As the moth that is American Idol ventures ever closer to the bug zapper, our final Top 4 is set to become our final Top 3 in what appears to be another easily-predicted elimination.

But we’ve still got two hours of time to kill, so get ready for hometown visits, special guests, a whopping three performances by each singer and a whole hell of a lot of filler.

Really, though, what I’m most excited about is a break from my re-integration to gym life. I’ve worked out for consecutive days for the first time in months, but the only thing I expect to be sore after tonight is my fingers. Seriously, folks, the struggle is real.

Great Expectations

As the esteemed Jeff Dodge so eloquently sums up, it would appear the bell has rung on MacKenzie Bourg’s time in the ring. He had the two worst performances prior to the vote, and the results of our poll overwhelmingly point to him as the favorite to pack his bags. 

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It’s not even that his renditions of “I Want You to Want Me” and “Titanium” were bad, because they were vocally similar to everything else he’s done (including the two “moments” he had this season with “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and “Billie Jean”). But he missed the boat on lyrical interpretation, instead resorting to his tried and true smug smirk of satisMacKtion.

He sucked the life out of the Cheap Trick classic, stripping out all the best parts without taking it down to an impactful point of desperation, and he reduced the Sia hit to one note that didn’t resonate. But damn he was happy about it. 

So on second thought, yeah, they were kinda bad.

But if There’s a Surprise…

Sadly, I predict an undeserving La’Porsha Renae will be joining MacKenzie in the Bottom Two, thus applying pressure for her to knock it out of the park in her trio of performances. For the first time, she didn’t sniff the top of my rankings, in part thanks to an emotionally-stellar Dalton Rapattoni and an overall stellar night from Trent Harmon.

But her votes were also based on the bizarre choice of Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” followed by lackluster take on “Elastic Heart” that wiped out the emotion and instead put the emphasis on her tendencies to over-sing and let her vibrato run wild. 

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The producers must be crapping their pants over her potential elimination, seeing as how the hardly-veiled goal of The Farewell Season has been to bookend Kelly Clarkson with a female winner. 

Fill ‘Er Up

Whoever ends up in the Top 3 will be tackling a familiar theme, singing a song chosen by the judges, another by Scott Borchetta, and a third they pick to represent their hometowns. 

And if you need yet another reason to root against Big Mack, rumor has it his hometown tribute is Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” I think we can all agree getting through any season of Idol without a rendition of “Hallelujah” is a win for everyone, and c’mon, the Lord is not pleased by sexy eyes that don’t fit the tone of the song. 

Stops in Dallas, McComb (Mississippi), Amory (Mississippi) and Lafayette (Louisiana) are on the docket as the four Hometown Heroes head to their southern and southeast corners of the map.

It’s a bittersweet night for Ryan Seacrest, as it’s the last in this venue before they pack up and move to the Dolby Theater for the finale. He welcomes the judges, with Keith having classed it up a bit by donning a sport coat over his V-neck, and it’s time to get this shindig started. 

Before we get to the elimination, though, all four will be performing their hometown tributes. Hallelujah.

Big Mack in Bayou 

MacKenzie is back on the basketball courts in Lafayette, where his sports dream died due to an infection and his musical aspirations were formed. He throws out the first pitch at a minor league game before a crayfish feast, and then it’s off to grandma’s house before a pickup game at his old stomping grounds. 

The hometown visit continues with a trip to a hospital to meet with sick kids and reunite with the pediatric doctor who essentially saved his life, and it’s gut-wrenching all around (as are my feelings towards his flowered-Hawaiian shirt). It caps off with a parade and a mini concert, and then it’s back to the present.

MacKenzie and his 17-foot-long scarf launch into a slow and sexy-eyed version of “Hallelujah,” and it could be great or uninspired. I can’t tell, because I’ve heard this song so many damn times. At this point, it either sounds bad or the same. And it’s not bad. 

Keith loves MacK the most when he plays and sings, and this was superb. With the finish line in sight, J-Lo believes he showed his strengths. It was cool for Harry, because MacKenzie has come full circle by reminding everyone what they initially liked about him. 

Dalton Does Dallas

I’ll save you the filler trip to Fox Studios to meet Ray Romano and test out their voiceover skills for the latest Ice Age movie, but whoever wins will get to record a song for the soundtrack. And then it’s off to the Lone Star State for Dalton Rapattoni’s hometown date with destiny.

After a radio interview, it’s off to Grammy’s hair salon for a color treatment and blowout before swinging by work at the School of Rock. He works on vocals with some of the chillins, and ladies young and old reveal their crushes on the spiky superstar. He breaks down in the limo before hugging the fam at his house, where a large crowd has gathered to enjoy his mother’s crock pot grape jelly meatballs. Don’t knock ’em til you try ’em. 

He dons a purple jacket for his concert, and then it’s back live for Blue October’s “Calling You.” It’s not a song I’m intimately familiar with, but it’s solid if not spectacular. It’s more about giving back to his fans, both present and those watching at home. 

