Finally we're in Hollywood. Finally we have Ellen! Dear old Hollywood. Friendly old Ellen. Two good things. We should be happy, right? And yet... Mostly we're just so sad. Hollywood Week is just terribly, terribly cruel, isn't it?

A friend and I watched the show last night, and we both couldn't get over what a terrible, cruel thing this whole dog and pony show is. All the expectation, the airfare, the sad little suitcases packed with care. I know these people are willingly subjecting themselves to an experience that they know, nine seasons in now, to be a resoundingly cruel and demeaning one, but still. Remember in that great monologue at the end of Extras when Andy is talking about how horrid reality shows are, and he talks about X Factor and says something about the "bewildered being sniggered at by millionaires"? Well, yeah. That's pretty true. These folks are bewildered and overwhelmed and just slightly hoodwinked and we are all monsters for watching them fail and enjoying it. That's that.

But, also, you know. At least we're past the point of the Bad Auditions. Those episodes are the cruelest things that Idol does and the chief reason why Ryan Seacrest is going to burn in a terrible and fiery hell. (The other reason being, of course, a general sort of [flops wrist]-ness.) At least we're past those.

ANYWAY. Let's talk about singing. Good old singing. That's why we're ultimately here, is it not? And there definitely was some good singing.

You know who I like? Black Taylor Swift. Ohhhh you may fuffle your feathers and cluck that Oberlin tongue of yours and let your hemp monocle fall off your bearded face (you are a girl) because I said that she is Black Taylor Swift, but she is. She is black and young and likes pop-country (puntry? cop?) and plays a guitar and sings sweetly about things like lurve, so... Black Taylor Swift. I've a feeling she's going to go far in this rotten competition. Because if there are two things that America loves, it's Taylor Swift and black people. Well, OK. The Americans that love Taylor Swift are not the Americans that love black people, but as separate voting blocs they're both pretty powerful and if they accidentally bump up against each other in their love for Black Taylor Swift, well, there's no stopping that. It's like when the Housewife bloc and the Gay bloc of Idol viewers mysteriously converged on Adam Lambert. That Frankenstein hobbled his way up to a second place finish! The Self-Loathing Gay and Sparkleteen blocs conquered in their quest to put Kris Allen over the top (or bottom, whatevs he wants!) in the end, but still. The success of Adam Lambert showed us what can happen when two disparate voting entities join forces and form a Voltron-esque power robot.

Deftly courting the Egghead Latino vote is the Egghead Latino. You remember him. He looks like an egg and his mom and dad were in the Latin Kings but now everyone's gone straight and mostly spends their time weeping in front of camera crews. As hobbies go, that's not a bad one. It's probably easier to find a 1912 buffalo nickel with a picture of Susan B. Anthony mooning everyone on it than it is to find a camera crew to weep in front of, but still. A hobby's a hobby and hobbies are good things to have. Luckily for the Weepersons, their Egghead son is, like, so good. His slow and haunting cover of "Straight Up" was just sublime. And, yes, I do mean "haunting." While he played it, Paula Abdul's ghost could be seen flitting around the rafters, ghostly Diet Coke dribbling out of her mouth, a ghostly tomato soup stain on her ghostly brown dress. Kara Dioflergenhaven said something about Paula and this outraged the Abdul ghost, but luckily she hasn't yet learned how to make her ghostly rage physically manifest. It's like Patrick Swayze in that movie... You know... Um... Oh, right, Road House. When he got all mad he just had to kick with might and fury. The Paulaghost simply has to do that. It's a learning process. I think by season's end we'll get to see the Abdul-ghoul, which looks pretty much exactly like Slimer, roundhouse Kara Diomercklemacklemickle right in the Tippi of her Hedren. And hopefully the Egghead Latino will still be doing his simmer-jams at that point. Because he is good.

Also good: that blonde lady what sang that geetar song. You know the one. The one who cried during her audition because her friend had just died. Yes, we all suspect that she killed her friend so she could have something to cry about when she got to her audition, but who hasn't done murder for American Idol? Kelly Clarkson burned down that church with a whole congregation in it. They still haven't found the heads of most of Clay Aiken's victims. And I'm worried Fantasia Barrino is going to get fat if she doesn't stop eating people. So murder aside, the Blonde Girl is better than all the Megan Joy Corkerys and Brooke Whites and Blake Lewises combined. She's got style and strength, and she's holding a gun to my head right now, so I'm going to keep saying nice things. She's pretty. Except she can look a little horsey and I—ada/..........................................

HI! This is the Paulaghost. That nice blonde lady shot and killed Richard, so I'm going to finish up this recap for him. OooooOOooooOOoooooooo..... I'm a ghossssst. Are you scared? You should be. You know who else is with me in the mysterious realm between your world and the next? MC Skat Kat. Yeah, he's dead. No, no. It wasn't the FIV that finally caught up to him. Kevin Covais raped and murdered him. Yup. Emphasis on the rape. Terrible thing, just terrible. But anyway. Richard left some notes here by the computer, let me just clean the brains and skull fragments off of them... Ah, here we go. It appears he also liked the big guy who's wife went into labor right before he sang. He doesn't think the dude has "a hoo-hoo's chance at the Boiler Room" of winning, but he seems nice and sings well. So good for him.

Oh look! It was just a flesh wound. Richard's alive again. Or is he a ghossst, like on Lost? Who knows. Anyway. Bye now! I'm going to go haunt Dunkleman.

Hi! I'm back. My head hurts. Let's just move on. Everyone is sad that Skimbleshanks got voted off the song island. Skimbleshanks was that nimble-bodied crack-cocaine addict that they carted in a while back and he oddly made it through to Hollywood and then was found to have a criminal record and everyone was shocked. Why be shocked? Crack-cocaine addicts have a tendency to commit crimes. Their special candy is not cheap, so sometimes they must steal a television or something. And, come on. Who among us hasn't robbed a pawn shop before? I think we've all robbed a pawn shop, whether literally or metaphorically. (That time you decided to go to Franklin & Marshall instead of Swarthmore because of that cute girl you met on the F&M campus tour? Totally a metaphorical robbing of the pawn shop.)

OK, Skimbleshanks didn't actually rob a pawn shop. He's just been found in possession of drugs and beaten people up in jail. So. He wasn't going to make it anyway. No one mourn for Skimbleshanks. Unless you, dear reader, are Skimbleshanks. In that case, keen on my friend.

I was also sad to see that poor country pumpkin — quite literally, it was a pumpkin wearing a thinning blonde wig — get sent home. The one from Vonore, TN. She was so nice and so rube-ish (Aeroplane!!). But she was just wayyy too nervous. Her voice was stumblin' all over the place. One thing I hated though was when she was leaving and she said "I took a risk, and it didn't pay off." It didn't pay off? Really? You got to go on an aeroplane and see California and meet Ryan Seacrest and have Ellen Degeneres talk to you. I think that's a pretty fun weekend. I wouldn't mind spending a free weekend like that. I think the risk totally paid off. Just because you're not the next Black Taylor Swift, it doesn't mean you failed, m'dear. Oh well.

This has gone on far too long. Let's all be happy that Hollywood is here, and soon the top 24. And then the top 12. And then the top 6. And then the top 3. And then 2. And then one. And then none.

And the rest is silence.

(Oohhh! Except! What'd y'all think of Ellen? I was surprised by how critical she could be. I assumed it was going to be all posies and sunshine. But I was wrong. So, well done Ellen?)