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Last night's episode of American Dream Explosion featured our six remaining tributes, bloody and beaten but still belting on, paying homage to Carole King. And darn it if they didn't turn in a good show! Yeah, it was patchy and raggedy as all their shows are, but it was also fun and felt fueled with that kind of white-knuckle desperation that really makes these shows entertaining.

The theme this week was Carole King music, which was strange in a way, because Tapestry came out so very many years before these people were even glimmers in their fathers' eyes. I guess maybe they heard Carole King and said "Oh, the lady from Gilmore Girls." I mean that's definitely what Scotty said, right? Scotty loves him some Gilmore Girls. And sure people probably know some of her songs without really knowing that she's the one behind them, so she wasn't a total stranger, but it still felt a little odd, this Carole King theme night. I guess in some ways it felt a little... wise in a way I don't ever think this show to be. What's next, a Joni Mitchell night? Oh please sweet god in heaven don't do a Joni Mitchell night. But at the same time, please sweet devil in space do a Joni Mitchell night. Can you imagine Lauren Alaina fart-blasting "Rainy Night House" or Scotty boom-crooning "People's Parties"? I mean it would be fantastically awful, like so so good because it's so so bad. Oh man. Fuck it, guys. Really. Fuck work. Let's just go for a drive in the country and listen to Joni Mitchell for the rest of the day. For the rest of time!! That's all I really want to do with my life. Who's picking me up?

The Good

Baby Lockthemdoorsssssss. Wow. Scotty won the show last night, guys. Did you know that? He actually sat down on a fake set of stairs and won the whole damn show. He sang "You've Got a Friend," which is a little unfair because it's such a gimme, and he sang it slow and sweet and with a bit of a pained strain and it was pretty freaking convincing. It was just good! Sorry, everyone. I know I'm supposed to be all respectful of music and righteously indignant about some ear-flapping Dumbo teen screwing up 1971's bittersweetest song, but I just can't be. Scotty nailed it to the wall and, though the judges' responses were oddly anemic, I think he pushed himself so far ahead of everyone else that there is just no touching him. Lauren Alaina's fingers might briefly graze the tails of his coat, but mostly he is out there in the open air all by himself. Not that he's empirically Better than everyone else, he's certainly not, technically speaking. But he just has that certain je ne sais Squotty that makes him a more successful Performer. He's gonna win. Fearless forecast, once again. If I'm wrong, I'll eat my hat. (Luckily my hat is made of cheese fries.)

Who else was good! Well, Scotty's little duet partner, Lauren Alaina, was good. The two of them should form some sort group, just the two of them singing sweet September country songs about growin' up and feelin' like the world is a big ol' excitin' place and maybe about stealin' kisses under the bleachers after the home team wins state. Fried Day Night Lights. I would listen to that. Ryan made funny jokes with them about maybe being a couple and it was cute but it was also sad because you could tell how badly Ryan missed Stefano. Not that they haven't seen each other, of course they've seen each other, all of each other, but Ryan misses having him around at work. Now Ryan is stuck with all these bumpkins, so he tried to make it fun for himself by giggle-ribbing Lauren and Baby Lock'em about their smooshing. They both just guffawed and Scotty kept saying "we're brother/sister, we're brother/sister," probably because there's some girl back home in Garner, North Carolina who he fingered in Lonny Watkins' parents' media room after the Harvest Dance in October, and she'll be mad as hornets if she thinks he's stepping out on her out in Hollywood. That or he's rightly worried that if the goilykins voting at home think he's puttin' the blocks to some girl on the show, they will lose their love for him and stop casting their votes. Stay single and possible, Scotty! Maintain the fantasy. Engage... and suggest, as Danielle Staub might say.

Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh, right, Lauren Alaina. She bleated out some song or another and it was good because she actually risked and tried and put things on the line in a way that she hasn't done before. The judges were happy because her voice cracked, and oddly I'd have to agree with them. She sounded like a human being singing a song rather than a VoiceMachine 9000 Teen Edition™, all cold and boring and robotic. While Lauren's lack of confidence has gone from cute to grating pretty quickly, I still think there's something charming about her, at least when she actually presents herself as a somewhat confident person. The shy girl routine is nonsense. (Though, she did try a little too hard to be seductive last night. She brought some random guy up on stage and it just ended up being uncomfortable and Ryan made a statutory rape joke and somewhere, for no reason at all, David Archuleta burst into tears.) Oh, there was a funny/awkward thing last night where Jimmy Iodine was like "I have a surprise for you..." and out came ol' bow-legged Miley Cyrus, the girl Iodine had insulted, when complimenting Lauren, not but a few weeks ago. Everyone laughed and smiled hugely and it was painful. But Lauren was excited. Excited to meet Miley Styrus and y'know, later on hug Ryan Seacrest and talk to J.Lo. What a weird spring semester she's having, huh! Lotsa crazy things goin' on. Meeting celebrities, wearing fancy clothes. Plus she's hoping to get her first kiss from Scotty the Body. She thinks this is the week, at the post-elimination party. She'll toss her hair to the side and make a cute little pout and he'll be powerless against her. And somewhere in the shadows, in a corner, Ryan will smile and put his hands together and he'll feel that acid-electric tug in his insides, of pleasure and envy, of joy and guilt. Then he'll go home and, fed by all that emotion, give Stefano the langone-ing of his life.

I don't really know what to say about Casey and Haley, so I'll just put them here. They were both very much Casey and Haley last night. They had a duet together that was introduced by Ryan raising his eyebrows in a suggestive manner, likely because the two growl monsters are rumored to be knocking boots back at Idol Manor. It was good, though Casey sounded a little flat. In their individual performances, Haley did a nice belt to "Beautiful," though once again the judges were harder on her than everyone else. What's your game, judges? What's that mysterious fox-wink in your eyes? Casey did his patented jazz phunk shtick to some song about sweet jelly rolls or something, and everyone gawped and gasped and gaped at it, so excited were they to congratulate themselves for "getting" it. "We like difficult music, difficult music like roar-jazz!" Truth is no one likes that music, but they're too proud to admit it. That said, Casey did it competently, so here he is in The Good. Even though I can't ever remember actually liking a single performance he's done. Can't really! Sorry.

The Bad

I'm sure that people will be upset with me that I'm putting James Durbin's "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" in the Bad category, but that's what's happening. Though he didn't wail and screech as usual, I still found Jimmy Durbs's performance not but a little too self-satisfied and, I hate using this word but what can you do, indulgent. James seems to think he's discovering gravity or a theory of space-time every time he comes out onto the Idol stage, and I just wish someone would gently touch him on the shoulder and wordlessly shake their heads, telling him no, no sweet James, you are on the tenth season of American Idol, you are not creating anything new, you are just rolling around in the enormous footprints of musical giants. I think I'd probably like James a lot more if he wasn't so pleased with his imagined artistry. I think a little perspective goes a long way, so I'd like him to get some. Get some, James Durbin! Ew.

Ohhh Jacob. Jacob Lusk. There's nothing to say, really. I'm just done. Pack it up, cover the furniture with sheets, close the shutters. This bellowing house of feelings is closed for the season, if not forever. Jacob sang "Oh No Not My Baby" last night and it was perfectly proficient, he sounded fine. That's never been Jacob's problem. Jacob's problem is, unfortunately, more ingrain and innate. He's just too Much. He's a great howling Slimer ghost that should have only made a brief cameo earlier in the season and then disappeared. Watching the Jacob Lusk Splatter-Sparkle Show every week is just wayyyy too much. You watch Jennifer Holiday sing "And I Am Telling You" on YouTube every six months, not every week. Every week is overwhelming, it's exhausting. Poor Jacob also had to sing a lame duet with gross James, and they both jiggled around on stage in too-tight clothing and, for the second time that evening, somewhere far away in the mountains of Utah, little David Archuleta burst into tears. He's been crying a lot lately, no one's sure why. They're worried, though. Everyone's worried.

So that was Carole King! No more, no more. It was kind of a fun night, a bit scratchy and weather worn, but also blaring and fuzzy in the way your favorite old jukebox is. At this point in the competition, the final six, I think everyone gets a bit weary, contestants and viewers alike. We're down to a select few, but not yet the select few. But worry not, we're almost there. I suspect Jacob will be eliminated tonight. Ryan will strap on his Proton Pack and get Jacob into a trap and that will be that. Then there will be five. The two kissing couples and poor fifth wheel James. And then there will be four. And then three. And then just two. And then only one and then finally it will be summer again, and we'll roll down the windows, turn up the Court and Spark, and — I can't wait, dear friends — we'll floor it.