Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Without a Net

As you may have noticed if you've stopped by here before, I'm a writer. A struggling writer, but a writer. I've been fortunate so far with some lucky breaks but each thing I write has to go through a submission process. My latest project is a book that's a bit different. At the end of last year, I won a contest with a small publishing house with it, but I turned that contract down. (All hell is still raining down from that decision, but that's another ugly story for another day.) I also landed an agent and another publication offer within the same week. The second publication offer was with a good, reputable house, but not a big NY one. The agent wanted to take a shot with the book with the big boys.

I said, "Okay."

It wasn't too risky at the time, because the smaller house was kind enough to give me some leeway and wait their turn, because they're very classy and cool like that.

However, I can't string them along forever. Yesterday I had to tell them I was turning down the publication offer because things are still up in the air with submissions to other publishers.

I've got gambling in my blood, which means that even though I have a strong surface desire to play things safe and easy and always have a safety net and backup plan, I sometimes take risks and do reckless, compulsive things. This may have been one of those reckless, compulsive, and quite likely very stupid things if (when) another offer doesn't materialize. But, you know, what the fuck. I don't particularly enjoy the thought of this little sequence of events becoming a cautionary tale for others. But I'd also really hate myself if I didn't go for it.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Sweeping up the Confetti

One last Idol exit interview. Katharine's. There's nothing I can say to that. Doing the recap of the finale, I realized that for as good as that show was -- and it was, truly, almost legendary -- that my write-up would be pale compared to it. I'd lost the spark in my snark, the flash in my sass. If ever a show deserved an effusive, celebratory love/hate orgy of a review, that one did.

But I think I fell into the trap. I never had much desire to eviscerate Taylor throughout the whole season anyhow. But I also knew his thunder had already been stolen by some of the earlier proceedings. Certainly, he's what the media is focusing on, but let's face it, the buzz-worthy highlight of the show wasn't his confetti. And no, it wasn't the unexpected (but kinda expected) appearance of the purple one, either.

What ruled the day-after chatter was the Clay Aiken number. For a show that specializes and thrives on humiliation/glorifying segments, it most certainly hit the zenith when Clay came out and serenaded his squeeling, fan-boy doppleganger. Truly, pages could be written about this incident. It could be dissected and analyzed more thoroughly than the Zapruder film for years to come by reality TV aficionados. It was the single most surreal/sublime moment the show has ever produced in five seasons.

And this season was undeniably its most popular ever. This season, I dare say, American Idol moved beyond monster television hit and marketing juggernaut and became a pop-culture phenomenon. What is it about this silly show that it can so capture, shock, and surprise us?

Baseball used to be our national pastime, a unifying force everyone could use as a diversion from the divisiveness of politics and religion and as a respite from the daily grind to create a connecting tissue between us. Even within that microcosm, people would winnow down into sub-cultures as they picked their favorite teams and players to root for, but they still followed the full arc of the season. But baseball long ago got devoured by the multitude of other sports and even more recently started cannibalizing itself so that now its audience is smaller and less rapt than ever before.

But that leaves a hole, because as a society, we still have some underlying need to convene and connect with each other about something. And this year, American Idol stepped in and filled the water-cooler void. It makes sense. It's a perfect confluence of events. It's been building in popularity and it's positioned at a time of year when there's not much else to focus on. Television is the mass-entertainment candy in our lives, able to reach far more people than movies or books ever will. Combine that viewership potential with music -- a commodity/art that strikes directly at people's identity/heart/intellect/culture/opinions -- and you've got a winning formula.

But American Idol takes it a step further. It is silly, don't get me wrong. It's a silly show and yet it's ballooned in popularity and it bridges gender, cultural, and age gaps. I've talked a lot about the manipulations the show uses, both on the contestants and the audience. Even though we know we're being directed along a path, we allow it. Or, we take glee in believing that we've somehow stuck it to da man by bucking the cues and choosing differently. All of those things make it better, certainly. That's the straw that stirs the drink, those manipulations, because it's part of what builds the crescendo of the show and keeps us watching over the course of the season. It creates a storyline and character arcs, creates the suspense and helps us to identify and connect. But that's what makes it so good, but not what creates the initial spark.

That spark is a much more simplistic and a base response on our part. The basic premise of the show is to scour the nation and find an undiscovered talent and give them the American Dream. Funny, but once upon a time, I thought the American Dream was a little simpler. It was that you could work hard and build a better life for your family. But that kind of humble ideal was blown out of the water a long time ago, possibly because we've realized that it's not so much a promise as a mirage. Now, the American Dream is to rise up from that better life your parents worked so hard to give you and shake off the chains of suburbia and become a superstar. Because if you're going to have deluded dreams, might as well make them really fucking good ones.

So, the American Dream. That's the lure and bait of American Idol.

But the hook? It's even better. The hook that keeps us rapt with Idol is that it simultaneously feeds our passion for competition, celebration, and carnage.

I got lucky and picked up some astute, generous, and interesting readers this season. In an e-mail exchange with Jean White, she said it perfectly. "American Idol is a lot like a virtual Roman coliseum, with all the fun of the up and down thumb and sudden death."

Exactly. There's no way I could come up with a better analogy.

From the early round, intentionally humiliating audition process they broadcast in early to January to whet our appetites to Cowell's mid-season, nationally televised insults, AI caters to our most civilized bloodthirsty tendencies. But even in the early auditions, it also complements those nasty instincts by inserting glowing footage of the good auditions, making us feel like a part of the process from the start so we can sit up and in self-congratulatory manner pat our backs for being able to spot the McPhees, Daughtrys, Taylors, and Yamins. Just as that scintillation begins to dissipate, we're invited closer and asked to become a part of the process by voting. Simon may be the figurehead Caesar everyone turns to for the thumb up or down, but we're the de facto jury, getting a slightly better-than-vicarious thrill by democratically deciding the ultimate fate of the contestants.

And just like in any microcosm, we divide and shift and form allegiances, and sometimes even alliances, more often than not based as much on personality as performance. The producers aren't dummies. It's not hard to discern who can carry a tune. But the vetting process is based as much on filling archetypes as it is about talent. The bitch, the rebel, the slut, the innocent, the underdog, the idiot, the princess, ect. And one of these, decided by us, will be turned into the American version of royalty -- they'll be turned into a star.

Although we'll tolerate absurdly grotesque behavior from established celebrities, these contestants have to walk a fine line of singing in tune and keeping their egos/reactions/personalities in check. Because they may be on our TV every week and being talked about by 10 million people the next day, but they haven't earned their "certified" stamp quite yet. In the troublingly fascinating book Hollywood, Interrupted, the authors detail just how fabricated most celeb images are, and the work that goes into keeping these facades in place. (And yet some of them like Tom Cruise manage to fuck it all up anyhow.) But it's this incestuous system and layers of protection that the Idol hopefuls don't have access to yet. And although they're kept tethered on short leashes and protected inside the AI bubble while the contest is going on, they're presented to us raw and unfiltered for what amounts to about 5-10 minutes per contestant every week.

While that kind of exposure hardly qualifies us as experts on their overall talent or personality, it's what we work with. And it's by taking these ordinary people and placing them in the extraordinary situation of pressurized, commentaried, live television that we draw conclusions. Like with a poker player, a single telling expression can cost a contestant a fortune.

It's not fair. But it's riveting entertainment.

On top of all that, under all this weekly mounting pressure -- because it is pressure; we're not sending the loser off to be fed to the lions, it's actually much worse, we're going to cast them back into the obscurity of everyday, non-celebrity life -- we expect them to sing in tune for us. And to sing a song the vast majority of our deeply disparate tastes likes. Oh yeah, and to wow us with stage presence in that whole minute and a half of performance time.

That's where the bloodsport appeal comes back into play again. A non-contact competition this may be, but verbally violent it certainly is. I'm sure that after a season of my Daughtry barbs, you won't believe this, but generally speaking, I'm one of the nice ones. In my writers groups, I'm the one people turn to for encouragement and praise. And yet, this show has prompted me to write things that'd make Ambrose Bierce say, "Now that's bitchy." (<-- seriously, that was the last writerly reference of the year.) Why do I feel so free to attack a group of innocuous people who do nothing worse than potentially sing off-key and frown at inopportune moments? Because they willing signed up for it. And they signed up for it in the hopes of becoming a star.

That's the very definition of fame-mongering.

And it's that exact love-hate with celebrity that we embrace in our culture. We raise our celebs to royalty status when in reality they are the court jesters. We love to throw rotten fruit when the jester fails to entertain us. But established stars can rebound, because they have the machinery behind them to repair the damage. But with AI, the machinery is working against the contestants because they're playing a game of Last Man Standing. Besides, they aren't "real world" stars yet. They've entertained us within the structure of the show. But they haven't yet paid their dues to become full-fledged celebrities by taking the traditional route of the doing the hard work of either putting out a successful "unit" or by sleeping with someone egregiously distasteful who can further their career. (except Corey Clark)

It's said that cream rises to the top. However, in arts, entertainment, and celebrity, that's not always the case. In my field of writing, I have a friend who's proven the theory that cream rises. However, for all of Ellen's talent and deserved success, I also have another handful of talented friends whose cream has not risen.

I'm not trying to curdle Taylor's cream, because he earned the title this year. But it wasn't just his talent that got him there. It was his inscrutability and canny ability to pull the right move at the right time. Some of his toughest competition took tiny missteps and paid a heavy price. Certainly, all these contestants had some poor performances, but so did Taylor along the way.

