"American Idol's" Group Round is, as Ryan Seacrest pointed out repeatedly throughout Wednesday's harrowing two-hour episode, the most difficult challenge of Hollywood Week. "Prepare yourself for the heartbreak and devastation," he warned. The drama started straight away with attempts to form literally and figuratively harmonious groups, but that was just the beginning of the drama...after that came the all-nighter practice sessions, the public-restroom rehearsals, the 15-year-olds' meddling stage parents, the ex-lovers' spats, the claws-out catfights, the bad step-touch choreography, the forgotten lyrics, the backstabbing teammate switches, the harsh judges' critiques, the Tatiana Del Toro-style tantrums, the countless Bruno Mars covers, the surprise eliminations, etc.
It may have been, as Ryan worded it, "hell" for the contestants...but it was pure television heaven for avid "Idol"-watchers. So without further ado, here are the 10 most dramatic moments of Wednesday's Group Round show.
1. Jacee Badeaux Is One Group's BaDon't
Sweet little Jacee is already America's sweetheart, but apparently one of the singing groups wasn't so sweet on him. Feeling he wasn't the right fit for their sound, the Guaps--featuring early faves Scotty McCreery and Clint Jun Gamboa--unceremoniously dumped him, and a teary-eyed Jacee was forced to forage for a last-minute group. Luckily, equally sweet teen Brett Loewenstern recruited him for his ensemble, the Sugar Mamas, who made it through despite Jacee's understandably under-prepared performance. But when the Guaps later admitted onstage that they'd ditched Jacee, the auditorium echoed with boos and jeers, and Steven Tyler told them, "For that alone, we should all make you step back one." The Guaps did all advance--Scotty's seemingly heartfelt apology to Jacee in front of the judges probably helped, as did Clint's undeniably awesome vocals--but vengeful voters with sharp memories may hold this incident against them, if any of the Guaps go on to the top 20. Nobody puts Jacee in a corner!
2. Tiffany Rios Doesn't Play Well With Others
When it came time to forming groups, Tiffany had an even rougher time of it; despite her shameless begging, she only found one other singer, the easily led Jessica Yantz (whom she actually poached from right under Brett's freckled nose), to join her. This mouthy Jersey girl crawled on her hands and knees, and even advertised for a third group member over the auditorium loudspeaker...but in the end, she and Jessica were stranded, and producers had to let them perform in an exception-to-the-rules duo (while everyone else sang in groups of three, four, or five). Apparently Tiffany's controversial "I'm tired of seeing people try
to do what I know I can
" comment, from Hollywood Week day one, didn't make her many friends; maybe if she'd worn her star-spangled bikini top from her New Jersey audition, some lecherous male contestant might have been more receptive to her. Anyway, eventually Tiffany and Jessica, as the not-so-dynamic duo Rebel Star, performed Beyonce's "Irreplaceable," and it turned out that Tiffany, despite her colorful personality, was replaceable after all. The catty girl literally sounded like a screechy cat, and she was quickly cut--and she dragged Jessica down with her. I bet Jessica regrets leaving the Sugar Mamas now.
3. Ashley Sullivan Throws A Fit, Nearly Quits
This Broadway baby with the Liza Minnelli fixation and wild eyes suffered a major meltdown while rehearsing with her group, the Hits, and pleaded with producers to let her quit. She ended up bawling in an alley while her long-suffering boyfriend, an "Idol" producer, and an intrusive camera crew all tried to convince her to stay. Eventually she agreed to give it another go, and, incredibly, the Hits welcomed her back without a hitch. And when the Hits finally performed Blu Cantrell's "Hit 'Em Up Style"--a perfectly retro-campy song for this drama queen's brash showtunes style--they pulled it together and delivered what Randy Jackson said was the best-harmonized performance of the day. So bizarrely, Ashley will be around to stir up more drama and discord on Hollywood Week's day three. Get ready.
4. Three's Company, Two's A Crowd
Perhaps it wasn't the brightest idea for Rob Bolin to form a group called Three's Company with his ex-girlfriend, Chelsee Oaks. It was obvious that rehearsing for hours with her was taking its toll on him, and as Rob got testier and snippier--a "negative force," as third-wheel member Jacqueline Dunford put it--I began to see why Rob and Chelsee broke up in the first place. The two just...Don't. Get. Along. How fitting that they sang Cee Lo's "Forget You," the ultimate kissoff/breakup song; my hunch is Rob wanted to belt out the uncensored original version right in Chelsee's face. Their performance was an utter disaster; Jacqueline letting an expletive slip didn't sit too well with Randy, but even worse, Rob forgot ALL the words, ad-libbing his way through the song, simply moaning "I'm really tired" over and over. It was obvious that he'd just given up. Jacqueline and Chelsee scraped through to the next round, but Rob did not. Perhaps it's for the best. It is time for Chelsee and Rob to go their separate ways for good.
