American Idol recap: May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor

On the show's milestone 500th episode, the final three battle illness and microphone stands to get into next week's finale.
Ep. 36 | Aired May 14, 2014

Caleb Johnson, "Demons" by Imagine Dragons: Healthy or not, Caleb started the song in a very vulnerable place -- and, unfortunately, it just seemed to get worse. The entire song was tense and lacked energy to the point where I was nervous listening to him sing. Instead of critiquing him, all the judges could really do was try to give back a little of the confidence he had clearly lost from the first performance. Keith said he was feeling for Caleb, and J.Lo reassured him that he will recover and his voice will be the same. Then J.Lo started to make another critique that somehow turned into a compliment. At first, I agreed that Caleb needed to rely on other things as a performer when faced with obstacles like this. He was thinking too much about the notes and "getting there," a.k.a. surviving. I don't agree, though, that it ever changed his performance. I think the only emotions he had in the song were not from the demons he was singing about, but from the demons in his head telling him he couldn't do it.

Ryan insisted that he would only ask Caleb yes or no questions so he wouldn't have to talk any more than necessary. So of course Harry thought it would be a good idea to ask Caleb a question instead of giving him a critique. Great, now we know Caleb wants to make a powerful, soulful, original album. Let's see if he'll ever make it.

Alex Preston, "Stay" by Rihanna (featuring Mikky Ekko): It's more than clear from his first two performances that Alex definitely wants to stay in this competition. Alex did the impossible by making me forget completely about Rihanna. Unlike some earlier performances, the song's arrangement made it almost unrecognizable -- but in the best way possible. As J.Lo said, Alex made her forget about everybody else and made it all his. You know what that means, don't you? GOOSIE ALERT! Alex really stepped up to the plate tonight and was swinging for the fences. Of course, it was the judges' pick, but it was smart to sing such a simple song. It was almost like Alex had a blank slate.

Then Keith began to sniff his microphone, claiming it smelled like parrot's breath. Before you think he's completely lost it, it seems Keith has been dared/made a bet/seduced/forced into doing some pretty stupid things tonight, which later include a literal bag of tricks under his seat that included a sippy cup and shish kabob. Can anyone take this show seriously anymore?

We were then reminded what the other finalists looked like before they all return for the finale next week. Like Jessica Meuse told me last week in her exit interview, the contestants proved the show is really just like The Hunger Games with their synchronized hand salutes. Ryan also announced Darius Rucker, Jennifer Nettles, John Legend, Phillip Phillips, and Demi Lovato as some of the performers joining the contestants onstage next week. Remember when Demi was on the show earlier this season and told Jena she wanted to sing with her? Well, now she totally can! But first -- let's see Jena try and sing one of Demi's songs. Oh great, she's next!

Jena Irene, "Heart Attack" by Demi Lovato: Again, Harry called this song a high risk/high reward situation, and Jena was really happy with the selection when it was unveiled as her very large Italian family surrounded her. ("OMG! That's a perfect song!") And shut up, adorable little cousin (I presume): She will learn how to sing the song next week! Wait, you don't know it already? I think one of Jena's main problems toward the end of the competition is that all of her arrangements are starting too low. She needs more room in her range to show off and grow. This has often resulted in wobbly entrances and starts. Yes, she always pulls it out by the end, but a good performance is consistent throughout -- something Jena is not really. Or at least yet. J.Lo thought Jena was much more loose and free with the song, and Harry asked another random question about the type of performer Jena wanted to be outside of the show. She said she would want more instrumental breaks to dance with the crowd. Awww...way to sucker in the votes.

NEXT PAGE: Hometown picks

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