We’re in the home stretch! Speaking of home, that’s where the Top 3 remaining contestants are going (or have returned from, if we’re talking real time). They have successfully completed the “Hometown Hero” level of this game, and we’ll watch the results of that interspersed with the judges’ song choices for them tonight. 

I bet Phillip’s visit will be endearing, as he revisits the pawn shop (and probably ignores his poor girlfriend who he already shrugged off once on live television). Joshua’s visit will be fun, because his family is funny and has really latched onto that whole crayfish thing. I have no idea what Jessica’s visit will be like, because we don’t know much about her except that … she has school? She’s a good singer, though, and that’s all that matters. I’m curious to see what the judges will choose for the contestants since Joshua has already chosen every great song for himself over the course of the competition. Who do you think will win? Is it still a close race?

Wow, the Final 3 could not look more exhausted. And, in Making-Jessica-Look-Crazy news, she’s wearing a floor-length evening gown! That’s totally appropriate for her age and not drowning her at all! And she looks totally natural standing next to Phillip in an effing flannel and jeans. I don’t know, it’s easier to criticize that than to actually choose something. How do you dress a 16-year old who sounds like a 28-year old? Debacle.

Jessicalonggown.jpgNext week the performance show is on a Tuesday and the finale on a Wednesday! Make note! And tonight there are three rounds: judges’ choice, contestants’ choice, and Jimmy’s choice. I bet Jimmy’s choice will be the best. He just knows! At least the kid from Touch is here, and somewhere in the vicinity Kiefer Sutherland is looking for him, whisper-screaming, “JAKE!”

Joshua Ledet is up first, and “Randy” chose “I’d Rather Be Blind” by Etta James, a classic, for him. Joshua is doing well enough with this song and the old-timey microphone. I’m not familiar with this song, but it seems like a good choice for him. It’s more laid-back so it’s not like he’s going to push a diamond out first thing. We’ve got a long night ahead of us. But the thing about Joshua is that he always gives it his all, and even this first, expendable performance has some real oomph behind it. And of course, the judges can’t help but rise to their feet, trained like Pavlov’s dogs.

Ryan Seacrest asked Joshua how tonight is different for him from watching a sporting event, and he paused, “Uh, I don’t really know how to answer that.” I really like Joshua; and that question was baloney.

The rest of the Top 12 are here, watching in the audience! Oh, I miss Heejun. Remember Heejun? Things were really fun when he was on the show.

Jessica Sanchez will be singing “My All” by Mariah Carey, per Jennifer’s request. The staging is really nice, they literally put her on a pedastal and turned on the fog machines. All Jessica has to do is stand there and not act weird about it, which she does successfully. I think this was also a good choice for Jessica, showing more tenderness and a less belt-y side of the ballad. It was really pleasant, or whatever a more intense version of pleasant is. Randy called it one of the best times a Mariah song has ever been performed on TV. That’s fair. Jennifer acknowledged that it was a hard song they threw at her. Steven predicted that Jessica would also win. Everyone wins, as Steven lives in multiple realities and dimensions.

Before the commercial break, Phillip Phillips is reunited with Heejun Han, and they’re back to their old comedy routine. I miss them together. They need to figure out some sort of guest correspondent position for Heejun.

Phillip Phillips was assigned “Beggin” by Madcon. At first I wasn’t sure how this would fit, but it turns out to be a pretty savvy arrangement. There isn’t a way to make this song cooler than it is already, but this was an interesting take. Very classic Phillip. The audience loved it, maybe more than I did. It sounded very DMB. Jennifer said it was great, Randy (who @ replied me during the commercial break! The “YO” pin is coming back!) said he felt like he was at the Phillip Phillips concert.

Ryan saunters over to the judges and asks for a Round 1 winner. The audience screams for Phillip. Randy gives the edge to Joshua, vocally. Jennifer says Phillip, to much applause, and Steven agrees that Phillip is magic.

Phillipspellcaster.jpgAre you under this man’s spell?

Joshua Ledet is back, and he sold out the arena back home! Louisiana sent some glasses, beads, and boas. Joshua freaks out in his first class private jet on the way home. Remember how he was afraid of flying? May he never fly coach again. Oh my god, he’s so cute. “They are really acting like I am Barack Obama,” he says, stunned. He went to church, where they’ve been praying and voting for Joshua. He asked his niece to ride in the parade car with him. I think it’s weird that FOX requires this town to put on a parade, but whatever. I like that we get to see a lot more of his personality in this clip package, however shy. It looked like a fun concert, too. He sang “It’s a Man’s World” with all the ease and skill of a professional. I really liked this home town visit.

Now, Joshua Ledet chose “Imagine” by John Lennon to sing. I don’t know, there are a few songs that should be retired from the show forever, and this is one of them (along with “Hallelujah” and “Falling Slowly”). I like that this song eases back a bit, though, as Joshua can sing the crap out of any song whenever he so chooses. I wish he had picked a better song, or at least something a little less squeaky clean, but that’s who he is! His genre is “inspirational music.” The judges loved it. It’s out of their hands as far as they’re concerned. Joshua chose this song for the message, and good for him, but I really want him to sing some Cee Lo.

