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MAY
13
4 YEARS

'American Idol' Elimination Night: What You Didn't See on Thursday's Show

A jovial start to the jam-packed episode doesn't last long as James finds himself in the bottom. Season 10's last girls standing, on the other hand, are still beaming.

james durbin elimination performance
Michael Becker / FOX

It was an extra teary Thursday night in the Idol-dome for James Durbin, who came so close to the crown, only to be denied entry to the Top 3 after singing his heart out. That’s the way it goes on American Idol. How Ryan Seacrest can stomach it week in week out is beyond me. What didn’t you see on Thursday’s elimination? Plenty. Read on for the off-camera scoop.

1. Casey Abrams enters through the stage 36 elephant doors just after 4:30 p.m., where he’s met with a hearty round of applause. He returns the love by joining the warm-up antics, which always include a kooky Beyonce-inspired dance to the tune of Enrique Iglesias’ "I Like It."

2. With five minutes until air, a throng of young kids are positioned in the aisles and each given a plastic instrument to play. Clearly, they’re to be used in the opening to a performance – but whose?

3. Three minutes later, cameraman John introduces himself. He’s the close-up guy and another Casey fan. “Nice guy,” he says with a wave to the bearded Idol.

4. It’s time for the top 4 to emerge, only Lauren Alaina is missing. She runs out from backstage a minute later with seconds to spare until the start of the opening segment, where Ryan slaloms among the contestants.

5. Post-theme, James struts catwalk-style for his second entrance, with all the confidence in the world.

6. While the video portion plays, the kids scooch down the stairs as Scotty McCreery and James take position.

7. The mid-audience start leaves some confused as to where Scotty and James actually are while singing, but it’s sorted out soon enough when the take a seat near the judges. It’s there that the crowd could see Scotty mouthing along to James’ parts.

8. While the guys are doing their thing, the girls show their support from the couch, where Haley proceeds to do the robot.

9. Time for the first commercial break, which James ushers with a swift kick of the mic stand.

10. Casey comes over to Steven Tyler for a quick fist bump.

11. With the guys on the sidelines, Haley and Lauren deliver their duet of the night, sounding fierce.

12. The Windows segment comes next, during which you could see James wipe a tear from his eye – the first of many that night.

13. With gold stools in place on stage right and Ryan Seacrest ready to deliver a verdict, Lauren Alaina’s face turns white – and that’s before he says her name.

14. Of course, it’s good news for the girl from Rossville, Georgia who is literally panting while she takes the first of three available golden seats. On the other side of the stage, Haley simply smiles while the guys start to look more serious.

15. A commercial break allows Lauren the chance to run into the audience and hug her mom. The room lets out a collective awww

16. Cory announces the night’s Idol-ebrity, season 4’s Anthony Fedorov. Also in the house: Glee's Coach Beiste herself, Dot-Marie Jones.

17. Lady Gaga returns to the Idol video screen for a live performance of “You and I,” during which Haley dutifully swings her arms. Did Gaga’s “monsters” nudge Haley into the top 3?

18. Cue: another pre-tape. This time Enrique Iglesias has Lauren grooving along from the couch.

19. In what was most certainly a nod to last week’s truth-bending moment -- when Ryan told the viewing audience that Jennifer Lopez had gone to change, when her pre-taped performance required no such action – stage manager Debbie Williams jabs, “Did you guys have fun with the balloons?” Then, as if to drive the point home, two giant white balloons appear.

20. Halfway through the commercial break, Haley decides to award a dedicated fan from waaaay in the back with a signed water bottle. “Because you’re so far away,” she says, eliciting the second awww of the night.

21. Jordin Sparks and her smoking new body perform while the three contestants on the couch look increasingly worried. Lauren, on the other hand, is bouncing giddily on the stool.

22. Following her performance, Jordin Sparks runs to pose with the Top 4 and Nigel Lythgoe.

23. In what’s become a hodgepodge of performance and videos, Steven Tyler’s solo clip premieres to cheers from all, but especially his fellow judges, and a thumbs up from Lauren.

24. Back to results and Haley… is safe. James looks crushed.

25. On stage right, awash in TV-ready beauty lught, Haley and Lauren hug it out, while on the opposite side, and in shadow, James and Scotty skulk.

26. “Good luck, guys,” says Debbie as the last commercial break leads into the final results.  It would not be James’ night.

27. With the show running a little ahead of schedule, James gets an encore performance and chooses “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Haley sings along enthusiastically – the sentiment is not lost on her.  

28. Scotty can’t help but get teary, no doubt spurred by the emotional rollercoaster he’s riding on.

29. Both Lauren and Steven Tyler bolt for center stage as soon as the credits roll, clearly concerned with James and how hard he’s taking the elimination. Jennifer also stands by with hands clenched, while Randy offers his usual words of advice.

30. The encouragement continues outside long after the studio had emptied. There, Randy has Casey’s highly musical ear, Jordin Sparks gives her attention to a gaggle of girls wowed by her get-up, and, a little later, Haley meets up with family members for pictures and laughs. The chilled out Haley almost forgets her feat, until someone reminds her, “Who’s Top 3…?!” Beaming, make her way out of the CBS Television Studios and into the arms of her hometown.