Season 3: I Believe

"This is it, America!" Well, Ryan "No, Don't Take Me Off Your TV Screen!" Sleazebag doesn't sound too excited himself. He goes on to talk about Piggy Di Guano and Fantasia coming this far and only one of them making it as an American Idol at the end of the day. Yes, yes, this is the finale, woosh!

The Kodak Mothership Theatre. Sleazebag walks onto the stage with a big hello for everybody. He's wearing white and black today. After all, he's a respectable talk show host now. Adios, tacky body-hugging shirts, hello suit jackets and shirts! Maybe by the next season he'll lose the hair gel. Nah, not likely. Anyway, he addresses the crowd and points out the wonderful environment that is the mothership of all motherships, the Kodak Theatre. There are three thousand fans here, he says, and I guess this means that I am witnessing the biggest gathering of scary twits outside the soccer stadiums. The twits in the audience cheer as Sleazebag introduces them as fans of Piggy Di Guano and Fantasia. There are many signs in the audience, from boring ones like "Sing it, Fantasia!" to creative ones like "Justin Guarini forever!" Okay, I made the last one up.

In order to avoid the incident last season about how the phone lines are jammed to the point that fans cannot vote for the favorites (this is a common argument made by Kewpie fans who still insist that he was robbed of the bragging rights of being an American Idol, an argument that I still cannot follow today), the producers have opened up three phone lines for each contestant and extend the voting period from two to four hours. Of course, this doesn't stop the subsequent rehash of the whole phone line argument made by Piggy Di Guano fans after the show, so I don't know why they bother. Still, it's nice for them to care.

Sleazebag asks the audience how they swing. Left of center, top of the middle, or just both ways? To help people make up their minds, the judges are here, Sleazebag says, and goes on to introduce them. King "The River Was Made" Tut is wearing a special tight black T-shirt especially for Sleazebag today. Miss "I Knew You Were Waiting" Paula is still lovely and talented, Sleazebag says. If he has said that even a little snarkily, I may just start liking him. Randy "The Mountains Were High" Randy may have lost weight, but Sleazebag still thinks that Randy Randy is "phat". Randy Randy agrees, "Yeah, yeah! Yeah, yeah!" Miss Paula agrees too, "Yeah, yeah!" And Randy Randy agrees with her, "Yeah, yeah!" And I imagine myself reaching into the TV screen and throttling the both of them. Yeah, yeah!

On Sleazebag's prompting, Fantasia and Piggy Di Guano walk out on stage, holding hands, because it's very important for every Two every season to show the world that they are Best Friends Forever. Miss Paula laughs as Piggy trips a little. King Tut turns and smiles at Miss Paula, because the sight of a woman getting a little too carried away by the high spirits on this show is always so adorable. Sleazebag calls the ladies "divas" and asks them how they are feeling. "Woo!" Piggy squeals, "wooo!" She says that she feels overwhelmed. Fantasia says that she feels blessed to be in the mothership. Sleazebag asks them how they prepared for the show. Both ladies say that they just want to have fun. Piggy promises to give "500% for Snellville" while Fantasia threatens to bring on the bobo.

Sleazebag reminds everyone that Fantasia won the coin toss last week and she will go second. Today, each lady will sing two songs of her choice and the winner's single, I Believe, which is co-written by Tamyra.

Piggy Di Guano goes first for the first round. While she and the Six Red Flags choir get in place, they show her "This Is Your Life On AI" montage where her audition and show adventures are rehashed to dramatically sentimental music playing in the background. She is shown saying that she wants to be the youngest performer in the Top Ten. Randy Randy says that Piggy has the "eye of the tiger in her eyes" and calls her "so ambitious". What kind of eye do I have in my eye, Randy Randy? Come tell me, don't be shy. Miss Paula says that she is proud of Piggy because Piggy has "grown leaps and bounds" and Piggy has an "amazing voice". As if to remind me of that fact, the clips shows Miss Piggy squealing "Do you love me?" at the top of her baby voice. Ugh, that is not her finest moment on this show at all. Miss Piggy concludes the clip by saying that she can't believe that she has gotten this far and she is excited for what adventures await her next. She hopes to put on a good show for everyone.

