The Pimp Spot. Some say it’s a baseless American Idol conspiracy theory. Some say it’s the producers’ way of highlighting or protecting the contestant they’re most excited or invested in. Whether you’re a conspiracy theorist or a pimp spot believer, it was completely wasted on Katie Stevens last night.
If the pimp spot is a conspiracy theory, I happen to be a believer. You can’t tell me that by complete random chance both Danny Gokey and Adam Lambert just happened to get the final performance slots during week one of season 8. Just like you can’t convince me that Katie Stevens, a contestant that American Idol has been promoting since episode one of season 9, just happened upon the final spot last night. Thing is, randomness aside, Katie Stevens (and the Gokey’s and Lambert’s before her) are the last people who need the pimp spot.
A dedicated poster on Idol Forums last year did the math and tallied just how potent a phenomenon that final performance placement is. Out of the 111 episodes that had aired at the time, only 10 people were eliminated after drawing the pimp slot. That’s less than a 10% chance of elimination, odds that even the most cautious gambler might take. And with pre-season poster child Katie Stevens getting the first pimp spot of season 9, it doesn’t look like the trend will be changing any time soon.
My problem with the pimp spot is two-fold. First, please don’t treat me like I am so dumb that I will believe you for all eternity that Idol performance placement is random. (Yes, I’m sure those three girls singing Beatles’ songs just all happened to draw back-to-back performances out of a magical hat.) Secondly, I’d rather see the pimp spot if it is so potent used for good, not evil and financial imperatives. For example, were I to control the pimp spot, Paige Miles would have gotten it last night, not Katie Stevens.
Here’s my logic: Katie Stevens has gotten more screen time and exposure than almost any other season 9 contestant. (Without the birth of Big Mike’s kid, it would be a landslide for Katie.) We were introduced to Katie during the first American Idol auditions in Boston where she got lots of screen time. We revisited her and the story of her Portuguese grandmother during every Hollywood Week episode. She’s been the central story of the season 9 auditions. Clearly, no matter what she sang last night, Katie didn’t need the mysterious magic of that final spot to be remembered.
Paige Miles, on the other hand, desperately needed it. During auditions, Paige was the invisible woman. She wasn’t featured in any of the city specific auditions, nor in the “Best of the Rest.” We heard her sing during Group Week, but poor Paige wasn’t even identified by name. We first met Paige officially during the Top 24 reveal, but even then we didn’t hear her sing, just Simon saying “I don’t think you know how good you are.” Paige, of all people, could have benefited being fresh on American Idol voters’ mind when it came to voting time.
Instead of getting a little nudge from the odds, Paige was placed in the anti-pimp spot: the number one slot of the night. With virtually no introduction and no personal story to connect to, Paige was asked to perform a routine so memorable the first time we get a glimpse of her, that it would eclipse the following two hours of performances by women we already know. Paige was given an impossible task at best and sacrificed at the Idol altar with almost no introduction at worst.
Conspiracy or not, the pimp spot is a powerful thing. In the future, I’d like to see the Idol unknowns given a fighting chance by gracing them with the final performance slot instead of the pre-season favorites. Your pre-season favorites will probably still be safe and those of us watching closely won’t feel like we’re being bamboozled. Use the pimp spot power for surprising good, not just the obvious and evil, American Idol.