It’s no secret that there’s producer manipulation on American Idol. One of the biggest instances every week is what is called the pimp spot — the person who performs last is usually a contestant the producers want to make sure stays on. That’s just one example. And it looks like another one popped up just last night during the Top 7 results show, and it involves Lazaro Arbos.

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Back in January, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe mentioned to the press that he wanted to copy something from The X Factor — theĀ leaderboard. If you’ll recall (for the few people that did watch season 2), every week during the results show, they would reveal the exact order that all the contestants came in after the votes were tallied, from first, second and third all the way down to last place. This was done every week, and it quickly became obvious that Tate Stevens would win, with Carly Rose Sonenclar the runner-up (and his biggest competition).

I was wary when I heard American Idol wanted to do the same thing. But so far, they haven’t done it every week. In fact, they only have done it once so far, during the Top 10. This week, they did a modified version by only revealing the Top 3.

By revealing the rankings three weeks ago, we got a sense of who the frontrunners were — Candice Glover, Kree Harrison and Angie Miller — and who didn’t have a strong enough fan base: Curtis Finch, Jr., Devin Velez, Paul Jolley and Burnell Taylor. (And what do you know, all four of them are gone now.)

The reason for doing it then was obvious; we got see where everyone stood and then for Candice, Kree and Angie fans to keep pushing to have them stay on top. But then the leaderboard was gone for the next two weeks. It partially returned at the Top 7. Why wait until now to bring it back? It didn’t dawn on me until about an hour after the results show aired why they would do this.

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When the producers saw that Lazaro ended up in the Top 3 in the voting, they saw the perfect opportunity. With Burnell now gone — meaning Lazaro’s not only the last guy standing now, but also the weakest singer — they must have thought, Let’s take advantage of the situation and make sure all the girls outlast all the guys, as the judges have not-so-subtly hinted they would like to see happen.

By revealing Lazaro’s general position on the leaderboard, there are two major aspects at play now. One, his fans now know that he received some of the most votes out of almost everybody. They might get complacent and decide to vote less. And two, his critics are furious to see how many votes he got and are going to push hard to vote for the other contestants in order to get him out. As a result, when you combine the two, the hope is that Lazaro will go tumbling to the bottom and end up eliminated. We all know the judges won’t use their one Save on him, so it’ll be sayonara for Lazaro.

If Idol had not revealed the Top 3, no one would know his placement and we might still have the same problems we’ve had every single week, with Lazaro continuing forward and outlasting more talented singers. I don’t see it as a coincidence that we found out this critical piece of information during this particular week. The producers are hoping voters will be shocked, outraged and furious and are banking on them to do everything they can to make sure all the girls are in the Top 5 so all goes according to plan.

If voters don’t react to who’s in the Top 3 wisely during the next round of voting, Lazaro might knock off Janelle or Amber, or — gasp! — Kree, Angie or Candice. Of course, the judges will save any of the girls. But if Lazaro’s still here after that lifeline is gone, what’s going to stop him (or his fans, rather) from continuing on into fourth or even third place?

Were you shocked at finding out Lazaro was in the Top 3? Do you agree with me that the producers revealed this information as a way to send him home? Or will it backfire, with his fans seeing an opportunity and making sure he sticks around for weeks to come?

American Idol airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8pm on FOX.

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(Image courtesy of FOX)

Jeff Dodge

Staff Writer, BuddyTV

Jeff Dodge, a graduate of Western Washington University, has been a TV news editor for many years and has had the chance to interview multiple reality show stars, including Randy Jackson, Nick Cannon, Heidi Klum, Mel B and John Cena.