The Wild Card episode dramatically introduces numbers: 10,000+! auditions, 30! made the semi-finals, 9! are in the finals, 1! spot is left, 5! sing for it, and we the viewers, have 0! input... wait what? That's right folks, this is the first (and unfortunately, not the last) performance episode in which the voting public have absolutely no hand in the decision, and it's all up to the judges.
Brian Dunkleman and Ryan Seacrest open the show, recapping the last three semi-final weeks. Then, Kelli Glover kicks off the singing with How Am I Supposed to Live Without You by Michael Bolton. Her voice is decent, better than her earlier Whitney Houston performance, but she still slips into that honking tone that the judges have called her out on numerous times. The performance is measured well and she treats the song appropriately, which sometimes is all one can ask of these contestants. Randy and Paula liked that Glover sang something different. Simon tells her she was terrific. The Idolsphere settles on a solid 63 rating, so the first performance of the night gets four stars.
Christopher Aaron follows Glover. He's chosen Boyz II Men's On Bended Knee and his voice in terribly thin. He either is missing a whole bunch of notes or he's just unpleasant in this vocal register. Or, y’know, both. Aaron looks like he's struggling throughout the whole performance to get his voice back in check, as though he can't hear himself. Randy likes it, but says he messed with the rhythm of the song too much. Simon says the performance was mechanical and boring. Chris ends up with a 30, the lowest rating of the night.
In one performance, Alexis Lopez demonstrates the reason why WNTS exists. She's only 17 and singing Saving All My Love For You by Whitney Houston. Lopez does well technically, but seriously, she's a high school girl singing about being the object of a love affair with a married man. It's aggravating when these contestants don’t understand what they're singing about. She's also belting it when she really should be crooning and pleading at places. Simon calls it karaoke. Randy agrees. Lopez evens out at a decent 44 when all is said and done.
Stevie Wonder's song catalog was already done to death by this point in the first season, but it will be visited again by RJ Helton. Lately is an interesting fit for Helton. On paper, the emotion behind the song seems a bit out of his wheelhouse; essentially, I'm saying he should stick to peppier songs, and not touch these yearning-for-love pieces. However, he does wrangle a bit of the despair needed to pull off the song towards the end of his performance, and his voice is in good form. All of the judges laud praise over him, though Simon lets slip his belief that at first he thought Helton shouldn't have made the Wildcard round. The Idolsphere clocks him in at a 66: four stars, and the highest rating of the night.
The last contestant to sing is Angela Peel. She's chosen Shirley Murdock's As We Lay, the second song of the night about being a man's mistress. The song is a much better fit on her than Lopez's choice. Unfortunately for Peel, she goes sharp in her first vocal flourish and stays sharp for the rest of the song. It's uncomfortable to listen to, but I'd venture a guess that she's used to singing it in the key she ends up in, so I'm not sure why the musical director couldn't figure that out when arranging the song. Randy and Paula both point out that she missed notes, but Simon laments that the judges can only send one contestant through to the finals. Peel earns a 42 for the performance.
The Results Show
The judges get to discuss the contestants and then make the decision live. Really live, unlike the performance segment, which was taped. Simon says the wildcard needs to be someone with the potential to win; Randy and Paula agree. They agree Kelli Glover was very good. Chris Aaron gets lambasted for being boring. They all agree Alexis Lopez went into karaoke territory. RJ Helton gets a special note for being the contestant who showed the most improvement. Finally, they're all pretty positive about Angela Peel, despite noting that she faltered on the last performance.
After trotting out the nine finalists, the five wildcard contestants are brought out to be tortured by the judges one final time before learning the verdict. Simon gives them each a bit of a critique. He starts by sexually harassing Glover (no really, he does) and tells her that after Whitney-Gate!, she's finally proven she's a star. Helton gets called up and Simon tells him he sucked in his original grouping, but did very well tonight after being under the pressure of...uh...being the contestant caught in the judges' pissy crossfire last week. Lopez is told that's she's a Latino artist which... well, I'm not about to go there, except to say it makes me want to pen my own WNTS editorial about race, ethnicity, and narrowminded American Idol judges. Peel is told she has a fantastic career ahead of her. Aaron is told that his cool nature can be perceived as dull.
Finally, they pick RJ Helton, because they are never allowed to have unequal gender representatives on Idol. I can't wait until the day where the producers are compelled to put through a transgendered person, since even they can't produce an equal male:female balance on the number 11. Then again, I can't wait for American Idol to acknowledge the existence of anything that isn't blonde, country, or Kelly Clarkson (and remember, I like Kelly).
The credits roll, and again we end on happiness and elation (boo!) as we learn the Final 10 will be singing the songs of Motown.
— By "Phan", WNTS Contributor