Michael Lynche saved by judges; he was voted out after Idol’s lowest-rated Tuesday ep ever

Despite receiving the fewest number of votes, American Idol 9 finalist Michael Lynche will return to sing again next week, as the judges decided to use their once-per-season save on him. He was joined in the bottom two by Andrew Garcia, who was the more likely choice to go home, although neither had the worst performances on Tuesday.

That’s why this was our first shocking! result of the season: Michael is far from the worst singer, and he definitely didn’t do the worst job on Tuesday night. While I don’t agree with critic Eric Deggans that Lynche is “the show’s best singer”–he maybe technically great but he frequently bores me–I do agree with his skepticism and concern. Deggans writes, “Given that actual vote totals are never revealed, it’s a little suspicious that a front-runner like Lynche, easily the most technically gifted singer in the field, was in danger of ejection so soon. Another troubling trend, with Lynche and Andrew Garcia in the bottom two, the show’s only remaining singers of color both received the lowest scores.”

Because it was an Idol results show, the actual save was dragged out and milked, with shots of Michael’s crying wife in the audience keeping the emotional energy high. Simon Cowell, being a drama queen as usual, said, “We only have one save in the competition. This is unanimous, Michael,” he said, finally saying, “we have decided we’re going to see you next week.” Considering there are far weaker and less consistent singers in the competition, that’s a good move. At least, it’s a better decision than pointlessly keeping Matt Giraud last season, when they used the save just before it expired.

This early use of the save may have some repercussions, however. For one, if, say, Siobhan or Crystal end up with the lowest number of votes for some reason, they’re out, and that’s it. More importantly, two people will go home next week. Michael’s save means that his fans will probably rally and he’ll be out of the bottom two, most likely sending two other people home, so their performances next week will be critical.

Or maybe not. There’s no reason to expect the voting will somehow become rational. The show has always been a popularity contest, and this season, I’d guess people just don’t give a shit and aren’t voting, leaving more power in the hands of teen voters who power text votes for Aaron Kelly because they think they have a chance with him instead of with married father Michael.

The ratings certainly reflect people’s lack of interest: The New York Times reports that, among young viewers 18 to 49, the show had “its lowest number ever for a two-hour edition of the show” on Tuesday, which was “the lowest-rated Tuesday edition of the show since an hourlong episode on Aug. 13, 2002, in its first season, when the series played in the summer.” About 20.4 million people watched, meaning Dancing with the Stars will once again be more popular this week.

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