Allison Iraheta, the 17-year-old high school student from Los Angeles, was eliminated last night on “American Idol.” Her performance of Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby” on Tuesday had received lukewarm critiques from the judges.

With only four contestants remaining, the producers chose not to divulge which of the other three had scored the lowest. (Host Ryan Seacrest did repeatedly tell us that 64 million votes were registered, a record amount except for season finales.) If you considered the judges’ reactions to the performances on Tuesday, Kris Allen had seemed to be the most in danger. Simon Cowell had said that Kris’ rendition of the Beatles’ “Come Together” was like “eating ice for lunch—it will leave you with nothing to remember afterwards,” and said that Danny Gokey had outsung Kris on their duet of Styx’s “Renegade.”

Meanwhile, Adam Lambert had received the usual extravagant praise for both his version of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and his performance on his duet with Allison of Foghat’s “Slow Ride.”

The judges had generally agreed that Danny had chosen the wrong song in Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” especially because he had shrieked when he should have screamed at the end. This week’s celebrity coach, Slash, the former Guns N’ Roses guitarist, had said that that part of the song would be tricky. Tonight, Danny said he had listened to his performance and now agreed the ending was terrible. He claimed he had heard that people were making ring tones using “the scary scream.”

So there was some suspense when Ryan narrowed the field down to Danny and Allison, and some surprise when he said Danny was safe. Although, as often happens, the title of Allison’s farewell song, the aforementioned “Cry Baby,” was ironic, the sad circumstances gave her rendition additional power.

There was plenty of irony to be found in the non-elimination parts of the show. The group number was Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out,” with Slash on guitar; the line “School’s out with fever” was uncomfortably apt for these swine-flu-haunted days.

For the weekly auto-company-sponsored “music video,” the finalists were transformed into singing and dancing cutouts. Speaking of which, Paula Abdul made her first musical appearance on “American Idol,” performing (probably lip-synching) her new single, “I’m Just Here for the Music,” while a bunch of chorus boys pretended to be interested in her.

Gwen Stefani and No Doubt came out and showed how it’s done with a rendition of their hit “Just a Girl.” Stefani’s vocals were imperfect but real, and she actually engaged the audience rather than just the TV cameras.

Finally, Chris Daughtry, who was eliminated three years ago in the final-four episode of season 5 of “Idol,” performed a new song, “No Surprise,” with his band, Daughtry. Ryan Seacrest repeatedly reminded Chris of that surprise elimination, then had Kris Allen come on bearing a framed platinum album in honor of the 5 million copies that the band’s debut album, “Daughtry,” has sold.

What was left unsaid was that Chris Daughtry has enjoyed far greater success than the three performers who outlasted him on that season of “Idol”: Katharine McPhee, Elliot Yamin and Taylor Hicks. Maybe Allison took his performance as a consolation prize.