On Thursday's show, Carrie Underwood's performance showed how far she came from when she competed eight years ago on season 4. It was hard not to look at the final seven contestants and wonder if any of them would ever be able to duplicate her success.
Early in the show, Mariah Carey sized up the finalists, who performed Wednesday.
"There's so much talent on this stage," she said.
Carey has been an interesting judge this season, overusing words like "amazing" and "wonderful" while frequently dissolving into tears. Compared to her, Paula Abdul was a barracuda.
And then the lights dimmed and Ryan Seacrest began to announce the results. Would Lazaro Arbos survive after flubbing the words again?
As it turned out, America voted for Arbos in a big way, propelling him into the top three alongside Kree Harrison and Angie Miller.
Keep in mind that the results were announced in no particular order. For all we know, Arbos could have gotten the lion's share of the 25 million votes. (We can only assume that producer Jimmy Iovine, who had confidently declared that Arbos would go home, was gnashing his teeth in the green room.)
As the finalists held hands onstage, Candice Glover and Amber Holcomb were declared safe, leaving a bottom two of Janelle Arthur and Burnell Taylor. When the votes were announced, it was Taylor who was at the bottom. As he sang for his life, it was clear that the judges weren't going to use their save on him. (At one point, it almost looked like Carey was inspecting her cuticles.)
Sure enough, Randy Jackson announced that they would not be saving Taylor, and the season is down to six contestants.
There are now five exceptional female contestants ... and Lazaro Arbos. Although he seems out of his depth, does he stand a chance of winning?
Michael Becker / FOX