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'American Idol' Judges 'Save' Casey Abrams From Elimination

Thursday night's episode also featured a Happy Birthday celebration for judge Steven Tyler (spoiler alert!).

Casey Abrams
Michael Becker/FOX

While fans expected one contestant to be sent packing on Thursday night's American Idol elimination, the episode's outcome was more about coming than going. All 11 contestants will be joining the Idol tour this summer -- including unlikely sex symbol Casey Abrams, who was saved by the judges after receiving the fewest fan votes.

This week's bottom three included Thia Megia, Stefano Langone and Casey Abrams. After Thia was revealed to be safe, the Idol elimination came down to two male contestants for the first time this season.

Abrams chose his audition song, Ray Charles' "I Don't Need No Doctor," as his sing-for-your-life chance, and after barely ripping into it, Randy Jackson stopped him.

"We were wondering when we heard the results, 'Why is Casey at the bottom?' We don't know. You deserve to be here," Jennifer Lopez told Casey and the crowd. The judges promptly presented Casey with their only save for the season. Abrams quivered, cussed and, of course, sincerely thanked Tyler, Lopez and Jackson for his second chance.

Abrams' near-elimination was not the only surprise on the episode, which host Ryan Seacrest promised would be filled with unexpected twists. Seacrest ended the episode by revealing that during next Thursday's Idol elimination, two contestants will go home. The blow was softened by Seacrest's news that the top 11 Idol contestants will embark on the show's summer tour, instead of the usual 10.

Other surprises from the show included an appearance from Hulk Hogan, who told Paul McDonald and James Durbin that they were safe from elimination -- with some extra oomph. All this was peppered with performances from Stevie Wonder (aided by Idol contestants), Sugarland and Idol alum Jennifer Hudson.

Wonder kicked off the show, keeping in line with last night's Motown theme while wishing an ecstatic Tyler happy birthday with Wonder's song of the same title.

Sugarland enthusiastically performed on the Idol stage for the first time, giving fans a taste of country with "Stuck Like Glue."

Later in the show, Hudson "came home" to make Idol proud, singing her latest single, "Where You At," from new album I Remember Me.