Mandisa said the word "lifestyles" and gay hell rained down faster than you could cue up that old Weathergirls "lifestyles" anthem. Pickler became a one-note joke, and when that note, along with her singing, went flat, she had to go. Paris smiled and thanked the judges during criticism and got labeled the princess of smug. Ace was just too scandalously pretty, and entirely too straight to be so effeminate. Chris, he committed the most offensive sin for television -- he got boring. That's right. All my taunts about him amount to nothing. But over the course of the season, all the flaming backgrounds and brow-tweezing couldn't save him because he just got repetitive and boring. Out he went. Katharine was simply overpowered by Taylor. The only reason she survived as long as she did is because other people happened to fry up, fizzle down or flame out first, giving her a strategic insulation layer every week. Yeah, she made bitchy faces, but Paris was smug first. Yeah, she sang bad, but she gave us that beaver shot when Chris just kept shouting at us. Plus, she's pretty. And if you're pretty enough, people will forgive all kinds of bad shit about you because in our society beauty has become one of the most important virtues.

That said, if that's my theory, then why'd Elliott take the boot before Katharine? He seemed like a nice person and in-tune on his songs. Well. Maybe he was too nice. Because nice is good, but too nice is seen as some weak-ass shit. I think that perceived weakness hurt him in the voting. That, to me, is ironic, because instead of weak, I saw him as pretty strong. Who else had the balls to stand their ground with song choices, say they weren't a fan of a guest judge, or admit they loved their mom?

All that isn't to say that Taylor won by default. Because he didn't. If seen as a modern gladiator trial, Taylor didn't have the favor of Caesar. That gave us some of the best bloody barbs of the year and fed our thirst for rebellion against the empire. He was definitely the most adept at using all the weapons available: kicking, dancing, shouting, and crooning. But his best dancing was how he handled himself on stage during interviews and eliminations and critiques -- either cagily hiding any evidence of an engorged, entitled ego or truly lacking it.

And he couldn't be topped for water-cooler buzz (at least, not until Clay showed up again in all his asexual, prodigal son glory.) If AI filled the spot to bring a large mass of us together, serving as a connecting tissue to give our collective consciousness something to chat about and debate over, and made us feel included by putting some power in our Cingular-equipped hands, Taylor was the focal point of the season. He survived the carnage and won the competition. And for one night, at least, the reward promise was fulfilled and he got the big ass, effusive celebration -- as a new, certified and stamped bona-fide celebrity. The new American Dream realized.

Now that's satisfying. For his sake, I hope he rides the wave and makes it big, so that when he makes his pilgrimage back to the show in a couple of seasons, it'll still be buzz-worthy. And not in the Clay Aiken kind of way. Even if that does make for great American Idol television, silly as it is.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Taylor Made Finale


Tuesday night's performance show left me feeling unhealthy and sluggish, as though I'd just gorged on nothing but Velveeta for over four months. But the results show proved that just like Jello, there's alway room for one more grilled cheese sandwich. And that's how they did the final show up -- buttered up, toasted through, melted down and served without apology.

It looked like it was going to be a depressing mess from the opening White number with Carrie Underwood leading the way, doing a stately and boring sing out to end her reign. And there were a few over-fried bits, but there were also more than enough scandalously hilarious sequences to validate the show's standing as the current pop-zeitgeist.

How good was it? For starters, it accomplished something last night that hadn't happened all season. It got Chris Daughtry to crack a smile while singing. Proof:

There were plenty of guest artists tonight. Paris got to sing a number with Al Jarreau, and she blew him off the stage. Dionne Warwick didn't need to contact her psychic friends network to find out that if she wanted to boost album sales she should appear on the show, and for some reason, they gave her an outrageously long solo. I don't mind guest artists, but at least Al Jarreau, Live, Mary J. Blige, and Meatloaf performed with the Idols. There were a couple of instances this year where artists wanted to be on the show but they made it clear they didn't want to coach or sing with the kids. A couple of them (Shakira, Dionne, and an artist to be discussed later) got away with it, but I wish next year the producers would tell these sycophants to fuck off.

Anyhow, Daughtry got to sing with Live, and it got him to crack a smile, perhaps because even Ed Kowalczyk was really cool and smiley. Good for Chris. What was bad for Chris is that Kowalczyk kind of blew him off the stage. Chris sounded good, until Kowalczyk started to really let loose in a way that vocally Chris never has. But it was a nice moment for Chris and his wallet chain. He earned that, especially considering that later in the show the producers completely pwned him by making him sing the theme from Arthur! You know, that Christopher Cross song, "Between the Moon and New York City."

Comedy gold, that's what that was. Dressed in black suits, the Rat Pack, these guys aren't. (Please note Chris's accessorizing with the suit.) Even though I didn't see his hot brother in tow, I've softened up so much toward Ace Young since he's been booted. Him and that ceaseless smile, I'm starting to believe it's genuine. He came out with Chris and Kevin Covais singing that lame song and just smiled like the idiot he is through the whole thing. I admire that. I truly do.

However, as funny as that was, it didn't come close to topping what they made poor Bucky do. Bucky, he seems like such a cool guy, but I think that he must have done something along the way to really piss off the producers of the show, because during the whole Burt Bacharach medley, Bucky got the distinction of singing "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head."

Talk about incongruous? That's as mismatched as having Chris Daughtry sing the theme from Arthur. And both of these things happened within four minutes of each other. Not to mention how Covais also sang "What's New Pussycat?" I'm telling you. I know 200,000 million people watched this show, but if you weren't one of them, you really missed out.

In bold contrast to the spankings those fellows took, I get the gist the producers had honest affection for Elliott, cause they hooked him up right. For starters, he looked hot. Exhibit A;

Second, they hooked him up with Mary J. Blige. Above and beyond, they got to sing U2's "One." Just to refresh your memory, or in case you're not such an Idol geek as I am, last year, Constantine wanted to sing "Beautiful Day" and it was denied. The net result was that Connie got stuck singing that shitty Nickelback song instead and then he got the infamous boot the next night. But Elliott, he gets to pop the fresh-lock lid on U2 for American Idol with one of their best songs. Even better, Mary isn't one of the rode-hard and used up performers. She's actually like, cool. Naturally, it rocked. Mary got all crazy and even did an homage to Taylor by incorporating his crazy arm-wind move.

Okay, so Elliott kinda got shoved aside and out of the spotlight for a large portion of the song, but he sounded awesome at the start, and jumped back in at the end. Check how cute they were:

As if that wasn't enough, they also gave E's mom an award. Oh yah! They gave out mocking awards all night, but they gave the Golden Idol to Claudette for best moment of family bonding. I don't think for one second it was an accident at all that they had her beat out the creepy McPhather for this award either.

Yes, the Idol machine was in a generous mood last night, handing out Mustang convertibles to both Taylor and Katharine, and even more awards. Most of the awards were an excuse to showcase some of the most cringe-worthy and hilariously bad moments of earlier in the season, but it did allow us to briefly reconnect with Rhonetta.

Potentially, she's the best female potty-mouth of the season, edging out even me. Also thanks to the awards, we got our first ever documented stage-diving incident, courtesy of crazy Dave Hoover, who made a brief reappearance to accept.

All hail Dave Hoover. The only man on Idol who can make Taylor Hicks look downright sedate.

But that wasn't the end of the awards. Oh no. They pulled out the last stop and gave out the last award to the best impersonator of the year. For this, they brought out the big gun. And by that, of course, I'm talking about Clay Aiken.

Just when you think American Idol has started to take itself seriously, they bring back Aiken, sending the Claymates into a furious, frothing puddle of goo, and they have him serenade his own creepy, gayer-than-Clay doppleganger. Truly, it was a high point, even for this season.

After all that, what else can they possibly do for us? Well, besides getting Chris to smile onstage, they also got Katharine to showcase a different emotion. Fear. Witness:

They paired her up with Meatloaf for "It's All Coming Back To Me Now" and I guess there was supposed to be some symbolic storyline going on. Cuz the Loaf kept clutching and fluttering around a red scarf while Katharine acted as though she was in peril of the scarf, I suppose to showcase her acting chops before final curtain call.

As if that wasn't enough, they didn't forget Kellie Picker either. Instead of having her sing, they showcased her true talent of acting dizzy as she sat down to eat with Wolfgang Puck. (I guess maybe gross receipts at Spago are down?) In the process, we got G-rated porn as Wolfgang forced escargot in her mouth.

Alas, fellows, thanks to this interlude, the burning question was answered. Kellie, she spits instead of swallows.

As if that's not enough, they also ran a judges' greatest hits, where we heard Randy saying "Dude" and "Dawg" a whole bunch, and saw Simon feeling himself up quite often. Paula's, naturally, was the most entertaining. Crying, wildly jumping, and last but not least, lap dancing:

It was also at this time that Ryan coined a whole new euphemism for "intoxicated." He deemed Paula the "compassionate" judge. You bet I'm gonna be adding that one to my vernacular. "Hey girls, let's go that new club tonight. Someone else has to be the designated driver cuz I'm ready to get totally compassionate, man."

You think that's enough? Oh no. It didn't stop there. The good times just kept rolling as they riffed on their own growing uh, tendencies, on the show. Although they denied us a best of Pickler-McPhee lesbian love-fest, they did an homage to "male bonding." The real showcase was that little cowboy kid and his two pals from the Hollywood week rounds, but it hit the mark for me with the first nominees, Chris and Ace.

Just in case you thought it was just me and my filthy mind who equated Daughtry with gay porn and picked up all the homoerotic subtext to this season, that segment should be proof to everyone that I'm simply not that deranged. I feel vindicated. And slightly warm.

