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MAY
23
2 YEARS

'American Idol' Finale: THR Live-Blogs the Jessica Sanchez-Phillip Phillips Showdown

Get the play-by-play on Idol Worship as the 16-year-old powerhouse battles the 21-year-old pawn shop worker for the Fox competition's crown.

American Idol season 11 top 2 jessica sanchez phillip P
Michael Becker / FOX

8:02 p.m. The two-hour telecast kicks off with season 11's all-star also-rans including Hollie Cavanagh, Colton Dixon and Deandre "Second Coming of Milli Vanilli" Brackensick. They're performing a group number of a song I don't know, they're wearing all white, and it's all very Glee and thinly rehearsed ... and there's a random dance troupe. Clearly, Nigel Lythgoe is trying to court the Dancing With the Stars demo.

8:06 p.m. Scotty McCreery sighting! Does he live in the Nokia Theater? He is always around. It's time to move on, Scotty.

8:07 p.m. An ever-ominous Ryan Seacrest announces that America cast "a staggering 132 million votes," and introduces Jessica Sanchez and Phillip Phillips. Commercial!

8:12 p.m. Phillip duets on CCR's "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" with the original singer himself, John Fogerty, who -- let's be honest -- is much too old (sorry, John) to have such young, non-gray hair. Wig!

8:15 p.m. Now Phillip and Phillip in 70 Years, aka John Fogerty, are singing "Bad Moon Rising." Somewhere, my mom -- who claims to be the world's biggest Phillip Phillips fan -- is waiting feverishly by the phone, waitiing to repeatedly text her vote. She's brainwashed.

8:19 p.m.  It's that time again -- the time we get to look back at the quirkiest, most outlandish moments from season 11's auditions. It's what they call "filler" in TV Land.

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8:20 p.m. Thank the Idol Gods! Joshua "Mantasia" Ledet is back, singing Elton John, with Fantasia in tow. He's scatting and sweating and doing his James Brown routine and it's only been a week, but we miss him terribly. Maybe it's because Jessica is too perfect/manufactured and Phillip is too low-key compared to Ledet's electrifying performance style. (Yes, we said "electrifying," and we mean it! We've been drinking the Idol Kool-Aid since 2002, thankyouverymuch.) Also: we want to give a shout-out to Fantasia's long hair. We like. It suits.

8:28 p.m. Shock: Jimmy Iovine dressed up for the occasion.Sorta. Is he wearing jeans? Probably. More filler: Producers show Jimmy's blooper reel. Slightly amusing to see that his sharp-wittedness is ... ALL A FACADE! (Muahahaha.)

8:31 p.m. The season-11 lady castoffs (plus Sanchez), dressed in Vegas-y cocktail attire, sing a montage of girl-power classics, including Chaka Khan's "I'm Every Woman." And look! There's Chaka Khan! In other news, I forgot Shannon Magrane existed. Related: DO I HAVE IDOL AMNESIA?

8:35 p.m. Spotted in the audience: Jane Lynch singing along with Chaka and the gang. The camera lingers on her extra-long, as if to say, "Celebrities are not ashamed to be seen on live television watching American Idol." You would never get, like, Reese Witherspoon to agree to something like that.

STORY: 'American Idol' Final 2 Performance Night: 10 Things You Didn't See On TV

8:40 p.m. The requisite product placement-y Ford car commercial. Snooze.

8:41 p.m. Phillip and Jessica introduce their respective "music mentors" -- Phillip's brother-in-law and some dude Jessica knows whose name we forgot already (see: IDOL AMNESIA). They win -- guess what? -- FORD CARS. Hmmm, how'd that happen?

8:44 p.m. Guest performer Rihanna makes a very Gaga-like entrance on stage, emerging from a futuristic pyramid contraction to sing her latest dance track, "Where Have You Been."

8:46 p.m. This song will be now stuck in my head like one of Randy Jackson's stale catchphrases.

8:47 p.m. "I love you Idol!" quoth Ri-Ri, disappearing back into her futuristic triangle to party all night because, according to the tabloids and internet concerntrolls everywhere, that's all she does. She cannot stop. If she doesn't watch out, she might not be able to perform on Idol next year. Which would be terrible. Let us write a petition to "Save Rihanna," lest she become the next Britney Spears.

STORY: Ace Young Proposes to Diana DeGarmo Onstage

8:52 p.m. Skylar Laine returns for a duet with her personal idol, Reba McEntire. Country synergy! It is nice to be reminded how refreshingly exciting Skylar is to watch (see also: Ledet, Joshua) and how exciting it must be for her to sing with Reba. Taking another shot of that Idol Kool-Aid...

