'American Idol' Finally Gets It Right

Well, I believe I may owe America an apology.

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Well, I believe I may owe America an apology. I'd been laboring under the assumption that somewhere out there in the corn-fatted expanse of this failing experiment were legions of voters who would, despite all obvious reason and fact, vote and vote and vote for Lazaro Arbos, so hard and so fervently that he might end up in the Top 3 of this, our seventy-second Idoliad. And I did have some evidence to support this assumption. I mean, he did make it this far, didn't he? To the Top 5? Past Burnell, past Curtis Finch, past some old drifter singing Hanoi river shanties out in the parking lot. So there were definitely people, lots of people, voting for Lazaro when everything about Lazaro was screaming to be sent home. So I wasn't completely baseless in my assumption. But, yeah, in the end I was wrong about how strong this voting bloc was. Ultimately Lazaro proved too awful for America to bear and he was sent unceremoniously packing last night, thank ye gods, thank ye devils, thank ye agnostic balls of gas glowering in the cosmos. And apologies to you, America. I underestimated you. But only a little.

So yes, Lazaro was sent home. He was made to warble some sad notes in front of the judges as if they, after weeks of pillorying, might save him. We all knew this was not going to happen, was never gonna happen, but he had to do it anyway. Formality demanded it, the rules are rigid and firm. "One must mind the rrrulessss!" Ryan is often known to trill in a high-pitched voice, rolling the "r" and pronouncing it "ROO-ells." Often times it's accompanied by a swift slap on the hand of whoever is trying to deviate from what's been set out, what was determined long ago, many ancient eons past, written down on scrolls and buried in some Assyrian cave, to be found centuries later by Ryan in a pith helmet, scraping through rocks and then shrieking, "I think I've found something!" Ryan is very strict about these rules, and so Lazaro was made to sing. "Order in everything and everything in order," Ryan said as he puttered about the stage, showing Lazaro to his mark and cueing up the band. I'd say poor Lazaro, but Lazaro was the worst. Really the worst! Pushy and vain and unpleasant. Lazzie go home.

The rest of the episode was mostly silly. The kids came out and did one of their medleys, all lopsided now that it's five girls and just one guy. Or was one guy. Now it's just five girls. A Top 5 that's all girls. How about that. They pulled it off. The really did. (Was Lazaro's elimination rigged? Could that be possible?) After the group number, Ryan did his now-familiar shtick about how this season they're bringing back old Idols past, to remind us I guess of this show's once great and towering relevance, of the grandeur before the ruins, the lush hanging gardens before they withered and fell, the gleaming civilization before the eruptions came and sank it into the sea. It's a sad little thing they're doing, but at least it gives us the chance to see people like Scotty "The Body" McCreery.

He sang a song about pullin' up into a girl's driveway in his truck. And no that's not a euphemism, he really meant an actual driveway and an actual truck. This is the kind of hokey, fake Americana that Scotty traffics in, these notions of soft sweet summer nights and reg'lar guys and reg'lar gals doin' reg'lar thangs. It's all hogwash and hooey, all manufactured in air-conditioned rooms by committees of people. But some folks seem to lap it up, to really enjoy this pretty Rockwell Jr. portrait of the nation that Scotty is painting with his goopy words, sluicing out things about bleachers and ponytails and whatever else he sings about. I guess it's kind of charming in its cold, calculating way, but there's also something vaguely unsettling about it, like there are dark secrets lurking behind all the aw-shucks schmaltz. Where does the guy go with the gal when she gets in his pickup truck in the middle of the night? What was that loud splash coming from the wishing well? Why does the truck end up at the bottom of Hickson's Pond? Those questions are never answered in the song, but they're lingering there in the air nonetheless, like dark lightning bugs, like bats swooping sightlessly through the sky. Scotty. I dunno. Sometimes he gives me the shivers. After he performed you could hear Ryan say to Scotty, "Hey, you been workin' out?" and I could almost feel Ryan's dainty fingers clasped around my (nonexistent) bicep. More shivers!

Then Kelly Clarkson came out, doing a weird blacklight Ke$ha thing that is beneath her, but she sang well, blasting everyone else out of the water and reminding the folks there and at home how this show used to do it, back before the Fall. Kelly then had a weird/cute little interaction with Mariah, who was just thrilled to be given some attention. The results episodes are hard that way, the judges just kind of sit there and nod and smile. So Mariah getting to go up on stage and have a little hug with Kelly Clarkson? That was nice for her.

And then it was results time and we all know how that ended. Amber was in the bottom with Lazaro, not Janelle as I'd predicted. Janelle was in the middle with Angie Mills, leaving Candice (duh) and Kree (nice!) in the top two. This is shaping up to be an interesting final run to the end. Yes I just said "interesting" in relation to this season. Now with all the out-and-out duds gone, we might have a real competition on our hands. I mean, things could also continue on blandly and without much merit, but there's a chance that we might get some fire and juice. Speaking of, please swing by my new grill and juice bar, Fire 'n' Juice. I promise it will be disgusting.

I suppose that's that! Lazaro's gone, now we can move on. When Lazaro was done singing and they'd said goodbye and he was ushered off the stage, a staffer showed him to the back door, pushed it open and sent him staggering off into the evening sun of Hollywood. There all the brown hills and mountains surrounding him, there all the skinny mean palm trees, there all the lazy kids with their slouching and sunglasses, the fearsome city kids of the West. And now he was one of them, he supposed. He couldn't go back to Miami. Not now. He'd seen and done too much. So instead, he'd stay. But where? And how? He was trying to figure this all out when he heard the putter of a car engine behind him and he turned around and there was Ryan, in his gleaming black Miata. "Hey kiddo," Ryan said, a strain of something odd in his voice. "What are you doing?" Lazaro started to answer but Ryan cut him off. "Hey, why don't I make you dinner?" Lazaro, hungry and in need of some company, nodded his head. Ryan leaned over and opened the passenger door and Lazaro, kinda liking that cool guy move, got in. Ryan sped off, down long boulevards, past a thousand dirty storefronts, and then up, up and up and up, into one of those brown hills. Ryan driving fast and confident, the sun dipping down below the horizon now, the dense trees making the air dark and chilly. "We're almost there," Ryan said, as if sensing Lazaro's sudden discomfort. "Don't worry. You're almost home." Lazaro wasn't quite sure what he meant by that, but whatever, Ryan was always kind of weird, he figured it was just an expression or something.

Finally they pulled up to Ryan's dark house and Ryan led Lazaro in, dark wood doors closing heavily behind them, the house quiet but not exactly still. "Is someone else home?" Lazaro asked. "In a manner of speaking," Ryan said. Then, as if appearing out of thin air, there, standing in the shadows of a hallway across the foyer, was a figure. Shaggy hair, muscular, eyes like Lazaro had never seen. "Hi." Lazaro said tentatively to the figure. "I'm Lazaro. Ryan is making me dinner." The figure in the shadows chuckled at that. Ryan walked toward it. He stopped, turned back to Lazaro, and, with a sinister smile but a faint look of sadness in his eyes, said, "That's right. You're dinner." The shadowy figure laughed again and Lazaro only got out one strangled "Help!" before everything was teeth, and then tearing, and then red, and then nothing. Just a bow tie fluttering to the floor, all alone.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.