Click here for details on one of the show's wildest episodes ever

By Tom Gliatto
Updated March 24, 2011 10:05 PM
Frank Micelotta/Fox/PictureGroup

“Interesting night, folks,” Ryan Seacrest said.

This was rare understatement from the American Idol host. Thursday’s episode was one of the wildest ever.

Read on to find out more.

One might have conservatively predicted the end of the road for Haley Reinhart – but this time she wasn’t in the bottom three at all.

Nope, it was a shaken Casey Abrams – a favorite of the judges since the audition rounds – who was voted off by the viewing public. And then he was saved by the judges.

Steven to the Rescue

After the shocking announcement was made, Abrams took the microphone from Seacrest and started to sing “Don’t Need No Doctor,” hoping for a rescue from the judges, but he was almost immediately cut off by Randy Jackson, waving for him to stop.

The judges had no intention of letting Abrams go – so no need to prove himself, either.

“This is crazy wrong,” Steven Tyler said. “We made a decision here to keep you on.”

Abrams looked so blindsided, first by the bad news and then by the good, he seemed on the verge of collapse. It was hard to tell whether to be scared or happy for him. His hands were trembling violently as he touched his heart.

Staggering Casey

“Are you kidding, are you kidding,” he muttered over and over, as he staggered to the judges’ table to thank them. He embraced Seacrest and sank to his knees. He ran into the audience and hugged his parents.

At that point, Jennifer Lopez, who like Tyler and Jackson was floored by the public vote, almost apologetically suggested that perhaps Abrams had been thrown off the right artistic course. Or was she referring to his medical problems?

“We just want you to get back to being the musician you are,” she said. “Just let people feel your soul.”

Abrams, at least, still had the wits to ask how this will all work with the upcoming tour. Only the top 10 were expected to participate.

Next Week’s Eliminations

Seacrest stepped forward and announced that there will be two eliminations next week, and that a top 10-plus-one will make up the tour.

That wasn’t the only shock of the night: Abramas was joined in the bottom two by Stefano Langone, another favorite who’s got the old-fashioned boy-crooner thing going.

What could have gone wrong?

I would have predicted Paul McDonald to go before Abrams, let alone Langone, with his husky, folksy style. But there’s an abrasive, even scouring power to Abram’s singing that may play better in the live auditorium, where the judges love him, than in the living room, where perhaps viewers don’t.

As for Langone, he seriously miscalculated this week, singing “Hello” with a frenetic, almost histrionic urgency that was too much at odds with Lionel Richie’s famous, whipped-cream original.

Thia Megia joined them in the bottom three. I love her serene, sweetly forlorn pop voice, and the judges thought she was showing some needed variety and pep this week with her cover of “Heat Wave.” At this rate, though, her prospects aren’t looking great.

This all happened in the last 18 minutes of the show. The rest of the episode included performances by Sugarland and Jennifer Hudson, and a bizarre visit from Hulk Hogan.

And Stevie Wonder came out to sing “Happy Birthday” to Tyler, who’s turning 63 on March 26.