because the former encourages defenders' voting while the latter may not -- though it might apply to the ladies more than the men. I think a more crucial factor is that the judges' contradictory advice -- be more original! find out who you are! be as good as you were when you did "Straight Up," only not exactly like that again! -- not only confused the contestants but the voting public as well.
Remember what the big complaint was about 2009: overmanipulation by the judges to obtain the final 13 they wanted. That, though, was based on a semis in which each semifinalist only had one chance to be voted on by the public, and thus profile packages in the audition rounds carried more weight. But this was the third week in which everyone performed, so that wasn't the likely problem.
But undermanipulation can be just as much of a concern. Simon, in particular, has demonstrated in the past a power to preserve folks whom he knows are good enough to remain in the competition, even when they've had subpar weeks. The general incoherence of the panel and -- I hate to acknowledge this -- the absence of a Paula Abdul as a guaranteed supportive voice may have removed the balm that these performers needed.
All of which is to say that I have no answer here yet, but maybe we can come to some incompletely theorized agreement by the end of this. At a minimum, let's go back to Theory #1 -- The Tiers: "There are two groups of contestants in the Final 24 -- Those Who Can't Win The Whole Thing, and Those Who Can. As long as they get rid of the first group before starting to pick at the second, it's not worth stressing over the order of elimination."
Could any of these four have won? Honestly, I was all set to declare Alex Lambert as my sleeper candidate for 2010 -- he had the talent, but just needed to grow as a performer. So, yes, that was particularly irksome. But the other three weren't going to win this -- not even Lilly, given Crystal Bowersox's superior version of the same thing.
We've got our twelve. Let's see how badly America screws this up until Crystal or Siobhan is eliminated in the final three. Our predictions: next week, with The Music of the Rolling Stones.
[Sorry about the delay in posting this. Blame Moby. For real.]