Motown Greats Rock American Idol Top 10 Results Show

March 27, 2009

Tonight, the American Idol stage was seething with talent and I’m not talking about the Top 10 who awaited their fate.  I’m talking about performances by the greats – Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder.  It was a reminder that the Top 10 still have a long way to go.

Season 2 winner Ruben Studdard returns to American Idol to perform "Together."  Photo courtesy of American Idol.

Season 2 winner Ruben Studdard returns to American Idol to perform "Together." Photo courtesy of American Idol.

Personally, I would have liked to have heard more from both Smokey and Stevie instead of Ryan’s false drama.  But in the end, we had to get to the business of the night in which more than 36 million votes determined.  Ryan told us that is the most votes any Top 10 in the history of Idol has ever gotten.

The first to get sent to the Bottom Three surprised me more than anything else.  Matt Giraud did an awesome job Wednesday night with “Let’s Get it On” so I was really shocked to find he wasn’t safe. 

But after we learned that Michael Sarver and Scott MacIntyre joined him in the Bottom Three, I was floored again to learn that the one Ryan sent to safety wasn’t Matt.  Instead Scott returned to the sofas with the other seven leaving Matt and Michael to sweat it out.

As much as I like Michael, I was not ready to see Matt hit the road.  So I actually had my fingers crossed in hopes that if it came down to it, the judges would play their save card.  In the end, intervention by the judges was not needed and Michael was sent home.

I get that American Idol is trying to pay tribute to Motown, but the constant flashes of Hitsville throughout the opening group number was distracting.  Or maybe producers were just trying to distract viewers from the recently released fact that the Top 10 are lip synching to a pre-recorded version of Motown medley.

I know that several people have mentioned in the comment section of this column over the last few weeks that they thought the group numbers were lip synched. (Congrats to you for catching it.)  I honestly hadn’t paid that close of attention before.  But tonight, probably because I’d read the story about it earlier, I couldn’t see anything but the lip-synching.

But after the group number, I eagerly welcomed the Ford music video to “Pocketful of Sunshine.”  Unfortunately, the video of the contestants putting together a life size puzzle that they would drive later drive their hybrids through didn’t wow me either.

Next up Season 2 winner Ruben Studdard returned to the Idol stage to sing “Together.”  He didn’t sound bad, but his music isn’t really my thing.

Now the duet of “You’re the One for Me” between Smokey Robinson and Joss Stone was more my speed.  What a pretty song!  And those of you that like Joss, you can see her in her television acting debut next month in Showtime’s “The Tudors” where she will be King Henry’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleaves.

And although I’d have preferred to hear a single song by Stevie Wonder, I have to say he rocked his Motown medley.  He is an amazingly talented man and the music of Motown is wonderful.  However, I could have done without his plug for Obama.

Overall, one of the better results shows, in my opinion.

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Idol Guys Put a New Twist on Motown

March 26, 2009

American Idol this week might have been a tribute to the 50th anniversary of Motown, but for the contestants it was a chance to show what they could do with great music.  And the guys really stepped up to the challenge this week with the some great, original performances.

This week the Top 10 perform Motown hits.

This week the Top 10 perform Motown hits.

I don’t know if they got inspiration from their visit to Hitsville, the home of Motown, or from their mentor, the great Smokey Robinson, but creativity was in the air among the contestants this week.

I have to wonder how many women wanted to get it on with Matt Giraud after listening to his rendition of Marvin Gaye’s classic “Let’s Get it On.”  Personally, I think he did a great job with the song and was glad to see him change it up by only playing the piano during the beginning of the song.  Now that’s how you lead off the show!

Marvin Gaye was really working for the guys tonight.  Kris Allen had a sweet performance of Gaye’s hit “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You).”  He put his own spin on it by slowing it down in the beginning and the end, but picking up the tempo throughout the rest of the song.  And I liked that Kris had his guitar out again.  There’s just something about Kris with the guitar that says fun.

But the most original performance had to go to Adam Lambert this week.  The thing about Adam is that you never know what to expect from him.  Love him or hate him, you have to admit that he’s always got something original in store.  Tonight, he not only brought a new sound, but a completely new look with a suit and slicked back hair.  We saw the softer side of Adam with his unplugged performance of Smokey Robinson & the Miracles’ “The Tracks of My Tears.”  I think this was by far one of his best performances.  And I loved learning from Smokey why he wrote the song.

