‘American Idol’ Recap: Group Night Builds A Few Narratives

Hollywood Week(s) continued on “American Idol” on Wednesday night (February 10). Ryan Seacrest apparently calls this portion of the program “Hell Week.” This just in: “American Idol” is now taking cues from sororities! I can’t wait until next week’s episode, when all the contestants lay naked on the floor while Kara DioGuardi circles body fat with a Sharpie.

Wednesday night was the dreaded “Group Night,” where, like every other season, the remaining 96 hopefuls broke off into small groups, took over hallways and lobbies of a hotel in California and sang Motown tunes into half-empty water bottles all through the night. (Seriously, I hope “Idol” buys out that entire hotel. Imagine the phone calls the front desk guy must get at four in the morning: “They’re still singing ‘Get Ready’ in the hallway!” “Two people are screaming about choreography outside my door.” “I accidentally bought a porno flick 90 minutes ago. I won’t be charged, right? Oh, also, some girl is butchering that Alicia Keys song in the room next to me.”)

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As always, a few over-the-top personalities hogged most of the screen time, so the episode was short on music, long on drama. (It was also long on frighteningly sculpted eyebrows thanks to the plucked-up Danny Jones. Yikes!) So let’s break down the various plot threads producers focused on this year.

Neopolitan vs. Destiny’s Wild
Both of these groups selected Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” and for some reason decided to rehearse right next to each other. (That makes about as much sense as forcing contestants to perform group numbers when they’re competing to be a solo artist. Am I right, Jermaine Sellers?) Passive-aggressive loud singing commenced, accusations of “idea stealing” got thrown around and voila! Todrick Hall, so charming in his initial audition, suddenly became the season’s resident diva. With an intense gaze and an arched eyebrow typically reserved for Disney villains and drag queens, Hall menacingly sang, “They’re goin’ down!”

Alas, Neopolitan didn’t go down. Their “Bad Romance” scored high marks from Simon and they all advanced — even Liz Rooney, whose bright pink streaks and chesty moan cried out for a make-under and a muzzle, respectively.

I preferred Destiny’s Wild’s “Bad Romance,” if only because it opened with Todrick doing a backflip and featured a sassy one-named singer named Theri in a pleather top. I was also excited to meet rocker girl Siobhan Magnus, who apparently spends her free time raiding Bruce Springsteen’s closet circa 1984 when she’s not blowing glass. Now that I read this paragraph back I can see why Ellen called their performance “surreal.” They all made it to the next round, too, which means Todrick lives another day to sass anyone who doesn’t appreciate him for the treasure he is.

Mary Powers vs. The Dreamers, Sanity
If Todrick was the head cheerleader of the “Idol” high school cafeteria, Mary Powers was the unstable late-in-life student-teacher who often cries in front of the class. The 29-year-old, initially slammed by Simon in her audition for trying too hard with her image, showed up to Hollyweek dressed in her finest business suit. Obviously. That was the first sign that the rocker was off her rocker. Exhibit B? Everything else she did in this episode.

To be fair, I would also be pissed if two flighty girls invited themselves into my group. Would I walk over to a show producer to “double-check” the rules? Probably not. I, too, would want to get as much out of my time with a vocal coach as possible. Would I provoke said vocal coach to the point of him telling me to shut my pierced pie hole? Probably not. I, too, would want my group performance to be a cohesive, tight, well-rehearsed routine. Would I scream at my group-mates over every little thing, then get all weepy in front of a TV camera and wish to be placed in a group that wasn’t so critical and nit-picky, only to then go back to my group and yell at them some more? Definitely not.

Given the backstage turmoil, it wasn’t a big shocker that the Dreamers’ performance of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” was a nightmare. Mary started the song with a Christina-like run and a schizophrenic chuckle, Margo May sang in the key of strife and Alex Lambert (!) shuffled like Charlie Brown during a solo. The rendition was so bad that Kara’s earring fell out during her critique. (Oh, Kara.) Rumor has it Taylor Swift sent the Dreamers a fruit basket with a note that said, “Now I’m not the worst thing to happen to a Fleetwood Mac song on television. Thanks!” Despite the drama, Mary, Alex Lambert (!) and Hope Johnson skated on through.

Michael Lynche’s Wife’s Vagina vs. Dilation
“Idol” producers hit the jackpot with Michael “Big Mike” Lynche. His wife was giving birth to their first child as he was in a hotel memorizing the lyrics to a Temptations song. Clearly this angle was one producers were going to milk for all it was worth. Unfortunately, because this episode cut between stories every 45 seconds, viewers were treated to hilariously thorough updates on Mrs. Lynche’s birth canal. By the seventh time “Idol” showed Michael on the phone with his saint of a wife, he wasn’t the only one asking, “Is the baby out?”

Eventually, Mrs. Lynche gave birth. (Don’t worry, “Idol” cameras were there to document it!) And although Big Mike claimed he now had a daughter, the photo suggested his wife gave birth to an adorable Glo-Worm.

Oh. I suppose Michael Lynche sang something. All I remember hearing him say was, “I cannot believe that baby’s coming out right now.” But he’s still in the competition. I’m hoping he stays for awhile because I plan on using as many absentee dad jokes as possible. (Just ask Phil Stacey from season six — I’ve got tons.)

Odds and Ends and Superstitions
In between Todrick Hall’s back flips, Mary Powers’ whacked fits and Mrs. Lynche’s naughty bits, somehow producers found room for a few other singers, including the usual suspects Andrew Garcia and Katie Stevens, the latter of whom Kara pimped by telling her she has the potential to win the show. Are we really already using that talking point? (Oh, Kara.)

I was intrigued by Moorea Masa. She was in Danny Gokey’s group last year, so she convinced her team (The Phoenix) to rehearse in the same exact spot (a closet) “for good luck.” (But how is that good luck for her? She got cut last year!) She may have been booted for losing the lyrics to Kansas’ “Carry On Wayward Son,” but Moorea will forever be known as the girl who forced Seacrest to record voice-overs about being in the closet. Four for you, Moorea!

What did you think of Wednesday night’s episode? Were you depressed when Mark Labriola begged for mercy because it was his last shot at auditioning? Would you ever in a million years choose Gwen Stefani’s “The Sweet Escape” as an audition song? Did you find it funny when Matt Lawrence — the ex-jailbird — sang lyrics about wanting to escape? What do you think Michael Castro did to “Idol” producers to get denied airtime in Hollyweek two years in a row? And how much you wanna bet that Kat Nestel, the girl who quit right before singing with the Phoenix, will return next season with a heavy piece of back story?

Leave a comment below and keep up with my “Idol” and pop culture ramblings on Twitter @jambajim.