So. That should've been enough, shouldn't it? But they had one more. This was the most rumored guest artist all season, but they managed to keep squashing the rumors. But then, finally, in all his purple majesty, he appeared:

What I noted about this performance was that he had an even better light show than Chris ever got. Well, that, and Prince should be inspiration to Elliott -- short guys can get plenty of pussy. Well, that, and that Ace should take note of what a good falsetto can do for you.

After all those highlights, there really wasn't anything left to do but crown the winner. If the hometown visits of last week weren't enough of a clue for you, they showed us the hometown parties going on for Taylor and Kat. In Birmingham there was a stadium packed full of crazed fans: kids with their hair dyed gray, the camera panned all around to show waving signs, people screaming for Taylor. Out in LA, Tamyra Gray held her ground and they didn't dare use a wide-angle shot as they herded about 50 people from Universal Studios theme park around her and stuffed some signs in their hands to show support for Katharine.

Also throughout the show, my shallowest impulses rose to the surface of my mud-puddle shallow soul. I don't know if it was the shiny new Mustang or the impending million dollar contract, but I started to see Taylor in a whole new light.

First, he came out with that harmonica again. Somehow, someday, this clip will make another one of their G-rated, tongue-in-cheek porno reels.

Then, for the first time, Taylor showed that he's got a little more than just soul in his trousers when he was checking out Toni Braxton during their duet:

Alright, Taylor. He was bringing out the Constantine in me.

But the best was when Taylor was crowned the winner. Of course, he was happy. I'll also note that for all the grief I've given her, Kat took the news with the utmost class and grace. I also noticed that they did not show her parents and their reaction, though.

But it wasn't all joy throughout the Idol fiefdom. Nearly everyone in the place seemed pleased. Even the Knight Rider got misty for Tay-tay! Wooo!! I have photographic evidence of this. But please, as you inspect this screenshot, please note that there's someone who doesn't look so happy. See if you can pick him out. I gave you a hint:

(ETA: Okay, now that's hilarious. Some of you gave me a clue. I'm a dumbass, or I was just overly compassionate last night. But that's not Nigel. It's David Fucking Foster who coached the Idols for love songs night. Nevertheless. He was still a sourpuss fuck about the whole thing. He can join these assholes:

in the audience fucktards hall of fame for the season. And I'm betting that somewhere, Nigel was pissed off.)

In case you missed it, here was Simon's reaction:

Priceless. Truly priceless. He sure doesn't look compassionate about the news, either.

I have to believe they planned that. "Okay, let's act like a couple of limey fucks and let the people continue to think we never wanted Taylor to win this thing. It's good TV." Damn right it's good TV. The only thing that'd be better TV is if those reactions were genuine! I so hope they were sincere and genuine! I'd like nothing more than to believe that Taylor pulled the ultimate coup de grace by winning Idol against their wishes. SOUL PATROL, baby!

Last but not least, Taylor got to sing his "Do I Make You Proud" one last time. The only thing missing from these festivities was some fireworks to really put the exclamation point on it all. Lo and behold, the pyrotechnics were unleased:

Please note in that picture, not only are there massive fireworks going off behind Taylor, but he's doing his signature soul/pee stance!

Now I ask you, was that one hell of a satisfying season or what?

I just want to say thank you very much to everyone who stopped by here to read or comment or who's passed around a link to this blog. Idol was a lot of fun this year, and I had a great time writing these 'caps. But I'm truly appreciative to all my pals who stopped by to check it out, and for all my new pals who found this place. Taylor said that as a singer, he wanted his voice to be heard. Well, a writer wants to be read. You've all made me feel like a very lucky superstar. I got plenty of help putting these write-ups together every week, and in case I didn't plug them enough, I owe thanks to these sites. When it comes to news and downloads and commentary, fans always do it best:

MJ's big blog -- the biggest fan-run Idol resource and a great spoiler site. I don't know how Rickey keeps up with the MP3s and vids and does it so quickly. He is awesome. He is appreciated. for the hottest Taylor news and the coolest Taylor downloads. for all the essential Elliott news, and all the unessential Elliott love, and for plenty of laughs.

Survivor Sucks is still the snarkiest, funniest board on the web, and their Idol forum rocked it this year. But hey, fuckers, stop using my bandwidth -- upload my screenshots to your own servers!

I've had a couple of people ask me if I'll be doing recaps of any other shows now that AI is done. I don't know. I didn't plan on doing Idol. I just got a little too obsessed with the show this year so I started writing. I love television. But over the summer I watch unhealthy amounts of baseball, and no one needs that recapped, that's what SportsCenter is for. New seasons of Deadwood and Entourage will be starting, and I'll watch those. I love those shows. But honestly, I can recap every single episode of them as such:

Dust. Double-cross. Mustache. "Cocksucker."

Turtle is high and doesn't get to bang anyone. Drama isn't quite as high as Turtle and he bangs someone ridiculous. Vince bangs someone gorgeous and makes a lot of money. E wants to keep banging the same girl who gives him trouble and he waffles about working for Vince. Ari wisecracks and intimidates someone and talks about banging his wife.

So. I'm sure there'll be some noteworthy news regarding Idol over the next couple weeks as it fizzles off, and I'll be keeping up with it and commenting when possible. But then there's always season 6. So if nothing else around here tickles your fancy, I'll see you in January.

Thank you.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Two for the Show

So. How do they top last week's threesome? They don't. It was a night of spastic versus plastic, and yet, charming as that sounds, the penultimate episode of this season was just --

Anti. Climax.

Nevertheless. Everyone tried to do it up right. Randy was looking Minty Fresh, Paula had the ladies on display, and Simon even bothered to put on a jacket for the big night. Ryan, for his part, was barely showing his scars from his tumble earlier this week.

This was a good season of Idol. The judges snarked on contestants and each other, except for Randy who was usually odd-man-out in the festivities, trying to appear too-cool to get sucked into the mire but ultimately coming off as just not game or witty enough to participate. But Paula had plenty of pill-induced breakdowns to keep us watching and Simon let loose with his usual barrage of demeaning comments. As a bonus, thanks to Ryan, there was enough of a homoerotic charge to make Jack Kerouac proud. (<--last writerly reference of the season.)

As for the contestants, as much as I'd hoped they were flipping the script this year, it ended up playing out in a similar manner to most seasons of Idol. There was a shocking elimination, a charming underdog, a couple of pretty, vapid girls, and a freak. But did anyone, at any point along the way, ever really expect the freak wouldn't reach the finals? And has any other freak from other seasons ever come close to making it so far? Nope.

Once again, the producers played the audience like a fiddle. Once again, I loved it.

But tonight, all the fun was gone. Tonight, Ryan assured us, was serious business. What a shame. They tried to up the ante by stocking the audience with actual B-listers instead of D-listers, so we got Mandy Moore, Ben Stiller and Taye Diggs in the audience.

And yet, the highlight for me was seeing Constantine in all his skeevy glory right up front. How does this guy manage to attend so many Idol shows? Does he even have a fucking job? Or is that his job -- professional seat filler for Idol shows?

I've said before that this season the producers stacked the deck with the performers. Of the top four, three of them had extensive experience performing. The producers thought they'd found their rocking King of Diamonds in Chris Daughtry. He should've been able to fuse the fangirly, cream-the-jeans crowd with the wannabe cool sensibilities of the male vote. But his crown got knocked off early when an undercard stole the show for a brief time and Elliott cemented his status as the season's Jack of Hearts with his soulful voice and ability to make even cynics say "Aw."

So that left two cards to be played. Katharine, she's more than ready to leave her princess position in the dust and ascend to Queen of American Idol 5. But with her weeks of screechy performances combined with the way she reveals her inner-ugly when under pressure she's proven herself to be a Queen alright -- the Queen of Spades. In gambler parlance, this trump card is simply known as The Bitch. Or, in Kat's case, The McBitch.

As far as entertainment purposes go, I'll give Kat her due. She did give us some of the most stunningly bold and, ahem, revealing moments of the season. Between her button-popped beaver shot during "I Have Nothing" and her stage-humping antics of "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree," Kat really came from behind, overtaking Kellie Pickler in dramatic fashion to proudly wear the Miss McPhuck-Toy sash across her expensive tits this season. It's too bad that vocally "I Have Nothing" was one of her worst moments, and that "Black Horse" was mediocre. And those performances were nestled amongst the forgettable "Bringing Out The Elvis," the over-divaed and under-delivered "Who Wants to Live Forever," the painfully bad "Against All Odds," the confused "All Shook Up/Hound Dog" medley, the horribly out of tune "I Believe I Can Fly," the boring "I Ain't Got Nothing But The Blues," and the insipidly craptastic "Can't Help Falling In Love."

So basically, other than out-of-tune katerwauling and gratuitous McPhlashes of skin and sex, Kat was able to turn in exactly ONE good performance for the entire second half of the season: "Over The Rainbow." She sounded good, she looked lovely and she apparently hadn't used up the last of her nine lives or her pretty girl entitlement dowry yet because that one song alone pushed her into the finals. (Or, more likely, Nigel gave her a helping hand. Because I don't care how many phones they have, that one, half-filled gymnasium of pre-teen girls can't possibly text that many votes, and I refuse to believe there are that many horny men out there willing to give up a Tuesday night to vote her into the finals. Or are there really that many horny men out there?)

Tonight she had to reprise a couple of performances, along with singing her shockingly bad new single, "My Destiny." She chose to resurrect "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree," but there were some changes. After seeing her charming audition footage again, I was reminded that once upon a time a short while ago, this girl actually was cute as a box of puppies.