Her song is I Believe. "Have you ever reached a rainbow's end?" Piggy begins. Oh great, it looks as if Tamyra has been dipping into the same pink pony and butterfly medikit that Miss Paula is fond of. Have you ever found a pot of gold at the rainbow's end, people? Have you ever caught a shooting star? Seriously, who writes this kind of nonsense? Why is a struggling aspiring actress and songstress like Tamyra telling people to look at rainbow's end to find pots of gold and shooting stars?

The song itself is a forgettable power ballad with clear gospel overtones, which proves wrong the news that this song is written for Piggy. It's written as a hybrid of elements that showcase both Piggy's power ballad styles and Fantasia's gospel inflections, a fact that pleases me because both ladies have a chance to perform the song well, unlike in Season One where poor Justin has to suffer through an embarrassing performance of A Moment Like This, a song which is tailor-made for Kelly Cluckson. And sings this rubbishy song well does Piggy Di Guano. She inserts the appropriate powerful glory notes here and there to give a performance that will make Mariah Carey and Celine Dion proud. Watching her, it strikes me that Piggy is tailor-made for this show. She embodies the cheesiness of I Believe and actually performs it well enough to make the cheese palatable and even tasty. The only downside to this performance is Piggy becoming noticeably hoarse and final last glory note is very shaky.

"Yeah, yeah!" Guess who's making the noise. "Off you go, Randy," King Tut says with a chuckle. Piggy Di Guano waves and thanks the cheering audience before focusing on Randy Randy. "What's going down? What's going down?" Randy Randy asks her. Wisely, she doesn't try to answer that question. She just says that she can feel everything that Tamyra is feeling in that song. Wow, does that mean that she has found a pot of gold at the rainbow's end? ("Somebody's rear end, more like," snorts hubby.) Randy Randy says that he was telling King Tut earlier that it is hard to sing like Whitney and Mariah, but Randy Randy feels that Piggy Di Guano succeeded in "working it out". Miss Paula says that she feels like a proud parent because she attends the rehearsals once a week and pays only half a listen but all that is enough to make Miss Paula feel that she is responsible for "young" Piggy growing into an "adult" Piggy. Or something. Shut up, Paula. If only wailing high notes is enough to make one an adult, that means Miss Paula is still a blathering nitwit kid. Which she is. Omigosh, Miss Paula is making sense in a roundabout, convoluted way!

King Tut chortles and says that Miss Paula said everything "very well". He tells Miss Piggy that his problem with her performance is that he finds himself wondering just how many mountains she has climbed or how many lakes she has swum, as she had sung in that wretched song, because she is only sixteen. Miss Piggy insists that she has climbed mountains and swum lakes. How many, King Tut wonders, and adds that this is a song that should be sung by someone over the age of fifty. Miss Piggy finally just tells him that she still loves him so he shouldn't worry and welcomes Sleazebag as he comes to tell people how to vote for her. I am quite annoyed at King Tut here because it is not Piggy's fault that she is sixteen, nor is it her fault that she has to sing I Believe. King Tut should take out his grievances on the correct parties - the organizers for setting the age limit this low and Tamyra and her co-writers for those insipid lyrics in that song. You don't shoot the messenger when the messenger has a lot riding on the competition, because that is unfair to the messenger as well as being unnecessarily rude.

Miss Piggy and Sleazebag rub cheeks and whisper as the show moves into a commercial break. I really like that singing watchman advertisement for Malaysian Idol. The line "You got to have a VI-SI-TOR PASS!", sung to the Village People's YMCA, is hysterical. I may just tune in after all.

It's time for Fantasia to perform. But first, the "This Is Your Life On AI" clip. Amidst clips of her audition and final performances, Randy Randy compares Fantasia's voice to Mary J Blige and Aretha Franklin. King Tut, noticeably absent in Piggy's clip, says that every American Idol show needsa daring risk-taker like Fantasia. Miss Paula loves Fantasia. Fantasia concludes the clip by saying that she feels fortunate to be here, yadda yadda yadda.

