Syesha Mercado leaves American Idol, making it David versus David in the end

Syesha Mercado was voted off American Idol 7 last night, leaving finalists David Cook and David Archuleta, two people who could essentially be replaced with cardboard cutouts on stage and we wouldn’t know the difference as long as they were singing off-stage. I kid, but what was perhaps most remarkable last night was Fantasia’s performance, as she has more talent and charisma than this year’s top three combined–and far more awesome hair.

I don’t want to be one of those annoying American Idol fan conspiracy theorists who’s convinced everyone is out to get whoever their favorite contestant happens to be–especially because I really don’t care–but on Tuesday night, the judges seemed intent upon making sure Syesha didn’t make it to the finals. Paula Abdul, of all people, even told her, “I don’t know if it’s going to be good enough to get into the finals of American Idol.”

When Paula Abdul offers not just criticism but a prediction, something’s wrong. And last night, during the hometown visits segment, Syesha told an auditorium full of students, “dreams really do come true, and, like, anything is possible, so just make it happen.” The editors cut to a kid in the audience yawning. That was only audience reaction shot they had?

While the final three are all fine singers, Syesha’s performances seemed alive, while David Archuleta did the same Joker-grin going-through-the-motions thing on Tuesday, and his nervous laugh now irritates me so much I basically have to put him on mute. He is increasingly insufferable, and the only thing mitigating my all-out reality show hate is his age and father. It’s particularly annoying that making it to the finals is going to do nothing but fuel his father and perhaps destroy his life. I hate to be such a pessimist, but let’s just see what his Behind the Music looks like in 15 years.

We did see some humanity from David during his hometown visit. All three contestants cried, but only David cried and turned into a drunken sailor with his potty mouth. “Gosh! I can’t believe how many people came out for this. I just can’t thank them enough. It makes it all worth it, knowing how many people appreciate this, and all the hard work I’ve been doing for this. Gosh darn it, I didn’t mean to cry or anything, sorry. Gosh!” he said.

All three cried during their visits, but perhaps the weirdest moment came in Bradenton, Fla., when a woman rushed up to Syesha and handed her a baby for some unknown reason. Syesha looked horrified and said, “I can’t, I can’t I can’t.” A cop had to make the woman take her kid back (“ma’am…”). Apparently, having witnessed Jeff Archuleta’s success, that woman couldn’t wait to get her kid on the show.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.