"Will Jennifer find the strength to go on?" Ryan Seacrest asked at the start of Thursday's two-hour American Idol.
Wednesday night, you'll recall, ended with a sobbing Jennifer Lopez listing to the side, like a leaking ship sinking into a sea of tears, giving bad news to Chris Medina.
Within two minutes, Ryan answered as we expected he would: "Jennifer knows the show must go on."
Not only that, she looked fabulous. The hair! The luster!
And off we went as the judges rounded out the top 24 roster, 12 guys and 12 girls, teasing (or more likely torturing) each singer with feints and sighs before finally delivering a verdict.
"You're mean," said Laina Alaina, who looked as if she were about to drop dead before getting good news.
Here are some of the dramatic highlights of the episode:
Goodbye to Jacee: The one big twist came at the end of the night, when poor little Jacee Badeaux – I guess there's really no need to describe him that way – was sent home, along with Colton Dixon. The last male spot went to the very nice, very talented Brett Loewenstern. He also happened to be the most deserving, but ruling against Jacee somehow feels like ruling against a puppy, or baseball cards in the spokes of a shiny new bike, or the American flag.
Country showdown: Scotty McCreery, who sang a great, old-fashioned cover of "Long Black Train" for the judges, made it through. They loved his classic country voice, of course, but also his decency – he's still apologizing for not sticking up for Jacee in the group round. But John Wayne Schulz and his big black hat hit the trail. Not too surprising, considering how he's barely been on camera since his audition. You had to keep an eye out for him from week to week.
Worst birthday ever: The last female spot came down to Thia Megia, who so far seems pretty much perfect, and Jessica Cunningham, who's auditioned seven times before. And Jessica was rejected once again – on her 25th birthday, unfortunately. She (jokingly?) made a rude gesture to the cameras. But she could have meant it and you wouldn't have blamed her.
Mr. Sunshine: Given good news, Jacob Lusk, the nightingale with the lungs of steel, stood up and let whoop with a high note, then hopped, danced, ran and whooped some more. He must have been especially stoked that Randy Jackson called his Hollywood-week version of "God Bless the Child," the "single best performance ever on Idol." If he actually wins, he'll spontaneously combust.
In general, the night's other winners were the obvious ones, and included Stefano Langone, James Durbin ("I don't think you'll ever be selling pizza," Steven Tyler told him.), Jordan Dorsey, Julie Zorrilla, Lauren Turner, and Casey Abrams ("I don't think we've ever seen a musician as talented as yourself," Randy said. "It's like three people in one"), who was so excited he accidentally knocked his chair off the stage. Also vying for your votes: Tim Halperin, Tatynisa Wilson, Robbie Rosen, Rachel Zevita, Pia Toscano, Paul McDonald, Naima Adedapo, Kendra Chantelle, Karen Rodriguez, Jovany Barreto, Haley Reinhart, Clint Jun Gamboa and Ashthon Jones.