Her song is All My Life, the signature hit from her cousins K-Ci and Jo Jo. It's very likely that this song is a shout-out to her family, because other than the fact that this song is performed by her cousins, this is a wrong song choice to sing. Firstly, you need two people to perform on this song. The arrangement doesn't allow for one to take pauses between lines - one man must step in where the other man stops. Fantasia tries to overcome this by slowing down the verse and letting the Six Red Flags handle the chorus while she ad libs. She almost pulls this one off - the first verse is sweet and the first chorus is very nice. But the song breaks down into a complete mess in the second half and Fantasia sounds really shrill at many places. Oops, this is a costly mistake on Fantasia's part, and it is a good thing that she is performing this song in the first round and not the last.

Randy Randy loves the song but doesn't like Fantasia's performance of it. He blames the band however, because Fantasia can't do wrong in his book. I don't know what the band can do to make the performance any better, though. Miss Paula insists that Fantasia is great because she can take a mediocrely arranged song (the poor band is getting a beating tonight) and yet make the performance great. The camera pans to Amy, whose hair is no longer pink, and her hot boyfriend in the audience. Hello, Amy's Hot Boyfriend! I miss you! King Tut thinks that Fantasia is lucky that she has two more songs to perform because he finds this particular performance forgettable ("it would have gone woosh over one's head"). The audience boos him and he tells them to shut up. He tells Fantasia that her performance was a complete mess. Fantasia nods and Sleazebag comes to her side to do his job. They press cheeks and then the show goes into another commercial.

"Young man, where are you doing here? I say, young man, you cannot park here... you need to get a vi-si-tor pass, you need to get a vi-si-tor pa-ass!" That Malaysian Idol advertisement is really cracking me up.

Piggy Di Guano kicks off round two with No More Tears, the song that she sang on Disco Week. It's exactly the same performance as that one, straight down to the choreography. And Piggy fans have the nerve to accuse Fantasia of repeating herself with Summertime, truly. Piggy's voice sounds hoarse though. I don't know whether it's nerves or something else, but her high notes are really rough on the ears and she isn't hitting the correct notes half the time.

Randy Randy chuckles. "Yo, yo, yo!" he says and adds that Piggy really came here to win tonight because she sang her face off. That sounds painful. He commends her on a performance well done. Miss Paula babble babble nice love wonderful beautiful babble babble. King Tut marvels at Miss Paula's eloquence and tells Piggy that he loves the singing but hates the dancing. She tells him thats she will work on the dancing. King Tut again brings up her pageant past but concedes that she sings very well.

After the commercials, Sleazebag reminds and urges everyone to buy tickets for the tour while a ticker scroll at the bottom of the TV screen asks everyone to go to the official website to buy official American Idol merchandise. Let me know if you have purchased the card game so that I can laugh at you.

Randy Randy tells Sleazebag that Fantasia's Summertime is the best because she revealed "hidden depths" during that performance.

This is a cue for Fantasia to come out and perform Summertime. Her stage motions are the same, but her performance is different in that she injects more unnecessary melismas into the song than necessary. If this is the first time I'm listening to her performance, I'd be impressed. I prefer the more subtle Summertime that she sang the first time around.

Randy Randy insists that listening to Fantasia is like attending a master class in singing. Man, I like Fantasia but that's definitely an overreaching praise. Miss Paula babbles about "forged commanding" and Fantasia "reinventing yourself by recreating yourself". Seriously, what is she babbling again? Her syntax is breaking down along with her senses. King Tut wants to take the opportunity to "finally" say something. The Idol contest takes place in thirty countries, he says, and he thinks that Fantasia is the best of the contestants in all of these contests. Randy Randy says that he agrees with King Tut. This is just King Tut's opinion, which he clearly doesn't state as a fact, but watch as irrational fans with no sense of perspective start acting as if he has personally slighted Kelly or Kewpie by not declaring that Kelly and Kewpie are better than Fantasia. It's always Kelly and Kewpie who have the craziest fans, doesn't it?

Fantasia cries as Sleazebag tells people how to vote for her. And then, "Vi-si-tor pass!"

Sleazebag stands among the audience after the break and talk about how this is the last chance for people to vote for their favorites so that the favorites can get "free shoes for life". We can't have too many shoes in our lives, so go vote, people!

