For those who made it past Hollywood Week, the one thing the Top 40 remaining "American Idol" contestants were hoping for was that no matter what happened in Vegas, they would not be staying in Vegas. Because the "American Idol" judges would cut twenty from the last forty -- ten girls, ten guys. Vegas had become the "Sudden Death" Round, with four installments. Ryan Seacrest described the Wednesday night (Feb. 20) show best, according to People magazine, with six words: "One song, one chance, no mercy."
The Las Vegas "Sudden Death" Round in a nutshell: Four shows. In each: Ten up. Five out. Five in. And all before a live audience at Las Vegas' The Mirage Casino.
Then the Top 20 returns to Hollywood to sing for America's votes and a place in the 2013 "Idol" Top 10.
Viewers probably knew from the outset of Jenny Beth Willis' performance that she wasn't going to make it back to Hollywood. The song was just boring. And when Tenna Torres nailed Natasha Bedingfield's "Soulmate" and Judge Randy Jackson said he felt the competition started with Torres, you knew Willis had hit her last note (the one highlight of her song, no less). When 17-year-old Adriana Latonio (the first ever "Idol" finalist from Alaska) slowly built to a sustained note crescendo on Aretha Franklin's "Ain't No Way," there was no way Willis was staying in the competition.
And she didn't. When time came to cut, she was the first to hear the bad news. The others to hear they wouldn't return to Hollywood were: Kamaria Ousley, whose version of Kelly Clarkson's "Mr. Know It All" was simply unimpressive; Isabelle, who nailed the vocals and possibly caused a fight in discussions; Brandy Hotard, who also nailed her vocals but wanted to do the pageant smile (during Travis Tritt's sad "Anymore") and lost connection with the judges; and Shubha Vedula, who not only packed some Middle Eastern runs in her rendition of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way," but seemed a bit frenetic when she stepped out from behind the piano, prompting Judge Nicki Minaj to compare her to a cross between Christina Aguilera and "the 'Gangnam Style' guy."
But "Idol" had to have its moment of drama. Shubha found out her fate alongside her best friend, Adriana. The girls had bonded since going to Hollywood and, prior to the reveal, tearfully confided to host Ryan Seacrest that having the final position come down to a choice between them was hard to take. But they would remain friends, no matter what. Still, viewers at home already knew "what" and they weren't disappointed.
There were three other three girls receiving good news from the judges. Kree Harrison, who did a blues-tinged version of Patti Griffin's "Up To The Mountain," had the judges wowed. Judge Minaj told her that she was sexy when she sang, that she "made love" to the songs she performed.
Amber Holcomb, who was cut during Season 11, brought with her a renewed confidence and solid vocals. She performed "My Funny Valentine" from the musical "Babes In Arms," but she did it with an R&B flourish.
Teenager Angela Miller, who might have become the frontrunner in the competition since last week's Solo performance of an original composition, also escaped sudden death. She knocked out a version of Jessie J's "Nobody's Perfect" and had the judges lauding both of her last two performances. Judge Jackson said that he thought "America [was] witnessing the building of a superstar."
So "Sudden Death -- Part 1" was history. Five in. Five out.
Thursday night will see the first ten guys perform for their spot in the Top 20. By the end of the evening, five more contestants receive the news they will be headed back to Hollywood. Five will head home.
"American Idol" airs at 8 p.m. (EST) on Wednesdays and Thursdays on Fox Television.