"I feel like I changed the face of the competition by making America wake up and see the talent that Elliott possesses," says Abdul of Yamin.
Still, the effusive Abdul also has glowing things to say about remaining contestants Taylor Hicks and Katharine McPhee. "I'm really grateful that Taylor is still here, because I love him so much, and he really deserves to be up there. And Katharine is so primed to be the next Kelly Clarkson."
As for Wednesday night's Idol shocker in which frontrunner Chris Daughtry was cut from the show, Abdul says she "didn't see this coming at all" – and was literally in tears backstage.
As for her very emotional displays of affection for the contestants, Abdul says, "People can make fun of me all they want, but I care so much about all these kids."
For more on Paula Abdul, go to Teen People.com.