J-Lo felt his “presence” in the performance, and this time, the angst was matched by a feeling of freedom. Harry applauds the arrangement, and he felt an honesty in Dalton’s lyrical interpretation. Keith calls it the best Daltonization it could have been. 

Trent Hopes to Avoid a Jinx

Trent Harmon starts things off at the farm with the ultimate family reunion. He’s been reluctant to see his parents for superstitious reasons, but the crowd has gathered in the attached restaurant to offer well-wishes. Trent serves up some vittles to his hungry fans, and then it’s off to high school to relive where it all began.

The mayor declares it Trent Harmon Day, which culminates in a tractor ride down Main Street, and I’m surprised the road is paved. The experience is immortalized with palm prints cast in cement, and then it’s a free concert for his hometown with songs dedicated to his family.

Back live, it’s Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey.” It’s another one I’ve never heard before, but the vocal performance is as smooth as the beverage he’s singing about. Nothing negative to say about this one.

Harry appreciates Trent’s ability to arc a song and make it memorable in this format, and he can make anything sound unique. For Keith, this is the time when song choice is crucial to show off the best of what you have, and this was a bulls-eye. J-Lo calls it “easy peasy breezy” and says Trent is hitting his stride at the right time.

Then out comes the family (and the pooch), even though Trent has been waiting for the finale for them to listen live. Ryan claims that the results are still unknown, but there’s no way they pull this surprise if Trent isn’t safe. 

La’Porsha Brings it Home

As if the pacing of this episode wasn’t excruciating enough, we’ve got Vine-artist Rudy Mancuso and a Ford Focus trip to create portraits of each other with Post-It notes before we head back to Mississippi for our final hometown visit. First up is the performing arts school where La’Porsha’s dreams were hatched, and it’s an emotional reunion with the school’s director followed by a terrible performance by a choir of screaming kids. 

Then it’s goose bumps all over as she heads to a center for battered women, who have been inspired by La’Porsha sharing her story with the world. A trip to the house to hang with her daughter and enjoy a spread of home-cooked southern goodness is followed by the standard parade and concert, which ends with La’Porsha overwhelmed by support. 

Back in Hollywood, it’s Common and John Legend’s “Glory,” from the movie Selma. She sounds amazing, as always, but there’s something missing that makes me feel like this first-round is kind of a throwaway for everyone. It might be the sped-up arrangement, but for a song so inspiring in its original form, this one doesn’t move me.

Keith gives her a standing ovation and praises the strength and purity of her gift, and he feels like he was just baptized. Jenny touts the importance of music as a healing and inspirational medium, and Harry add this to her list of critique-proof performances. 

Four Becomes Three

We’re halfway through the show with six performances plus Keith left, so it’s time to pick up the pace. And that begins by thinning the herd with the revelation of the final Top 3 in American Idol history. Kieran dims the light, and…

Trent Harmon is safe

Dalton Rapattoni is safe

La’Porsha Renae is safe

And that means MacKenzie, who offered to reveal the results before Ryan even looked at the card, is on his way out, as predicted. His original song “Roses” plays over his exit montage, and he leaves knowing exactly who he is as an artist. 

Paging Scotty B. 

It’s time for mentor’s choice, and Dalton Rapattoni leads off with Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.” 

There’s no Courtney Cox, but Dalton stumbles/saunters out for slowed-down take on the classic. After a few pitchy notes, he settles into a haunting, goose bump-inducing verse before reverting to an up-tempo rock arrangement for the chorus. His vocals are on point after a rough start, and it’s put together in a way I can imagine a professional concert being set up. He obviously can’t touch Trent or La’Porsha’s power, but he certainly comes off as the best artist of the bunch.

J-Lo, who was bouncing around the entire time, loves the way Dalton can make you feel the lyrics. The first half, Harry felt like he was listening to 80s new-wave English rock, and Dalton brings everyone on a journey that compensates for any lack of vocal ability he has compared to the others remaining in the competition. For Keith, it’s another standout performance. 

La’Porsha Stays With Us

Scotty B. has chosen “Stay With Me Baby” by Lorraine Ellison for La’Porsha, a pick that he was turned on to by Little Steven even though La’Porsha fought the selection.

It’s an absolutely soul-crushing vocal performance, and one in which the over-runs are barely evident thanks to quick transitions between lines. She has a touch of trouble holding some of the giant notes, but she deserves to be in the final with Trent. Even though it doesn’t hit the same emotions of her “No More Drama,” it’s one you simply sit back and enjoy.

Harry loves when she slows down her vibrato, and he wants to know why she was initially against the song choice. She had to hunker down and put on an act, because she doesn’t agree with the message of begging a man to stay with you. The judges all agree that she killed it, but they could also sense a slight veneer that signaled she was playing a role and not delivering an authentic performance.

Trent is Thirsty

The final performance of the creepy man’s van round goes to Trent Harmon, who will be singing Justin Timberlake’s “Drink You Away” at Scotty’s behest. It’s an interesting choice, yet another with which I am not familiar, but hitting emotional chords has always been one of Trent’s strengths. 

