Everyone onstage looked thrilled on Wednesday night that the “American Idol” judges saved Michael Lynche, and it was easy to feel happy for the flummoxed favorite who made judge Kara DioGuardi cry a few weeks ago and apparently made voters yawn last week.
But the price of his continued presence on the show is high. Considering that the reprieve marks the only time all season that the judges will be allowed to overrule the voters, after the celebration ended and the nine finalists went back to their rooms, the contestants’ natural reaction would have been, “How does this affect me?”
In the case of Tim Urban and Andrew Garcia, the answer is “not at all.” Neither has done well enough to be seriously considered for the save. Aaron Kelly would have been a long shot mostly because while he’s performed well this season, he’s not one of the top two or three guys, and we’re at the stage where those distinctions are critical.
Taking the aforementioned three singers out of the equation — as well as Lynche, since he’s the one who got the save in the first place, though it doesn’t mean he can’t still be voted off — five singers may have their “Idol” futures affected by the absence of the save. All have reasons for concern, especially since as a result of nobody leaving the show last week, two will go home on Wednesday instead. That's double the amount of suspense-inducing lines from host Ryan Seacrest for us to sit through.
The singer most threatened by last week’s events is Siobhan Magnus. Before last week, Magnus was the most likely contender to both require and receive the save, so the fact that it’s no longer on the table is bad news for her.
Though the 20-year-old hasn’t been in the bottom three yet, she is the type of "Idol" contestant who could get in trouble in a hurry. Quirky, unconventional and with a tendency to scream her glory notes and dress like she’s getting her wardrobe at Goodwill, she’s like Lynche in that she might not have a lot of rope to survive an off night. Though using the save on Lynche was hard to argue at the time, the judges may regret that decision if Magnus is the second-lowest vote-getter this week and gets sent home.
Crystal Bowersox doesn’t seem like someone who needs to worry about tricks like the save, and it's a stretch to imagine her going out prior to the naming of the top five. After that, the option to use the save would expire anyway, so it didn't make much sense to save it on the off chance that the favorite would unexpectedly need it.
I like her a lot, and so do many other people, but judging from the Internet, there are plenty of people who don’t. However, regardless of whether you love or hate her, the biggest risk of using the save on Lynche is that it puts the Bowersox early exit scenario in play.
Bowersox isn’t just one of the dwindling number of women remaining, she’s also the glue that holds the season together. There are plenty of other contenders, but she’s the most polished act. When all the others are struggling with their songs or vocals, she’s the one every week who offers hope that the winner will really do something in the music world, and the show needs someone strong like her for the other "Idol" finalists to chase and to be compared to.
It doesn't mean she'll win — Adam Lambert filled that role last year. But think of how boring the show would have been in season eight had Lambert gone out early and we'd had a Kris Allen-Matt Giraud final instead.
Because so many women have been voted off already, the guys had less of a chance at earning the save, but Lee Dewyze and Casey James would both likely have gotten the honor had they been in Lynche’s shoes last week.
I thought that if any of the guys on “Idol” needed saving it would have been Dewyze. He’s good enough to win this, and you can see how he can be a big-selling artist if he continues to develop. He has that “commercial” vibe that’s one of the show’s buzzwords this season, and nobody wants to see him go.
However, he’s also inconsistent enough that a bad week would leave him vulnerable. Though his stage presence has gotten better, if he shows up this week tentative and doesn't project the aura of a pop star, he could find himself in Lynche's shoes without a lifeline to cling to.
As Simon Cowell points out constantly, James is a singer in search of a moment. James stays within himself and is solid every week, so he's probably safe until May, but until he takes that crucial step forward, he's in danger of being passed by the rest of the guys, and if that happens, even the Kara-Casey story line won't be enough to keep him.
Finally, there's Katie Stevens. She has not been great this season, and it’s hard to see her winning. Had she been the low vote-getter a week ago, however, the judges would have been tempted to save her just to keep the genders from becoming even more imbalanced.
Now, she's totally at the mercy of the fickle public, and any chance that demographics could have saved her went out the window. Her father, who can't watch the elimination shows from the venue and gets play-by-play at a local bar instead, will have twice as many reasons to worry on Wednesday as a result.