Ladies and gentlemen, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for: it’s country night here on American Idol. Ryan’s dressed for the occasion by wearing — what else? — purple. The mentor for this week is Kellie Pickler. Oh, no, that’s only in my fantasies. (Or an SNL sketch? Lorne Michaels, call me.) It’s actually Martina McBride, who is one of those rare country artists I really like. We cut to Martina McBride in a studio, leading our remaining seven idols in what I would guess is the worst rendition of “Independence Day” you’ll come across outside of your local sorority’s body-shot/sing-along night.
Phil Stacey’s up first. Singing “Where the Blacktop Ends” by Keith Urban. We cut to this weird shot of Phil and Martina in the studio, and I think they’re talking as the director motions for them to hit their mark by the piano, so they both seem really distracted, and Martina’s asking Phil about Kansas as she walks backwards, so it seems like he’s cornering her. I have no idea why they used that shot. Phil is — thank God — not wearing his Oliver! cap tonight, and looks respectably country-cool in black pants and a black shirt with only a hint of shiny stripes. He does seem comfortable on stage tonight, and he’s walking through the audience giving people high-fives and hugs, pausing to make love to the camera every now and then, and it’s kind of working as an act. Vocally he’s nothing special tonight, but he’s holding it down. Someone didn’t think the camera work through quite right, so we have a solid ten seconds of the back of his bald little head before they figure it out. Phil has a really small head, like a character from Goonies or something. I just noticed that. Ha! Randy’s all like, “From an accomplished producer,” as he gestures to himself, “you’re going to have a career in country music.” Randy is nothing if not modest. Paula is in that weird place where I’m not sure if she’s high or stupid, but she liked it, I think. Simon liked it quite a bit. Ryan, making fun of Phil, goes “Woooo!” and makes a face that I think is supposed to be hard-core, but you know what he looks like? That’s painting, The Scream? Of that ghost-like dude? If you still have this episode TiVo’d, go to minute 8, wait ’til Ryan goes “Woooo!” and pause it. Then look at that painting. I think Ryan was the model. And then Ryan, again making fun of Phil, goes “Love you love you!” and suddenly I realize that he was the inspiration for Crank Yankers‘ Special Ed. Ryan, darling, Phil is not the one walking away from this encounter feeling silly.