5. "Idol" Won't Always Have Paris
Sob-story single mom Paris Tassin was an early favorite, earning fellow mother Jennifer Lopez's sympathy and support. (Remember J.Lo oohing and aahing over Paris's special-needs toddler daughter after the New Orleans auditions?) But Paris's performance on Wednesday was shockingly bad, full of eardrum-stabbingly sharp notes, and the judges were forced to make what Steven called the "excruciatingly hard" decision to let her go. "Soooo disappointing," sighed Jennifer. Oh well. I guess a sad backstory can only get you so far on "Idol."
6. Steven Tyler Gets Serenaded. Badly.
On paper, it was a cute move for Lauren "The One" Alaina's group to invite Steven onstage so they could dedicate "Some Kind Of Wonderful" to him (and even have him join in on a few bars). But onstage, it was all just a little weird. It was a little too blatant of a ploy to curry Steven's favor, for one, and when Lauren, a 15-year-old
, got cozy with the seated Steven, it almost looked like she was about to give him a lapdance--which was just plain icky and inappropriate. What was even more shocking, though, was the fact that Lauren didn't sound nearly
as good as she had at her memorable Nashville audition, the first time she sang with Steven. Although Lauren was the only member of her group to make it through--proving that flirting won't
get you everywhere, not even with Steven Tyler--her performance here indicated that maybe she's not The One after all.
7. Jacob Lusk & Carson Higgins Steal The Show
Every season, there's a contestant who gets barely any early screentime, then POW!
--comes out of nowhere to wow the viewers and judges alike. Wednesday's Group Round episode featured two such contestants, true entertainers in every sense of the word: Jacob Lusk, whose polysyllabic, a cappella version of the Temptations' "Get Ready" was a real hoot, and surfer-boy type Carson Higgins, whose playful and silly rendition "Forget You" was WAY more fun than Rob and Chelsee's. I can't wait to see and hear more from these guys. Where have the "Idol" producers been hiding them?
8. Jordan Dorsey Plays The Numbers Game
No one could blame Jordan for rejecting Tiffany Rios, but when this cocky dude dumped the group he'd been rehearsing with for hours, Four Plus One, and defected to another numerically named group, Four Forty, it kicked off a bitter rivalry. Both groups performed reasonably well and made it through, but Jordan made many enemies that day and came across as basically unlikable. We'll see if voters remember his unsportsmanlike behavior later on in the competition, if he gets to the top 20.
9. Kevin Campos Sleeps On His Chances
This also-ran slept through his wakeup call, and apparently gave the wrong cell number to his teammates in the group Spanglish, so he was late to the set. After being woken by producers, he raced to the stage just in time to perform alongside the more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Karen Rodriguez and Jovany Barreto, both of whom eventually made it through. But Kevin's lack of preparation resulted in a subpar performance, and he was eliminated. You snooze, you lose, Kevin.
10. Steven Tyler Bangs The Drums
At the end of the day, "American Idol" is still The Steven Tyler Show. ("I'm addicted to adrenaline and a whole lot of other things, including wanting to hear you sing real good today. So use your illusion!" was one of many of his memorable quotes this evening, a soundbite that oddly referenced both his well-publicized druggy past and a Guns N' Roses album title.) So what fun it was to see S.Ty entertain the nervous auditioners (who were actually waiting for Kevin Campos to show up) by bashing the skins onstage. Can Steven join the house band when the live shows start?
So there you have it. Along with Rob and Paris, a few other promising frontrunners--like singing waitress Devyn Rush, San Francisco indie girl Emily Anne Reed, a Gutierrez brother (sorry, I forget which one), and country girl Janelle Arthur--also got axed, while others (James Durbin, Chris Medina, Casey Abrams, Robbie Rosen, Julie Zorrilla) unsurprisingly moved forward. Will the remaining contestants, notably the easily unhinged Ashley Sullivan, be able to keep it together as "Idol's" hell week continues? We'll find out Thursday night.
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