But she's grown up on the show. She's lost some weight and picked up some attitude. She's matured. She left the stage-humping behind for tonight's rendition of "Black Horse" but she still blithely missed the mark when it comes to connecting. She shook and smiled and took this song about abortion and made it into a jiggly, giggly seduction. Very mature, yes.

But you can't keep a good, slutty girl like Kat up for long, so for her second number she reprised "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and sang it in a note-for-note and choreographed movement-for-choreographed movement replay of last week.

The judges were cool about "Black Horse" and again enthusiastic about "Rainbow." The best part of it was that it gave us one final trademark Paula incoherent moment as she tried to babble some feedback about possessing and being possessed by talent and fathers everywhere and some other useless, meaningless shit that I'm sure confused the hell out of Kat.

But I applauded Paula. Rarely is someone so thoroughly possessed by alcohol and mood enhancers and yet so publicly accepted in their all-possessing inebriation.

Anyhow, with one winner and one loser of a performance, that meant Kat had to deliver on her new song if she wanted to claim victory on the stage. These are the cringe-worthy moments of Idol, when the unadulterated bullshit of these "winner's songs" gets unveiled for the first time. Kat's song, "My Destiny" was no exception. Out in the audience, Chris Daughtry sat in his seat and said to himself, "Thank you God for booting me out at number four," as Kat sang this song. Meanwhile I sat at home and realized that for as satisfying a moment as the Daughtry ejection was, he sorely deserved to be there instead of Kat. Maybe he was an asshole, but he wasn't a tone-deaf asshole. I think I owe him an apology at some point. But, you know, McPhuck that.

Honestly, the lyrics, for Katharine, weren't too badly mismatched. It was all about her, after all. But if I hadn't seen her suck out so thoroughly on so many other songs, and in such a similar manner, I'd have sworn she was throwing the competition. It started off rough, and by the time she was done that song had been brutalized worse than Vito Spatafore just was on The Sopranos. Not even the full choir could help her out. But the ultimate disaster for her, due to all the weight she's lost, and the dress she was poured into, was that her tits looked small. Her creepy McPhather wept more than Elliott. I'm not sure it was out of pride after that mess.

So that left Taylor. When they first put him through to the final 24, I think the producers expected him to do well, but they probably also assumed his act would grow wearisome to the viewers. I don't think they ever truly expected him to become the ultimate trump card, they just sort of shuffled him in as The Joker.

I assume once they started seeing the vote totals coming in, and how the numbers kept increasing on a weekly basis for Taylor, is when they really got the shit scared out of them. I know a lot of Elliott fans read this blog, and a lot of people think Elliott took a raw deal this year. I'm not disputing that, but I think it's worth at least a mention that Taylor got toyed with more than Tickle me Elmos during the Christmas shopping season of 1996. Once the producers saw the flop come down and realized that Taylor was holding the monster hand, they tried to fuck with the turn card on Country Night and then the river card with Queen night.

On Country night, when Taylor was forced to switch his song at the last minute to "Take Me Home Country Roads," it nearly resulted in a breakdown as disastrous as Barbaro's. But it didn't. If the producers did see Taylor as The Joker -- the court jester -- they truly underestimated how devoted his audience and oft-name checked "Soul Patrol" really was. Because not only did Taylor survive, he didn't even hit the seal. Their Queen night shenanigans backfired sorely on them when they slapped "We Are The Champions" out of his hands because Taylor turned around and torched the place with "Crazy Little Thing Called Love." Even their crappy editing of trying to make him look like the asshole for switching his song at the last minute didn't blip on anyone's radar.

He had another bad night in there when it came to love songs when he dogged "Just Once." But it was at that point that it was clear that Taylor had stronger survival instincts and better luck than Rasputin.

I guess what the producers underestimated wasn't Taylor's talent so much as his likability factor -- you know, the IT, the X, the star potential. I don't think it's crazy to surmise that he's standing at the final two not only because he sings good and is an entertaining performer, but also because he's avoided the pitfall of pissing anyone off.

I, for one, have a seemingly endless supply of venom, but Taylor was able to effectively de-fang me early in the process. (I admit it, I'm rotten. Mr. Daughtry, I'm sorry. Let's hug it out, bitch!)

Sure, some people dislike his style and his schtick, and I've heard plenty of mentions of how he comes across as weird when not performing. I've said I think he seems tightly wound, and the reason he seems so natural onstage is because performing is a conduit for all that energy to escape. But when he's standing still that manic edge sort of collapses inward and he gets a little twitchy. But isn't that just all the more reason why he should be on a stage performing for people? He's not designed for interviews, he's designed to sing and entertain. I don't see why he wouldn't be syncopated from "normal" people. Besides, normalcy is so fucking overrated. Chris Daughtry, he was a normal, average guy. (Well. As normal and average as an eggheaded, wallet-chain wearing, groomed eyebrow, not-rocking fame-whore can be. Maybe I'm not that sorry.)

There was some backlash about the sudden Taylor pimping that started on the night of The Daughtry Execution. Other fans thought it was uncalled for and gave Taylor an advantage. Probably, it did. But really, after the way they tried to fuck Taylor up the ass all season long, it was the least the producers could do to finally extend him the courtesy of a reach around.

At certain points along the way this season, Taylor was savvy enough to lay The Joker card face down on the table. At those times, not only did Simon better tolerate him, but he proved he's got pipes and subdued charisma with moments like "You Send Me" and "Something" and "In The Ghetto." And that's how he was able to beat the dealer. The AI machine had already played their cards with the stacked deck. And suddenly, when Taylor sat back down and picked up his hand again, he wasn't holding The Joker anymore, he had all the Aces.

Taylor, more than anyone else this season, has earned the crown. He went All In when he had to and actually managed to beat the house. And I say this even though I love Elliott. Truly, Elliott's my cupcake -- he's our cupcake -- and I'd have loved to have seen him battling Taylor for this. But Elliott, he's not there -- though he did get the biggest audience reaction when they showed him during the Powter "Bad Day" montage. But it can't be helped that America voted and they voted against cuteness, humility and raw talent. (still bitter, in case you didn't catch that.)

Taylor, he came out ready to win. Unlike Katharine, he picked songs he'd done earlier in the season, and his first choice was Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City." He started from the audience and his clothes were totally money -- a purple velvet blazer and snakeskin boots.

Good for Taylor. Jack Nicholson as The Joker couldn't have picked better. Beyond that, he blazed it. He did some singing, he did some dancing, and the spark of mischief was in his eye and when he was done, the place blew out for him.

For his second song, Taylor did "Levon" and I have to admit I like that song. Randy said he was pitchy, but I thought he was just kind of flat after the whoosh of "Living in the City." It even took him a while to get some volume behind his manic "Soul Patrol" mantra-chant once he'd finished. But Paula utilized once last chance to showcase her incredible dexterity even when loaded by doing her trademark drunktard clap for him and saying something so mind-blowing silly that Simon just had to calmly reply, "That didn't make any sense, what you were just saying, Pauler." Yeah. Like that statement's not five seasons in the making.

I didn't realize how much I liked Taylor until he started singing his new song and I started considering not voting for him to win the thing. It's purely a protectionary mechanism I felt for someone I've grown fond of -- not wanting to see him chained to the seven year contract that could eventually suck the last drop of Soul out of his Patrol. What 19E could do to him artistically could fade the paisley off his fugly, ill-fitting shirts and knock the jiggy dance out of his shiny pants. But since he's at least runner-up, he's in that situation now no matter what, so he might as well have the title and the accompanying glory (and extra cash and promotion).

Besides, I think if Taylor really wanted out, he'd have found a way out. I think he does want this title. I think he wants it from his toes all the way to the grayed ends of his famous hair. Which is not to say that Kat doesn't want it. But there's a vast difference between the "wanting it" of a 29 year old, poor Alabama musician and the "wanting" of a 21 year old, Sherman Oaks, privileged girl. Kat's willing to flash her trash for it. But Taylor was willing to get down and dirty and work for it.

If rumors are to be believed, Taylor did something this week to ease any niggling worries about his future. Word spread like wildfire about dissent with Taylor about the song he's been given as his single. In he said/she said scenarios worthy of a Jerry Springer episode, stories leaked about Taylor tossing a hissy fit and refusing one of the songs! No, wait! A songwriter threw a hiss fit when Taylor asked for a different arrangement and the writer quit! No, wait! They both threw hissy fits and Taylor changed the song! No, wait! Taylor is actually the father of Brangelina's baby! (Okay, that last one's not true at all. Is it? If it is, you heard it here first!) I don't know the specifics of the kerfuffle, but something went down. Bitter people will say that Taylor's an ingrate who oughta shut up and sing what he's given.

That's not what I say.

Look. I doubt we'll ever get such a downright, delightfully pornographic treat as we got last year when runner-up Bo Bice sang "Inside Your Heaven." But even if Taylor's not going to be proud of "Do I Make You Proud," he won't have to be destroyed by it.

It's a bad fucking song, don't get me wrong there. And my question is this: Every year, the judges make a big point to state that songs aren't very good. So why in the fuck don't they get someone better to write something decent? When Taylor first started singing this thing, it was cringe-worthy alright. And no, Taylor couldn't completely redeem it. But he didn't trash it the way Katharine did hers. He actually sang it well and hit some difficult key changes and by the end, when he started semi-wailing, it wasn't half-bad. Oh. Hey Now. I'll never buy the thing. And I still feel a little sorry for Taylor. But it's not as tragic as it could've been. The song is more like a war wound than a badge of honor for him, and it won't ever make him proud. But he doesn't have to be ashamed either.