But the night didn’t go entirely to the guys.  Allison Iraheta proved tonight that she is the girl to watch in this competition.  She performed a rousing rendition of “Papa was a Rollin’ Stone” by The Temptations that marks her as a real contender.  The song was perfect for Allison’s voice and she maximized on it.  This performance was definitely her best.

Scott MacIntyre also did a fabulous job of updating a Motown song.  Even though the vocals might not have been the greatest, I really liked the way he slowed down the beginning of Diana Ross’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” before jazzing up the middle.  I’m glad that Scott didn’t take Paula’s advice and stuck with piano.  He’s a real artist with the piano and as he said it’s a part of who he was.  And I loved the way the background singers surrounded the piano while he played.

On the other hand, Anoop Desai came out with a nice soulful version of “Ooh Baby Baby” by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles.  But I’m having a hard time taking him seriously when he dresses like a college student.  Someone please give this boy some wardrobe help.  I think a nice slick suit – or at the very least a blazer – would have helped him continue the emotion he was trying to project with the song.

But Motown didn’t work for everyone.  I like Danny Gokey best when he’s not doing sappy songs.  But his version of “Get Ready” by The Temptations was a little rushed and awkward at points.  The other guys have really stepped up their game and Danny’s going to have to work a lot harder if he wants to remain a contender.

My biggest disappointment of the night was Lil Rounds.  Motown week should have been her time to shine and I’ve been waiting all week to see what she’d come out with.  Unfortunately, her version of “(Love is Like a) Heat Wave” by Martha Reeves & the Vandellas didn’t offer anything new.  Don’t get me wrong, Lil sounded great.  But here was her chance to really show what she could do and all she did was sound like the original.

Every time I see Michael Sarver perform, I want to smile.  He’s just got such a great personality; you can’t help but love him.  But tonight I had to smile because he just looked like he was having so much fun singing “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” by the Temptations.  Sure Michael doesn’t have the strongest vocal, he never has, but I enjoy listening to him and watching him perform.  I’m hoping he’ll get some sympathy votes since he had the flu this week. 

Megan Joy Cockrey’s has a particular distinctness to her voice that I’ve been struggling for weeks now to describe and tonight Smokey Robinson finally put into words (or a word) what I’ve been wanting to say – cabaret.  See I can totally see Megan Joy performing in a cabaret show.  What I can’t see is her singing a Stevie Wonder song.  However, I don’t think her performance of “For Once in My Life” was nearly as bad as the judges made out.

The boys definitely took the night with Matt, Kris and Adam leading the pack, and Allison had the best performance of the girls.  My bottom three would have to be Lil, Michael and Megan.  I’m hoping that Michael is going to make a career out of constantly surviving the bottom three.  So my pick for going home is Megan Joy.  She just can’t seem to pick the right songs to showcase the uniqueness of her voice.

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Carrie Underwood Returns for Idol’s Shocking Top 11 Results

March 19, 2009

To round out the full hour American Idol needs to give us the one name of the person being eliminated this week, we were treated to performances by three Grand Ole Opry members – Brad Paisley and a duet by Idol’s own Carrie Underwood and guest mentor Randy Travis.  But the performances would be overshadowed by the shocking news of who was to go home.

Carrie Underwood performed a duet with guest mentor Randy Travis tonight

Carrie Underwood performed a duet with guest mentor Randy Travis tonight

It wasn’t long before we learned that Allison Iraheta, Michael Sarver and Alexis Grace were in the bottom three.  In short order, Ryan let Allison know that she was safe, leaving Michael and Alexis to sweat it out until the end.

And it probably didn’t help their nerves to know that the judges said they were willing to consider using the Judges Save for one of them – that someone turned out to be Alexis. 

When Michael was declared safe, the judges told Alexis that her encore performance would determine the judges’ vote for her safety.  Unfortunately, as Simon said, her performance was good, but not good enough.

Does this exit disprove the alleged rumors that Idol producers have already determined the Top 4?  Alexis’ name was leaked to be among the final four. 

