‘American Idol’ Recap: Crystal Bowersox Returns To Save The Day

Call of the search party! Blow out the candles! Crystal Bowersox (aka The Savior of Season Nine aka The Best Idol Contestant Who Ever Graced The Stage aka The Reason God Created Harmonicas) is still on “American Idol!”

I don’t intend for my hyperbole to make light of Crystal’s serious hospitalization. But in hindsight, knowing that our girl is a tough cookie who’s here to stay, our collective overreaction is kind of hilarious, don’t you think?

But how did Crystal Bowersox do? Let’s take a look at her — and her competitors’ — performance. This … is “American Idol” recap!

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Crystal Bowersox
Song: “As Long as I Can See the Light” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Verdict: A Healthy Return to Her Throne
All the Idols were forced to share little nuggets about themselves. I can only imagine the dark secrets this reality show newbie revealed to producers before they told her they just want to hear about the trinkets she keeps in a coin purse. Also, Bowersox has a twin brother? Score! She claimed his name is Carl, but the Internet has already renamed him Brothersox. Welcome to “Idol” fandom, Bowersox family! Hope you like crazy people!

Going into Wednesday night’s Top 10 Girls performance show, Crystal had achieved some kind of mythical status, like the singing unicorn that births Kelly Clarkson singles or a decent Tim Urban performance. (Hell, I was even preparing an article called, “Is Crystal Bowersox’s Departure The Final Nail In Season Nine’s Coffin?”) On one hand, Crystal’s performance was irrelevant. The mere fact that she showed up (and wasn’t going to be disqualified) would have carried her through to next week. On the other, because we were all so worried we’d lose her, viewers had built Crystal up to be this genius artist we couldn’t live without. How could she live up to those expectations?

Yet by taking CCR to a gospel church run by lesbians, Crystal blew those expectations out of the (Clear)water. Her vocals were so strong that you’d never know that just hours earlier she was probably eating Jell-O and watching “Maury” from a hospital bed. (On second thought, Crystal strikes me as more of a “Judge Judy” fan.)

The judges had Idolgasms when discussing Crystal’s performance. Kara got the name of an Alanis Morissette song wrong, Randy spouted something about “truth” and “reality,” and Simon first invoked Kelly Clarkson, then channeled George W. Bush: “I misunderestimated you last week.” (Does that mean he underestimated Crystal in the wrong way? Or was he just having a Kara-esque brain fart?) Regardless, Crystal may have sung, “Mama’s comin’ home,” but she’s not going anywhere. Thankfully.

Bonus points to her for her final interview with Seacrest, where she silenced critics who accuse the troubadour of acting too cool for school by saying she was less concerned about her health and more concerned about a disqualification. Oh, Bowersox. You rock my socks. And my heart.

Haeley Vaughn
Song: “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus
Verdict: Smiley Cyrus
Haeley Vaughn makes headbands with Elmer’s glue. Obviously. She also told America, in so many words, that she’s physically unable to frown, making her even creepier than that girl who hicupped for six years straight. Vaughn’s 24/7 smile clearly isn’t genetic, because her scowling grandma in the audience gave the judges chilling death stares while they bashed Haeley’s embarrassing performance. By the time the judges were done with their group beating, Haeley Vaughn was no longer smiling. It’s a miracle!

Lacey Brown
Song: “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer
Verdict: None the Wiser
Continuing the “Girls like crafting!” motif of the night, Lacey’s big secret is that she likes to refurbish antique furniture. I’m starting to suspect that these girls are just on “Idol” to further their Etsy profits. Lacey suffers from Megan Joy syndrome. She has an equally offbeat voice with a really cool tone, but it’s not suited for an average “Idol” band backup. In order to survive, Lacey needs to bring some Björk, St. Vincent or Lykke Li eccentricities to her arrangements ASAP. (Lacey, if you’re reading this, track down Yael Naim’s “Toxic” cover and copy it note for note. You’re welcome.) While the redhead’s “Kiss Me” was miles better than last week’s “Landslide,” her voice still stuck out like Big Mike at a Little People Convention. Maybe Lilly Scott will lend Lacey some of her weird instruments for next week’s show, although frankly, Brown’s farewell is all but certain Thursday night.

Katie Stevens
Song: “Put Your Records On” by Corinne Bailey Rae
Verdict: The Curious Case of Benjamina Button
In her interviews, Katie appears to be your average overachieving teenager. (That’s not a knock. I was good friends with several of those in high school.) In her package, she showed us she can say “give me a kiss” in six languages and then blushed when she realized America would incorrectly assume she was a loose woman. Cute. But as soon as Katie begins singing, she instantly ages 40 years. As Ellen pointed out, Stevens shouldn’t be choosing dentist office staples. But at this rate, I’m pretty sure Katie would make a Ke$ha song sound ancient.

