05/08/2003 at 12:00 AM EDT
This Marine is going home: Country-singing Lance Cpl. Josh Gracin, 22, got the boot from voters on Wednesday's edition of FOX's "American Idol."
That leaves three contestants in the quickly narrowing race (though experts are predicting that all three will receive some sort of record contracts when all the shouting is over). They are Ruben Studdard, Kimberley Locke and Clay Aiken, all 24.
Last week, Gracin and his country sound unexpectedly bettered fan favorite Studdard in the viewer voting, but that wasn't the case this week. Locke also was among the bottom two contestants.
Gracin sang the Bee Gees' "Jive Talkin'" and "To Love Somebody" Tuesday and the judges praised him, for the most part. Still, Simon Cowell said with his typical acidity: "Honestly, Josh, you should have gone last week."
Gracin was gracious in his departure, thanking viewers, the panel of judges, his wife and their young daughter.
"At this point," said host Ryan Seacrest, "this is kind of like ending a relationship." Seacrest added that 22 million voters participated in this week's selection process.
The final "Idol" winner will be decided May 21.