Piggy Di Guano kicks off round three with Don't Cry Out Loud, which she performed only last week. She performed this song beautifully last week like a triumphant Miss Universe, but this week, everything falls apart. Apparently she can't hear herself and there are some technical problems during that performance, which explains why she goes out of tune during the first chorus. Her expression is heartbreaking to watch, especially when she knows that she is out of tune but she cannot hear herself and so is unable to correct herself. By the last few notes she's just shouting and hoping that she's doing a halfway decent effort. To give her credit, she actually manages to sound listenable despite going off-pitch. It is just unfortunate that this is the performance the audience will remember when they cast their votes.

Randy Randy thinks that her performance is "alright" and points out that she has problems with her lower register. Somewhere in the middle of the song, things fell apart and she became "pitchy", Randy Randy points out. Miss Paula agrees with him about the pitchy part but thinks that Piggy did a good job nonetheless. King Tut thinks that Piggy lost it because she heard Fantasia's Summertime and became intimidated by how wonderful Summertime is. Oh, please. He adds that Piggy had one chance to "nail" the competition but he doesn't think that she succeeded. The audience boos him, but Piggy tells them that she's okay with the criticism and thanks everyone for their support. The audience quiets down, pleased that their support means so much to her. They finally have a reason to live now.

Sleazebag tells people how to vote for Piggy, but "for the love of Jim Verraros" he begs everyone to wait until the show is over before they call. Why is Sleazebag making fun of the only person in this show who makes him manly in comparison? Oh wait, there's Kewpie now, so Sad Clown Boi is irrelevant. Poor Sad Clown Boi.

It's time for Fantasia to deliver her version of I Believe. While Piggy Di Guano delivers a power ballad version of that song, Fantasia turns it into her trademark gospel church revival performance and it's glorious. I forget what a sentimental fluff this song is, so entranced am I by Fantasia's soaring chorus, backed by the Six Red Flags who bobo along with Fantasia in a truly dramatic but so enjoyable performance. While Piggy Di Guano makes me sigh and wave lighters in the air, Fantasia demands that I get on my feet, clap along, and sing with her and the Six Red Flags choir. This is the performance that cements her victory, no doubt, because if anything, Fantasia is superb if only because she can take a song that is pure cheese and transform it into an inspiring spectacle. There is a difference between Fantasia's I Believe and Kewpie's Bridge Over Troubled Waters - while Kewpie hits all the high notes without any emotion, Fantasia wails and misses a few high notes, but as I watch her while she cries and seems to live and breathe every word of the song, she makes me believe. She makes being corny acceptable because she's so sincere and honest and raw that she draws me into her performance.

The judges give her a standing ovation. Has King Tut ever given anyone a standing ovation? Well, he's giving Fantasia one now. The audience gives her a standing ovation, except for J Hu who just sits there with her arms crossed and scowls fiercely. Poor J Hu. Her "robbed talented contestant" stint lasted only a few weeks until Latoya grabs her spotlight and now she's down to scowling in the audience. Maybe she'll meet a hot guy in her cruise ship gig and she'll be happy again, I hope. Back to the judges, Randy Randy claps and says, "Well done! Well done! Well done! Fantasia, Fantasia, Fantasia!" Miss Paula claps and tells Fantasia that tonight is Fantasia's. King Tut nods and tells Fantasia that the performance was her acceptance speech. Miss Paula nods fiercely and chimes in her agreement.

Sleazebag asks Fantasia whether she is feeling okay. "No!" she says as tears run freely down her cheeks. Sleazebag stands beside her, puts a comforting arm around her, and tell people how to vote for her.

To close the show, Hanky Anky comes out to deliver the same My Way schtick that he delivered at the finale of last season, where he changes the words to accommodate the cast of this season. Fantasia is rhymed with King Tut calling the other contestants to get an euthanasia, Latoya, and other jolly fun stuff I can't be bothered to catch. Sleazebag then thanks everybody whom he owes his entire fameho career to. And then he's out. See ya, Sleazie! Take your time in coming back.

