Because tonight, one finalist’s triumphant top-three homecoming parade will be snatched away, the pre-credits sequence starts with an Instagrammed montage of past finalists’ hometown events, segueing into how much all of the final four want just that. Of course they do, because after one of them wins, he or she will never see his or her home again.
The judges come out all dressed like dolls in their individual ways, and then Ryan makes his entrance with no tie and no vest, and gladhands an artificial rope-line crowd arranged on the stage in a totally unconvincing way. Then he flogs tonight’s show and claims that buying tickets to this summer’s American Idol tour will help fight heart disease. Not mine. He also breaks the news that everyone in the house gets tickets automatically, to which they react like an Oprah crowd getting cars. Then the top four come out to sing “California Dreamin’,” I guess because someone figured they should finally sing something having to do with last night’s theme. They all take turns singing the lead while the other three pretend that the entire choir’s worth of harmony we’re hearing on backup is only coming from them. The blocking is as slow and ponderous as an RV rodeo, but the audience applauds anyway. Perhaps they’re already thinking about how much they can scalp their free tickets for.
Coming back, Ryan reminds us of Daughtry and Durbin leaving at this stage of the competition in previous years, and then the lights go down. Hollie visibly knows what’s coming, but Phillip is actually so nervous he stoops in relief before hugging Hollie. Her farewell montage goes all the way back to Season Ten, her non-crying audition this year in Galveston, and a picture-in-picture of present-day Hollie finally allowing her lack of emotion its full reign. “Man, have you grown up on this show,” Ryan says when we come back to the studio. She sings us out with, what else, “The Climb,” interspersed with close-ups of her biggest supporters. Jennifer looks sad, but Joshua’s more like, “Had to happen.” At least until Hollie comes over and hugs the top three without missing a beat, at which time the end of show becomes less about Hollie’s singing and more about Joshua’s crying. She finishes the song, gets hugs from the judges, and Ryan tells us we should keep it on Fox, because Touch is next. Well, both of those statements can’t be true.