American Idol Recap: Wicked Game

Orlando's Idol auditions outclassed Chicago's by -- and this is not an estimate -- over 200%. As a native Chicago suburbanite, I diplomatically suggest we all pass out face-down in the urinal troughs at Wrigley Field, because that's a Sosa's-new-face level of sad. The city that gave us everyone from Herbie Hancock to the Smashing Pumpkins looked like a beat-up gourd next to Orlando, the town that Lou Pearlman rebuilt using boy-band sorcery and pyramid schemes. But with guest-judge Kristin Chenoweth in tow, Idol gave us at least three notable moments that didn't have me texting Oprah for validation and a (geographically) teachable moment.

3. JWOWWing the panel

Sisters Bernadette and Amanda DeSimone, born and raised in a patch of utopia called New Jersey, provided the night's stagey double-audition. Their Snooki-grade hair and DJ Pauly complexions nailed the Jersey Shore zeitgeist note for note, even if their actual auditions ("Hit the Road, Jack" and "I Wanna Dance With Somebody") were acceptable at best. Both were sent through to Hollywood, but these girls either need to carve out real identities or dub themselves with soundalike nicknames (B-Simone and A-Simone? Situations 2 and 3? Tweedlesnook and Vinnydum?) if they're going to survive group rounds.

2. Kara DioGuardi's Wicked crush

Now dwarfing the search for America's next great pop star: Kara DioGuardi's nationwide search for a friend. The minute Kristin Chenoweth sat down at the panel, a queasy jubilation crept across DioGuardi's mug. Suspicious. Was it about professional admiration? Was it about female solidarity? Or was it about that tinge of, shall we say, "I saw you walking across the commons and I thought, Who is she?" that just makes you want to follow your new lady friend forever? During one of the bad auditions, I believe I saw Kara mutter, "Is that Shalimar, Kristin?" while Randy yelled "It's not gonna work, dawg" to no one in particular. At any rate, Chenoweth skipped the second day of Orlando's auditions to hide in Roger Sterling's bedroom and wish this day of one-sided-footsie matches away.

1. Finally, a Jermaine we can trust

Mathematically, the biggest champion of the episode was Jermaine Purifoy, who, with Randy's "200 bazillion percent yes" support, defied everything that Euclid and McGraw-Hill stand for. His rendition of Tony Bennett's "Smile" was unforced and seamless, and my hopes for a solid Top 12 blossom like so many daisies -- of the not-canceled variety, of course. RIP.

(Click to 2:35 for the beginning of Jermaine's clip.)