updated 04/14/2011 AT 9:30 PM ET
•originally published 04/14/2011 AT 9:35 PM ET
After a night of music from the movies – and some risky song choices by contestants like Casey Abrams and James Durbin – Thursday was elimination night again on American Idol.
This week, no major jolts.
Paul McDonald, the resident folk-pop troubadour, was voted off.
Jennifer Lopez, on the verge of tears, requested he sing “Maggie May” as his encore, and he performed it with what could be his trademark gesture – holding out his hand as if he’d just doffed his hat.
“You’ve had such an amazing impact on this show,” said Ryan Seacrest.
Frankly, I just don’t know how he lasted as long as he did – that sort of husky dry voice has its place in pop music (you know, Sting and all that), but he seemed to be steadily shrinking in scope as a performer. Those playfully fancy suits turned into his uniform. He was personable, likable, unpretentious and consistent.
Stefano Langone was back in the bottom two after singing “End of the Road” Wednesday. The judges had thought his performance was strong enough to keep him in the running and fulfilled the spirit of Lopez’s advice: “You’ve got to stop singing to STAY. You’ve got to start singing to WIN.”
And they were right, to the extent that he now has another week.
Haley Reinhart landed in the bottom along with McDonald and Langone. Before Seacrest sent her back to the safety of the survivors’ furniture, she was looking limp, defeated and doomed. On Wednesday’s show, singing “Call Me,” she was the only contestant who met with a less than thrilled reaction from the often-delirious judges.
But Lopez’s wish was granted by the voting public: The women’s losing streak was broken.
And Abrams pulled off something of a miracle, avoiding the bottom altogether despite a challengingly offbeat version of “Nature Boy.” Viewers apparently weren’t swamped with terror by the judges’ invoking the notion of an Idol winner with a bent for jazz.
This week the show returned to the format, a good one, of having the finalists sing in combos: Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery sang a sweet, inconsequential “American Honey.” Casey was joined by Haley for a jazzy duet of “Moanin’ ” – it was, surprisingly, one of Haley’s better numbers.
Paul, Stefano, Jacob Lusk and Durbin sang a rather soupy “Sound of Silence,” then segued into “Mrs. Robinson.” Pia Toscano was in the audience, and gave them an ovation.
The hour was filled out with Rob Reiner, talking about movies and music (and poking fun at the notorious failed Idol movie vehicle, From Justin to Kelly), Idol winner Kelly Clarkson (star of that aforementioned bomb) singing “Don’t You Want to Stay” with Jason Aldean, and Rihanna emerging from behind gauzy curtains to sing “California King Bed.”