Credit: Chris Cuffaro/FOX

Most contestants on American Idol in danger of getting the ax are on pins and needles while awaiting the news. Not Michael Sarver. On Thursday’s show, the 27-year-old Jasper, Texas, native was so relaxed sitting in the bottom two alongside Matt Giraud that he indulged in a snack. “I had me an Oreo during the commercial break before they gave me the news,” Sarver told PEOPLE with a laugh the day after his exit. “I had a sweet tooth, and my good friends on staff at American Idol hooked me up.”

It’s not that Sarver didn’t care about the competition. But after landing in the bottom three the previous week — and being told by judge Simon Cowell the night before that he didn’t have a shot at winning — the singer with the working-class appeal had made peace with the possibility that he’d be sent packing. “I completely disagreed with Simon’s comment because I didn’t get into this game to lose it,” Sarver said. “I had every hope that I would win. But being relaxed is due to the fact that I can look back at my American Idol journey and say that I was true to myself, and I’m proud of that.”

Sarver’s Idol journey wasn’t without its hiccups. Like Megan Joy, he recently battled the flu and even says he collapsed after singing during country week. “When I came off the stage, I was clenching my chest and ended up laying on the floor after my performance,” he said. While Joy’s illness was discussed on-air, Sarver says he chose to keep his quiet at the time because “I’m one of those who don’t like making excuses for myself.”

Which means he also won’t be making excuses for the news that broke this week about the Idols lip-synching during the weekly group performance numbers. “Of course we pre-record backing tracks because you need that support while you’re dancing around on stage and exerting so much energy,” Sarver said. “But I promise you this — Michael Sarver never got on that stage one time without singing his heart out the entire time. And I can say that for the rest of the guys, too.”

After hugging out his goodbyes to the rest of the Idols, including close bud Danny Gokey — “I believe there ain’t nothing wrong with a good hug” — Sarver will return home next week to Texas, where the married father of two plans to spend quality time with his family. “I’m gonna love on them and pray that I don’t hurt them by squeezing them too tight,” he said with a laugh. “They deserve my undivided attention for a little while and that’s exactly what they’re getting.”

He also plans to get in shape for this summer’s Idols Live tour and work on music but won’t be returning to his pre-Idol job on an oil rig. “They did hold the job open for me, just in case I needed it, but I feel like it’s time for me to move on,” Sarver said. “When I made the tour, there was no doubt in my mind that music is definitely gonna be my journey from now on.” — Shawna Malcom

Tell us: Will Michael make it as a musician? Chris Cuffaro/FOX