Taylor got this far by being Taylor. He took more harsh, and often unnecessary and sometimes incendiary, barbs from the judges than anyone else. And yes, I did think he looked a little lost at times during the competition. He did adjust, but he didn't throw in the towel in disgust and he didn't change who he is. Taylor, he just went to the 'fridge, chowed down on some ribs, picked out another fugly shirt, practiced cocking his gun, and then went onstage as Taylor. He missed the mic stand a couple of times, but he still got the job done. And now, he's standing up for himself and staying Taylor. I don't know if they'll actually allow him to put some of his original songs on his debut CD or not. But I do feel confident that he'll at least fight the good fight for his own peace of mind and artistic integrity.

At this point, it doesn't matter what the votes say. (Or what Nigel says the votes say.)

Taylor is the Idol this year. He got everyone's attention when he Cockered his audition, he kept us rapt when he fellated a harmonica as he was passed up to the top 24, he kept our eyes glued with his spastic arm-wind on the small stage, he literally threw himself on the big stage in a convulsive fit and laid next to Ryan in a desperate plea for our approval, he Wooo!ed and SOUL PATROLed his way through interviews, and yes, goddamnit, he did finally get that pesky mic stand knocked the fuck over!

The stakes have peaked, the bluffs have been called, some hands have folded, and now, finally the game is played. With all the chips on the table, Taylor Hicks has successfully busted everyone else out. The winner's pot is his.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Weekend odds and ends

Kevin Spacey hosted SNL this weekend. His opening monologue was an instructional performance on how he could win American Idol, including how he'd stop mid-song to woo the drunk, Puerto Rican judge. If you missed it but want to see it, Gray Charles has a link to the You Tube of it. Gray also has a link to the news section where they brought "Taylor Hicks" back for a little cameo, telling us how he'll win American Idol by doing what he does best: "sing from the heart and scare little children."

In other AI news, message boards haven't stopped exploding since Elliott's ouster. I thought the Daughtry outrage would be the peak of the season, but apparently not. Now, it's not just Elliott fans, though. Daughtry fans, Elliott fans, and Taylor fans really, really hate Katharine McPhee. Now, everything is her fault. (snicker)

I just want to say that I have no love for Katharine McPhee, but all the fat jokes really freak me out. Say what you want, but she is beautiful, and she's not fat. Sure, she once played a beached whale in a play -- a horny beached whale with expensive fake boobs (I KNEW IT!) -- but that was acting, people. The rumors are swirling about her producer father, and I'm actually sad because I don't think they'll bother with a standard Seacrest sit-down for the finale to clear everything up -- especially if there is truth to the rumors about her father having ties to FOX. But, again, I'm just repeating rumors here, I haven't found any evidence of this at all.

In other news, on Tuesday, Elliott's CD version of "Moody's Mood For Love" will be available for download at iTunes. I'll give a link when I've got it. Someone very thoughtful sent me a download link of it already, and I don't know what to say. I'm guessing they put Ricky Minor in charge of orchestrating and arranging the cuts on the CD, too, because it really kind of sucks. Sure, sure Elliott sounds great. But again, with the fucking band! This time, instead of overwhelming him, it just sounds like bad background porn movie music. I flove "Moody's Mood" and they done fucked it up bad.

Also in Elliott news, he'll be performing with Mary J. Blige for the season finale on Wednesday night. Apparently, Live will be there to perform with Chris, and Meat Loaf will be performing with Katharine. I don't know who they're getting for Taylor yet.

The Last of Great Dames

Watching last night's "Sopranos" episode, I got a little charge right as the opening credits were rolling because I saw that Sharon Angela was listed. Sharon's been on The Sopranos since the first season, but mostly as a bit player, as the late Jackie Aprile's wife, and Carmela's best friend, Rosalie Aprile. She may have a small part, but I've always loved Rosalie. If anyone even looks at Carm the wrong way, Rosalie doesn't hesitate to cut that person off at the knees. She's a little bawdy, extremely ballsy, and despite her devastating losses, Rosalie's always been able to pick herself, and everyone else, back up.

Last night, she and Carmela took a trip to Paris. Rosalie, she didn't disappoint. She saw the sights, drank plenty of wine, ate the foie gras, consoled her pal while she was having an existentialist crisis, hooked up with a 26 year old French stud, and even when Carm rattled Rosalie to the bone, Rosalie invited her to join her on her hot date. And the whole time, Rosealie's attitude was "this is fucking cool."

They just don't make many women like that anymore. And I don't mean just on television, I mean in life. It made me want to pack up Rosalie and Paula Abdul and go on a trip to Europe.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Good Guy Elliott

Elliott didn't win American Idol. But he definitely takes the "Miss Congeniality" title. Here's his exit interview with EW.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Which one ... I supposed to be jealous of here?

Look at that, will you? Paula even dressed reminiscent of Tinkerbell for her little lost boy last night.

One other thing to note -- I see Elliott hasn't gotten over his fascination with taking everyone else's picture, even after the ugly (and hilarious) Nicky Hilton incident.

Good for him. Love you, Pauler!

Fucking Nigel. He's such a killjoy cooze.

I love a parade

So. Elliott got booted last night. As the final indignity, since he's going out in third place he doesn't even get to do the whole media-slut thing because he's got to stick around the studio and "rehearse for the finale."

Anyhow. Last night's results? If last week was the jovial SHOCK elimination of the year, this week was supposed to be the teary "special" send off episode. They did their best at this, and I suppose they succeeded. However, for people who knew what was coming and saw the orchestrations that helped lead up to it, it was kind of borderline condescending. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure they do like Elliott and all, because he's a great guy and a great singer and yes the show has to maneuver things in the way they did or else it wouldn't have as much payoff. But still.

Anyhow, it followed the standard procedure: recap and then car commercial. I can tell it's nearing the end of the season, or I'm overly bitter about Elliott going because I can't come up with much to say about that commercial last night, other than to reiterate my thoughts of how the commercial producers are on the really good drugs. But I will note that the Idols got double-whored last night though, cause right after the car commercial they showed a clip of them getting the new X-men movie on DVD and they had watch it on their way home and give it a thumbs up for the camera. Hugh Jackman? I wouldn't mind whoring for him a little.

After that, we got to see a recap of everyone's trip home last week. First up was Taylor, and Ryan kicked it off by telling us that Taylor ate lots of ribs, even for breakfast.

Uh. Yeah. We can see that. We can clearly see that even though he's not particularly enjoying the food in LA, he's been stress-eating his way through the competition. I mention this only because, well, I can. Because if it was Kat getting fatter by the week, people'd be all over that shit. (And you KNOW if she'd packed on the 10-15 pounds that Taylor has, we'd have gotten MUCH better screen caps and cattier commentary on the results last night because she'd have lost just enough of the "i wanna bang that broad" vote to get her kicked off.) So as Taylor grows another chin, even though I like him, I'm not letting it slide. On the upside, even though he was so busy going home, Taylor did find time to go shopping, because he got a bigger shirt finally so even if he was stressing results his expanded belly wasn't stressing the fabric for a change.

Anyhow, back in Birmingham, they did it up right for TayTay. They're old hands at this by now, after Ruben and Bo, so they've got a good handle on what they're doing. I was gratified to see that the "I've got to pee but I'll do it with soul" stance has already caught on as his trademark, because the giant welcome home billboard they had for him showcased it nicely:

But Taylor got the whole shebang -- a parade and a couple of gatherings where he sang and got the keys to the city, which he hung around his neck. I know this is a custom, but I'm going to admit my ignorance here in the hopes someone can explain it to me. Exactly what the fuck is with giving people the keys to the city? What the hell do they do with them? Do they eventually give them back? Or do they just keep them? These keys -- do they actually fit a lock somewhere, or are they just any old keys. Like, the mayor hears that Taylor's coming home and doesn't have the actual keys onhand so he just tosses him the keys to his shed out back or something and no one knows the difference?

Then he went to the Governor's mansion, and then he went to a mall near his high school. There were tons of people for him everywhere, everyone giving him love, and apparently plenty of barbecue.

After his film clip, Taylor got up and did "Taking It To The Streets" cause that's his cut on this year's Idols CD. He chose not to reprise the furious arm wind-up thing from his first performance of it. Instead, he got Katharine and Elliott involved and got them up and had them dance around with him. It was cute, even if he's going to that well maybe once too often after Paula last night. But it was funny to see Elliott dancing like a leprechaun and it was quite telling that Katharine really wouldn't dance with Elliott once Taylor left them both in the dust. She was too busy shaking and doing her own thang up there. It would become the theme of the evening.

Anyhow, then we got the highlight of the evening: Katharine's trip home. I can tell she's raw about her trip home, because she made excuses and tried to cover her pain. I'd have made fun of the pathetic showing anyhow, but since she revealed an exposed nerve about it, you bet I'm gonna tap it even harder.

For all her blatant desire to be an actress, and for growing up with a stage mother and living in LA, Katharine really has horribly poor control of herself and her emotions. I get the feeling it's because she's never had it "rough" before, and this shit the show is putting her through, like someone telling her when she sucks, and not getting a parade thrown in her honor, are just too much for her fragile, pampered sensibilities to bear. But she really needs to learn to hold her cards closer to that money-making chest of hers. Because right now, she's in a fishbowl. But now that she's made it to the finale of Idol, immediately after she gets rudely shoved aside and as she's shaking Taylor's celebration confetti out of her hair and while her heart is still breaking, she's going to be tossed out into the ocean of LA. Her immediate future is going to be so shark infested it's going to make the last 10 minutes of "Open Water" seem tame by comparison. I'd have thought her great-white of a mother would've trained her a bit better in this regard, but it's obvious that Mrs. Mommy McPhame-whore is a bit too blinded by ambition and drunk with arrogance to be savvy or have some guile (or class) yet.

