And the first of the Top 13 singers going home on "American Idol" is … Kristen O'Connor.
The speedy departure of the pretty, polished, pop-singing, 24-year-old nurse tech from Sebastian, Fla., likely surprised few. Even O'Connor probably saw it coming. After all, as she herself observed before taking the stage on Wednesday night to sing Kelly Clarkson's "Beautiful Disaster" as a wild-card contestant, heading into the performance with the judges' but not the voters' support, she had a lot to prove.
But whatever it was O'Connor wanted to demonstrate -- that she was more than just a pretty face, that she had serious vocal chops and crowd appeal, that she deserved to be there -- she did not, ultimately, manage to do so. It's not that her performances were so bad (though they certainly weren't so good), but more that they were "so what?" Her whole vibe had a cipherish Stepford Wife blandness. She didn't crash and burn so much as fail to take off -- and so she'll just taxi right off the runway and back on home.
Perhaps more surprising was one of the singers keeping O'Connor company in the bottom three this week. Not Malaya Watson. She surely belonged there after a breathless, unkempt performance that even she admitted was … um … not her best.
"Now watching it back, I didn't like it myself," Watson confessed of the "Runaway Baby" that got away from her, after learning she'd landed in the bottom three (but before falling further, into the bottom two). "I could have done better. I think I was a little too excited trying something new."
No, Watson had been duly warned, and she pledged to "calm down for once in my life" if she managed to make it through.
Fellow bottom-three member M.K. Nobilette, however, had performed well enough on Wednesday that her chances of going home seemed slim. Randy Jackson, who returned to parse the previous evening's performances, said he thought Nobilette had done "really well" with Allen Stone's "Satisfaction" and was "starting to blossom."
Perhaps Nobilette's near-fatal misstep was the decision to ditch the heartfelt ballads that had gotten her into the Top 13 in the first place. Asked what Nobilette should work on should she remain in the competition, Keith Urban said forging "an emotional connection" with the audience. It's "not going to be about all the skills," he warned. "It's going to be about emotion."
Nobilette will get the chance to heed that advice, as will the rest of the Top 12. But, alas, not O'Connor. The judges declined to use their sole save of the season on her behalf.
The decision to use the save "has to be a unanimous vote," Harry Connick Jr. explained. But after careful consideration, "the decision was not unanimous, which means we're going to have to say goodbye to you, Kristen."
Did Connick mean at least one of the judges, perhaps two, had been tempted to use the save on a wild-card contestant the very first week? That's hard to credit, even if Jennifer Lopez did seem sad to see O'Connor go. He must have simply meant the judges weren't unanimously in favor of using the save, though perhaps they were unanimous in their decision not to. But who knows?
What do you think of O'Connor's elimination? And what did you think of the performances by last year's winner Candice Glover and Jake Bugg, of whom Urban is a fan?