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Reality Check: Archuleta's a Knockout on 'Idol'

While there have been brief interludes this season where we've entertained the notion that David Archuleta may not be crowned the "Idol" winner, those days are now long over.

This isn't to say, of course, that David Cook hasn't put up a noble fight and scored some terrific performances. But while I'm not one to get overly dramatic or excited about these things, I have to say that in Tuesday night's final sing-off, Archuleta blew him out of the water and more than did justice to his (er, his dad's?) lifelong dream.

First, he went along with the silly boxing analogies the producers seemed intent on hammering home, gamely calling his first song a "match." Then he showed just how likable he was by blurting out how "awesome" David Cook was right after Simon announced that they'd have to hate each other to win.

(Cook returned the favor quite genuinely, but the fact of the matter is that Archuleta beat him to the punch on that one.)

Of course, none of this even really mattered, because Archuleta was as appealing on Tuesday night as he's ever been. Not only was his version of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" spine-tinglingly amazing, but he also has never looked quite as adorable as he did when he blinked back tears as the judges told him as much.

Though I was slightly underwhelmed by his second performance — the songwriter's competition selection, "In This Moment" — he more than redeemed himself with his version of "Imagine."

In fact, while there was the off-chance that he could screw it up or somehow not be as fantastic as he was the first time he sang it, it was mostly obvious from the moment he announced that as his song choice that he'd be knocking it out of the park.

Helping Archuleta was the fact that David Cook just wasn't as on top of his game as usual. When he said at the beginning of the show something about how the competition was over and they were just there to have fun, I wondered first if repeated exposure to Jason Castro was dangerous for people's motivation levels, and secondly if anyone is ever truly that calm under pressure.

Whatever it was, the cavalier attitude didn't help him much. While I actually liked his songwriter's competition song and performance more than I did Archuleta's (Cook managed to make his sound like an actual hit), I seemed to be in the minority there and his "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," while solid, elicited nary a goose bump on me.

Then, of course, he was all but begging to be reamed for his song selection when he picked a Collective Soul number and not some other crowd-pleaser he'd already proven his mettle on. Translation: even though he was really good, Simon spent the majority of the time lamenting Cook's poor choice.

Over on the "Dancing with the Stars" finale, the Archuleta of that show, Kristi Yamaguchi, took the prize. And while the former Olympic champion has been a phenomenal performer from the first show, I actually thought Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor was going to be crowned the winner because he's a football player, and if people love anything more than football players, it's seeing football players dance.

But Kristi's talent, ultimately, couldn't be denied. While she may not be as precious as David Archuleta (no one is), she definitely set the stage for what will happen to him on Wednesday night's "Idol."

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