The performance challenge episode begins with Heejun Han wearing a red hoodie, confessing his anxiety to the camera as contestants are chauffeured to the Aria hotel in Las Vegas. He doesn’t know whether he’s dreaming or awake, and that’s basically how we feel about him. Stay forever with us in our dreams, Heejun. This kid is solid comedy (and singing) gold. More on that later.
Colton Dixon matches Heejun’s contemplative mood, but without the irony, staring out at the Vegas skyline while wearing a knit cap and muscle t-shirt. “This is going to be my moment,” he says, somberly, looking like a Sonic the Hedgehog cameo in a Drake video.
The perils of teamwork continue to wreak havoc on the contestants. Not everyone can play nice, y’all, but darling Skylar Laine Harden is going to try her darndest. Skylar is in a group with Chase Likens, Colton Dixon, and an Amanda Seyfried lookalike named Cari Quoyeser. Skylar is really nervous and can’t seem to hit the right notes.
The camera cuts away to Ryan Seacrest standing by himself with only his friend, the microphone. “There will be cuts and they will be brutal.” Spoiler alert! We just hope there’s less vomiting this time around.
Skylar’s group is up first. They’re all dressed in black and white, with the boys in white tux jackets, Skylar in black lace, and the Cari girl in white. As they walk onstage, the cameras flash to Colton’s sister, Schyler, looking morose as she sits in the audience. Sibling feud! We sense some foreshadowing.
The group itself is a weird mashup of voices, as if you paired up Christina Aguilera, Gavin DeGraw, Lifehouse, and Reba McEntire. Judge Jennifer Lopez tells Skylar to “relax,” echoing what their vocal coach told her earlier in the evening. Steven looooves himself some Chase Likens, and all of the judges agree Cari was the weakest link so she’s sent packing.
Next up: Jeremy Rosado, David “Mr. Steal Your Girl” Leathers, Jr., Gabi Carruba, and Ariel Sprague. They all auditioned in Savannah and bonded instantly, but there’s one problem: Gabi’s a diva, so much so they all openly mock her about it. Then, true to diva form, she cries to the camera about how she feels like she’s pulling “the weight of the group” and their song doesn’t highlight her voice enough.
Onstage, the foursome is seamless. David Leathers is basically the most adorable kid ever, snapping and doo-wopping his ass off. The boys largely carry the melody, but all four contestants make it through. Gabi then gets off her high horse and tells the camera, “We’re a family and we’re going to go all the way.”
Adam “White Chocolate” Brock, Angie Ziederman, Erika Van Pelt, and Shelby Lynn Tweten take the stage. Angie is wearing some sort of gold halter top and writhes around on a vintage car like she’s in a Rick Ross video. Steven Tyler, unsurprisingly, loves the choreography, telling Angie, “for a skinny girl, you don’t have many tail feathers, but you sure shook ‘em.” We’re going to pocket that phrase for later use.
Reed Grimm, Elise Testone, Eben Franckewitz, and Haley Johnson are a formidable group, largely thanks to Reed’s enthusiastic hip shaking. He was basically born to vogue for the camera and/or work a stage. This group gets a standing ovation from the judges and everyone makes it through.
Heejun Han’s arch nemesis Richie Lawson has found a new friend in Jermaine Jones. Richie, formerly a member of Heejun’s supergroup with Phillip Phillips, Most International Team, left the group after the last round. Flash to a hilarious montage of Heejun facial expressions and reaction commentary. “His new partner is going to go crazy, he’s going to lose amounts of hair, I feel so bad for him,” Heejun says when he sees Jermaine’s agreed to team up with Richie.
Surprisingly, Richie and Jermaine’s baritone brigade wins the judges over. J.Lo gushes, “We love you both.”
The next group is comprised of Jessica Sanchez, Candice Glover, and Deandre Blankenship. Jessica Sanchez is a petite powerhouse. Girl can BELT IT. Deandre looks like an extra in an En Vogue music video, but he sounds like a young Maxwell, so all is forgiven (for now). The judges greenlight all three contestants. J.Lo praises them: “Three very different voices, coming together and making a beautiful sound.” Randy adds, “The future is very bright when I hear y’all sing.” Next up: a series of workplace inspirational posters inspired by Idol judges.
Sidebar: The judges’ outfits are out of control during this episode. Steven Tyler is wearing a blouse straight out of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Kim Richards’ closet (complete with built-in ascot), J.Lo is rocking head-to-toe pink sequins harder than we thought possible after Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” music video, and Randy Jackson is wearing an argyle sweater.
Then things get serious. All contestants are called back onto the stage and Randy tells them: “Another word of caution: Tomorrow we see ten more groups, so some of you may not be completely safe.” In other words: LOL JK YOU DIDN’T REALLY GET THROUGH IF THOSE OTHER PEOPLE DON’T SUCK.
Back to the groups: The Backstreet Boys meet West Side Story in the Clayton Farhat, Scott Dangerfield, Adam Lee Decker, and Curtis Gray group. And not in a hot way. In a Joey Fartone and Lance Bass: What They Look Like Now kinda way. But, everyone makes it through except for poor Curtis Gray, who’s sent packing.
Jessica Phillips, Britnee Kellogg, and Courtney Williams figure they don’t need to practice with the band or vocal coach because they all sing for a living. Not the best idea, because they’re pretty shaky. Jessica gets cut right there, despite the fact that we’d all fallen in love with her voice and her unconditional love for her boyfriend.
Shannon Magrane is still only 16 years old yet somehow six feet tall, and Joshua Ledet can still sing his ass off.
Super group Creighton Fraker, Nick Boddington, Jen Hirsh, and Aaron Marcellus Sanders do “Sealed With a Kiss.” Only Nick goes home.
Phillip Phillips and Heejun Han are the greatest couple of all time. They are greater than Sonny and Cher, Brangelina, and Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart’s powers COMBINED. Matched with Neco Starr and Jairon Jackson, the foursome sings “I Only Have Eyes for You,” and they all advance.
Then Vegas doomsday comes and the following contestants are added to the pile of Season 11 sayonaras: Angie Zeiderman, Candice Glover, Johnny Keyser, Jairon Jackson, and Britnee Kellogg.