"American Idol" kicked off its Top 9 results show, the first of the shows to go to a half-hour format (another sad indicator that the once powerful ratings juggernaut is losing precious viewer steam, but, as HitFix noted in its real-time recap on March 27, it had been promised and threatened and hoped for years), with one guarantee: The Top 8 would be revealed. And yet, the judges still had a Save that they could use up to and through to the Top 6 performance show. So... would they use it?
The nine gathered at their post-performance show dinner, talking up the night. Caleb Johnson couldn't believe Judge Jennifer Lopez had called him "sexy." But Alex Preston brought out the best talking point -- a shoe. (After Alex's critique, where Judge Harry Connick Jr mentioned his ankles, host Ryan Seacrest had done a sock striptease. Judge Harry stole his shoe... But Ryan had continued -- so was he wearing two shoes or was he half shoeless the rest of the night? Hmmmm....) Caleb (who Ryan had used as a stand-in once -- and then mimicked his singing antics at his side) said that the shoe had the power of Ryan Seacrest and went into an "announcer" voice.
All fun aside, it was time to get serious. Ryan immediately told the audience that there would be a change-up in the voting results reveal. Instead of trotting out three or four contestants and revealing who was safe, this week he would let the jumbo screen at the back of the stage reveal those who were making the Top 8.
First safe finalist: Jena Irene. And well she should have been after that stellar performance on the Top 9 performance show. Many thought she ended the show with the best performance, while some held out that she and Caleb Johnson had delivered a one-two punch to finish the night. Either way, shared or not, she had the best performance.
Second safe finalist: Malaya Watson. The girl was showing her chops the night before and America responded with some support. You never know how its going to go with a Beatles tune, but she pulled it off. America thought so as well.
Third safe finalist: It was a fake-out. Ryan said he would make the reveal after Janelle Monae performed.
Monae hit the stage with an energetic new tune from the "Rio 2" soundtrack, "What Is Love?" Nice and vibrant with all kinds of hints of Latin music, Monae rocked the song with what looked like a hundred dancers with her on stage -- giving it sort of a Carnival feel but looking more like a Vegas show.
After the break, it was time for a few more reveals.
Third safe contestant: Alex Preston. Since his performance was probably third best, the jumbo screen reveal wan't bad timing for his Top 9 results finish.
Fourth: Jessica Meuse. Not a shocker. She's got a great voice and a lot of poise.
Fifth: Caleb Johnson. Besides Jena Irene, he was one you knew would make the Top 8 (unless something had gone horribly wrong in the voting). He rocked out Led Zeppelin on the performance show so well you knew the guy was born to it.
Sixth finalist to make the Top 8: Dexter Roberts. Somewhat of a surprise, due to his rendition of "Boondocks" (Little Big Town) not being anything other than adequate, but, then, it wasn't bad, so... Anyway, he got enough votes to make the Top 8.
That left just three sitting on stage. The dreaded bottom three. Those three were: C. J. Harris, Majesty Rose, and Sam Woolf. This was Majesty Rose's third consecutive week in the bottom. It was Sam's second time. C. J. had never been in the bottom (although some would argue he should've been after performing Hunter Hayes' "Invisible" last week) and some might argue that he shouldn't have been there on this particular results show, but one can't dispute Ryan's envelope of results. Numbers count. Hindsighted opinions do not.
After the break, it was time to find out who would be singing for the Save.
Ryan told the guys they could head back to the lounge. They had made the Top 8. Majesty Rose just smiled and said she was ready.
The judges huddled up. Majesty did a great job with her "Save Me" song, Pharrell Williams' "Happy," but, when Ryan asked what their decision was, Judge Keith Urban announced that the voting had not been unanimous, that it was the "hardest deliberation" and it had been by a "narrow, narrow margin" (yes, one vote is the narrowest of margins -- oh, wait...) so the 22-year-old from North Carolina would not be Saved.
Prior to the elimination, while there was still three standing, Ryan had asked Jennifer Lopez if she thought the three in the bottom should be the three in the bottom. Had America gotten it right? Judge Harry (whose real name is Jennifer Lopez, so it's very confusing at times) said that America was smart. He then stopped himself, asked if Ryan had wanted Jennifer to answer. She laughed and told him to continue. He begged off, but she insisted. Harry finally went on to say America seemed to be voting this season on individual performances, which was smart, given that all the "American Idol" finalists were all so talented.
"American Idol" Top 8 return next week. The show airs at 8 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 p.m. on Thursdays on Fox Television (times are Eastern Standard).