'American Idol': We'll All Go Down Together

Last night the hell of Group Night began.

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Well that was frustrating, huh? Sometimes divining from the Idol tea leaves just how they're going to structure their season can be hard and we don't figure it out correctly ahead of time, so it came as an annoying surprise last night that we got a mostly singing-free episode. I suppose I should have seen the signs that it was only an hour long, that there's no way you could smoosh all the drama of Group Night plus performances into that short a time. But I chose foolish hope instead of hard pragmatism, so as the little DVR arrow inched closer and closer to the end of the yellow line and we were still in the middle of the rehearsal night, disappointment began its terrible creep. So, yeah, there was no singing last night, not really. Ah, well. Let's talk about it anyway.

Group Night is, if nothing else, a wonderful way to see how socially awkward humans are. Gosh, aren't we all just the worst? Every single one of us is a special snowflake, all unique in our own stupid miserableness. We're all such jerks! And weirdos, and yoohoos, and yahoos, and yokels. Obviously scrambling around an auditorium in Los Angeles trying to find a group of strangers to sing a song with you is not exactly a direct corollary to daily human life, but it's a close enough allegory that we can glean things about ourselves from it. Mostly that talking to people is so awkward! Even if you're like Joe Cool Smoothington, some other person out there watching you be Senor Slickstuff is getting a little vicariously embarrassed at the sight of you swaggering around. Watching strangers talk to each other is one of reality television's most upsetting delights, and American Idol Group Night does not disappoint in that arena.

There were three people who were especially dreadful to watch last night. The first was a policewoman who could not find a group to sing "Joy to the World" or "Stuck Like Glue" (a Sugarland song, I think?) with her. I'm sorry, just want to check, did you get that she is a policewoman? Yeah, she's a cop, a woman in blue, the city's finest, etc. and etc. forever. Just want to make sure you got that, because it's not like she said that she was a cop forty thousand times last night. It's not as if that was the first annoying thing she said to every damn person she talked to. As a way to deflect from her unpleasant personality — complete unwillingness to sing anything else, a general badgering and bullying quality about her — she kept saying "People don't like cops, people just don't like cops." Then maybe don't tell them you're a cop? Maybe just nicely walk up to someone and say "Hey, what are you singing, any interesting in singing this, let's be friends forever, ok, great"? Or maybe not that, but you know. Something other than "I'M A COP SING THIS SONG WITH ME, DAMMIT." People don't not like you because you're a cop, they don't like you because you're you. Or at least acting like you. Sorry, lady. Oof, was she annoying!

Another irksome person was Heejun Han, that robot that sings "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You." That's his only song, and really his only robot function. The mysterious, misty-eyed robot inventor who created Heejun Han in his lonely mountain laboratory just didn't have the heart to give the Heejun robot human feelings, because the world is just too sad and too hurtful. The old inventor missed his dead wife, who loved the song "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You," so he made a robot that sings that song, but he decided to spare the robot the emotional pains of this world. So Heejun is just very weird and monotone and unfriendly. I don't know if his whole shuffling, mumbling weirdo thing is an act or not, but it kind of feels like it is, so watching him act all weird and put-off by a friendly kid in a cowboy hat who was just trying to get their group to do something interesting was really annoying. "I have a whole new opinion of cowboys," Heejun said in his stunted, irksome character voice. I think he thinks he's really funny? Quite a character? Quite a sketch? Haha, the weird sardonic guy who has no tonal variation but always says what we're thinking about how everything's annoying and stupid! Oh I love that character on The Big Bang Theory or whatever stupid show this guy is trying to get on. Just very unpleasant, how unpleasant Heejun was being to his teammates. Not that the cowboy hat kid was some saint or anything, he was pretty bad too. "OK, OK, I'm doing MY interview now," he chuckled grossly at a teammate who came up to say hi during his interview segment. "My interview," he said with such grasping, needy authority. Already so well-versed in the reality lingo and format, are we cowboy? Harumph. Harumph I say to all of you. See how terrible people are? See how dopey and dumb we all are?

There was some kind of contagion going around Group Night, and a few people, Gwyneth Paltrow included, unfortunately died. Yeah, there were several folks swaying and vomiting and looking like they got run over by Ryan Seacrest's sunburst yellow Miata, and I genuinely felt sorry for them. But the one person complaining the most about being sick? The girl who lives in a tent in the woods, you remember her, and oh, boy, did I not feel bad for her. Because I don't think she was really sick. I think she's just an excuse-maker, every perceived potential failure gets preemptively dismissed with a lame excuse. In this case the excuse was that she was just So Sick. Sitting on a chair with her head in her hands, trying to make her hand tremble, basically everything a high school kid does when they're trying to get out of school the day of the big test. But then! What's this! Suddenly, as if the kid just learned it was a snow day and he didn't have to fake at all, Tent in the Woods was suddenly full of vim and zip and vigor the moment she found a group she liked and started rehearsing. What a freaking fantastic miracle! Cured! While others around her lolled their green heads about and puked into garbage bags, ol' Tent in the Woods, previously so, so, so sick, referred to as Patient Zero by Ryan Seacrest, was just fine. Must have been one of those forty-five minute when things seem potentially awkward and the prospect of failure looms bugs. You hear about those all the time. Yup. That's what it was. Glad she's better.

So yeah, in case you can't tell I'm a little unhappy with this episode. I love Hollywood Week, I just wish it was actually a week sometimes. I know we're not quite there, not quite ready to vote on people just yet, but I feel we're getting close. Phillip Phillips is still a bobby dreamsocks that we allll want to vote for, that wedding singer girl is the Idol Adele we've been waiting for, the NBA cheerleader (or is it NFL?) should be an interesting character should she make it, and we will all race as fast as we can to not vote for Reed Grimm, or Heejun, or The Cop. (Not that The Cop will make it through. I find that highly unlikely.) These are things we already know, people we're already acquainted with, so I think we're almost ready to get this bad boy in real time and start voting. (Or not voting, as the case likely is with most of us. But you know what I mean.) We're just almost ready and I wish we could have gotten readier by seeing some singing and eliminations last night. Ah well! Until next Wednesday. When it will all be figured out. On Thursday, that is.

Oh, and, the girl who fell? She's fine, and singing in a group. And has a horrible stage dad who is a nightmare. People! Aren't we the best?

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