The saddest thing about Thursday's "American Idol" results show wasn't the fact that Ashthon Jones went home, or even that she desperately sang for that elusive Judges' Save and was tearfully turned down by Jennifer Lopez. (As if anyone other than Ashthon thought there was a snowball-in-hell's chance that the judges would squander their sole Get Out Of Jail Free card of the season in week one. Come on.) No, the real tragedy was that standout contestant Casey Abrams wasn't there in person to receive the good news that he'd made it through or give Ashthon a proper goodbye.
"You'll notice that Casey is missing from the group. He is unfortunately sick and in the hospital right now," Ryan Seacrest announced at the start of the show, as the studio erupted into dismayed moans. "Wave to him, audience. We know you're watching buddy, feel better--shoutout to the nurses. Get back here soon, OK?"
I immediately experienced flashbacks to Season 1, when sixth-placer Christina Christian missed a results show due to illness...and ended up getting eliminated that night, without even having the chance to sing one last time. Fortunately, that didn't happen to Casey this week, but this development was still troubling--and not just because it would've been a hoot to see him try to lip-synch "Wanna Be Startin' Something" during the finalists' Michael Jackson-medley group number. See, this was the second time in just two weeks that Casey had been hospitalized (for, as of this writing, reasons unknown other than "stomach pains"). During the top 24 rounds, he almost missed his performance and got himself disqualified. Back then, as well as this week, he never let any illness affect his blazing performances or cheery demeanor, proving that he's a real trouper and true Idol material. So I just hope that ongoing health issues don't prevent him from making it to the top 10, where he belongs.
As for those who don't necessarily belong in the top 10, Ryan delivered their bad news to them in the most sadistic manner possible, this time conjuring flashbacks to that Season 7 night when he so cruelly faked out Michael Johns. For instance, when Ryan summoned the first group--Jacob Lusk, Stefano Langone, and Karen Rodriguez--he announced: "You are all safe...EXCEPT for you, Karen!" Come on, was that really necessary? And then, when he told Ashthon Jones and Haley Reinhart their fate, he duped them too, leading them to believe that one of them was safe. "Ashthon, it's you, you're in the bottom three...and Haley, so are you!"
Not cool. It made for good dramatic TV, sure, but it didn't make for good vibes.
Of course, it wasn't all bummer vibes in the studio. There was such jovial filler as scenes from the Idol House (which bore an uncanny resemblance to the "Flavor Of Love" McMansion, come to think of it); the first Ford music video (oddly soundtracked by a cover the Starting Line's "The World"--so why do the judges complain that Paul McDonald sings "obscure" songs, huh?); and a red-carpet junket that was basically a 10-minute infomercial for the movie Little Red Riding Hood.
And thankfully, there were two genuinely good musical numbers--Diddy's Dirty Money featuring songstress Skylar Grey (whose piano performance was more interesting than anything by most of this season's top 13 girls), and returning "Idol" star Adam Lambert, whose acoustic rendition of his Trevor Project charity single "Aftermath" was a vocal master class that showed the current contestants how it's done. I hope they were taking notes.
So really, Ashthon's exit seemed a little anticlimactic; the most memorable thing about it was the first televised airplay of David Cook's awesome farewell song, a cover of Simple Minds' "Don't You Forget About Me." Ashthon's sing-for-her-life reprise of the forgettable Diana Ross song that got her voted off in the first place hardly heightened the suspense, as the panel fake-debated over whether to use the Judges' Save, and J.Lo's tears over the ultimately unanimous decision to let Ashthon go just weren't as moving or convincing as, say, the sobs she once heaved for Chris Medina. (Really, if Jennifer is acting like this now, in week one, how will she keep it together by the time we get to the top five?)
Anyway, I actually kind of liked Ashthon, but I wasn't too shocked to see her leave. I think viewers never took a shine to her, mainly because they mistook her confidence for arrogance. (Voters just don't appreciate confidence in their Idols--which is perplexing, since the real-world music charts are bursting with superhumanly confident pop stars, from Kanye to Gaga to Ke$ha to, well, Diddy.) With talent like hers, Ashthon had reason to be confident, but in a competitive season like this year's, perhaps this baby diva shouldn't have been so sure she had it in the bag.
So there you go. Until next week, Parker out. (And get well soon, Casey. This show needs you.)