Judgment Free Zone
Before the show even started, pop superstar Mariah Carey
treated early birds to a pre-show performance. In a skin-tight black dress, the diva came out onto the stage to warm up her famous voice by singing her second single "Bye, Bye" from her new album E=MC2
. "No judging," she joked to the elated crowd. "Sorry, I don't have a sound-check -- I'm always late."
Mariah Breaks Her Own Rule
was the first judge to take her seat. Ryan Seacrest
, Randy Jackson
and Simon Cowell
followed. While Mariah sang, the judges all bobbed their heads in unison and the contestants stood with their arms around each other, swaying to the beats. During the break, Carey critiqued herself as if she was Simon, quipping, "The ending was a little rancid." Randy, one of her biggest fans, replied, "No, it sounded good!"
The Return of Elliott Yamin
With "We miss you, mom" written on his hand, Elliott Yamin
, whose mother recently passed away
, gave a heartfelt performance of his song "Free" live on the Idol
stage while the contestants -- still uncertain of their fate -- stood and clapped along to the music. The much-loved former Idol stole the hearts of the audience when he reminded everyone after that this was the first time his mom wasn't in the crowd while her performed on the Idol
stage. "I know she's watching," he said proudly.
, in a colorful polka-dot dress, and her Skating with Celebrities
partner (and boyfriend) Lloyd Eisler
, sat and chatted with David Cook
's brother Adam
, before enjoying the Mariah Carey show. Borat
star Ken Davitian
sat a few seats down, also in the front row. David Hernandez
was back, and so was American Idol
's original first runner up, Justin Guarini
(he's still rocking those signature curls). Taylor Dane
, adding to the array of singers there this night, was also in the crowd. And last, but certainly not least, Chikezie
was spotted up in the bleachers.
Nigel's Down But Not Out
At one of the breaks, Corey asked the audience to cheer up producer Nigel Lythgoe
, who's wearing a blue cast on his arm. "Show Nigel some love," he said. "He got injured on the job ... he was working too hard." Soon enough, Nigel was back to his old self, pleading with the audience, "Don't encourage him," referring to Ryan, who was singing Mariah lyrics -- "You will always be a part of me ..." -- after technical difficulties held up the taping of the Q&A. Nigel also did a little stage-managing, loudly counting down, "12, 11, 10 ..." in Simon and Randy's direction while the judges were chatting off to the side of the stage instead of getting back in their seats as the show was about to start.
Finally, The Results
As Ryan read the results, Brooke White
broke into tears and made her way over to the arms of Carly Smithson
and Syesha Mercado
, as country sweetheart Kristy Lee Cook
heard that she will be going home. Cook, who's displayed nothing but strength during her regular appearances in the bottom three, finally broke into tears. But she pulled it together quickly and then decided to serenade the one judge that gave her so much grief all season, Simon Cowell. Everyone in the house, including Justin Guarini -- no stranger to Cowell's critiques -- laughed at the sight of Simon turning red on the monitor.
Kristy Lee Says Goodbye
After Kristy Lee's final performance, the Idols surrounded Cook in a group hug, with Carly, who'd been trying to cheer everyone up, the first to embrace her friend. Simon, Randy and Paula all pulled Cook aside to offer their support. The judges also hugged and congratulated the others on successfully surviving another week.
More of What You Didn't See
• Corey, the warm-up guy pointing out a sign to Ryan that said "Ryan, I want your job," and Ryan responding to the fan, "I'll tell you which one I'll give you, the one where I have to wake up at four in the morning."
• At the break, when Carly, Jason Castro and Syesha Mercado were standing together waiting to learn their fate, Ricky Minor
's iPhone slipped from the band's balcony above and smashed to the ground right next to them, nearly maiming the contestants.
• When David Archuleta
found out he was safe, Ryan asked him to pick the group that he thought was not the bottom three. Just like the Price is Right
, Simon, Randy and Paula could all be seen shouting and desperately pointing for him to choose Cook, Castro and Smithson's side. --Jed Dreben
F Micelotta/American Idol 2008/Getty