I don’t know about the producers, but these results definitely through a wrench in who I thought would be in the final four.

The rest of the show was your typical filler.

After learning that 31 million votes were cast, being reminded of the new Judges Save rule and seeing a review of Tuesday night’s performance, we finally got to hear from our Top 11. 

Unfortunately, after the group performance of Travis Tritt’s “T-R-O-U-B-L-E,” I kind of wished they had kept quiet.  Normally, I’m one of the minority that actually like the group numbers – that is until tonight.  It sounded horrible like 11 different people were singing separately instead of together in harmony.

And my mood didn’t improve when I saw this week’s Ford video.  “Here It Goes Again” featured a water balloon fight between the Top 11.  Normally, these videos are one of my favorite fluff pieces, but I’m just not feeling it this season.

Luckily the guest performers were at least entertaining.  Brad Paisley debuted his new single “Then.”  And then recently inducted Grand Ole Opry member Carrie Underwood teamed up with the man who issued her invitation to The Opry, Randy Travis, for their first live duet of “I Told You So.”

Finally, the identity of the Top 10 – Kris Allen, Anoop Desai, Matt Giraurd, Danny Gokey, Allison Iraheta, Megan Joy Corkrey, Adam Lambert, Scott MacIntyre, Lil Rounds, and Michael Sarver – have been identified for those of you waiting to purchase your Idol on Tour tickets.

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Randy Travis helps Idol’s Top 11 Find Their County Side

March 18, 2009

It’s Grand Ole Opry Night on American Idol and that means Simon is going to be extra hard to please.  We all know how little the Brit likes country music so it’s a real test to see which of the Top 11 can impress him tonight. 

This week the Top 11 honor The Grand Ole Opry. Recently guest mentor Randy Travis invited former Idol winner Carrie Underwood to become a member of The Opry. Tomorrow the two will perform a duet.

This week the Top 11 honor The Grand Ole Opry. Recently guest mentor Randy Travis invited former Idol winner Carrie Underwood to become a member of The Opry. Tomorrow the two will perform a duet.

Who knew that it was going to be Anoop Desai who would shine the most?  Last week, he stood next to Jorge Nunez and wondered if he would be back again.  This week, he blew us away with a beautiful, heartfelt performance of a classic – Willie Nelson’s “Always on My Mind.”  My only complaint is that you don’t sing a song like that in a hoody.  Anoop stepped up his vocal game this week; now he needs to dress the part.

Also doing a full 180 was Megan Joy Corkrey.  Megan Joy was also fighting for survival last week and despite having the flu tonight, she turned in a pretty nice performance of Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight.”  I’m still not a full out Megan Joy fan, but I’m starting to see what others like about her.  Now if she’d just get rid of that funky twist/dance thing.  And unlike Simon, I liked tonight’s look much better than her quirky look.

Now normally when we get to country music we have several fall flat on their face, but honestly, I can’t say that there were any real bad performances – one a bit on the weird side, but no train wrecks.  In fact, I’m having trouble picking my favorite and judging from the clips of the contestants with guest mentor Randy Travis, he did too.

Among those impressing me tonight was Kris Allen.  Kris sang “To Make You Feel My Love” which is not one of my favorite Garth Brook songs.  But Kris made it sound beautiful.  Randy Travis called him a great ballad singer and I have to say I agree.  I kind of wish he would have sang it with the guitar, but without it he took a chance, showed his vulnerable side and it worked.

Just a note to Kara, who said that she didn’t even know that Kris’ performance was Opryland material.  Opryland was a country-themed amusement park, no longer in existence.  The Opry is the longest running radio show that Idol was honoring tonight

Matt Giraud also blew me away.  Both he and Danny Gokey chose Carrie Underwood songs.  First, let me tell you I find it a little weird when male singers pick songs by female artists, especially when they do it consistently like Danny.  I’m all in favor of guys getting in touch with their feminine side, but when they keep picking these songs, I have to wonder what they are trying to accomplish.

Tonight Matt showed us what he was trying to accomplish.  I was totally wowed!  I liked his version “So Small” better than the original.  And let me tell you that this guy can really play the piano too.

