In an episode that the Fox television network would call "riveting," America's favorite gypsy curse gave us a wanly shocking surprise that really opens this game wide open!

Well, not really. I guess you could call last night a "hiccup" rather than a "barn burner." I wish they'd burned some barns last night, but American Idol hasn't burned any barns for a long, long while now. All the barns of America are unblemished and free.

Yes, the beauty of America was restored last night. Apple pies cooled the shit out of themselves on windowsills. Boys played furious games of pick-up baseball down in Old Man McDuggan's field. Girls wore pretty dresses and picked strawberries, juice coating their hands like Indian blood, their hair beautiful and correct and blonde. The bombs fell like exploding rain on our enemy's heads, while back home a band struck up the loudest, blaringest rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" anyone had ever heard, deafening all the communists of the coasts. All the Mexicans picked up their taco bags and hoofed it back over the border where they belong. The French tripped over their faggy shoes and fell down and started crying like little babies. Like little gay girl babies. The Arab Muslims winked out of existence entirely. The lesbians and homonsexicals returned to their native Canada, leaving us in moral peace. Jesus came back and replaced the Supreme Court with nine of the Apostles and Nancy Pelosi was sent to Guantanamo. Hussein Obama returned to his Kenyan terror ranch and Sarah Palin was named Queen of Forever by everyone everywhere. The first faint trumpet calls of the Rapture came wafting out of the brightening sky and everyone was white and wonderful, gazing up and thanking the heavens for a new, perfect America.

Yes, my friends, last night there was a group number. It rejuvenated us. Corrected us. Made us whole and healthy. What joy! What light! What terrific surrender. Watch it above and feel your life restored.

Anyway. Last night marked the first time this season that Ryan has really done his bottom three shuffle. You know, where he's like "Crystal can you stand up and walk over there. Now Andrew. Jump up and down in one place for a little bit. Aaron Kelly, go get me a coffee. Tim, dance. No. Dance sexy. Everyone else, twirl twirl twirl!!!!! Twirl forever!!!!" It's a cruel, cruel shaming that he does, but I suppose it is necessary to ratchet up tension, especially on this season that no one particularly cares about.

First he dismissed all of the girls. All three remaining goils were safe and we all shrugged our shoulders until we remembered that Katie Stevens is one of the girls and then we got mad, so very mad!, and told the cat to go make us a drink but she didn't, because she only has paws and not thumbs and so can't open bottles and for that we will always quietly resent her. But oh well. I suppose we can deal with another week of Katie Stevens. She did, after all, not terribly suck on Tuesday. She really didn't.

So who would be in the bottom three? Ryan sent Casey Johnson crab-walking over to one side of the stage and Big Mike to the middle. They'd be the captains of their teams. He then sent Tim Urban over to Casey, which meant only one thing. Tim Urban was safe. Because there was no way Casey was going to go home last night after his performance of some kind of song that everyone liked. Now the question was who would be the third to join the obviously safe Casey Club. It was... your cousin Phil Dweezy! Of course it was. Oh goodness did your Aunt Karen breathe a sigh of relief on that one! She just didn't think Phil could handle another disappointment so soon after the Stacey incident. But thankfully we don't have to worry about that for another week at least.

What all of this meant, bigger than Tim being safe (tweenz forevz), was that Big Mike was in trouble. Big Mike, whom everyone seems to love! Big Mike who has inexplicably been given the mantle of the inspirational uplifting one. The guy who struggled and thus every time he sings it is like angels crying joyous tears, and we are to clutch our chests and say "Oh yes, yes yes yes. Good for him! I'm so proud of him!" And the way he sings — particularly his rabble-rousing "This Woman's Work," where he acts as if there's some great saga he simply must share with the world — just plays right into it. He's bought the cheap, silly narrative Idol has woven for him. And why? Because he had a kid? Because he wasn't there for its birth? What exactly is so stunning and inspirational about Big Mike? It mystifies me.

But anyway. There he was in the bottom three with Aaron Kelly and dregs-regular Andrew Garcia. Ryan was able to grace one of the three with a pardon before cuing up another musical performance, so he laid his hand on Aaron Kelly's bony chest and said "It is you, my child." Aaron squealed and clapped and a spritz of glitter shot up from his spiky hair and Ryan smiled beatifically. Big Mike gulped hard and his normally cheery expression turned to a mix of despair and anger. Andrew was just shoulder-shruggy what-the-fucking, because he really isn't surprised by much at this point. Alas.

Before we got to the end we had to suffer through two musical performances. First up was Gawker blood traitor Alex Pareene's favorite singer, a kind of nü-Usher with lots of Michael Jacksonisms thrown in that no one has ever really heard of. He sang that sample/remix whatever thing of the Imogen Heap song. But most importantly when he came out the first thing he sang was "Jason Deruulloooooo." So good for him. Introducing himself. Polite boy. Apparently he's one of Kara's charges that she keeps chained up in her pool cabana. He wasn't all that bad, but watching him pretend to like girls was awkward. He and Aaron should have a serious talk.

And then Rihanna came out, wearing some all black jumper suit or something and she sang a pop song about being a rock star. Contradictions in motion! There was lots of angry electric guitar and at one point she tried to pretend to play her own flying-V guitar but she just sort of pawed at it and I thought of the cat, who was lying on my bed like she owns the place. Because she does.

So once all the bombast had died down, it was time to reveal who was going to be fed to Simon Fuller. The lights dimmed, hearts clenched and shivered, time shuddered. Ryan said the name, almost in slow motion. Biiiigggg Miiiiiiiike. America stopped. A small girl picked a daisy, unaware of the terrible fate befalling the world. How could this have happened? How?? A bunch of tweenagers turned ghost-white and quietly hid their cellphones and texting-sore thumbs behind their backs. What a mess.

But of course BM got to sing for his supper. He busted out with his whirly-twirly "Woman's Work" and tried to really deliver the bacon, while his sobbing wife sat in the audience thinking "I can't go back to that apartment, I can't go back to that apartment..." So he did his thing and the judges whispered and slowly fondled each other and murmured sweet nothings into each other's ears and after a long spell, feeling warm and satisfied, Simon turned to Big Mike. He tried to act all grave and serious like it wasn't gonna happen, but of course it was gonna happen.

They used their one save on him and you would have thought that Lincoln had been brought back from the dead, that the Challenger shuttle had collected its pieces and soared whole back to Earth, that Judee Sill had sputtered and coughed and sat upright and said "No, I'm quite all right." The place went nucking futs and Mike just stood among the pandemonium, hands steepled up to God, his merciful savior. Ryan grabbed Tim Urban and gave him a big V-J Day kiss. The judges hugged and congratulated themselves for being amazing and as the confetti fell, Kara and Randy looked at each other and they knew, knew that love had taken root. The boys whooped and the girls clapped and said "Yay!" and Mr. Arnoldson from down the block drove down the street in his brand new Buick and honked the horn gaily and even old widow Hendricks came out to her front porch and raised her wobbly hand in a happy salute. Over in Mudville they were all pitchforking Casey to death, but here in Idoltowne there was nothing but shear manic ecstasy. Miracles do happen, they do they do they do.

And then we woke up.