The Night the Lights Went Out on Mandisa

Question: Has there, in the five-year history of "American Idol," ever been a country-themed night that was, you know, good?

Yeah, I can't think of one either.

This year's crop of performers seemed especially ill-suited to twang it up, what with its rockers (Chris), belters (Mandisa, Katharine, Paris) and crooners (Taylor, why didn't you sing one of your hero Ray Charles' country songs Tuesday?). So it wouldn't have been much of a surprise to see any of the remaining nine singers go home.

That said, Mandisa probably deserved to stay in the competition a little longer. But the combination of a theme outside her comfort zone and a shaky song choice sent the mononymous 29-year-old -- who, a little bit ironically, is from Tennessee and went to college in Nashville -- back to the Volunteer State on Wednesday.

The producers decide to mix up the revelation of the results, so following a performance by last night's advisor, Kenny Rogers, and the Major Automotive Sponsor music video of the week, Seacrest dispatches the contestants to stand in groups of three on stage. If the idea is to create suspense, it doesn't work that well, as Mandisa, Elliott and Paris complete one group while five of their cohorts still sit on the bench. Once Kellie joins Taylor on one side of the stage and Katharine joins up with Ace, it's pretty obvious who the bottom three are.

Of course, the show drags things out as much as possible, with Seacrest sending Taylor, Chris and Kellie back to the safety of the couch first. We get a commercial break, then we come back for all of 95 seconds to find out who the bottom three are before another set of ads.

Seriously, ninety-five seconds.

A few minutes later, we find out Mandisa is headed home. There's a weird little reaction shot of Taylor, trying to decide whether he should clap or not at the announcement (wisely, he opts not to). Mandisa sings us out one last time, and it's a shame she has to do the song she did Tuesday, because she's better than that.

But hey, at least she won't have to suffer through the songs of Queen next week. That's more than the rest of us can say.

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