'American Idol' recap: Sam Woolf gets the save

The voters tried to send Sam Woolf home on "American Idol" on Thursday night, but for some reason the judges unanimously decided to use their one save of the season to snatch him back from elimination.

Why? Well, who knows really? Maybe Harry Connick Jr.'s daughters, who he predicted back during Woolf's audition would have a crush on the bashful young singer, had made him promise to save Sam, should his number come up.

In any case, there wasn't time for Connick, Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban to explain their decision before the end of the half-hour results show, on which, incidentally, Daughtry performed. And though I'm sure an explanation will be forthcoming, at first blush the choice to spend the lone save of the season on Sam is a little confounding.

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Although the show has positioned Woolf as the season's teen heartthrob, the 17-year-old singer has clearly been uncomfortable with this role. Asked by Ryan Seacrest one week if he was singing a love song to a particular girl, he panicked and stammered out, "My grandma?" It got to the point that, during this week's performance show, Connick advised him to pick someone -- anyone -- in the crowd to smile at, just to come off as less aloof.

"When you hear all these young people scream," Connick told Woolf on Wednesday, "all you need to do is acknowledge them."

Given Woolf's difficulty connecting with an audience and generally stiff, scared-looking onstage demeanor, it seemed almost a foregone conclusion that -- designated heartthrob or not -- voters would send him home one of these weeks. He'd been in the bottom three twice before, and a week in which he had shown only incremental growth -- baby steps -- when many of his rivals had made great strides was perhaps as a good a time as any to say goodbye to the sweet, shy singer who came across as perpetually terrified, if also talented.

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The judges apparently didn't see it that way. After Woolf sang his save-me song, David Gray's "Babylon," looking maybe a little less frightened than usual, even as he faced the prospect of going home, Lopez delivered the news.

"We are unanimous," she said. "We're going to use the save tonight."

Maybe they'd already decided to use it this week no matter who faced elimination? After all, the top-8 singers had had a strong night overall, with no obvious dramatic stumbles -- and the save is only in play until the top 6.

Still, now, if a worthier candidate -- a real potential winner -- requires rescuing next week or the week after, the judges will be powerless to save him or her -- meaning those contestants who stepped up their games this week had better step it up even more from here.

Suddenly, the season promises to get a little more interesting.

Do you think the judges were right to use their sole save on Sam Woolf?


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