Reality Check: Cooking Up the 'Idol' Finale

Published May 14, 2008

| FoxNews.com

Even though we're down to the top three, the heat isn't really on. I mean, haven't most of us assumed for a while now that it's going to be David-against-David in the finale?

Sure, Syesha has more than stepped up her game of late, but let's be real — the girl is merely killing time until we get to the battle of the Davids.

And how did our Davids fare out there? Well, I think that Cook is taking the lead, and I'm not just saying that because his teary-eyed mom scares me a lot less than Papa Archuleta.

Each of the contestants performed three times this week — a judge's pick, their own selection and then a song decided on by the unnamed producers — and, the way I saw it, Cook hit all three out of the park.

His first number — "First Time I Ever Saw Your Face" by Roberta Flack — was actually my least favorite. While Simon can typically do no wrong in my book, I wasn't nearly as impressed with his song choice as he was, and while Cook's heart and soul seemed like they were in it, I was honestly more entertained by Ryan's joke about Simon being gay than I was by the performance. (Don't get me wrong, Cook was good; he just wasn't great and besides, I've just missed the Ryan-Simon over-the-top rivalry this year.)

Just in case anyone was struggling to be won over, Cook wished his mom a happy belated Mother's Day after the song — a rather shameless (but undeniably effective) points-earner. Syesha is probably kicking herself for not having thought of that one.

Cook went on to do Switchfoot's "Dare You to Move" and Diane Warren's "Don't Want to Miss a Thing" with Cookian perfection. The fact is, he's always good, and a strong performance from him is as predictable as his calm-verging-on-depressed demeanor (I mean seriously — would it kill this burgeoning sex symbol to smile?)

Having less trouble showing his pearly whites was, of course, Archuleta. The boy also seemed a tad more relaxed than usual as he banged out Billy Joel's "And So It Goes" (Paula's choice), Chris Brown's "With You" (David's dad — er, David's selection) and "Longer" by Dan Fogelberg (thanks to the producers).

The first and third numbers were as excellent as usual, but there was something terribly awkward about watching our precious baby point and groove on "With You." It was, essentially, the musical equivalent of seeing Paula in a presidential debate. Still, those cheering girls out there might beg to differ and indeed want to take me in a headlock for daring to say that Archuleta singing a sexy pop number was anything but amazing.

As for Syesha — well, she's fighting it out until the bitter end, but with only so-so results. Her Alicia Keys number ("If I Ain't Got You") was, in Randy parlance, hot, but her chair routine on "Fever" was sort of high school talent show-ish and her version of "Hit Me Up" left me pretty cold.

But I'll say this for Syesha — she's realized something that still eludes the other two, and that is that when you're in the position they're in, you can say virtually anything and the crowd will eat it up. It is, quite literally, the easiest audience they'll ever be in front of — each and every one of its members is just aching to love them — and once they get that, they can milk it for every last vote.

Audience members couldn't save Marissa Jaret Winokur on "Dancing with the Stars," despite the fact that she took enthusiasm to previously unimagined levels. But enthusiasm, my friends, can only take you so far. Just ask our leading "Idol" contender, David "I Won’t Break a Smile Even if It Kills Me" Cook.

Anna David is a freelance writer. Her novel, "Party Girl," is in stores.

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