Who Is the Woman in the White Dress? Before Maroon 5 was set to go on, Simon Cowell waved and called over a pretty blond woman in a white dress, who is sitting in the crowd. He was instantly smitten, hugging and kissing the woman hello before introducing her to Randy, when suddenly, Debbie the stage manager called out, “Tara? Is that Tara?” referring to Tara McDonald-Smith, the woman from Northern California whom Simon first kissed when he was a boy, and who called in to surprise the judge last week. “That’s her!” Randy shouted back to Debbie. Finally, Simon explained to a curious audience: “You know, the girl that called in last week? That’s her!” But when PEOPLE contacted Tara, she said she wasn’t at Idol. Looks like Simon was playing a joke!
Top 4 Get Marooned Rockers Maroon 5 lit up the Idol stage in honor of the top 4 (who, became the top 3 by the end of the night) with a taped performance of “If I Never See Your Face Again.” Randy and Simon (who is usually movement-challenged) bobbed their heads in unison and Paula danced in her chair before getting up and rocking out on her feet. Afterwards, the band got a standing ovation from the studio audience, and then lead singer Adam Levine exchanged words with Ryan before offering the Idols a couple words of advice: “Get ready to work.”
New Friends They couldn’t look more different — Carly Smithson with her black hair and a tattooed arm, and the sensuous Kimberly Caldwell with platinum blond locks and a cleaned-up style — but the two former contestants looked like good chums as they walked in smiling and laughing before taking a seat together. They both started dancing along to “Play that Funky Music White Boy,” which was blasting over the sound system, as Corey the warm-up guy beckoned audience members to dance along. The girls attracted so much attention that last season’s heartthrob Chris Richardson came over and hugged Caldwell and got an introduction to Carly.
More Love for Carly During a break, Debbie called Carly up to the stage to sit in between the four finalists on the couch to try and surprise viewers at home when the show came back from commercial (Ricky Minor worked as a seat-filler next to Kimberly during this time). But, after the Ford video, the Q&A and the Maroon 5 replay, Debbie was told that Carly would have to return to her seat due to time restrictions. The audience booed and sighed at the turn of events. “I tried,” Debbie cried to unhappy fans.
Bo Daddy Before he told Ryan that his wife Caroline was indeed pregnant with their second child, season four rocker Bo Bice delivered a burning, guitar-jamming performance of “Witness” from his new album See the Light. The audience was feeling the former Idol, as was Paula, who danced away along with Randy until she noticed that Simon wasn’t moving at all. She then put her arm around the stubborn judge, shaking him a bit in an attempt to get him to have some fun. The Idols, even though Jason and Syesha had yet to learn their fates, enjoyed Bice’s song as well. David Cook looked like he was singing along with the final chorus: “nah, nah, nah.” After the performance, Bice told the contestants to “practice, practice, practice,” before walking over and shaking hands with all of them.
Jason Says Goodbye As Jason’s farewell video played on the monitor, Syesha lifted her hands in the air, looked up and said, “Thank you, God,” as she headed over to hug David Cook after learning she was safe. But Castro, always cool and collected, proudly accepted his fate and shed no tears. As the band started to play his final song, Castro halted Ricky Minor in his tracks and said, “We’re doing the Bob Marley one! What’s going on?” Minor and the band had started up with Jason’s other song, Bob Dylan‘s “Mr. Tambourine Man.” As Castro happily performed his “I Shot the Sheriff” encore, (something the judges had dubbed his worst to date), Cowell couldn’t help turn and smirk at the audience, searching for their reactions as Castro contentedly strummed on. Still, the acerbic judge was the first one to walk up and hug the fallen Idol before Randy offered him words of encouragement, and finally Paula wrapped her arms around the easy-going dreadhead.
Other Stuff You Didn’t See • Before the show started, a female fan handed Ryan Seacrest a note. He started reading it aloud, “Dear Ryan … ” but then suddenly, the host paused and finished the note in silence. Afterwards, he tried to return the note, but the fan insisted he keep it. So, Ryan put it inside his coat pocket, right next to his heart.
• As the guitarist from Minor’s band soloed during Steely Dan‘s “Reeling in the Years,” the Idols had to sprint all the way up the metal stairs at the sides of the stage to make their marks above. Luckily, there were no missteps. But when it was time to come back down, David Cook carefully crept step-by-step in his pointy cowboy boots. When he was safely down and crossing the stage, he did a little jig in celebration of a job well done.
• After making it into the Top 3, something a friend had said was a true goal of David Archuleta’s, the Idol sat on the couch thanking the audience members in the pit and the bleachers with big smiles and waves all through the following break. –Jed DrebenINF; Frank Micelotta/Getty