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And Then There Were 5: 'Idol' Dumps Anoop, Lil

Both Lil Rounds and Anoop Desai were eliminated on tonight’s “American Idol,” having failed to connect with their songs on last night’s disco-themed show. They were joined in the bottom three by Allison Iraheta.

Two contestants had to be eliminated this week because the judges had used their “save” last week—choosing to keep Matt Giraud in the competition despite his having received the fewest viewer votes.

Lil, who had been reprimanded by the judges last night for her copycat version of Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman,” was the first person singled out in host Ryan Seacrest’s weekly elimination rundown. After recapping the judges’ criticism, he teased her with some praise before abruptly asking her to walk across the stage.

Normally, she would have seated herself on one of the silver stools of shame, to be joined eventually by the other two lowest-scoring contestants. Instead, Ryan kept her standing center stage and said, “Lil has got three kids. Lil is one of the most courageous contestants on ‘American Idol,’ never afraid to speak her mind, right? True. Unfortunately, the journey ends for Lil Rounds tonight.”

After all that chain-yanking, Lil managed to give a good reprise of the Chaka Khan song, despite the smirk on judge Simon Cowell’s face as he reluctantly participated in the standing ovation.

Continuing the elimination rundown later, Ryan moved quickly through the two contestants who had been the judges’ favorites last night: Kris Allen, who had performed an unplugged version of Donna Summer’s “She Works Hard for the Money,” and Adam Lambert, who shone with a slowed-down version of Yvonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You.”

Ryan tried to engage Simon in a discussion of what he had meant when he’d called Danny Gokey “clumsy.” Simon told him that he was being facetious and that he should get back to the contestants. So Ryan told Danny, who had sung Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September,” that he was safe, too.

Ryan is evidently still a little miffed that last week Anoop Desai said, “Come on, Ryan,” when Ryan was doing one of his patented are-you-safe-or-not stalls, so this time he said, “Tonight, I’m going to get right to it. You are in the bottom three.”

That left Matt Giraud and Allison Iraheta, both of whom had received mixed reviews from the judges. Matt’s choice of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” proved prophetic, however, and he was told to sit down. (This meant that two of the people in the bottom three had chosen Donna Summer songs: Allison covered “Hot Stuff,” and Anoop covered “Dim All the Lights.)

After noting that 45 million votes, a record for this season, had been cast, Ryan went right to it again and told Anoop he was finished. Anoop proceeded manfully through his farewell song, but having both his and Lil’s “journey” video packages run consecutively kind of took some of the poignancy out of the departures.

To kick off the episode, the seven contestants performed the Jacksons’ “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground).” “We called upon a huge name in choreography to show them all the right moves,” said Ryan, who had kind of ruined the surprise by introducing “choreographer Paula Abdul” a few moments before.

The taped rehearsal segment indeed focused more on the choreographer than the performers, and when the number was over, Paula received a huge bouquet. (Do you think she’s the kind of person who helps blow out other people’s birthday candles?)

After Lil’s farewell performance, Ryan introduced a medley sung by “some of the biggest names in all of disco—before we were born, obviously.” He was apparently being self-deprecating (he was born in 1974), but that couldn’t have made the guest singers feel comfortable.

Freda Payne sang a breathless version of her pre-disco hit “Band of Gold,” then introduced Thelma Houston, who gave a powerful rendition of “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” then introduced “KC of KC and the Sunshine Band,” who came out with four dancers and a vaguely Tony Soprano vibe and sang “Get Down Tonight.”

The last guest performer was David Archuleta. He sounded a little tired while performing his single “Touch My Hand,” but he was all smiles and graciousness when he reminded Allison and Anoop, who were still waiting to learn their fate, that you can go on to success without actually winning “American Idol.”