Ryan Seacrest suggested at the outset that Thursday's American Idol elimination show would be "a very shocking results night."
Well, a viewer might have thought: Of course he's not going to stand there and tell an audience of millions to sit back and relax.
But he was right.
The loser was Pia Toscano, the beautiful power-balladeer who would have seemed destined for at least the top four. And she was joined in the bottom two with another strong performer, Jacob Lusk.
(Stefano Langone landed with them in the bottom three – no surprise at all, probably not even to him.)
Miffed JudgesPia took it all in with a lot of calm dignity, although you wouldn't have blamed her for collapsing the way Casey Abrams did not long ago. The judges, though, were clearly miserable with the outcome – indignant, actually.
"I have no idea what just happened here," said Jennifer Lopez, who had started to cry.
"You're one of the best singers," said Randy Jackson. "This makes me mad."
"A mistake is one thing," said Steven Tyler in one of his strange bursts of eloquence, "but a lack of passion is unforgiveable."
He meant the voting audience, not Pia. Ryan, sharing the sentiment that something had gone wrong here and probably also realizing that this made for smashing television, asked her to sing an encore.
She made it through "I'll Stand By You," then broke into loud sobs as Jacob embraced her.
So, one is left to ask, what was that about? For the first time this week, she'd made a change from her usual repertoire when she sang Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High."
Jilted for Paul McDonaldI often found Pia a little stately, like a cruise liner forging ahead through choppy seas, but this time she had much more drive – the judges were pleased, and she seemed pleased too.
Yet viewers jilted her while keeping on the nice but not very dynamic Paul McDonald. Randy and Ryan both said the result might have been inadvertent, due to at-home viewers being complacent about Pia's rank and neglecting to vote for her.
I would also ask whether the judges share in the blame. By being so lavish in their praise for all the contestants, they aren't nudging voters or shaping the contestants into camps of hot versus not. Because, after all, Jacob didn't deserve to be down there in the bottom two, either. (Jennifer looked especially stern when that was announced.)
Again, what did the poor guy do wrong? Technically, nothing. "Man in the Mirror" was one of his strongest, least mannered performances. Should he have been more mannered?
Before singing, he'd made an odd, sour comment suggesting that people who didn't vote for him should be the ones examining their reflections. Maybe that struck a note of hubris or defiance with voters.
Also during the hour: The legendary Iggy Pop sang "Real Wild Child." His leaps and hops seemed forced, and perhaps he should wear a shirt or a tank top, but an aging punk rocker probably doesn¹t worry too much about his dignity. He was terrific.