American Idol shocker: Adam Lambert hits bottom three
But Wednesday's installment made less impact for the singer ejected -- everyone but big dog judge Simon Cowell seemed to realize Matt Giraud offered the worst performance Tuesday -- than for the guy who landed next to him in the Bottom Three: longtime favorite Adam Lambert.
No one seemed more surprised than Lambert, who has basked in his status as the show's front-runner for many weeks now.
But, as any Idol geek can tell you, peaking too soon creates incredible pressure to top yourself each week; Kris Allen, a late-blooming contender, has snuck into the competition by slowly raising his game, free from the heightened expectations Lambert and fellow favorite Danny Gokey bring each time they step to the mike.
Of course, Lambert's stumble also conveniently opens up the competition just as the show gets to its most-watched stage.
And Cowell, the judge who is usually most tuned into the twists and turns of the contest, also seems the most confused, after insisting Giraud gave a "brilliant" performance Tuesday and predicting teen phenom Allison Iraheta would be in trouble (instead, she escaped the bottom three).
As members of the Times' Team Idol can attest, I have been saying for weeks that the judges wasted their save on Giraud two weeks ago, instead of waiting for the moment when a leader like Lambert might slip.
This is good news for Idol, which struggled last year under the inevitability of two strong front-runners. With four performers left, the competition is more wide open than it has been all season, which only means more chatter over Idol in pop culture circles and more viewership.
Make no mistake: I'm still predicting a Lambert/Gokey finale. But only if those two keep bringing the noise as they have in previous weeks.
Regardless of how it ends for them, the next few weeks are going to be lots of fun for the rest of us.