Anyhow. Here's how she revealed her disappointment. Katharine told Ryan, "I may not have had thousands of people show up but I really felt the support."

Did you now, Princess? Taylor got a parade and the mayor and governor and screaming, cheering throngs all over the city. Kat got a high school gymnasium, stocked with the students whose attendance was mandatory!! It was fucking hilarious.

Especially because, it wasn't even a big gymnasium! The JV cheerleaders did a little cheer for her and kids held up signs as she trotted her twat ass around the basketball court, looking directly at girls who in three short years would be replacing her as flavor-of-the-day piece of ass.

So, then, of course, the producers not only finally gave Elliott the pimp spot he'd so well earned the previous night and been fucked out of, but they also gave him his performance time back that they'd given to Kat's "Rainbow" last night for his "going home" segment as well. Saving the best for last? Sure.

Anyhow, bitterness aside, Elliott's trip home was pretty awesome for him. He got the whole works, including thousands of people cheering and waving, the key to the city, a parade, tossing out the first pitch at a sold out Braves game, and meeting the governor. Of course, he was all excited and gracious and overwhelmed by it all. When he met the governor, he didn't shake his hand -- he dove right in and gave him a big hug. Oh, I swear, if he were anyone else, my jaded ass would have a field day raking him over the coals. But for whatever reason, for Elliott, all that crap just kind of works. And, I was personally delighted to see that when he threw out the first pitch, he hurled a strike right in there, using a full wind up! Go E!

It must've been at least three times they showed him saying a variation of "this is the best day of my life." Here's the AI machine translation for that: And it's the best it's ever gonna get -- loser! They kept hitting that "he's so grateful and lucky" button, and of course, we the audience automatically associate benevolence and generosity with AI for "giving" him this day. The whole idea is to ease the sting of him being voted off and to keep AI in a favorable light. So. Here comes the traditional response after a hardcore screwing like Elliott just took -- Was it good for you? Really. Did it work for you? I'll be honest -- as nasty as I am, I was happy for Elliott and glad he got such a nice day. And, as much as I'd like to play the blame card, it still boils down to this -- Elliott signed up for this. Maybe the producers didn't play "nice" or "fair" with him, but no one ever said it was going to be nice or fair. We don't watch it because it's nice and fair, at least I don't. And yes he's the underdog, but I still can't really muster too many tears or anguish for a guy who got a parade thrown in his honor for simply singing on TV. I'm not saying he (or Taylor) doesn't deserve a parade. I think it's nice. But it is a hell of a thing, you know?

Watching it, Elliott cried. Paula cried. Of course. Then, still half-choked up, Elliott sang "Moody's Mood" again for us. He was choked up, so he was a bit off, but I'll take it.

So. After that, they did a little segment where they brought out Clive Davis again and he stood there and told us how artistic and wonderful AI is and how many "units" of product they've moved, because that's the benchmark for success and happiness and goodness, you know! It was smarmy. But, whatever.

And that took us to results. I don't know what to think of the veracity of the numbers they flashed. The kneejerk impulse is to think they did this to make Elliott feel good about coming so close, but really, what the fuck's it matter? Losing is losing, you know? The whole purpose was actually to put the question mark in people's minds (and maybe shake up Taylor) by letting them think his margin isn't that great and to therefore build "suspense" for the finale. Here's how they said it shook out:
Over 50 million votes, with 1st, 2nd and 3rd getting these percentages:

If those numbers are true, sure, it was close. But that's still a 210,000 vote difference between one and two. Now, here's the fact: People who voted for Elliott? If they bother to vote, they're gonna toss some Taylor's way. Why? Because he's not a selfish, phony twunt and he can sing, that's why.

I'm telling you right now, Kat beating Taylor can only happen in a world where George Bush can beat Al Gore in an election. You know what I'm saying, right?

Anyhow, rudimentary math done, the loser for the night was revealed, and as you all know, it was Elliott. What'd he do? He gave a half smile and shook his head. Didn't look devastated or anything like that.

Yep. That was his elimination face. And he just got better and classier from there, you bet. But let's take a minute and relive recent history and see if we can learn anything. Notice anything different, other than the over-plucked and penciled eyebrows, between Chris and Elliott and how they handled the rejection? I gave you a hint in case you're having trouble picking it out:

So, then the real fun began. Elliott took it well, but the look on Katharine's face and Taylor's face was immediately telling. I'm afraid I shrunk this maybe too much for you to pick it out right away, but yes, Katharine is already smiling, while Taylor has the class to be upset for Elliott -- or to at least feign such a response.

But, as you can see, Katharine comes by it honestly. Because her grin was nothing compared to the McParents and how they just immediately beamed at the news of Elliott's departure.

Yeah. That was grand. No wonder all these LA people keep telling Elliott what a good guy he is. I mean, I'm not disputing that he's a good guy. But I'm just saying -- CONTRAST really makes it obvious, you know?

They were also kind enough to deny us any verbal reaction from the judges, because really, what could they say? But they did immediately cut to Paula, who was upset, of course. But best, as most people had their eyes glued on Elliott and his reaction in this big moment, look at Randy's reaction! He's eyeballing Paula, cringing away from her, wondering if the crazy bitch is gonna unhinge any second!

Right about this time is when the McPhees can't even control themselves anymore. Smiling and being quietly smug just isn't enough. They actually have to stand up and celebrate!!

Oh yah! Just when you thought you couldn't see a better reaction than Chris's, we get this whole distasteful thing unfolding -- during ELLIOTT'S EJECTION! Katharine, she can't take it anymore either. The smile is full-on by the time she gives Elliott a weak hug goodbye.

Then, as Elliott trots off toward Ryan, Ryan mentions that Taylor and Kat are the final two. Not even a shred of compassion is left for Elliott in Katharine by this point. I mean, hey, her parents are celebrating, why shouldn't she?

Again, let's just revisit that moment from the immediate past. In case you're not seeing the difference between the way Taylor behaves and handles himself and the Katharine does, I've got a hint for you:

So that was it, really. Elliott stood middle stage with Ryan and wasn't nearly as photogenic for mocking purposes as Mr. Daughtry. He used words like proud, honored, blessed, privileged. Seacrest patted him on the shoulder and said something like he shouldn't be unhappy or disappointed, he should be proud of what he's done. In other words, "You never had a chance in hell, ugly one. We gave you the time of your life. Damn right you're grateful." (Yeah, I'm bitter.) Really though, it sounded much nicer the way Ryan put it, but still nearly as patronizing.

After that, they rolled Elliott's "Bad Day" montage. Shocker here -- Elliott got choked up and cried. Here's the thing about Elliott's crying though -- he doesn't cry at the sad or bad shit. He gets overwhelmed and cries at the good stuff. (you do the psychoanalysis there, I'm not touching it.) And since he's had a whole bunch of good stuff on AI, the montage was a whole lot of tears: When he made the top 24, when he met Stevie Wonder. When he sat in an interview and said how lost he was before AI.

Overall, extremely well played by the producers. But like I said before -- they really did get hold of a ringer of an underdog in Elliott. Trust me, I'm a fiction writer, and you can't make this shit up!

Anyhow, Elliott, he pulled his shit together and Ryan gave him a tissue, because Ryan's dapper and prepared like that. We can only hope it was a whole new, fresh one though, and not Pickler's re-used snotrag which was previously flung at Elliott.

And then he sang. Sang that very fitting Ray Charles number again, and they even let him get all the way to the part where he name-checks himself before cutting him off before he'd quite reached the end.

Silver lining -- There's a whole fucking lot of 'em, let me tell you. There will be no humiliating rainbow song for Elliott. There will be no 19E control of what he does. He'll make some cash on the tour, and get more experience.

Touch of grey in the silver lining -- It's really not gonna be easy for him to get a major career going. But for Elliott, I don't think much has been easy in his life. And yet he's already ended up with his own fucking parade!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

After Midnight

Tonight, the clock struck midnight and our sweet-singing, dark horse, Cinderella Elliott Yamin left American Idol.

I'm sad to see him leave for a plethora of reasons, but mostly because I'll miss hearing him sing every week. But that's the way show works. Someone has to go. A lot of contestants have hoped to use the program as a springboard into careers in the entertainment field. A select few have gained post-show fame, but the past five seasons are littered with people who've mostly faded from our collective consciousness.

For the fame-whores of the series, being on the show was the apex of their entertainment career, and struggle as they might, it's highly unlikely they're ever going to achieve the rollicking success they desire. And for others, the true performers of the series, they'll never attract such a huge and immediate audience again.

The AI contract is a killer, and that's part of what keeps so many of the contestants from taking off. The AI and 19E producers won't allow anyone to upstage the winner (and the runner-up) by releasing anything before the show can siphon off the majority of the commercial revenue. Meanwhile, we as a nation have a short attention span and once 15 minutes runs out on someone, it's a bitch of a marketing battle to drag them back into the spotlight, because we're already focused on the next batch of people we can consume.

However, part of the reason I loved Elliott is that this never seemed to be about fame for him. Even performing was slightly secondary to what he was there for: Singing. Out of all five seasons, he's the most pure singer the show's ever seen. I'm sure there'll be plenty of articles written tonight/tomorrow that say that's what led to his eventual demise -- that he had the voice, but ultimately not the entire package as a performer.

