While many theories have been put out there about how, exactly, Sanjaya manages to escape eviction on "American Idol" every week, the audience reaction this week only made the mystery deepen.

At elimination time, there were huge cheers when Ryan called the names of crowd-pleasers like Melinda and Blake. But when he asked Sanjaya to stand — three separate times, in a gag that was either brilliant or annoying, depending on where you stand on the Seacrest scale — there was nary a peep from the audience.

When members of the bottom three are getting more props from the crowd — Chris Richardson's name, for example, produced audible shrieks — it really does beg the question: Who is voting for this guy?

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We got to see the faces of at least a few Fanjayas when they aired footage of Seacrest at the Farmer's Market in L.A. doing "man on the street" interviews about the previous night's episode. But one of them was too young to do any dialing while the other couldn't seem to pronounce his name.

I, for one, would like some concrete answers before Sanjaya strikes again — either with a hairstyle too ridiculous to even mock or a comment even crazier and more awkwardly delivered than the one he made Wednesday night about trying to steal J-Lo away from Mark Anthony.

Surely nobody was sorrier to see Sanjaya's reign continue than Haley, who — to no one's great surprise — sang her final number. The way it went down was fairly standard: waterworks from the contestant, the "greatest hits" video and the bittersweet performance.

The only variation was the silent sigh from the crowd that they would not be seeing anyone else in short-shorts (or at least anyone that they'd really want to see in short shorts) for the rest of the season.

Jennifer Lopez, meanwhile, kept her much-celebrated body parts hidden under a billowy dress during her performance. She had spent much of her time coaching the "Idol" wannabes about how important passion was in music. If passion means making a face like you are in great pain, she delivered in spades.

My favorite part of the J-Lo lecture series, however, was when she noted, without irony, that you don't have to have a great voice to sell a slew of records.

As it turns out, you don't need one to remain on "American Idol," either. Right, mystery voters?

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

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