What did Jessica Sanchez choose? She did not choose to wear a pageant gown, that’s for sure. I love what she’s wearing for this performance. But first, her hometown visit, which she describes as “pretty cool.” God, she’s young. She helicopters in to the Padres stadium where she first waited for her audition, then just strolled into the Chula Vista Amphitheater to say hey to her fans. Her little brothers describe being in a limo as “world class,” which was pretty awesome. She almost got mobbed on her high school track, which surely would have broken this 80 pound girl. She performs “Dance With My Father Again,” dedicated to her dad and all the sailors and their families. I didn’t like this clip package as much.

Jessica Sanchez chose to sing Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” in front of Steven Tyler! Like that’s even a factor. This is another song that’s overwrought, over-sung, and can ride on cheesy. It’s not her finest moment, but we’ve known for a while now that she doesn’t always choose the best songs for herself. It’s even, dare I say, pitchy? But she finally looks great, so that’s something. The last note faltered, went flat, and cracked. Maybe she’s sick or blew out a vocal chord. The judges pretend it was spectacular.

Jessicatanjumper.jpgPhillip Phillips gets a clip package next, and I’m sure the ladies will love it! I bet it’s entertaining, because he’s a nice guy. I liked that screen shot of a guy holding a sign saying “Phillip, you still owe me $10.” And he had a dish named after him at his favorite restaurant! That’s cool. The girls are pressed up against the chain link fences to see Phillip in Georgia. Naturally, he returns to the pawn shop, where more girls and overweight middle-aged women are waiting for him. Nobody buys anything at the pawn shop, though. I love Phillip’s dad (Phillip Phillips Sr.), from the tears in his eyes to the gun in his belt. “I just wanna squeeze ‘im till I cain’t no more!” Phillip’s mother says. His parents are so great. The parade makes Phillip tear up, and it’s just hard not to love him as a person. If Phillip was singing music that was more like the kind of things that young girls like to listen to, he would be absolutely unstoppable, like Justin Bieber.

Phillip Phillips chose “Disease” by Matchbox 20. It’s refreshingly within his range, allowing him to really sing, rather than reach. I don’t agree with the judges on Round 1, but I think Phillip is definitely winning Round 2. The set designers love people sitting on instrument cases and amps, don’t they? There’s just too many there, though. It’s not natural. Maybe Phillip chose this song because he actually has a disease that has put him in the hospital several times during this competition? Jennifer didn’t feel like this was “the wow performance,” and the audience boos that. Randy had a convoluted lead into “I didn’t like it either.” The judges want more, they want more of a moment, and criticized for performing something he could do in his sleep. But I liked it!

Jimmy chose “No More Drama” by Mary J. Blige for Joshua. Ohh, that is awesome. Good job, Jimmy. Mary J. is current, but this song still brings it to church, which is Joshua’s wheelhouse. I love his jacket! This is a good performance, but I’m not sure it really proves that Joshua could be relevant as this type of artist. I’d much rather attend a concert of him singing some soul classics. But he really drove it home at the end, doing what he does best, which is connecting to every song so deeply. Hollie and the other contestants really enjoyed it in the audience, which was adorable. He really has the best performance level of the three contestants remaining.

Joshuaglitterjacket.jpgJessica Sanchez got a GIANT AT&T box with a Beatbox and a phone with a text from Jimmy pre-loaded onto it. Oh, her brothers are keeping that phone! Jimmy chose “I’ll Be There” by Jackson 5. Jimmy chose it to appeal to an older audience but still keep Jessica’s youth. Admittedly, she sounds better than young Michael and his family did on it (I swear to god Tito or Jermaine is flat as hell on the backup in that song). The set designers gave her a roller coaster/ferris wheel backdrop. Whatever, guys! It was nice, but it wasn’t a moment. It just wasn’t as exciting as some of the other stuff she’s done in this competition. Randy liked it OK but didn’t love it. That’s how I feel, Randy. I’m tired. Oh, and her outfit was terrible again. Not even a hypnotic chartreuse bandeau top under a too-tight red leather jacket can cheer me up now.

Phillip Phillips is next to get a Beatbox and voicemail from Jimmy. Jimmy told him to sing “We’ve Got Tonight” by Bob Seger. Ah, Bob Seger! Of course! That’s such a good choice for Phillip. Phillip looks nervous, but it’s endearing of course. He’s really singing the melody! And his voice is pretty clear! This is a good Phillip. The ladies go crazy for Phillip and a string background! The judges do, too, rising to their feet and securing Phillip the win. Way to go, Jimmy. Way to just hand the win to your favorite.

Were you bored tonight? Do you think anyone had any moments or were they too few and far between? Who had your favorite hometown visit?

(images courtesy of FOX)

Carla Patton

Writer, BuddyTV

Originally from Seattle, Carla recently took a husband and moved to Austin, Texas, where she is finally using her television “problem” to her advantage. It’s sort of like Dexter, but boring and less murdering. Carla’s favorite shows include 30 RockThe Amazing RaceProject RunwayModern Family, anything with murder, and pretty much anything gross and weird (CSIThe BachelorToddlers & Tiaras, etc.). Favorite canceled shows include: Arrested DevelopmentVeronica Mars and Average Joe. In her spare time, Carla leads tours of downtown Austin on a Segway (don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!), blogs about Netflix Instant, and visits elementary schools telling children they don’t need math to succeed (just kidding, stay in school, kids).