Quick, roll call: who thought Haley Reinhart would make it to the Top 3 on American Idol?

I certainly didn’t. I remember liking her when I first got a good listen to her during the Hollywood round, but I always thought she did too much with her voice. I was fine with her making it to the Top 24, and later the Top 13, but I thought she’s still trying to find her place in the competition. Remember how grunty her “You Really Got A Hold On Me” during Motown week was? Remember when we really wanted her to be sent home?

I really wanted her to go home then, but that was because I was really frustrated with her. You just knew she had something in there. Why isn’t she finding it? Well, she did. Her “Bennie and the Jets” is still the best iTunes recording this season. Her takes on “Rolling in the Deep” and “Beautiful” were also winners on their own. And then there were her performances last week and this week — “The House of the Rising Sun” and “I (Who Have Nothing)” surely headed towards our list of the season’s best performances. Yep, you can call her season 10’s dark horse now.

But we still weren’t sure if she’s going to last. Until last night, I was pretty certain James Durbin, Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery were a lock for the final 3. Randy Jackson and Jennifer Lopez certainly wanted her gone, judging from how bad they ripped her apart the past couple of weeks, while giving unequivocal praise to the others’ otherwise flawed numbers. But for two weeks the fans threw all their support behind her, steering her safe from the bottom and, well, this. The final 3.

Now, can Haley make it to the finale? So many factors, I say. She’s on a roll, and add in the judges’ critiques the past few weeks, and you’ve got a fan base that’s literally up in arms. But that resulted in James, another fan favorite, going home — and already that’s not going well with his fans. Either they leave the show, or they try their best to get Haley out. Catch is, they’ll have to split their votes between Lauren and Scotty. Add in the already split country vote, and the people who are still acting against the judges’ apparent bias, and you can certainly say a country singer is going home next week.

Also in Haley’s favor: her versatility. Lauren and Scotty have mostly stuck to different types of country throughout their run on Idol, and while there’s nothing wrong with consistency, that won’t do them good against the elusive Idol “moment”. They get three songs next week — Jimmy Iovine picks one, the judges pick one, and they pick one for themselves. Lauren and Scotty are likely to stick with their guns (the judges love their consistency, after all). That leaves Haley with the chance to claim yet another “moment” thanks to her ability to swerve through genres — much like Kris Allen did in season 8.

The one thing that goes against Haley’s chances: the judges. Now, I’ve been pretty passionate about how brazen they have been in throwing her under the bus the past couple of weeks, and the cynical me believes they’ll take another chance to do so next week. Then again, Haley’s versatility is proving to be a hard thing to work with: where exactly does she shine the best? She herself had a hard time finding herself even, and not all of her recent performances have been that good (case in point: “Call Me” and “Earth Song”). She’s got lots of space to “blow it out of the box,” but she’s also got lots of space to just blow the box away. As a Haley fan I’m hoping they pick the right songs for her, the same way they’ll pick the right songs for Lauren and Scotty. At least she’s got Jimmy Iovine on her side, somewhat.

And then there’s the fact that Lauren and Scotty are cruising steadily in the competition. We thought this week would be the week when the country coalition splits, and it didn’t. I think it will split next week, but who can tell? For all we know, Haley can do very well in top 3 week, but might still go home due to her attitude, or sheer numbers.

Whatever happens, the last two weeks of this season of Idol will prove to be interesting. Again, remember season 8 — Adam Lambert the frontrunner, Danny Gokey the has-been, and Kris Allen the dark horse. Will that happen again this year? I say, it all depends on what gets performed. For all we know, Scotty is still in it to win it. And no, I’m not being sarcastic.

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(Image courtesy of Fox)

Henrik Batallones

Staff Writer, BuddyTV