“American Idol” Reveals Its Final Three

“American Idol” wound up with an unsurprising result on Wednesday, but don’t worry about the ratings … Ryan Seacrest and the gang wrung every ounce of suspense possible out of the evening anyway.

Michael Lynche got kicked off, earning him a fourth-place finish and sending him home just short of his goal, which was a top-three finish that would allow him to show off before his hometown AT&T store. Seriously, “Idol” fans, that’s just mean. The man didn’t ask to win, just a chance to get into a parade in St. Petersburg, Fla. Was that too much to ask?

Apparently so, but tempering his disappointment was the knowledge that without the judges’ save, he’d have been gone in April. He was the lowest vote-getter five weeks ago and would have finished ninth had he not received that once-a-season reprieve. Moreover, he had been among the lowest vote-getters in each of the past two weeks, so it’s not like the big man didn’t know he was on thin ice.

Not that Lynche was the obvious choice to go — it could easily have been Casey James — but it was hard to argue with the votes. Lynche exited gracefully, and the final scene was him sadly holding his beautiful, crying baby daughter just so everyone who didn’t vote for him would feel about two inches tall.

To make up for that predictability, “Idol” made sure every Crystal Bowersox fan had to nervously watch the entire hour by rigging the announcement of the results to cause maximum stress.

The first singer declared safe was James. OK, that was a bit of a surprise, but whatever. Clearly people like the hair, or the cougars got out the vote. Lee Dewyze had a tough go of it on Tuesday, trying — and failing — to match Seal’s vocal range, so it wouldn’t have been too shocking to see him in the bottom two.

Instead, Dewyze was the second singer who was sent to safety, which left Bowersox alongside Lynche in the scary final moments onstage.

Does that mean she was among the two lowest vote-getters? Probably not. Ryan made a big point of saying the results were “in no particular order” — except, presumably, for the order that would create the most drama. For all we know, Bowersox had the most votes and this was a cheap attempt to make sure her fans vote even more often next week to ensure her spot in the finale. Here’s hoping that’s the case, anyway.

Wednesday’s episode was notable for a number of other reasons. First and foremost, kudos to whoever told Bowersox’s boyfriend to wear something other than pajamas to the broadcasts. He was wearing jeans tonight when he got his time on stage with the rest of the friends and family.

On the other hand, whoever did Fantasia’s hair really needs a verbal beatdown, a new career, or both. The season-three champion had a Justin Bieber-like hairdo that kept getting into her eyes during her performance. Seriously, just because Bieber’s always trending on Twitter is no need to dress everyone up like him. Please make it stop.

(By the way, “Idol” should bring Fantasia back for the finale to sing a duet with Siobhan Magnus. They could see if their combined wails could shatter all the glass in the building.)

In addition, Daughtry came back to remind everyone that he finished fourth and still is beating the tar out of everyone else in season five, which should be some consolation to Lynche. Then Bon Jovi sang to remind us that they still exist.

At the end of the night, it was Bowersox, Dewyze and James who earned their triumphant trips back home that will follow this week. Look for lots of cheers, lots of tears and as much hype as the folks at Fox can muster as the season heads into its final fortnight.

Craig Berman is a writer in Washington. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/craigberman.

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