The task of turning five seconds' worth of compelling television—the announcement of the latest American Idol oustee—into an hour of Nielsen-trampling entertainment isn't an easy one. And yet they always seem up to the challenge, employing a wide variety of systematic dehumanization techniques to keep singers on their toes and viewers locked in until the very last moment. Take last night's episode, in which trembling, shaved-koala contestant David Archuleta was made to sit backstage for two full commercial breaks as his brothers and sisters stood in huddled groups on the stage. One was safe, the other at risk of being loaded onto Idol-branded freight trains and transported to a karaoke death camp somewhere in the San Fernando Valley.

And yet, even when staring down the barrel of a loaded microphone, he refused to capitulate to Ryan Seacrest's sadistic mind games, staging an heroic protest sit-in that instantly called to mind similar triumphs of the human spirit throughout history, from Tiananmen Square to the legendary Big Brother 5 slop strike.