Unfortunately, Danny’s performance just didn’t compare.  He didn’t really change much for his rendition of “Jesus Take the Wheel.”  He struggled with the verses, but came out soulful and big on the chorus.  However, it sounded like every other song Danny does.

On the other hand, Alexis Grace changed up her performance tonight.  The judges thought her performance of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” lacked the “dirty” she’s had the last couple of weeks.  Personally, I liked seeing Alexis’ softer side.  Sure, she didn’t try anything different with the song, but it still came across simple and pretty.

However, pretty wouldn’t be how I’d describe Adam Lambert’s performance.  I grew up in a family that regarded Johnny Cash as a legend and you don’t mess with a legend.  So you can see where I would approach Adam’s Middle Eastern arrangement of “Ring of Fire” with trepidation.  Now, I can’t say that I think Cash would have loved it, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be – just weird. 

I think Adam would have had more success if he’d tried a rock version of the song.  But even funnier that Kara trying to evaluate Adam’s performance was Randy Travis’ reaction to Adam in general.  Talk about clash of cultures.

But fun was the name of the game for Michael Sarver.  He might not have the strongest vocals, but Michael is definitely a down-to-earth likeable guy.  During the critique about his performance of “Ain’t Going Down (Til the Sun Comes Up)” by Garth Brooks, he said “country music is about having some fun.” 

And Michael sure looked like he was having fun when he was singing that mouthful of words that make up that song.  While I like that performance, I agree that it had a couple rough spots were it sounded like he mumbled the words a little.  But when Simon rated Michael’s performance as a 1.2 (on a scale of 10), the personable Michael replied with a smile, at least it wasn’t a zero.

Another performance that I think got overshadow tonight was Scott MacIntyre.  His version of  Martina McBride’s “Wild Angels” started out very pretty and I liked it even more after he picked up the tempo.  But unfortunately, while the arrangement is beautiful, the vocals just didn’t wow me. 

We learned tonight that Scott spends an incredible amount of time on the arrangements each week – and it shows – and he hasn’t always gotten his first choice in songs, but he still needs to kick up the vocals a notch if he wants to stay in the game.  And I totally disagree with Paula, I don’t think the piano inhibits his performances at all – it enhances them.

Poor Lil Rounds just suffered from the wrong genre this week.  Lil was clearly unfamiliar with country music, but I think she made a fair stand with her version of Martina McBride’s “Independence Day.”  It wasn’t her best performance, but it was still solid.  Unfortunately, compared to the others she just paled.  But no matter how she performed, Simon really needs to learn her name by now.  He insisted on calling her Little throughout her critique.

While Lil struggled with the genre, Allison Iraheta missed an opportunity.  She chose “Blame It On Your Heart” by Patty Loveless and she put in a decent performance.  But given the bluesy/rock sound of her voice, Allison could have change that performance more to suit her voice and really stolen the night.  If she’d have experimented a little more, she would have been much more memorable.

I’m really struggling with my bottom three this week because as I said earlier no one just crashed and burned.  I think the bottom would have to include Allison and Lil.  The third spot could go to either Scott or Michael.  And I think Allison should be the one to go home.

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New Idol Rule Couldn’t Save Jorge, Jasmine from Elimination

March 12, 2009

The first elimination of American Idol’s Top 13 saw the birth of a new rule and sent two hopefuls home after nearly 33 million votes.  Now the field has narrowed to the traditional 11 contenders and the judges still have a save card they can play.

Kelly Clarkson courtesy of American Idol

Kelly Clarkson courtesy of American Idol

The biggest news of the night was the new Judges Save rule.  Up until the Top 5, the judges can save one person from elimination.  They can use this save just once and the decision must be unanimous.  That week no one will be eliminated, but the next week two will be eliminated (so in theory, the save could just be temporary).

The reasoning is that if the judges had this rule before they could have saved the likes of Michael Johns, Jennifer Hudson or Chris Daughtry from leaving the competition too early.  But you have to wonder, if they’d stayed another week would any of these contenders gone on to win the contest or would they have just lived to be eliminated another day?

I wasn’t watching back when Hudson or Daughtry were eliminated so I can’t really comment on them, but I don’t think a reprieve would have led to a Johns’ victory in Season 7.  But it would have been nice to look at him a little longer.

