Well! It's happened. The power has been thrown to us as the judges have whittled the tributes down to a manageable 24 and now it's in our hands. Are we ready? More importantly, are we excited?

Yes and no. Yes and no! There were some decisions last night that annoyed me, and some that made me happy. I mean let's just put it out there. How happy are you that Baby LockThemDoors is through? I know I was ragging on him yesterday, calling him a joke contestant, but remember that we really hadn't seen him sing much on his own until they showed us his guitar-strumming, purple Plains wind-blowing chops last night. He is good! I mean, his voice is ridiculously low and it's unfortunately kind of innately comical, but I think that he could have a real career in Nashville. Why he chose to do Irdolstinx instead of just haulin' ass to Tennessee is one of the unsolvable mysteries of youth. But choose he did and here he is. He will suffer and fail during more pop-twinged weeks — he doesn't have the versatility or vocal power of Idol country queen Carrie Underwood — but he'll soar when he can do his country thing and America will fall in love with him. Two people on a couch on the Lower East Side did last night! In fact I think it's OK to call him by his real name now. Welcome, Scotty.

If we could now zoom out a little bit and look at the crop as a whole, I want to discuss a theory. It's maybe pretty obvious, so forgive me if you've already thought about it. Doesn't it seem like the judges stacked the guys' side with way more novelty acts than they did the girls? Or if not novelty acts, at least obvious cannon fodder? It's no secret that Idol has wanted a girl to win for a while now, after three seasons of lackluster boy victors (take no offense to that dear, sweet Kris Allen, I refer only to record sales, not to your wonderful triangle mouth or cartoon hair), and I think they're just really stacking the deck in their favor this year. Look at the girls they have. They're all pretty young powerhouses. In years past you would have seen a few more risks, Brooke Whites or Siobhan Magnuses or hell even Crystal Bowersoxes. But they cut those girls early this year. Remember the fun little crick angel from San Francisco via Virginia who was so pleasant and backwoods Thumbelina-esque? She got axed way back in the first round of Hollywood Week. I think in other seasons she would have made it through to at least this part of the competition. But not this year. No, this year they are bound and determined to find a good, marketable young lady, so they are not taking any chances. And to further their cause they have filled the boys side with never-gonna-wins like Crazy Frizzbo, that Whiserpin' Weirdo with the beard who sang that terrible original composition, the God Bless The Child guy who is basically a human version of Slimer from Ghostbusters, Frankenberry with his attitude and glasses, that tall jerk from group night who was a jerk and was tall. You know. These people. People who will not win the competition. Which brings me to my biggest complaint about last night.

Colton Dixon. Why on earth was he not put through? From what we saw of him performing he was good — playing the piano, doing the the kind of whiteboy caterwauling that seems to strike a certain chord with a portion of kids these days — and I mean, c'mon, look at him! He's a handsome youngster! People will vote for that shit! There is no way that Colton was a worse contestant than God Bless the Child or even dear Scotty. In the final elimination of the night, it was between Colton, Crazy Frizzbo, and Augustus the sad fat kid. It sucked because it was obvious that Frizzbo was through, but looking at them lined up in a row it was stupid that Colton, with that beach grass hair and ridiculous cowboy-twinged porn name, was not the obvious choice. I firmly believe he could have been a contender to win the whole damn thing, and I can't help but form a wee conspiracy theory that the judges (and producers, duh) knew that too. So they got rid of him when they still had a chance and instead threw in Frizzbo, a sweet kid with genuine talent, but not someone that anyone is ever going to embrace as an actual recording artist whose records they would buy.

Mostly I'm disappointed because Colton would have been so much fun to write about! I mean what better narrative than the super Christian twink who is slowly corrupted by the groaning light machine that is American Idol? It's a tale as old as time! I mean, just look at Tim Urban! Oof, Tim. He's having a tough go of it. It's hard now that Ryan is back with the show. In fact he's moved into one of the outbuildings on Ryan's property, a little bungalow place down near the swimming pool, just until he's feeling like himself again. He's put little curtains that he made up in the windows and had one of the house staff pick up a few potted plants at Home Depot. He spends most of his days humming around the little house, pulling on a joint now and then. He listens to Judee Sill during the day and the crickets at night. It seems like a happy little life.

But Ryan watches from the balcony and knows that something is wrong. That something's gone ghostly inside of Tim, that something important and elemental about him is losing its grip, that soon it will be gone completely. Ryan knows he has to do something, but what can he do? What can anyone do. Back in the airplane hangar, the great Idol deciding hangar, he'd been so nervous. So nervous that this curious entity, this Colton creature, would burst through the two doors and it would be good news, and Ryan would not know what to do. He stood there waiting, cursing his weak heart, wishing for non-wandering eyes. Oh god, if Colton got through, what was he going to do? Well, he knew what he was going to do, but he didn't want to admit it to himself, did not want to resign himself to the fact that Tim would remain in the little house, grow old and strange in there, and that one day he would just disappear, slip into the light of an afternoon and be gone. Ryan had seen it before. Knew all those old mechanics.

And then of course Colton came out and it wasn't the news Ryan expected. Colton was leaving, back to Tennessee. How funny it was, Ryan thought, to feel both relieved and sad at the same time. Around him there was the usual shuffle and weary energy of the end of a work day, people packing up lights and cameras and chairs, a few lingering contestants saying teary goodbyes to each other. Ryan sighed. He and a producer were the last to leave and were walking in the parking lot, talking about the day, when he realized he'd forgotten his phone. "Hey, I gotta run back, I'll see ya," he said, and jogged back to the building. He went down the hall and then into the room they'd had the contestants in and turned on the light. And there, to his surprise and his dismay, was poor Colton, sitting slumped in a chair, pondering his suddenly bleak-seeming future. Ryan walked over to him, knelt down. "Hey, you OK?" Colton looked up, tears in his round, silly eyes. "No, I guess not. I guess not." Ryan put a tentative hand on his shoulder, gave it a squeeze. "Hey, I'm real sorry about what happened today. If there's anything I can do..."

Suddenly, something in Colton shifted, a wire was made taut, and he stared hard into Ryan's eyes and lifted a hand to Ryan's cheek. "Well, actually, there is..." Ryan pulled back, but not too far, he hadn't said no yet. But then, of course, he thought of the little house, warm with light and smoke and the sounds of Tim. He thought about what it meant to say certain words — heart, fact, forever — and he closed his eyes. He shook his head. "No, I can't. I'm sorry. Another time, maybe." He stood, collected himself, took a deep breath. He looked toward the door. "Right now there's somewhere I need to be."