OK, you know all that stuff last Friday about how Jessica Sanchez's save helped Colton Dixon?
Forget I ever said that.
In a way, it's nice to know that, after 11 seasons, American Idol's still capable of throwing us for a loop. Even if you didn't like them, didn't think they would win, Jessica Sanchez and Colton Dixon looked like they were on a steady path to the top five, at least. How both Elise Testone and Hollie Cavanagh, who have seven Bottom-Three trips between them, managed to get more votes on consecutive weeks than singers who'd never been in danger is a mystery.
I certainly can't come up with a theory that explains the last two weeks.
You can say that Thursday's development makes Phillip Phillips the prohibitive front-runner, and maybe it does. At this point, though, conventional wisdom has gone out the window. With a Top Six consisting of four girls and only two guys, it sure looks like anybody's game.
Last week, when the judges had to pull Jessica back from the brink, I figured low vote totals had something to do with it. After all, viewers for that Top Seven performance show dropped 25% from the previous season. Plus, Ryan Seacrest hadn't given a total since the first week of semifinals, when he combined two nights' worth of voting for 25 contestants. Any pollster will tell you that low voter turnout can wildly skew election results. But this Wednesday brought a season-high 53 million votes -- that's 3.2 votes per viewer -- and another apparent favorite came up short.
Some people have speculated that Colton lost the support of his hardcore Christian fanbase when he decided to sing a Lady Gaga song. But that seems awfully petty, and it fails to account for what happened with Jessica. Unless, as Jimmy Iovine opined on Thursday's show, allowing her to sing songs meant for older women has kept her from connecting with her natural audience.
Even conspiracy theories offer scarce comfort. If you assume some wacky theory about producers rigging last week's save to galvanize Jessica's voters or jack up ratings with artificial drama -- and, for the record, I don't -- then letting Colton go this week doesn't make a lick of sense. On the other hand, if you buy into a nefarious plot to sacrifice Colton, you're left with having to explain what happened to Jessica. I can't imagine the machinations of a plot that finds a way for the show to benefit from pretending that the two singers with the biggest social-media followings somehow got the smallest number of votes on consecutive weeks.
Finally, even though a WGWG (White Guy With Guitar) remains on Idol this season, Colton Dixon's ouster ought to put the Myth of the TGT (Teen Girl Texting) to rest. If TGTs were the king-makers that some people believe them to be, Colton might not have won, but he'd at least have finished higher than Elise, better than seventh. He's no Tim Urban or Sanjaya Malakar. Sure, the TGTs are a force to be reckoned with, but on a show where the average viewer is in her late 40s, they're not the only game in town. To win, you've got to have them plus somebody else, be they VFTWs (Vote for the Worsters), PICs (Plugged In Christians) or TSGWTOTHs (Tech-Savvy Grandmas With Time on Their Hands).
So where do we go from here? At the moment, it looks like the path to Season 11 victory runs through Phillip Phillips, the only remaining contestant to have never had to worry with the Bottom Three. People have managed to win Idol after appearing in the Bottom Three, but not often and not recently. Ruben Studdard was there once in 2002, and Fantasia got sent there twice in 2003. History would suggest, then, that Elise and Hollie don't have the juice to go the distance and that Jessica, Joshua and Skylar Laine have their work cut out for them.
Of course, we've been surprised before.