Personally, I think if they are going to change the rules, they should have let everyone know at the beginning of the season.  However, it’ll be interesting to see if this rule has any real impact.

It’s no surprise that the judges didn’t use their one save of the season tonight, so early in the game.  And I think it’s going to have to be a pretty strong contender for all four judges to agree.

While on whom and when the save will be used is still a mystery, the roster for the bottom four was no surprise to anyone watching Tuesday’s show – Jasmine Murray, Megan Joy Corkrey, Anoop Desai and Jorge Nunez. 

Three of these four were added during the Wild Card round which doesn’t say much for the quality of contestants we got during that round.  But in the end the Js were sent packing.  However, I would be surprised if we didn’t see Jasmine or Jorge again next season.

The evening led off with a medley of Jackson 5 hits performed by the Top 13.  Let me just say that I have high praise for Scott MacIntyre for even attempting the group number choreography.  We’ve see even those with all their senses intact struggle with the footwork before.  Didn’t someone even run into a camera last year? 

But as much as I’m impressed with Scott for stepping up to the challenge, I am equally awed by the other contestants’ willingness to help him find his spacing and direction during this numbers.  I’m so glad that they can put their competitiveness aside; it makes for a better group number.

We were also treated to performances by Grammy winner Kayne West who say his hit single “Heartless” and by first season Idol winner Kelly Clarkson who sang her new single “My Life Would Suck Without You.” 

Kayne’s performance didn’t do anything for me, but it’s just not my taste in music.  On the other hand, I usually like Kelly’s work, but this song just didn’t strike a chord with me either.  What did you think of her song

The rest of the night was filled with the standard filler, a review of the previous night performances, encore performances by those exiting and the first Ford Video of the season to Queen’s “We will Rock You.”  Normally I like these videos (mostly just because it’s less time we have to listen Ryan talk), but this was nothing special, just singing heads on buildings while a car drove by.  Ford has definitely had better videos with Idol contestants.

We also got a peek into the finalists’ new digs.  And all I can say is wow!! What a mansion!  When will they have time to rehearse with distractions like pool, steam room, Jacuzzi, basketball court, bowling alley, and home theater?  After seeing this place, I’m thinking about auditioning just so I can stay there, but the fact that I can’t sing a lick will probably axe any chance I have of taking up residence in this mansion.

 

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March 11, 2009

Finally, we’ve gotten to the part of American Idol I love – when the real competition begins.  The performances tonight were a huge step above what we’ve been tortured with the last three weeks.

Lambert proved to be a hard act to follow

Lambert proved to be a hard act to follow

I don’t know if there is less pressure now that the mass cuts are just a memory or if there was just too much dead weight in the Top 36, but we have some real contenders here and they came out tonight singing the songs of Michael Jackson to prove that the winner if far from decided.

Rocking Out

Leading the pack in the race for the title tonight was Adam Lambert who has really come into his own in the last couple of weeks.  He turned around the judges who thought he was too theatrical at first. 

And if you don’t mind his eccentric style, he’s fun to watch and he can definitely rock out.  Tonight he proved that he could make a song his own with a slightly new arrangement of “Black or White” that had Paula and the audience dancing.  With the judges now behind him, he can be a real contender.

Also rocking out tonight was Alexis Grace and Allison Iraheta.  Alexis got down with “Dirty Diana” while Allison sang “Give in to Me.”  Both girls have a nice rock edge, but Alexis definitely put in the better performance.  This girl can sing and she can rock.  I cannot believe Alexis is the same girl that we saw audition.  She’s got confidence and style to go with her voice now. 

Allison, on the other hand, tried a little too hard tonight.  I didn’t like this performance nearly as much as her Heart number.  I thought she shouted more of the song than she sang.  She definitely has a rocker voice, but I thought she tried to do too much with this song tonight.  However, the judges loved her.

Bring out the Instruments

Tonight marked the return of instruments and three performers took advantage of this rule.

It was nice to see Scott MacIntyre back behind a piano where he is obviously more comfortable.  But let me say that I think he did a great job with the group number last week which had to be tough learning the choreography with his disability. 

