There was no place like home on Wednesday's American Idol, which celebrated its 500th episode with well wishes from former winners, as the final three visited their hometowns and had memorable performances in the lead-up to Tuesday's finale.
Powerhouse teen Jena Irene, hard rocker Caleb Johnson and indie artist Alex Preston each sang three songs, the first one selected by Randy Jackson, the second one by the judges and the final one picked by their hometowns.
It was not an easy night for Johnson, who was forced to sing with a small vocal cord hemorrhage that a doctor compared to "a runner running with a badly bruised ankle."
On the outside Jennifer Lopez may have retained the enviable glow of someone half her age, but when it comes to the hard-earned wisdom of her 44 years, she's proud of every bruise and scar.
The American Idol judges may be staying together as a team, but the Top 4 still had to lose a member Thursday night.
After performing three songs each on Wednesday, the Top 4 appeared exhausted after the show. Still, the contestants were tentatively confident they had done all they could to win the hearts – and votes – of America.
Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. will return to the American Idol judges table next season, a source confirms to PEOPLE.
Dubbed "the New Dream Team" last fall, the trio have had a "fantastic" experience on the reality competition, says the source.
"They like and respect each other a lot. What you see on camera is exactly what you get when they're off – fun, playful but they all take this job very seriously."
Police in Raleigh, North Carolina, said Wednesday that they have made one arrest in the home-invasion robbery of country star Scotty McCreery.
The suspect, Mikkail Jamal Shaw, 19, of Raleigh, turned himself in Tuesday night and was charged with conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon and robbery with a dangerous weapon.
"Additional suspects are known to have been involved, and the investigation is continuing," Raleigh police said in a statement Wednesday.
Scotty McCreery's week started on a very scary note, when he and his roommates were robbed at gunpoint at their apartment in Raleigh, North Carolina, early Monday morning.
The country singer, 20, who won season 10 of American Idol, was at home when three armed suspects entered his off-campus apartment near Raleigh's North Carolina State University (where he's a student) and ordered the singer and his roommates to turn over cash, wallets and electronics, according to Raleigh-Durham television station WTVD.
If there's one of Tori Spelling's former Beverly Hills, 90210 costars who isn't tuning into her dramatic True Tori docureality series, it's most likely Luke Perry.
"I think reality TV sucks for the most part," the veteran actor, 47, said when he sat down with PEOPLE last week.
"It's put so many writers out of business and put so many actors out of work that it's changed the face of entertainment. As a guy who has grown up making his living making primetime television – get that reality s––– out of here and give more writers and actors a chance to make shows that people will watch."
Which two American Idol contestants chose to have one of their own sent home on Thursday, rather than give everyone immunity?
The vote was anonymous, but PEOPLE can now reveal who voted for immediate elimination – rather than wait a week and have two people sent home then.
With only five contestants left in the competition, a fan favorite was sure to be sent home Thursday on American Idol.
The voting public had chosen some hits and some misses for the final five to sing on Wednesday night, and none of the competitors felt safe going into the elimination episode.
"I think we are all scared," contestant Alex Preston told reporters after performing Wednesday. "None of us are safe at this point. We are all on the same level."
But that was before everything turned topsy-turvy. (You guessed it: spoilers ahead …)