'American Idol': The Lonely Death of Paul Jolley

A dark day dawned on DisneyWorld, because its beloved son was dead, tossed carelessly into a Hollywood dumpster, left to molder amid the skeletons of so many singtestants before him. What I am saying to you, dear readers, is that Paul Jolley is gone.

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And lo the clouds did gather over Orlando. A chill wind blew down Main Street U.S.A. Frontierland suddenly seemed small and finite, Tomorrowland's future grew dim. A dark day dawned on DisneyWorld, because its beloved son was dead, tossed carelessly into a Hollywood dumpster, left to molder amid the skeletons of so many singtestants before him. What I am saying to you, dear readers, is that Paul Jolley is gone. There is no more Jolley in our lives, it is now only misery. How did this happen? Let's figure it out.

How does one ever write about an elimination episode? It's a lot of light and noise leading up to one single, solitary, lonely result. When, in the eons to come, they are sifting through the remains of our civilization, scanning our skulls to see what our brains might have done, the most surprising thing, perhaps even the most insidious thing, that they will learn is that we spent an hour every Thursday watching one thing happen. One thing! They will marvel at the strange and upsetting fact that a company called Fox — "What is a fox? What is an animal?" — successfully convinced millions of us to sit for a whole hour, sixty minutes of our tiny fleeting lives, to watch one person be told that they aren't going to be a celebrity anymore. I think there is nothing more telling about our society than that. About three percent of the nation's population willingly sits and does this once a week. What's that stupid word that stupid people use on the Internet? "Sheeple"? In this regard, yes, we are sheeple.

So that's me working through that. I still have to talk about what happened anyway. Casey Abrams sang. Do you remember Casey Abrams? Of course you don't remember Casey Abrams. Why on earth would anyone remember Casey Abrams? And yet Ryan introduced him last night as if we'd all nod our heads vigorously and say "Oh yes, Casey Abrams!" He didn't give him any introduction, any context, any preamble. It was just... "Casey Abrams!" and then there he was, this utter stranger, looking like a sasquatch who got into jazz in college, plunking out a bad rendition of "I Saw Her Standing There." Casey has a really good way of making creepy lyrics sound even creepier, and so he really slithered into the line "Well, she was just 17 / You know what I mean." Sounded super duper awful when he sang it, didn't it? Really scary and inappropriate and bad. "Here to sing to you about children is Casey Abrams!" Not a good look, Idol. Not a good look. So that was that. Casey sang, and then he went home to make more jokes about homelessness. Because being homeless is hysterical.

After that it was time for one "Jessica Sanchez." She was at least given an introduction. It seems that Jessica Sanchez was a contestant on the last season of American Idol. Do you remember her? I don't know who she is, but maybe some of you do. Anyway, she sang a new pop song with the singer Ne-Yo and it was fine. It was a little embarrassing, seeing her try to be a cool pop star, but whatever. Sure there was a man holding a fan that she walked up to so she could have her hair blow in the wind, like an actual human man holding a fan, but whatever. People are going to do what people are going to do. And why should we begrudge them that? Jessica Sanchez and her fan man didn't show up to our houses, demanding to be watched. We turned it on, we didn't flip the channel. So who are any of us, who am I, to complain about young Jessica. She did what she was going to do and I watched it. There it was. Her billow-pants, her Ne-Yo, her man with a fan. That's just who she is.

OK, let's get down to the brass tax. The elimination. Ryan did perhaps the cruelest Seacresty thing he's ever done. He brought Paul up and said "Hey how about this, your rinky-dink hometown, a hole no one's ever cared about, has made March blahbitty blah Paul Jolley day. Isn't that neat? Oh also you're in the bottom three." It was such a weird, stark reversal that even a Disneyfied toothpaste model like Paul Jolley couldn't hide his amused revulsion. Really, Ryan? That's some coldblooded sh-t right there, man. Oh well. So yeah, Paul was in the bottom (he's vers) as were Amber and Devin. Everyone was surprised about Amber, but I wasn't. I mean, yes, Lazaro should have been fired out of a cannon and shot back to whatever Florida mansion he came crawling out of, so it was not good that he was safe, but it wasn't surprising. He cried! America voted for Lazaro's dumb crocodile tears. That's all. And Amber has not distinguished herself on the show at all. I hardly know who Amber is. Do you know who Amber is? I know who Amber is only a little bit more than I know who Jessica Sanchez is, which is not at all. So yeah, if a girl was going to be in danger, of course it was going to be Amber. But ultimately, of course, she was fine.

Ryan read his name quickly. Better to rip the band-aid off quickly rather than prolong it. Paul then sang "Alone" in the pretend hopes of getting a judges' save. He knew he wasn't getting it. Everyone knew he wasn't getting it. It was bad and the judges don't like Paul and that's all there was to it. So he was sent off. And you could see the dying in Ryan's eyes. Not a look of pain or grief, but rather a light going out. Paul was not sexy new contestant Paul anymore. He was just a guy who got voted off. Paul didn't notice the change, so after the show he treated things like normal, finding a quiet moment to approach Ryan and speak softly to him. Ryan was monotone, distant. "Hey," he said to Paul, grabbing his hand and walking him out the door. "Let's go to my place this time." Paul's heart leapt. Finally. They sat in silence as Ryan drove them up into the hills, up and and up and up on tiny winding roads. The whole of the city was splayed out in orange abandon below them and the wind was cool as it rushed through the trees — the eucalyptus, the sycamores, the fat and fan-like palms. Finally they arrived at Ryan's house, Paul gulping with wonder at the huge heavy wooden door, the dark of the windows, the sudden silence of the place. Ryan led him in, the door closing behind them with a thud. As they stood in the foyer, Paul thought he heard footsteps from upstairs, weighted and slow. "Is there someone else here?" he asked. Ryan turned to him, his gaze dull and unconcerned. "Sort of," he replied, before walking to the foot of the stairs and calling out. "Tim! Tim honey. I have something for you. Something I think you're going to like." He turned to Paul. "Wait here," he said before quickly walking off down a dark hallway. Paul stood, confused. And then he heard them again. The footsteps, slow but persistent. And then on the landing, at the top of the stairs: A figure. A shadow of something. And eyes. Two glowing eyes. Staring right at him. They were the last things Paul Jolley saw before, with a snarl and a crunch, Tim was upon him and everything was over.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.