Tuned In

Idol Watch: He Gets By With a Little Help from His Friends

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Spoilers for last night’s American Idol elimination round coming up after the jump:

When Michael Lynche became season 9’s recipient of the American Idol judges’ save, Mrs. Tuned In’s first reaction was, “He’s this year’s What-His-Name!”

She meant Matt Giraud, and to be fair it took me a minute to come up with the name too. But that just about says it all, doesn’t it? I liked Matt Giraud fine at the time. But now, a year after receiving the first judges’ save, he comes to mind and it’s… what’s his name? (Matt was on the show earlier this year and has a recording career going, so he’s hardly a cautionary tale, but still.) Is that the fate that Michael Lynche, however much we like him now and in the moment, is being saved for? To be next year’s What’s-His-Name?

I don’t know, but I’m glad the judges used the save tonight. Not because I think Big Mike is likely to win, although he’s good and seems like a sweet guy. I’m glad because I don’t like the save, so the earlier it’s used—and can’t be used again—the more weeks the chips are allowed to fall where they may, with no sing-for-your-life Roman-colosseum moment.

The use of the save last night, by the way, was a reminder that the bottom finisher is not really singing for his or her survival. Nothing against Big Mike’s “This Woman’s Work,” but the judges were deliberating—or at least talking/shouting—from the second he sang his first note. They can’t have really been letting his performance make or break their decision, which was instead probably based on how well he’d done in past weeks, period. He seems like a strong contender, and dramatically the show needs as many credible challengers to Crystal Bowersox as it can get.

Of course, now the judges have used up the break-glass-in-case-of-Bowersox-elimination wildcard, and much as I like her, there is a tiny devilish part of me that wishes she’d finish last next week—not out of malice toward her but to imagine the white-hot panic in the Idol producers’ room. Maybe they figure that Sox is finishing strong enough in the voting that they have no worries about the fan favorite not making the final. Maybe they feel that enough contenders have emerged that they can count on a suspenseful final that viewers will care about regardless.(Personally, with the exception of Casey, I couldn’t see myself caring one way or another whether any of the other challengers wins or not.)

In any case, Michael Lynche was the big, and I do mean big, winner last night. (I can only shudder imagining the bone-crushing parting bear hug he might have given Ryan.) Would you have saved him, or would you have saved the save?