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Disqualified American Idol finalist Jermaine Jones was the talk of Wednesday’s episode, starting from the very top of the show when Ryan Seacrest teased the instant elimination and sudden controversy.
While not exactly de rigueur as far as the Fox series is concerned, over the years, Idol had dealt with similar situations involving unresolved legal matters, going back as far as season 2 when Corey Clark was dismissed from Idol duty after it was revealed that he had a battery charge pending. It was only days after the Top 24 was announced and producers claimed at the time that Clark’s criminal record did not turn up because his name was misspelled in the police report. In a curious coincidence, Jermaine Jones’ four outstanding warrants also were not known because of a name issue — he allegedly gave a fake one to police.
What do we know about how this all went down behind the scenes? Not much, only that it was swift and decisive and, according to an insider, had to happen within 24 hours of being informed that there was a potential law enforcement problem (so much for our conspiracy theory). Then, as EPs Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick explained during their confrontation with Jones, they had no choice but to let him go. And once he received the news, Jones had to exit quickly — as in, the first flight out back to Philly, per TMZ.
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In fact, Jones’ fellow finalists didn’t even see him before he was ushered to a waiting car and driven off the lot. “It was a bummer,” Colton Dixon told The Hollywood Reporter after Wednesday’s show. “We didn’t get to say goodbye. We didn’t know what happened or how it happened — we just heard he was gone.”
It was a sentiment shared by Skylar Laine, who had to take the stage moments after the uncomfortable confrontation segment played. “It was really hard to look at the camera and smile after I saw the video,” she said. “It’s sad.”
Others, like Erika Van Pelt, simply described the unfolding drama as “weird,” especially considering the thorough background checks they each had to pass. “It was so extensive, which is another reason why we were so shocked and confused that this was all of a sudden surfacing,” she told THR. “Even after all the drama with him being brought back after being cut on the sing-for-your-life round — for him to come back and be kicked off again?”
VIDEO: ‘American Idol’: Mary J. Blige on Whether Jimmy Iovine is Too Hard on the Finalists
But, she added, that the way the situation was handled was the right approach. “I feel like the production end of it was actually good and they handled it in a way that Jermaine’s fans at home and America in general got to find out what’s going on in a respectful manner,” she said, “Ken and Nigel were very complimentary of him as he was exiting. And I thought he got to exit with grace and poise — as well as he could under the circumstances.”
Dixon agreed. “They showed how appreciative Jermaine was of the experience,” he said. “Everyone’s got a past. His just happened to be exposed.”
In a rare straight-face moment, Heejun Han valiantly declared that he understood Jermaine’s actions, even if the rules were clear about disclosing all potential problems. “The only thing you had to do was be honest about it and say what happened to your life,” Han explained of the vetting process. “I would’ve done the same thing as Jermaine, because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and you don’t want to ruin it by saying the wrong things.”
What happens next? The show must go on, of course, as the finalists come one accelerated step closer to making the Top 10 where a tour awaits them — or at least that’s been the carrot dangled in years past, but as with most things Idol, you just never know…
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