Oh boy, a two-hour long results show. I have the cattle prod ready if I need a quick way out of my misery. Apparently this season they are going to make the finale come off like an Oscar live telecast, with red carpets and desperate C-list celebrities gracing them and all that. Tamyra's Star plays in the background as Sleazebag's welcomes everyone and talks about the celebrities pushing their way to get into the finale. There will also be an outdoor concert. This will be a great show, Sleazebag promises. I'd believe him if he doesn't sound so lethargic and grumpy. I know, Sleazie, you won't be on TV 24/7 for the rest of the year, but come on, it's not that bad! Cheer up!

Credits. The Babylon Court at the Kodak Ampitheatre. Ryan "Don't Cry For Me, San Francisco Bay" Sleazebag is in white shirt, black tux, no tie though, and his hair is a little less of a bedhead than before. He says that the press is swarming the area and somewhere above him there is a helicopter. I can make a joke about high notes, singing, and bomb threats here but that will be too much of a bad taste even for me. But bad taste isn't what this show is too afraid to dish out, because Sleazebag announces that he will be "flanked" by two ladies today - Xtina Xtian and Jennifer Love Hewitt. Oh dear, first there's a Jackie Chan movie, then there's a Garfield movie, and now it's a minor American Idol finale cohosting gig. I guess it's safe to say that she'd be waitressing at Wendy's soon. She will host the outdoor concert while Xtina Xtian will pester the celebrity guests around the place. Among those celebrity guests spotted so far, by the way, are Sharon "Addicted To Fame" Osbourne, Ray "Your Embarrassing Dad Who Tries Too Hard To Be Cool" Romano, and Andy "Shut Up! I'm Only Here Because I Have A New TV Series I Want To Sell To Fox!" Richter. I'm sure the A-list luminaries are just running a little late.

Because this show needs some rubbish to fill up the two hour slot, they may as well show some of the concerts. Jenny From The Jugs takes the stage and after some "Are you ready?" chatter, introduces Latoya as an "under the radar" contestant who will take the stage to sing If You Don't Know Me By Now. Is that a big middle finger to people including yours truly who called Latoya boring? Okay, so I will never, ever, ever know her if I don't know her by now. I'll probably lose some sleep over that, snort, but I'll survive. She's wearing a collar with a lock-and-key pendant. Seriously, I don't know her at all.

Inside the theatre backstage area, Sleazebag makes his way into Piggy Di Guano's dressing room. The make-up people flee the room at once because they are afraid that Sleazebag will get angry if they make anybody more pretty than he is. They indulge in some inane banter about whether she can sleep ("like a brick!") and whether she's competitive and relax (ya think, Sleazebag?). Piggy is speaking in that grating baby voice that makes me want to rip my skull open and drive red hot rusty nails into my brain.

The show then beams a live telecast from Snellville, where the first thing everyone sees is Kimborlee Caldwell sporting a pale orangey fake tan and a dead, fried-crisp poodle on her head. I guess it's now official: Piggy Di Guano lost; in this show, in life, she lost. There are many people screaming, most likely because they are cheering for Piggy and maybe because they are calling Kimborlee to get lost. Kimborlee drags Sonny Purdue, the Governor of Georgia (and definitely not, as some nasty people suggest, the KKK leader), who says that he has a bet with the Governor of North Carolina, peaches for blueberry, and Sonny thinks that he will be eating blueberry soon. Everyone is wearing pink because it's Piggy's trademark color. Hmm, I honestly didn't know that. Still, those Georgians must be glad that Piggy lost because wearing pink for a month must be hard on their sensibilities. Sonny looks like a giant marshmallow in that pink tie and suit ensemble. Kimborlee asks Sleazebag, rumored to be her ex, whether he agrees with her that it takes a real man to wear pink. Sleazebag, who is most likely wearing a pair of pink thong at the moment, says rather sharply that he has no idea.

Next is a montage of Jon Voight, Frankie Muniz, Tom Arnold, Star Jones, Posh Spice, Ray Romano, and other celebrities telling me who they think will win. Many are pro-Fantasia, but seriously? Don't care, can't be bothered, just go away, C-list famehos. "Vi-si-tor pass! You have to get a vi-si-tor pa-ass!"

