Finalists’ Rat Pack songs helped by “mystery mentor” Jaime “your breath was fresh” Foxx

Perhaps the biggest surprise from American Idol‘s judges last night came when Simon Cowell critiqued not a contestant, but the “mystery mentor,” as Ryan Seacrest described Jaime Foxx, having introduced him with a phrase that I never expected to hear: “Like the Rat Pack, Jaime Foxx…”

Talking to Danny Gokey, Cowell said, “What Jaime’s brought out, particularly in you tonight, is incredible.” Jaime Foxx did that by literally getting in Danny’s “grill”–so close he later commented, “your breath was fresh”–which he later told us led Danny to become “the purest and the truest” in his singing.

And Jaime, like Quentin Tarantino before him, seemed to be a good mentor to everyone, even though he was kind of odd, and may or may not have given Matt bad advice about the key he sang in. But ultimately, Jaime Foxx contributed to an extremely strong Idol episode: great singing, smart critiques (even from Paula!), and pretty much no bullshit.

Perhaps because there was no truly weak performance by the contestants, the judges actually ended up disagreeing a few times about how great the singers were. Allison was called “the bomb” by Randy, and Kara told her, “if that doesn’t land you in the finals, I don’t know what will.” But Simon said, “I have a horrible feeling you could be in trouble tonight.” Kara later told Simon, “I love you, but you are crazy.”

Likewise, when Justin Timberlake–I mean, Matt Giraud–performed, Kara said, “I didn’t feel you were emotionally connected to it,” and Randy agreed. But Simon said it was “the only believable, authentic song I’ve heard tonight.”

They did agree on Adam Lambert (of course), Kris Allen (the “dark horse,” Kara said), and Danny Gokey, who Kara said had swagger for the first time, although she described it as if he had tchotchkes (“you had swag tonight”). Simon agreed that he had newfound “confidence” and “swagger,” saying, “what Kara said was 100 percent right.”

What does all this agreement and light disagreement mean for viewers who look to the judges to direct their votes? Probably that Allison and Matt will be in the bottom two, if only because the other three have never been in the bottom. Well.

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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.