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'American Idol' Scandals and Surprises

Probably the one place in America where you didn't hear about Antonella-gate this week was on "American Idol," which spent its 240-odd minutes instead reminding us that it's a singing, and not a scandal, competition.

And sing they did. Sundance made his long-awaited comeback with his bluesy rendition of "Mustang Sally," but I've decided the main reason I like him now is because of his adorably awkward stance the entire time he isn't singing. (Please do yourself a favor and watch him in the balcony when his competitors are performing — it's oddly precious and mesmerizing.)

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My old favorite Chris Sligh really showcased his pipes as well, but he seems to be transitioning from sarcastically hilarious to earnestly agreeable — something I became afraid might happen when he started apologizing for ribbing Simon about "The Teletubbies" last week.

I'm just going to say that I wish he'd bring back the funny! Don't we have enough earnestness on this show?

Which brings me to Phil Stacey, another serious contender. Yes, he seems like a nice enough guy and he's undoubtedly good, but I could use a little less of his intensity. And I am shocked that Simon hasn't brought up the fact that when he's singing and hat-less, he looks like one of those Popping Martian dolls that you're supposed to squeeze for stress relief.

The girls who led the pack last week — Lakisha, Sabrina, Melinda and Stephanie —- seemed to stay in their groove, and I think it's about time we add Jordin (who has seemed to mature several years) to that list.

Then there's our much-discussed Antonella, the Jersey girl who's given the Anna Nicole- and Britney-obsessed world something new to focus on.

With all due respect to Simon, the girl was about 150 times better this week than last, and that's saying something when your potential transgressions are being debated by legions of strangers ad infinitum.

As for her comment that Simon was wrong about Jennifer Hudson, that's been on everyone's lips since even before "Dreamgirls" was released, and somebody needed to bring it up on the "Idol" soundstage.

Did she deserve to stay while Leslie and Alaina got the axe? Well, that's certainly no more head-scratching than Sanjaya, who seemed to be suffering from not only a major identity crisis this week but also from a condition that caused him to breathily whisper his song, making it instead of A.J.

While it's impossible to say if Americans are voting for the singing or the scandal — or simply because they like seeing little Sanjaya in a hat — they are keeping things interesting, reminding us that the most unpredictable performance on "Idol" is, in the end, the one the public gives in determining the outcome.

Anna David is a freelance writer. Her first novel, "Party Girl," is coming out in June 2007 from HarperCollins.

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