But that's also why I have zero worries about Elliott's future. He'll do the tour this summer and then have to ride out his AI contract until he's free to pursue other options. I don't know if fame and fortune will be calling him, but from this point on, I'm pretty sure that singing will be part of who he is. He should have a plethora of palatable options. Smaller labels like Blue Note could do wonders for him and produce an album that'd be not only a commercial success, but also an artistic one. He could so easily slip into the now-hip and trendy (and lucrative) Vegas club and lounge scene and enjoy singing in that sort of more intimate setting.

Because that is the kind of voice he has -- intimate. It's soulful and strong, and he makes surprising and delightful choices within all the material he picks. But the texture in his voice makes it moody and sexy, and the tone and timbre has a warmth that makes it personal.

I've already written in embarrassing detail what's so hot about Elliott, and what's so cool about him. It's fun to root for a dark horse, and it's even more fun when Cinderella has enough talent to blow all other contenders off the stage. As for Elliott as a person, he was so classy on the show that it intensified all those desires to see him succeed. He came off as a mother-loving, happy-go-lucky, grateful, humble and endearing guy instead of one of the stock characters we've become accustomed to. Talented, nice, unaffected. Those are the kind of people I can't help but root for to succeed.

We have fucked up ideas about success in this country. If you're not a superstar, you suck. But most of us aren't superstars. Worse, most of us spend our lives wallowing in crappy jobs, making just enough money to get by and so we can buy some useless shit while we count the minutes until we can punch out and get on to a more bearable part of our day. But even those tolerable and sometimes enjoyable parts are rarely spent doing what we love, or have a passion for.

Cinderella wanted an escape from her crappy life where she was unappreciated and worked to death. What she got was a rollicking party where she dressed in some shoes that'd make Manolo blush, and everyone made a fuss over her. But when the clock struck twelve, she was sent back home like an utter mess. But the best part of the story wasn't the party. The best part was that she wasn't completely forgotten. The next day, that fabulous shoe led her prince back to her, and her dream came true.

Elliott's voice isn't going to vanish just because his time ran out. Maybe there'll be outrageous money and adulation around the corner. But if not, I have a sneaking suspicion that he's still going to fulfill his greatest dream. All the other performers this year can shake and dance and bedazzle as they like, and I wish them all the best. But singing, pure singing, that's the glass slipper of American Idol that only Elliott Yamin can claim. I think deep down, if he's half as grounded as he seems, Elliott would be really happy if he could spend his life as a professional singer. With that as a benchmark, I'm pretty sure that his ever-after has just begun.

It may be midnight, but the best part of the story is what happens the next day. Sing on, CinderElliott. Plenty of us will still be here to listen. Sing on.


I'll do a full recap of tonight's results show tomorrow sometime. But I figured since Elliott showed so much grace tonight that I'd try to switch it up and show a little class and grace myself. Don't worry. It won't last. Classy isn't exactly my glass slipper. The mocking shall continue.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Menage a trois

So. It was a night of threesomes on AI. Three contestants. Three songs. Three phone lines. And three judges, because although they still had Clive the producer/overlord pick out one set of the songs, he wasn't allowed to sit on the judging table this year. Like most threesomes, it was an erratic encounter -- often rushed and frenzied, with awkward pauses tossed in, and not everyone knew exactly what they were doing at all times. Also like most two guys-one girl threesomes, the guys stumbled into dangerous territory of crossing swords, but it worked out very well for the female during the middle section, and one of the guys ended up with a big bang.

For a change, I'll take this in order. Clive's choices kicked off the evening, and each one was preceded with the ancient one having a little sit-down with each contestant. After the first round of interviews, it was all too blatantly obvious what the agenda for the evening already was. Everyone had been given their marching orders, and everyone, even my dear sweet darling Paula fell into line. Main agenda for the night -- make it clear to Elliott that he's not getting a record deal with Clive. Ironically -- or perhaps quite purposefully -- he was the only one who eagerly expressed his interest in hoping to work with Davis during the sit-down. Clive didn't say, "Fuck off, ugly one," but he did totally ignore the comment and just said something random like, "Kill 'em."

What he gave Elliott to sing, Journey's "Open Arms," was completely out of Elliott's comfort zone, and completely in the sappy territory. But, as is often the case with Clive's picks, it actually worked for Elliott's voice. He sang it in a higher key than he usually does, and because of that, his vibrato was controlled and he sounded great. It was a nice change for Elliott, lacking his vocal pyrotechnics but showing off his nice tone. However, the song, it still sucks and does nothing but bring back unfortunate memories of crinkled taffeta and sloppy post-prom heaving petting.

Don't hate me for this comment, but I went the extra yard and took grabs of Elliott during all his performances tonight cuz I've got a pretty strong feeling this might actually be the last time we see him performing on AI.

Once he was done, Randy followed the yes-man protocol to a T, even going so far as to tell Elliott he had rough spots in the middle. Excuse me? We all wonder what the hell Paula's Coke glass is spiked with, but I think someone spiked Randy's coke with a steaming helping of "deaf." Of course, the song choice appealed to Randy's ego, and he had to mention how he was once in Journey. Yes, we know, Randy. Do you really want to keep reminding people of this, though?

Anyhow, Paula, she loved him, but Simon told him he had to loosen up the rest of the night. The most interesting moment came not from the judges, though, but from the audience shot of Fuel sitting there, shooting death glares at Elliott.

I suppose they're bearing a grudge against him, accusing him of being the Goliath slayer of last week? Fucking good. Fuck them and their shit attitude toward my cupcake!

That put Katharine up next, and she sat and sweet talked Clive and then gave the googly eyes to the camera as she tried to fight her way through noted jailbait fucker R Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly." Clive, he sure didn't do Kat any favors with that song. I've been saying for weeks she's not a belter, and that's what this song requires. And he's obviously trying to fit her into a belter box, which is just going to give him major headaches when it comes time to record.

On the upside for Kat, finally, finally the wardrobe department stopped sabotaging her. She looked gorgeous, hair extensions and all. But the way she looked wasn't enough to overpower the auditory information assaulting me during the song. And it just kept getting worse. Flat, flat, and then just screechy. The fun part, though, was when it was time for her stand and take the reviews. Randy was having none of it. He's had enough of her McMelismaing all over the place and told her she needs to just sing the melody.

Paula? Dear sweet Paula. It was like someone spiked her drink with bitch! She raved about how gorgeous Kat looked, and although that's true, I have a feeling Paula often pads her comments like that because she doesn't ever want to come off as catty. Kind of like how I've backed off on Kat a couple of times because I didn't want to come off like the ugly writer-chick who's just jealous of the beautiful girl. Thing is, I have no problem with pretty girls. I have a big problem with girls who are only pretty and who slide by on their looks and fake charm. And that's exactly what Katharine's been doing for weeks now. She has utterly sucked on that stage, but she's benefited from her looks, and therefore others who gave mediocre performances got cut instead of her. But Paula was having none of that bullshit with this performance. Once she'd laid the "you're beautiful" groundwork, she drew the line at the actual singing. Her review, gauged on the Paula meter, was brutal enough to make Bret Easton Ellis blush. (<--not so arcane writerly reference.)

Kat? She got whiny about it. "You guys have been really hard on me the past few weeks!" Let me tell you something about Kat. That girl has a sharper edge than a Masumune katana sword. We've all seen the surly glares and looks when someone criticizes her performances. I'd respect the hell out of her if she'd just be OUT with her overt bitchiness and stood up for herself. But instead she affects a little-girl voice as she flutters her lashes and has the same forced, cutesy mannerisms of Carrie Bradshaw. But under that thin veneer of saccharine, you know she's thinking "I'll cut you."

What I don't understand is why she gets so angry and upset at them when she so clearly sucks. Can't she hear herself? I wouldn't blame her if she was taking the unnecessary hits. But her getting mad at these times is like a scuba diver getting pissed off at the shark for taking a chunk out of his thigh when he shouldn't have so thoroughly chummed the water before jumping in in the first place.

But, never fear. Simon quickly came to her rescue and that's when I knew that the agenda for the evening was to advance Kat. She and Taylor had the pimp spot three times already, while Elliott's only had it once. And yet when he got placed in the "spot of doom" for this show (every contestant who's sung first in the final three show has always gone home) I figured they weren't really sticking it to him so much as glorifying Taylor. But once Simon outright lied to Kat (and the audience) by saying something along the lines of "despite some bad notes at the end, I think you nearly had a moment," I knew it was all but over.

And that brought us to Taylor. I whined about Clive's pick of "Dancing in the Dark" for him. But later I rationalized that at least it wasn't "Jungleland" or "Thunder Road" or "The River" or "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" or a hundred other songs. "Dancing in the Dark" should, theoretically, irk me the least if one of Bruce's songs has to be defiled on this show. And yet, I couldn't really reconcile it. I know a big part of it is personal, because not only was that song the one that rocketed Springsteen into the superstar stratosphere, but also because that's the time in my life when I started "growing up". I was still too young to know about threesomes yet, but I was just getting old enough to think there was something cool -- not icky -- about The Boss's sweat soaked white shirt in that video. In other words, it was right at the time of this song's release, and at least partially spurred by it, that the tectonic plates of my personal world forever shifted, even if I hadn't yet felt the earth move.

Courteney Cox? Yeah, I wanted to be her.

