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Wednesday Night's Idol: Phil and Chris Go Home

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PEOPLE critic Tom Gliatto thinks America made the right decision …

Episode 35

The Idol producers sprang a big surprise last week, sending no one home, and last night they introduced a smaller twist: With two singers doomed, the elimination began halfway through the hour. Ryan Seacrest brought Phil Stacey, Melinda Doolitte and Lakisha Jones forward and – the surprise ends there. Mr. Stacey, 29, of Jacksonville, Fla. was the one to go.

When it came time to making the fatal announcement from the other three, Seacrest immediately spared Jordin Sparks – a big relief, after her lackluster performance the night before. But that left Blake Lewis versus Chris Richardson, which is like a contest pitting Bruce the shark from Jaws against Nemo the Pixar fish. The two guys hugged and vowed friendship, which was very nice, and Chris even said, “I’d go home for him.” Chomp chomp: the 22-year-old Virginian, who sang “Wanted Dead or Alive,” was gone.

These were the right choices, America, and I want to personally thank you. Phil was a strong vocalist without much character, and Chris was a weak vocalist with no character. Now we’re going into a strong, vocally distinct if sexually imbalanced final four: Melinda, Lakisha, Jordin and Blake.

The hour was significant in being the only time I’ve seen Simon Cowell laugh, I mean really shake with laughter the way he might in a dark theater watching The 40-Year-Old Virgin or Austin Powers. It was somehow triggered by his usual snippy back-and-forth with Ryan Seacrest over dating, girlfriends, etc. He and Ryan always act as if they’d hire the other one to be a food taster. But maybe they like each other after all. Just like Chris and Blake.

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