I think I understand why Scott chose this one, but for me, it’s not a good pick. Trent doesn’t quite have the swagger to pull this off, and his moves are held back by the guitar hanging from his neck. The backup singers and vocals almost drown him out at times, and there’s also a point where they aren’t in unison. While it’s high energy for days and vocally on point, it doesn’t fit for me.

Keith offers praise but isn’t sure why Trent needed the guitar crutch he barely played, while J-Lo calls it a performance to win. Harry points out that the background singers were clapping for him afterwards, which is a tell-tale sign of success. 

Keith Urban Wastes Some Time

Keith has ditched his judging chair and his sleeves for a rendition of the first single off his new album, a song called “Wasted Time.” I’m not a big country music fan, but I’ve always appreciated Keith’s performances during his time on Idol

It’s clear to see why he’s a legend in the industry, a consummate performer and kick-ass guitarist with stage presence oozing out his tank top. Even if I don’t know many (if any) of his songs. 

And now that he’s blasted nearly all seven previous performances out of our collective not-yet-voted memories, on to the final round!

Dalton for King

The judges decided Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is perfectly suited to Dalton’s style and tone, and they’re not wrong. It’s a pretty straightforward arrangement with some creepy angular facial expressions, and it starts off with some of his best vocals of the night. 

After that, though, it drops off to a deeper register that makes it difficult to discern his voice from the music, and his lack of vocal prowess is exposed. There’s no pop through the latter half of the song, and it falls flat. 

J-Lo asks if he lowered the key, because she felt like it should’ve been higher, and the brightness in his voice was lost. The good news for Harry is that Dalton showed he can re-harmonize a song, but this wasn’t his best. Keith believes he could’ve knocked it out of the park in the original key, and it’s a good thing that he has two other killer performances under his belt. 

Gulp, I think Dalton may have just sealed his fate. 

La’Porsha Says Hello

The judges wanted to challenge La’Porsha with a song so immensely popular that she’d be cornered into figuring out what to do with it, so she’s singing Adele’s “Hello.” She starts off by struggling to keep the verse reined in, but this performance will be determined by how she blows up the chorus. 

Unfortunately, despite some great moments, this one is going down as another swing-and-a-miss song choice for me. After over-singing  the verse, she under sings the chorus, which is supposed to be the most iconic and powerful moment of the experience. For someone I’d imagine can at least give Adele a run for her money, this one paled by comparison.

Harry had a hard time paying attention because he was holding La’Porsha’s daughter, and he apologizes if mom didn’t agree with the message of the song. Keith calls it beautiful, and Jenny was happily surprised that it stretched her range. 

Trent is a Mother Effing P-I-M-P

It’s strategical whether you want to go first or second in the final two, so Trent Harmon has nabbed arguably the most coveted spot of the entire season getting the pimp spot of the Top 3. The judges have picked Parson James’ “Waiting Game,” and raise your hand if you’ve heard of it. 

I think he could have benefited from a more well-known song, but this one shows off all of Trent’s strengths from his ability to forge an emotional connection to that killer falsetto. Still, it doesn’t build to anything, and the lack of crescendo leads to somewhat of an abrupt end of a quality but unmemorable performance. I’ll be lucky if I remember the name of the song or the artist in an hour, let alone tomorrow and thereafter.  

Keith heard the song while he was out and had to Shazam it to figure out the singer, and he instantly knew he wanted to hear Trent sing it. Jen shatters glasses screeching about her goosies and how wonderfully beautifully amazing it was, while Harry thanks Trent for the honor of critiquing such a spectacular performance before urging everyone to vote.

Damn, I mean, I thought it was good, but very much on par with his other performances and not necessarily the moment of the night. I get the feeling the judges want to pat themselves on the back for choosing it, or maybe they’re trying to help Parson James get famous. 

On a side note, is Parson James related to the guy who married the “Winter Wonderland” couple?

Now It’s Up to You

Many people, including myself, have been predicting a La’Porsha/Trent finale for weeks, and I see nothing new to change that expectation. It was close enough that performances definitely could have affected the outcome, but this episode reinforced each of these singer’s identities without fundamentally altering the result.

While Dalton might have the most potential for a career thanks to his artistry, he’s definitely the weakest link of the trio and is most deserving of elimination. Trent and La’Porsha have been so consistently good that the only chinks in their armor are the ones they put there. 

Who is your frontrunner, and do you agree that it’s likely the end of the line for Dalton? Who won the night for you, and what did you think of Scotty B. and the judges’ song selections? Did they bring out the best in the Top 3? 

Barring a shocking result, I’d give Trent the early leg up in being named the final American Idol. But championships aren’t won on paper, and that’s why we play the games. See you for the finale as Idol rides off into the sunset.

The two-part American Idol series finale airs Wednesday, April 6 and Thursday, April 7 at 8pm on FOX.

(Image courtesy of FOX)

Bill King

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Emmy-winning news producer & former BuddyTV blogger. Lover of Philly sports, Ned, Zoe, Liam and Delaine…not in that order