Yes, it's time once again to try and figure out who will be going home tonight, joining the illustrious company of former 6th place finishers Christina Christian, Carmen Rasmussen, John Stevens, Constantine Maroulis, and Kellie Pickler.
This is the week that is responsible for one of the bigger shockers in Idol history (Constantine), but also some fairly run-of-the-mill eliminations (Carmen, John Stevens). Will we be in for a surprise tonight, or a ho-hum kick-off?
As I have done since the beginning of the Top 12, I think the best way to make a prediction as to who is going to get kicked off tonight is by process of elimination -- figure out who is most likely to be safe, and go from there. After getting it right for the past two weeks (see ya later Haley and Sanjaya), will I keep my streak alive?
I've identified three zones: Green (safe), Yellow (not on solid ground), and Red (danger danger danger!) Here goes...
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Green Zone: Safe
For the first time this season, this category is Melinda-less -- but it does feature a repeat visit from Jordin Sparks. Closing the show with a bang, Jordin secured her spot as a frontrunner in this competition, and there is no chance she will be leaving tonight.
Yellow Zone: Not on solid ground
Yes, she's been demoted to the Yellow Zone, but I'm not too worried about Melinda getting the boot tonight. It's true that her remarkable consistency may be starting to work against her, but on a week where the Idols were asked to sing inspirational music I found Melinda particularly inspiring, and I think she's a pretty sure bet to make the Top 5.
I didn't love Blake Lewis last night as much as I usually do, but he's got a couple of things going for him -- he was in the Bottom 3 last week, and the judges did not give him particularly strong praise. I think both of things will work to his benefit, however, as his fans know that he is in trouble, and will rally to save him. Assuming he makes the Top 5 (which I think he will), hopefully he'll bring back his beatboxing next week and infuse a little fire into his performances.
Phil Stacey, meanwhile, wisely stuck to the country genre, and pulled out another winning vocal performance. Even if he was lacking the emotion some of his competitors brought to their performances, Phil's got momentum, and that is huge at this point in the competition. After all those weeks in the Bottom 3, who would have thought Phil would make it to the Top 5? Right now, it's looking like it's going to happen.
Red Zone: Danger! Danger! Danger!
That leaves us with Chris Richardson and LaKisha Jones -- in my opinion the likeliest candidates for the Bottom 2 slots tonight (I'm guessing Phil will take the third spot if there is, in fact, a Bottom 3).
LaKisha is now making her third straight appearance in the Red Zone -- could this be the week she goes home? It was a risk singing yet another song by a former Idol, and the risk didn't quite pay off. However, I actually don't think LaKisha's performance was quite as bad as the judges made it out to be, and if anything is going to save her, it will be that other Kiki fans (and, possibly, non-Fantasia fans or fans who did not watch Season 3 of the show) felt the same way and took to the phones to show their support. In addition, LaKisha was in the Bottom 2 last week, so her fans clearly know she is in danger. I find it a little hard to believe that after making it through the first 5 weeks without hitting the Bottom 3 her fanbase will have deserted her this quickly, so I'm guessing she's gonna eek through this week.
Which brings us to the king of nasal -- Chris Richardson, who I think will be going home tonight. I actually thought Chris gave one of his strongest performances of the season last night, but both times he has performed strongly and gotten strong praise from the judges he has found himself in the Bottom 3. In addition, the "Cake" fans (fans of both Chris and Blake) were probably concentrating their efforts on saving Blake, since it was Blake who was in the Bottom 3 last week, and Blake who was panned by the judges. Since Chris was safe last week, these fans may have (foolishly) thought Chris didn't need their support in quite the same way he did last week after the Virgina Tech comment controversy.
So there it is...Chris Richardson is getting the boot.