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Last Night's Idol: Jordin Gets Simon's Vote

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PEOPLE critic Tom Gliatto agrees with Simon calling Jordin a winner …

Episode 30

During a night devoted to country music and mentored by Martina McBride, Simon Cowell seemed determined to get the show back on track – and presumably away from the giddy influence of Sanjaya Malakar. He was issuing pronouncements left and right in iron tones, like a royal chancellor from The Tudors.

1. Fully aware of the solemn importance of such a judgment, he told 17-year-old Jordin Sparks she might actually win the season. Her cover of McBride’s “A Broken Wing” had problems – the vocal seemed to be slipping away from the band – but if I were looking for someone to sign up and develop for a label, she’d be the one. She’s radiant. He also gave Phil “I’m in the Bottom Two” Stacey an unexpected shot at hanging around longer by saying that the singer had finally discovered a style that suited him.

2. He seemed to be at the end of his tether with young Mr. Malakar. This week Sanjaya, expressing what I suppose is his idea of country style, had his hair teased up and wrapped under a bandanna. A Sanjadanna! He performed a version of Bonnie Raitt’s “Something to Talk About” that was characteristically weak. Simon slammed it as “utterly horrendous.” When Ryan Seacrest defended the kid, Simon knocked him, too, calling him a “big mouth.”

3. He no longer seemed charmed by once-infallible LaKisha Jones, faulting her song choice: She did make “Jesus Take the Wheel” into a bit of a dirge. Was Simon signaling a tipping point? And he wasn’t in the mood for back-talk from Chris Richardson about whether or not the Virginia native’s vocal could be fairly described as “nasally” (not to mention “utterly insignificant”). When Chris ended by, in effect, talking over Simon and sending out a message of support to the victims of the Virginia Tech tragedy, Simon looked away and rolled his eyes. He later made his own statement of support. Yeah, that was probably a good idea.

For more from last night, see AOL’s Idol coverage.