8:55 p.m. Thing I Don't Want to See: the inside of Steven Tyler's dressing room. There are Playboy bunnies and ... a pet sloth? "My therapist tells me to slow down," he explains. Meanwhile, Kristen Bell is watching, hysterically sobbing.

8:56 p.m. The Aerosmith banshee frontman introduces his "sister" who is making out with an older gentleman. This is by far the most awk moment on the finale so far, courtesy of Tyler.

8:57 p.m. jessica reprises Whitney's "I Will Always Love You," and it's predictably pitch-perfect. We secretly want Jessica to mess up for once.

VIDEO: 'American Idol': Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler Assess the Final Two

9:01 p.m. The boys sing a medley of songs including "Coming to America" -- a sign that Neil Diamond will soon appear -- and DeAndre looks like the hologram embodiment of the early '90s. Is Kenny G on his way out?

9:04 p.m. There's Neil Diamond! Leading a singalong of "Sweet Caroline," making me nostalgic for the early Aughts. (Go Illini!) Sidenote: only on American Idol can you get oldie icons like Fogerty and Diamond on the same stage as radio relevant artists like Rihanna. Well, this finale and the Grammys. Not the VMAs or anything. You get the picture.

9:10 p.m. Ha-ha: the season-11 castoffs, dressed in gospel attire, sing from actual phone books, paying homage to Jackson's overdone compliment, "You could sing the phone book!" It's an actually clever, Funny or Die-ish viral skit. Well done, Lythgoe, well done.

9:14 p.m. J-Lo is in full-on Jenny From the Block mode, dressed in all-white streetwear to perform her single "Tonight." No Casper Smart cameo this time.

9:18 p.m. Now she's stripped down to her bra and some harem pants, dancing with some random dues who are NOT the 24-year-old choreographer boytoy. She learned her lesson last time, flaunting her tabloid love in Marc Anthony's face! (Let us just say: we love Lopez; we admire her, ahem, swagger, so to speak.)

VIDEO: 'American Idol' 2012: Eliminated Contestants Backstage Interviews

9:25 p.m. Sighted in Idol audience: Lauren Alaina, Taylor Hicks, lovebird alums Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo. "You look pretty, Diana. So do you, Ace," smirks Seacrest.

9:26 p.m. An Idol first: Ace proposes to Diana! He gets down on one knee, all teary-like, saying: "I love you forever, You're my best friend. ... Will you marry me?" She says yes! Then Ryan, robot that he is, cuts to the next act.

9:28 p.m. Jordin Sparks joins Hollie on stage to power-sing "You'll Never Walk Alone." Is it wrong that I think they and thi song are totally boring? Where are you, Ledet? Come back, Mr. Sloth!!!

9:34 p.m. As I sit through yet another commercial, I think: "The only thing that can trump Ace's proposal on live television is Steven Tyler's sloth."

9:35 p.m. The top 12 guys pay homage to late Bee Gee Robin Gibb. Colton is the best singer to channel all that Gibb-ness, what with his pop-tenor.

9:38 p.m. But wait! Josh is singing "You Don't Know What It's Like" and we changed our minds. Mr. Gibb would've been proud.

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9:39 p.m. Epic Alert: Jennifer Halliday, the original Dreamgirl, sings "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" with Jessica, and she basically tries to push Jessica off the stage.

9:43 p.m. They hug! J-Lo jumps up and down. Jessica was out-diva-ed. But she's OK with it.

9:47 p.m. Tyler gets on stage with Aerosmith and frenemy Joe Perry -- and he doesn't fall off the stage! (Ba-dum-dum. We're here all night, people. Try the jalapeno poppers.)

9:51 p.m. Tyler is still singing. J-Lo is pretending to enjoy it. But she really just wants to see the sloth again.

9:58 p.m. Jessica and Phillip are singing "Up Where We Belong." Where the eagles fly. On a mountain eye. An old song verging on cheesiness but the two pull it off without too much sappiness.

10 p.m. Result about to be announced. Palpable sense of anxiety lingers over the Idol-verse! Brace yourselves, guys, brace yourselves.

10:02 p.m. Ryan announces ... the winner is ..... PHILLIP PHILLIPS! Ryan gives him a guitar. Another male singer-songwriter is crowned. That's five guys in a row! Which begs the question: was Jessica robbed?

10:03 p.m. A tearful Phillip sings us out with his (shocking good) coronation song, "Home."

Twitter: @ErinLCarlson

Email: erin.carlson@thr.com