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Last night Ryan Seacrest went to his mysterious control room and, though the room shook and the machines groaned and sparked, pushed the drama lever up to 11. Because it was time for the beginning of Hollywood Week! For you Idol neophytes out there (hi Mom), Hollywood Week is the time in a young person's life when a fluffy fun dream turns into cold hard miserable reality — either as failure or as the beginning of terrible stardom. Either they make it through and the fires of their ambition begin to burn a bright, noxious green, or they are snuffed out forever. It's pretty intense! And last night was no exception.

The funnest part of Hollywood Week is watching the kids who we saw heavily featured during the auditions episodes all of a sudden treated like detritus. Oops, whiz, whoosh, there they are, passing before our eyes, getting eliminated in blunt, grimly satisfying manner. Remember the terrible teenage Southern girl from the first episode who was all chipper and ambitious and weirdly adult? Ha, yeah, well she showed up with eleven items of luggage, because she figured she'd be staying out in H'wood for a while, and when her time came to sing — last night's round consisted of the kids merely getting up and singing a brief few bars of a cappella music like at the preliminary audition — she bellowed a country song in the popular yell-sing style of certain young people and then... ZWISH, ZONK, ZORCH, was given the heave-ho. !!! It was brutes magutes and her mom was there up in the mezzanine, her eyes turning to cold bitter Pluto stone, already moved on to some other daughter she's got waiting back home, Mama's Dream Factory only stopping for a brief, terrible second before its clanking machinery got to work again.

Some people we like managed to get through. Crazy Frizzbo, who is the red-haired lad with the high speaking voice and the jawsome barit-alto singing voice, was easily sent through. The deep-voiced country crooner who the terrible old flint-witch told she wanted to fuck his duck to see what hatches went through, and that is good because he's a cute-patoot who will set the goils aflutter. He's a total novelty act, but whatevs, that's fine. I believe I saw a glimpse of the little Virginia old-timey girl going through last night, so that was exciting. Apparently the creepy Gutierrez brothers made it through too, which is less exciting.

:( That cute kid with the glasses from the Bronx, the one who's going to make some twink-happy music executive very happy someday, in a "kept boy" type of way, did not make it through. Nor did the boring old accountant with the boring old voice. And nor, in the most dramatic of fashions, did half of that goony couple that auditioned together. Not the exes. They both made it through to the next round. No, I mean the college couple that was all about touching and fondling each other and smiling and kissing and, in one half's case, deeply sublimating a burning desire to kiss a boy just once to see what it tastes like. 'Member them? MmHM. Theirs was a tale of tragedy last night.

They were rooming with the exes, girl with girl and boy with boy respectively, so that was a funny bit of planning on the Idol team's part. Naturally there was pressure on them to make it through as a group, which the exes delivered on by skating through their callbacks. But then it was time for the puppy lovers, and things did not go well. The boy went up first and for some reason he picked just the absolute worst song. He picked the lead-up to a Maroon 5 song, the one that's like "this love is taking control of me" Pluto Nash song or whatever, and that was just so dumb! Because it's really unmelodic in the beginning, and yes it does [apparently] get to a point where it really involves singing, but not for a while! And you do not have a while in this sudden death round of the competish. Ohh laddie. He must have been distracted by the deep-voiced Kountry Kid or something, because it was just a terrible brain and soul fart of an audition. Yipes. Then the girl went up and, to quote Shakespeare, blew it out the damn box. When it came time to announce who was cut and who was still alive, J.Lo said "This is so hard," and you knew it wouldn't be good. (On that note, can I just take a moment to say how surprisingly much I'm enjoying Steven Tyler and J. Lopes? Just genuinely enjoying their presence on the show. They're doing a good job. Remember Kara DribbleGuts? Nope, me neither.) The girl was put in the back line, the boy in the front, and then the front was all mowed down by Ryan's shock troops. !!!!! Yeah, boy was sent packing.

And he was ugly about it. Real, down 'n' dirty ugly about the whole thing. The sad losers were shuffling off the stage, heading home to stare out the window and hum plaintively to themselves for yet another year, and all of a sudden the kid broke from the pack, mic in hand, and begged to sing more. "I just want to sing!!" he said. And he explained about the song and how it gets better and there was this frantic whine in his eyes, the sound of light and energy and momentum dying, and his whole face seemed to be trembling, his shoulders suddenly weak and slumped in his stupid-looking shiny jacket. Randy was gruff and firm and said "You had one shot, it was do or die, and ya didn't." So the kid shuffled off. But he wasn't done! No, he then began to sing in the aisles, trying for one last desperate moment to still be a part of the show. But he was muffled by a guard and dragged out and that was the end of his Idol experience.

Ryan, of course, was waiting for them in the hallway, ready to feast on their tears. They came out, looking stupid and stunned, and the boy said to Ryan "Does this affect you anymore, or are you emotionless now after ten years?" Which was a bold and interesting thing to say to Riley Streakbeast, the ringmaster of this dream circus, the captain of so many fates. Ryan didn't really respond and instead asked them how they were doing, as a couple. The boy put his arm around the girl and said he was so happy for his "baby" (eyugh) but that he was upset too. And oh ho ho, what did we see? Did you notice how she recoiled from his arm when he put it around her? Already?? It had taken that little, just seeing that short bit of neediness and pleading to make love leave all the rooms of her heart. He all of a sudden meant nothing to her, was just a silly boy from school she used to know, but doesn't anymore, now that she's a big, bright, burning star. Ryan could see the change in her, had seen it a million times before, the quick cocooning and metamorphosis from hayseed to something new and terrible. He knows the acid green glow of the fame demon, can see it from the windows of his mansion overlooking the hills and valleys of the city, can hear it scratching softly but determinedly at the door sometimes at night. He knows it's coming for Tim, so he pulls him in tighter and usually Timmy just stirs and looks up at him with those sheepdog eyes and murmurs "You wanna go again?" But yes, Ryan knew just what was happening to this young woman in relation to this young man, could somehow see the invisible canyon that had mawed open suddenly between them. A sad story. The boy held on tightly, because he could feel that gravity had somehow shifted. The girl smiled, though she knew the old world was now brown and dead.

As it was for many a dream-crushed contestant, sent to trundle on back to wherever it is they call home. Some pock or corner of the country where they'll still do their singing of course, they'll still stare up at murky night skies, or into the brilliant orange and purple of the sun setting over the farm, and wish. And wish and wish and wish. And of course they'll watch! They'll watch this season and feel that some part of them is still there, some phantom limb still tingling. And the remaining contestants will feel their ghostly presences. For just a second, just a quick flash before they step out onto the light-drenched stage and hurtle on into the oblivious future.