That said, I think that being back at the piano gave Scott a chance to concentrate of his vocals and it showed.  “Keep the Faith” was a good song choice for him, but he’s going to have to strive harder to stand out among all the rockers.

Matt Giraud had to find out the same thing when he literally followed Adam with “Human Nature.”  Matt put in a nice solid performance and he looked great behind the piano, but as Simon put it he just paled in comparison to the previous number. 

It was a tough break in the order for Matt, but I think his performance was still strong enough to keep him for another week.

A guitar was the instrument of choice for Kris Allen who put in a fun performance of “Remember the Time.”  Even though Simon didn’t like the guitar, I really liked the rock twist Kris put on the song.  I wanted to get up and dance.  And to learn that Kris spent a lot of his time this week helping the other contestants, make me like him even more. 

Solid Performances

Aside from the standouts, most of the contestants put in nice, solid performances that made you feel good about them being in the Top 13.

It’s clear that Michael Jackson songs are not Lil Rounds’ strong suit, but I have to say that she stepped up to the challenge and delivered a nice rendition of “The Way You Make Me Feel.”  I’m not sure Lil made it as new as Randy made it sound, but she definitely put her seal on the song.  However, like Simon, I liked the second half of the song better than first.  But unlike Simon, I liked her outfit.  I thought it looked nice on her.

And when Danny Gokey started to sing P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) I have to admit that I was afraid he was going to do another sappy song, but he turned it around and we got to see another side of him – both vocally and in his life.  I liked that we got to meet his family in this week’s clip instead of more about his recently deceased wife (no offense intended).  How cool was it that his parents use to make a song out of homework and chores.  I’m going to have to try that with my own kids.

In general, I’m not a big Danny fan, probably because of all the hype (I like underdogs), but I really enjoyed his performance tonight.  Seeing Danny do an upbeat song really gave us a chance to see more of Danny’s abilities and I don’t think his dancing was as bad as Simon made it out to be.

And speaking of the back stories, I loved seeing all the roughnecks cheering for Michael Sarver.  There’s something about the idea of all those tough guys watching Idol that makes me smile.  And so did Michael’s performance.  “You Are Not Alone” was a great song choice for him.  It really let him show his passion and amongst all the rockers, I think it helped make him stand out.

Standing out was just what Jasmine Murray was trying to do when she chose “I’ll Be There.”  Personally, I think she sounded more like Mariah Carey than Michael Jackson but it worked for her.  She has a powerful voice for such a young girl. 

I’m not sure Jasmine is going to go the distance, but she will have some great experience behind her when she leaves.

Struggling with Jackson

Not everyone can sing Michael Jackson and despite the overall feeling of the show being better than anything we saw the last three weeks, we still saw a couple people struggle tonight.

If you asked me which song I’d pick for Anoop Desai, I’d have said “Beat It” because it just that kind of energetic song that goes with his personality.  The judges hated that he chose that song, but I didn’t find the performance nearly as bad as they did.  Sure he didn’t do anything new and exciting with the song, but he had fun with it.  If anything, I’d have liked to see him try a few moves just because he’s such a fun guy.  But gauging the reaction of the judges, this decision is going to cost him.

Also struggling with song choice was Jorge Nunez.  I know that Jorge is very popular, but I find his performances forgettable and tonight wasn’t any different.  It doesn’t help that he was really unfamiliar with “Never Can Say Goodbye,” the song that he chose.  I almost felt sorry for the guy, but I have to agree with Simon that the performance just sounded corny.

And poor Megan Joy Corkrey.  She picked the perfect song to go with the stupid little dance she does.  Unfortunately, “Rockin’ Robin” gave us no insight into her vocal ability at all.  And this late in the game, cute dancing (for those of you that like it) just isn’t going to be enough to be save her.

Now, normally my pick for the bottom three would be Allison, Jorge and Megan.  But given the little nugget that Ryan threw in at the end, I’m going to make my bottom three as Anoop, Jasmine and Megan, with Megan and Anoop going home.

For those of you that missed it, Ryan told us that that there will be a last minute rule change announced during the results show on Wednesday that will be game changing.  Nothing like changing the rules in the middle of the game, huh?  But if I were a betting woman, I would guess that the judges are going to get a say (at least in part) in who gets booted now.

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