The top 13 contestants opened the hour with a spirited medley of OneRepublic's "Counting Stars" and "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons. Long-time show host Ryan Seacrest then took his place before the live audience, and revealed that more than 71 million votes had been cast in response to the Feb. 26 show before welcoming "AI" judges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick, Jr. and Keith Urban to the stage.
After a recap of the top 13 performance show action and aftermath, Ryan began the elimination process by calling Ben Briley, Alex Preston, Jena Irene and Malaya Watson forward. Mentor Randy Jackson shared his impressions of the four hopefuls' Feb. 26 offerings. He thought Malaya's song "got the best of her," and that Jena "did a very good job" of getting her message across. Though he thought Ben's delivery was "a little too fast," he liked the presentation, and he thought Alex did a "great job" with the "subtleness of his performance." Ben was first to be declared safe, followed by Alex and Jena, making Malaya the first member of the bottom three.
Jennifer said she was "very upset" to see Malaya in danger, but even the teen confessed that she "didn't like" her own performance when she watched it and said she knew she could do better.
"AI" 2013 winner Candice Glover returned with a medley of her tunes, and after a bit of weirdness over Harry saying he wished he could see Keith naked, Ryan resumed the elimination action. Randy appreciated MK Nobillette's "swagger" and thought she did well, and predicted Sam Woolf would be "money" when he upgrades his performance skills to match his vocal quality. He called Majesty Rose "fabulous" but criticized Dexter Roberts for failing to take all of his notes with his take on "Aw, Naw." But despite Randy's thoughts, Dexter was called safe, followed by Majesty and Sam, leaving MK in danger.
Keith told MK to "make an emotional connection" and "touch everybody" if she survives to sing again.
Following a break, Keith introduced an aspiring British artist named Jake Bugg, who he praised as a "blend of everything raw and just great." The youngster performed his song "Me and You."
But more results were still to come, and Ryan called C.J. Harris, Kristen O'Connor, Caleb Johnson, Jessica Meuse and Emily Piriz to the stage to learn their fates. Randy thought C.J. needed to work on his consistency and avoid nerves, while he called Kristen's Kelly Clarkson cover "pretty good." He called Caleb's performance "electric" and was impressed with Jessica's "effortless" command of attention. Finally, he thought Emily's Pink cover "lacked... edge." Without wasting any time, Ryan immediately sent Kristen to the bottom three, effectively advancing the other four to the top 12.
In looking at the bottom three contestants, Harry called the outcome "surprising and not surprising," noting that all three had strong and weak elements to their respective performances.
As the three endangered ladies awaited their fates, Keith confessed that he wasn't sure that the judges would use the single season save, noting that the decision has to be unanimous. With that said, MK was sent to safety, leaving just Malaya and Kristen in danger. Moments later, Kristen found herself singing for her life. Her reprise of her Rush Week offering of Adele's "Turning Tables" was fair, but not spectacular.
Harry delivered the bad news, noting that the decision "was not unanimous" and that she'd be leaving the "AI" competition. Kristen said she "learned so much about myself, who I am as a performer" since her first audition, and expressed her gratitude to the judges as well as her fans.
As the closing credits played, Ryan congratulated the top 12 and revealed that the theme for the March 5 performance show would be "home."
"American Idol" 2014 resumes March 5 on FOX.