Didi Benami
Song: “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers
Verdict: Cat on a Hot Mess Roof
Didi was a mascot-turned cheerleader who preps each performance by praying and meowing. Okay! Benami’s “Lean On Me” started off really promising with a stripped-down arrangement and a new twist on the melody that worked well for Didi’s voice. But once the bridge kicked in, the song had transitioned back into the original “Lean On Me” and Didi howled and yowled like a cat in a vet’s office. (Incidentally, I spied a Fancy Feast commercial during the “Idol” telecast tonight. Coincidence?) Thank heavens we had Big Mike’s doofy dance moves to distract us from how wonky Didi’s vocals had become. That being said, the judges seemed especially harsh on Benami, and I’m not just saying that because Simon made the poor girl cry. Look on the bright side, Didi. You got a Seacrest hug! Now you have the ability to read ad copy effortlessly and your teeth are four shades whiter.

Michelle Delamor
Song: “With Arms Wide Open” by Creed (I know.)
Verdict: More Off-Putting Than a Scott Stapp Solo Album
Michelle is another singer who prays backstage. (God is really busy Tuesday and Wednesday nights this year, isn’t She?) The good news: Michelle took a risk by turning a Creed song into an R&B ballad. The bad news: Michelle took a risk by turning a Creed song into an R&B ballad.

Lilly Scott
Song: “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke
Verdict: Changing the Game
On paper, a white girl from Colorado who wears dream catchers for earrings should not be singing Sam Cooke’s masterpiece. Yet somehow, the quirky multi-instrumentalist made the civil rights anthem work brilliantly using offbeat indie rock sensibilities. Even more shocking? Her unique spin was warmly embraced by the judges (minus Simon, who gave her a less enthusiastic “good”), and she appears to be liked by viewers who voted for last week’s equally oddball “Fixing a Hole.” Adam Lambert gave me chills when he mastered this song in last May’s finale, but Lilly’s take was different enough that I forgot all about Adam. No small feat considering I have “I miss season eight” tattooed on my heart. I can’t wait to see what Lilly tries next. (Use the Moog, girl!)

Katelyn Epperly
Song: “The Scientist” by Coldplay
Verdict: She Blinded Me With Science
In her pre-performance interview Katelyn Epperly, who’s a recording engineer in training, told Seacrest not to expect anything “super epic or anything” from her this time, and then she delivered just that. Way to sell yourself short, Katelyn! Between last week’s “Oh! Darling” and this week’s stunning Coldplay cover, Katelyn is emerging as a contender for the “Idol” crown. She’s got the looks (drool), the style (swoon) and, most importantly, the vocal chops. Half the judges slammed Katelyn for slowing down Chris Martin’s ballad to a snail’s pace, but I’m going to slam them for overlooking one of the best performances of the night. I’m glad Simon suggested Katelyn ditch the over-expressive puppy dog faces when she sings. All the emotional honesty you need is already there in that beautiful voice. And to think I was upset this girl made it to the Top 24? For shame, Jim!

Paige Miles
Song: “Walk Away” by Kelly Clarkson
Verdict: Who Are You?
I’m so bummed we didn’t meet Paige Miles before the semi-final shows. She seems like a fun little thing, what with her dry mouth and her coloring books and her left-field song choices. But jumping into her “Idol” journey at this point feels like trying to get into “Lost” by starting with the third season. If I knew the story and the characters’ nuances, I might have enjoyed her Kelly Clarkson re-do (co-written by Kara, who was bummed Paige wasn’t “angry” enough). Instead, I was left wondering, “How has Jack ended up in this Hydra thing? And how long have the Others been living on this island?”

Siobhan Magnus
Song: “Think” by Aretha Franklin
Verdict: Reckless Abandon
In a season of quirky girls, Siobhan Magnus is probably the quirkiest. She blows glass (code word: she makes bongs), she used to have a Mohawk even though she looks like she could be Anna Paquin’s preppy younger sister and she can belt a high note Mariah Carey hasn’t been able to hit in twenty years. In fact, her glory note saved her fearless Aretha Franklin cover from being a complete joke. I love that Siobhan’s on the show. She’s the wild card that will keep the contestants on their toes. Can you just hear the chatter backstage? (“Oh crap. I hear Siobhan’s doing an excerpt from a Chinese opera next week. I better rethink this Stevie Wonder song.”)

What did you think of the girls? Is season nine finally beginning to show some promise? Do you think Kara’s snuggling up to Simon to ensure an invite to “X-Factor?” Are you starting to get creeped out by how often Ryan Seacrest brings up Justin Bieber? And as if you couldn’t love Crystal anymore, how awesome was her peace sign during her 866-IDOLS-01 phone number pandering? (“Whoops! This is peace! This is one!”)

Let me know in the comments below, and if you’ve made it this far, you know you want to follow me on Twitter @jambajim for all my links, thoughts and random “Idol” musings.