I don't resent Taylor for doing the song. What the fuck, he didn't pick it. And even if he had, I like it when people love Bruce. In fairness, it actually went down fairly easy, but I did think it wasn't very good. It’s a song about sex. Restless, desperate, horny sex. I like Taylor, but to me, he's about as sexy as berber carpeting. Bruce growls his way through the song. I don't want to say that Taylor hot dogged his way through it, but when he was finished, I had to wipe mustard off my television screen. Also, he seemed to be taking gesturing advice from Elliott, because on the line "this gun's for hire," Taylor actually made a gun motion with his hand. Worse, it was oddly reminiscent of the kicking of the mic stand incident, because Taylor cocked it twice before firing. I'm not even going to make a comment about what deeper, sexual connotations that could possibly have. I suppose it would've been worse if he'd been over-eager and accidentally made the gesture on the previous line, though.

If nothing else, though, we did get this moment from it:

Straight up now-- which is something she hasn't been since the mid '90s -- I'll tell you, I will love Paula forever. No lie though, I know Taylor had to get back to the stage, but Bruce would've never turned his back on a drunk, pretty lady tottering on high heels on a catwalk while obviously impaired and falling out of her strapless dress. Not so cool that Taylor plucked the lovely up and then left her in the dust. But Paula's a pro and she not only kept her boobs tucked in and didn't lose her footing and kept the smile on her face, she actually danced her way down. Plus, we got her feisty comment about wishing she'd been prepared cause she'd have used double-sided tape!

Anyhow. Thus ended the Clive portion of the show, bringing us to judge's choice.

Paula gave Elliott "What You Won't Do For Love." It was a love-filled night for Paula. She and Simon even had much fun with each other.

At Ryan's prodding, she blathered on incoherently a bit about love and soul and funkiness and Elliott and couldn't really make sense of it. But then Elliott came out, and love and soul and funkiness he was.

The band sucked. But it's been a long season and honestly, with Chris gone, I think my game is kinked up. I'm just not into the chop-socky kind of rabid bitchiness to go off on a full rant. Anyhow. Elliott sang great. Elliott looked great. Plate tectonics, earthquakes, blah, blah, love, soul, blah threesomes, you get the picture. The thing is this: I don't care. I like Taylor, but no, he's not sexy to me. I don't care what people say about him -- Elliott is. Singing songs like this, he melts the marshmallow in my s'mores. He puts enough overt sex in his voice to make Jesse Jane blush. (<--not a writerly reference)

Here's where the unsavory business of the guys tonight crossing swords comes in. Taylor repeatedly shouted out to his fans "Soul Patrol! Soul Patrol!" I don't mind. I think it's cute. But it's also unfortunate for both Elliott and Taylor that they ran into each other this year. Or, possibly, fortuitous. I mean, you know how when you play with someone really good you raise your game? I wonder if he and Elliott didn't end up really helping each other out in this thing. Chris was a rocker, but he didn’t have anyone to rock against. And although Taylor claimed the "soul" position this year, dark horse Elliott just kept getting better and raising his game, and Elliott's natural style is funkier and more soulful than Taylor's. Taylor's a showman, yes. And he can sing. And he loves what he sings. But Elliott's got more authenticity with this vibe. So they ended up crossing genre swords tonight in this tangled, lusty mess. Here's the problem for Elliott. He's got the genuine Masumune katana sword which he handles with deft precision and finesse, but Taylor has the Hollywood Hattori Hanzo sword, and he wields it with force. (And if you don't get that grindhouse metaphor at all, well, just move along. But trust me, it's good shit.)

Anyhow. Randy, taking the supreme Ed McMahon role this time actually told Elliott he was sharp for most of the song. So now he's not just drinking from the deaf cup, he's also drinking from the asshole cup. Paula blithered something, but it was fairly weak, and Simon painted himself as the good guy by admitting that Elliott actually sang the song good.

And that's when disaster struck for all the Elliott lovers.

Kat sang Simon's pick for her, "Somewhere Over The Rainbow." Aw, fuck, you know? What do you expect me to say? Sure, she Fantasia'd it by sitting on the floor. Sure, she gazed dewy-eyed into the camera. But she also did exactly what she hasn't done for weeks on the show. She toned down the shouting and she sang. She's not a screamer, she's a chanteuse. And with this song, she was enchanting. I mean, I don't like the McPhony bitch. Not a bit. But that was great. Memorable great. Just as Simon had been hoping, it was "moment" great. When you put together that song and this face:

it's pretty hard to not see her moving on to the finals.

All hail Simon, the Cinderella slayer. And he knew it. Everyone knew it. Of course, he took some credit for it which isn't surprising. Simon, I bet he could get a moonlighting job with Cirque de Soleil if he wanted, cuz it takes a gifted contortionist to be able to bend over and kiss one's own ass the way he so relentlessly does. But in all honesty, he did pass congratulations along to Katharine, too.

Interesting, too, that amid this night of threesomes and love and sex laden songs from the guys that Katharine finally climaxed while singing a song about achieving personal dreams and happiness. Note, it's not ironic. It's quite fitting for Kat.

Worse, it'll probably even help her snatch the gay vote for the night.

Randy applauded her, and even my drunk, sweet girl gave up the Paulaticing for her candidate Elliott and gave Kat her due.

So, then Taylor had to follow that. Pfft. Randy gave him the uninspired "You Are So Beautiful" by Joe Cocker. Me? I thought it was okay. I thought Taylor kept missing the "to me" notes. I really did. Taylor? I think he thought he kind of dogged it, too. I swear, I didn't search for this grab, because it was his face when he was awaiting comments:

Does that look like a happy, confident guy to you? No. It looks like a guy who's just been shoved aside and relegated to reluctant voyeur position.

But maybe I drank from the deaf cup because all the judges loved it. Simon even told him it was his best performance to date.

That brought us back around to the contestant's song choice. Taylor, one of his primary fan sites is That's because Ray Charles is Taylor's idol. So Elliott, he chose to do a Ray Charles song. Please reference my previous post where I talked about Elliott having cojones. Please note again our little chat about crossing swords. Ahem. Elliott sang "I Believe To My Soul." Honestly? I didn't know this song. But I did note the lyrics and what the song is about. Of interest, one of the lines is even "Tryin' to make a fool of me." Is Elliott really that coy? I'd like to think he is. I don't think he's stupid. And I think he's fought a lot harder than anyone expected him to to get where he is in this competition.

This year, the deck was stacked. Taylor, Chris, Katharine, and even Paris were ringers. They had oodles of performing and even touring and recording experience. None of them were "unknowns." But Elliott was. And here's the thing about Elliott. Somehow, the producers found a ringer of an underdog in Elliott. And they know it. No one on this show has ever come from so little experience and grown and improved as much as he has. His voice was always there. And in all honesty, the cosmetic stuff isn't such a big deal. Face it, it's a suntan, a haircut, and a goatee. That's all.

But the bout of stage tremors he's overcome is really quite amazing. The confidence he's picked up is mind-boggling. But he knows exactly where he stands in the producer's view at this point. Either they're ready for him to go, or they REALLY want to keep him pigeonholed into the underdog slot all the way to the finale. It makes for great TV. And it's probably just a zen-ful coincidence that he chose to sing about getting dogged. But that makes for good TV, too.

And seriously. These guys?

Fuck them.

Elliott sang good. Again. Randy said so. Paula burbled something. And then Simon, he gave a heart-warming little kiss-off speech, basically repeating what he'd said last night on Leno. (Gee, you mean he already had his thoughts planned before they performed? Shocking!) He told Elliott his songs wouldn't put him through to the finale, but that he's one of the best singers they've ever had on the show, and one of the nicest guys, and he made his mom proud.

The best part? Elliott didn't cry! Nope. Not at that. He didn't even get misty. He didn't get mad either. He laughed. And it wasn't a rueful laugh. He just laughed and was happy, just like Elliott. That's pretty funny. Keep laughing Elliott. Because Kat may have had the performance of the night, but you did damn great all season. And while you laughed and while Kat and Taylor sang, I started voting. And so did all the other underdog lovers. You might go home, cupcake. But you might just be laughing onstage again next Tuesday at the Kodak Theatre, young grasshopper with katana.

So then after that, Kat sang again. "I Ain't Got Nothing But The Blues." I was hoping she'd screw the pooch with it, but she didn't. It wasn't great, but it wasn't awful. But it wasn't enough of anything to erase the memory of her stellar performance from earlier, either. Bitch.

Taylor's choice was "Try A Little Tenderness." He's been hellbent to get this song sung on this show, and they screwed him out of it the first time. After tonight, I can see why he wanted to bust it out. However, I also think he's damn lucky that it got saved for this night. I mean, I guess it doesn't really matter. We all know that Taylor's bulletproof. But he didn't just reinforce his defenses with this song, he took the offensive and kicked serious ass. It was great. The audience knew it. He knew it. Here's him:

Yep. That's the trademark Taylor, "I've got soul and I have to pee" funky-soul-pleading stance. Like I said. I like him lots. But not sexy.

He'd obviously been saving this one up and finally blew his wad in glorious fashion tonight. That Hattori Hanzo steel isn't to be trifled with.

So, after an orgiastic feast like that, where does that leave everyone? Well. Just like in most threesomes, it's eventually going to result in an odd man out. Or, possibly, a woman. But really, what are the odds of a beautiful woman getting kicked out of bed, even if she is self-serving and shrill at times?

Two will move on to the limelight for another week, while one will be left dancing in the dark. (oh, yes, I did just get that cheesy. Wait for it, it gets better.) If Kat's gone, sayonora, princess. But Elliott, if you go, don't despair. You can lay down your katana, and if you need a pal to cheer you up, call me, 'cause this gun's for hire. After all, I'm sick of sitting 'round here trying to write this book.