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'American Idol' Season 11 Hollywood Week: All Hail Heejun Han

Group rounds provided plenty of drama but relatively little music as contestants battle illnesses and each other.

American Idol Season 11 Hollywood Contestants - H 2012
Michael Becker / FOX

Hollywood Week on American Idol is always a brutally bloody exercise where only the strong survive and the weaker contestants are cut with surgeon-like precision. That said, Thursday’s group round episode -- with 185 singers facing grave injury or illness, apparently -- played out like an episode of General Hospital with plenty of drama and no singing, unless you count snippets of group rehearsals.

It was a curious decision to dedicate an entire hour to group night melodrama with The Voice throwing down a huge gauntlet earlier in the week. However, Wednesday night’s episode drew just under 19 million viewers, which just goes to show you that America loves the craziness that is Hollywood Week.

The episode began with the continuation of Wednesday night’s cliffhanger when Symone Black, 16, seemingly fell to her doom after performing Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.” We discovered that Black thankfully was able to walk out of the theater alive, with a diagnosis of dehydration and a chance to sing another day.

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Unfortunately, others were suffering from  even more medical maladies -- tent girl Amy “Patient Zero” Brumfield was fighting off the flu, a teaser showed another contestant being carted out by an ambulance, talk of kidney stones, more vomiting than we’ve ever seen on the show, and Alisha Bernhardt in the middle of it all, struggling to bring “Joy to the World.”

One contestant said it best: “Don’t get me sick -- that’s my rule.” Brumfield broke this rule several times, infecting everyone in her path. It was the beginning of a long night. But, as Steven Tyler observed, a little sleep deprivation brings out the best in people. It also brings out the worst.

With the first round of Hollywood Week over, we said goodbye to Lauren Mink and Ethan Jones, whose father was in rehab. We barely got a chance to grieve when it was announced to the remaining singers that it was time to choose their groups. However, Idol threw a curveball to contestants that already formed unions.Idol producer Ken Warwick informed everyone that they had to create groups of four or five, mixing day 1 and day 2 singers. Apparently, the number four and five is a problem, as many groups have just three people. Additionally, everyone was fighting over song choices, and some clearly can’t play nicely with others.

Take, for example, Brielle Von Hugel. She performed alongside Season 10 finalist Pia Toscano last year, but was eliminated. She has formed a group with Kyle Crews and Shannon Magrane, and it is obvious she is not gelling with frat boy Crews very well. Hugel, who seems to enjoy bossing around her group, watched the rise of Pia from home, and my feeling is she is about to sit on the sidelines yet again as Magrane advances. 

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As tent girl’s flu bug takes down more contestants than Simon Cowell ever did (a poor kid named Christian succumbed to the puke), we follow police officer Bernhardt and her stubborn determination to perform Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World,” which some mistake for a Christmas song. Her obnoxious demeanor turns off two of her members, who defect to another group singing Boston’s “More Than A Feeling.” She wound up with new group members, who she strong-armed into singing Sugarland’s “Stuck Like Glue.” It didn’t seem to be working out too well, from what we were shown. Indeed, this could end quite badly.

My pick for star of the night is Heejun Han. If he doesn’t win Idol, Han should get his own show. He is probably the most quotable contestant of the season, Han let the insults fly in his delicious deadpan style, as his group, M.I.A., struggled with facial expressions, harmonies, and one “cowboy kid” named Richie Lawson.

In fact, Lawson was close to coming to blows with the seemingly even-tempered Phillip Phillips. Han’s frustration with Lawson made for hilarious television with some colorful commentary, including his gem of a line that, “All my friends are going to watch this and laugh at me because of this cowboy kid.”  He didn’t stop there, adding the coda, “Now I have bad perspective” towards “freaking cowboys,” even “Dallas Cowboys.” Han rules. He is going to be so much fun if he makes the top 24.

While some groups, including one with Season 10 contestant Deandre Brackensick, show great promise, others aren’t doing so well. Take, for instance, the saga of The Betties, featuring this season’s diva, Brianna Bell. Bell rejected practically every group based on song choice. Yeah, she’s going to go far. She finally deemed the Betties group worthy of her presence, and predictably a war broke out amongst the girls as the night wore on. The infighting reduces this poor girl named Jennifer (no last name provided, so I assume her fate isn’t positive) to tears. Suddenly, Bell bursts in at 3 a.m. ready to work, and she and Jennifer bonded as they worked on their dance moves.

The episode ended with The Betties taking the stage, as we were left with yet another cliffhanger. Who will survive? Who will go home? Tune in tomorrow to find out, as the sands through the hourglass… oh, wait, wrong soap opera!

Twitter: @MicheleAmabile