I'm a seasoned reality TV fan. I no longer believe when Chris Harrison tells me this will be the most shocking rose ceremony ever, so when AI producer Nigel Lythgoe went on Twitter yesterday promising a "shocker" on that night's results show, I was skeptical. I will never doubt Nigel again.
In my wildest dreams, in my most insane fantasy scenarios for what last night's results show would bring, I could not have ever imagined judges' pet Casey Abrams would -- for one brief, shining moment -- be kicked off the show. The rest of the evening is just a blur. In fact, I must be hallucinating, because as I remember the show, Hulk Hogan came out and scared two contestants before going after Ryan Seacrest, the lady from Sugarland was dressed like a Christmas tree, Jennifer Hudson was trapped in a dark and smoke-filled room that weirdly distorted her voice, and Haley Reinhart was told she was on the AI summer tour. As I said, weird stuff.
But what I do remember clearly is the moment the clouds parted, the sun came out, the birds sang and all was right with the world. Ryan Seacrest had the final group of three, one of whom would be at risk for going home, the other two moving back to the couch. It was Naima, Haley, and EW's pick for the season winner, Casey. Ryan said one was safe. Naima, and all of America, points to Casey. But, no, it's Naima who is safe. That leaves perennially bottom three member Haley along with the anointed one. They elbow each other in a cute, joking fashion, but you see that the cloak of invincibility has slipped ever so subtly from Casey's shoulders. The ego inflated superiority that has infused him since the first moment the judges crowned him king is starting to show a fissure. But, once he hears Haley's name, he'll recover and his swagger will return.
And then Ryan says what I thought I'd never hear. Casey, you're in the bottom three. I think my heart skipped a beat. America, whose taste has been questioned repeatedly by me, got it right. Casey cannot sing, or if he can he has chosen not to show us that particular talent these last few weeks. He can pose and posture and put on an act, he can shout and growl and scream. But he couldn't carry a tune if he had a bucket full of notes.
But still, that had to be the extent of the shocker for tonight. Casey being in the bottom was more than anyone could expect. He'd be quickly sent to rejoin his compatriots, and chalk all this up to faulty phone lines or over-confident fans distracted by the NCAA basketball games. Ryan brings the bottom three together midstage -- Casey, Stefano Langone and Thia Megia -- and we all wait for Casey and Thia to take their places on the couch while Stefano sings his swan song.
Then something completely unbelievable happens -- no, not an unbilled-Stevie Wonder singing Happy Birthday to a 63 year old Steven Tyler. No. Stefano is safe and CASEY is the one in peril, about to be sent packing, 86'ed, told hasta la vista, baby, on the road to Palookaville. There was barely time for any of us to catch our breath. Stefano walks over to the couch and Casey is handed a microphone. With the ten American Idol contestants assured that they would all be part of the summer tour fiasco, I mean, extravaganza, it is now up to Casey to shout, scream, growl for his life.
He started "singing???" I Don't Need No Doctor. Now, for many AI fans, when we think of "Casey" and that song, this is what we think of:
But instead, a You Tube search of "Casey" and that song will now lead to this:
That was, though abbreviated, the consummate Casey Abrams performance. Self-indulgent, over-the-top, and out of touch with what is going on in music today. His attempt at scatting? That wasn't interesting forty years ago. That is not so-old-it's-new-again cool. It's "I saw Louie Armstrong do it in a movie and I'm going to try and copy him to mask the fact that I don't actually have a good voice" awkward! People...this is a singing competition. I'm sorry to bring back one of Simon Cowell's famous lines, but the ability to sing should be a prerequisite for success on the show. Having an off night is excusable, not being an actual singer is not.
So the judges cut him off in mid-song, not because they're so sure about what they want to do, but because they don't want us hearing just how bad Casey sounds moments before they're about to save him. Then they give him the good news, he's not going anywhere. And Casey has an epic reaction. First, he turns whiter than he already was, then cups his monster mitts under his mouth as if about to catch whatever has been percolating in his stomach for the last hour. Then he, well, let's look at the tape:
He quickly moves through Elizabeth Kubler Ross' Five Stages of Grief, wallowing a bit in denial. Apparently, they don't have acting classes at the school he goes to because from the minor heart attack, to the Sally Field moment, to seemingly making out with Ryan Seacrest, and all the rest of his antics (don't forget to kiss Momma!), Casey's reaction strikes me as more calculated than genuine. Casey has instantaneously scripted the first moment of his Phoenix story. Because he now will rise from the ashes and fly through the next few weeks even if he were to go on stage and read a book on paint drying out loud for his two-minute act.
There is simply no way he will not be getting the lion's share of votes for the next few weeks after that spectacle. But I can console myself with the knowledge that, at least for one week, my fellow Americans did not fall for the judges' pimping and saw Casey Abrams for the vocally weak contestant he is. In fact, buried among the comments from last night was a telling one from Jennifer Lopez, who encouraged Casey to stop with the weird facial expressions and grunting and get back to singing. Perhaps if she and the other judges had told him that weeks ago, and not continued to stroke his ego, he might not have found himself in such peril last night.
The only thing that will save this season now is if Jacob Lusk gets voted off next week and there is nothing the judges can do to save him. A girl can dream.