updated 02/07/2013 AT 9:00 AM ET
•originally published 02/06/2013 AT 11:00 PM ET
Caution: Contains spoilers!
Although producers didn’t unleash any tracker jackers on the contestants, they did throw in a couple unexpected twists: This season the week started off as a guys-only competition (the girls arrive in Hollywood next week), and after surviving a round of sudden death solo sing-offs, contestants would then be put into groups from which they couldn’t escape.
During the solo round, the standouts included two memorable contestants from the nationwide auditions. First up, Navy man Micah Johnson, who developed a speech impediment after suffering through a botched surgery to remove his tonsils. After a rousing rendition of Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets,” Johnson was the first to get the green light to the next round.
Joining him soon after was Cuban-American Lazaro Arbos, a 21-year-old ice cream scooper from Naples, Fla., who speaks with a severe stutter but sings with ease. Although Arbos admitted to being both “scared” and “petrified,” he quickly won the judges over – Nicki Minaj made her fingers into a heart-shape while he sang – with his take on the Robbie Williams hit, “Angels.”