updated 05/23/2007 AT 1:00 PM ET
•originally published 05/09/2007 AT 10:00 AM ET
Each week it’s usually the judges – especially Simon or Paula – who sneak into their seats seconds before the show goes live to the East Coast. But on Tuesday night the audience was wondering, “Where’s LaKisha Jones?” All the contestants except her stood front and center on stage as Ryan Seacrest read over the show’s opening lines on the teleprompter and a production staffer yelled “30 seconds!” That’s when LaKisha ran onto the stage to take her place next to the other finalists. Now that’s cutting it close!
Jordin Sparks lingered on stage for a few seconds waving to fans following her stellar performance of “To Love Somebody.” She was overwhelmed by the outpouring of affection and the number of signs (many of which read “Jordin Sparkles”). One 6-year-old girl named Izzy yelled out, “I love you, Jordin!” in a squeaky voice that pierced through the din of the crowd. Jordin was being escorted off the stage for a wardrobe change when she stopped dead in her tracks to wave to her young admirer before being hustled back into reality. It was a one-hour live show, after all.
It’s no secret that Simon Cowell is a car aficionado. Most weeks he drives his Ferrari convertible to the studio. But this week he arrived in a new emerald green Morgan Roadster (which retails somewhere in the neighborhood of $75,000). The two-seater convertible is a definite attention-getter.
Judge Judy Sheindlin, who had a front-row seat Tuesday night, came face-to-face with Paula Abdul – literally. The diminutive pair were introduced during the show’s first commercial break. Later, Paula held court with Sheindlin during another break and remarked, “You’re so petite.” Sheindlin replied to her fellow vertically challenged judge: “You’re tall, but you give a short performance.”
Sign Me Up
Every week Idol audience members try to out-clever each other with homemade signs, and this week was no exception. Standouts at Tuesday’s show included:
“Melinda Doolittle Does BIG Things”
“I Can’t Decide: Blake? Jordin? LaKisha? Melinda?”
But best of all was the Simon Cowell Mean-O-Meter, complete with a movable needle to rate the judge’s comments from nice to nasty. Simon caught sight of the fan’s sign and gave a nod of approval before asking her to return the needle to the nice side in time for the next contestant’s performance.
LaKisha’s syncopated, soulful version of “Stayin’ Alive” was killing Paula. In a good way. Despite a lukewarm review, Abdul couldn’t stay in her seat. Not only did she dance, she waved her hands by her ears and turned her head side-to-side. There was so much movement going on that Simon pushed her chair out of the way so that Paula wouldn’t hurt herself (or anyone else, for that matter).
Blake Lewis, a fan favorite, had an off night and the judges – especially Simon and Randy Jackson – were quick to scold the very thing they once praised: Randy told Blake, an average vocalist with outstanding beat box skills, that a little beat boxing goes a long way. During the show’s final video recap, Blake looked dejected and could barely eke out a smile for fans in the audience.
Here We Go
Simon has often scolded powerhouse vocalist LaKisha for “yelling” the lyrics. Tonight, as the music built to a climax during LaKisha’s second song, “Run To Me,” Simon looked over at Paula and Randy and held out his arms, as if to say, “Here we go again.”
Lost and Found
In past seasons, Lost executive producer Damon Lindelof says he had to stay mum about his American Idol obsession because the Fox juggernaut aired in the same time slot as his ABC drama. “This is the first year I’m out of the closet as an Idol fan,” he tells PEOPLE. “Nobody can give me crap for cheering on Blake.” Lindelof, who attended Tuesday night’s show with wife Heidi, jokes that fans of Idol and Lost shouldn’t fret that the shows’ two-hour May 23 season finales overlap between 9 and 10 p.m. “I promise nothing good will happen the last 10 minutes of the nine o’clock hour so people can see who wins and then they can switch over to Lost and it will really get good.”