Sleazebag now pushes open the door to Fantasia's dressing room. "Hello, Bobo," he calls out. The make-up artist, whose face will be familiar to many Kewpie fans who must have memorized every inch of that infamous "Look Where Kewpie's Hands Are - On Her Breasts!" photo in between sending death threats to her while arguing whether the photo is fake because There Is No Way That Kewpie Will Bo So Unpure As To Cup A Woman's Breasts, flees the room because Sleazebag gets angry whenever he sees someone prettier than he is.

Fantasia tells Sleazebag that she and That Harlot That Tried To Corrupt Kewpie are working on Fantasia's lips and it takes two tubes of lip gloss, apparently, to give Fantasia's lips a shine. Sleazebag notes the numerous well-wishes gifts and flowers around the dressing room, and Fantasia eagerly shows Sleazebag a candle that Toni Braxton sent her. Don't leer, Sleazebag, it's just a candle and nothing more. Watch your candle, Fantasia, or it may go missing the way Trenyce's red dress did.

Poor Piggy. Did anyone send her flowers and candles?

Sleazebag shows Fantasia the scene from North Carolina. Oh my gosh, that's Kewpie! Kewpie's hand pillow puts lip gloss on Fantasia's lips. What an incestous circle these people are. Fantasia squeals and says something I can't catch to Kewpie. Kewpie says that there are six thousand fans in the "collosseum". He neglects to mention that four thousand must be there just to scream at him how much they love him and want him to cup their breasts, which is why I suspect that they make Kewpie host Fantasia's homecrowd party in the first place. Fantasia bobos in her seat as she watches Kewpie brings forward the Mayor of High Point, Becky Smothers. But conversation is drowned out by the crowd cheering for Kewpie, I mean, Fantasia, so in the end Kewpie just shrugs and hopes that this party will have a happier ending than the party held last season for him. Gee, thanks for reminding everyone, Kewpie. This will only fire up the idiot Kewpie fans for another ten weeks' worth of "Kewpie is the best! He is the true American Idol!" detritus clogging up the message boards. Sleazebag tells Fantasia that there are "loads of freeloaders" in that High Point party. He is right for once.

Outside, Xtina Xtian is interviewing Nicole Richie, the other half of the gruesome twosome of The Simple Life. Nicole loves everybody, hears that Fantasia will win, but she doesn't know much (color me surprised) so like, whatever. Oh, and she wants everybody to watch the second season of The Simple Life that will begin soon.

At the outdoor concert, it's now Huff Granddaddy's turn to perform. After saying that he'll be seeing all the ladies in the crowd, he proceeds to sing about him sleeping with the very married Mrs Jones in Me And Mrs Jones. Mrs Jones must be wearing a paperbag over her head because if Huff smiles and stares at her in bed the way he's doing that now, she must be a stronger woman than I thought. That or her husband is Elmer Fudd and Huff Granddaddy's freaky faces are sexy in comparison.

After more "Vi-si-tor pass!" commercials, Sleazebag walks around the corridors backstage and says that it's true, we must always watch out for the quiet ones - look at Huff and Mrs Jones, after all! Speak for yourself, Sleazebag, have you ever wondered how poor Terri, King Tut's beard, must feel when you boff her man? Hussy. Sleazebag is now seated with Randy "Orange Tie, Orange Jacket, One Big Orange" Randy and Miss "Like My New Jugs? They're Huge!" Paula in their dressing room. Apparently King Tut is late. "Look natural," Sleazebag tells Randy Randy and then they all perk up when they realize that the camera is on them. Miss Paula insists that this season is the best ever because there are so many "emotional ups and downs". Randy Randy agrees, calling the season "unpredictable" and boasts that he knows all along that it will come down to a "girl". Oh come on, four guys and eight women in the finals - of course it will come down to a "girl". The odds are in the ladies' favor. Miss Paula again takes credit for the Two's coming this far, saying that she's "proud" of them and she now can't wait for them to move on and have great careers, careers that she once dreamed of having but never did. "Like you," she tells Sleazebag, and then veers off into a bizarre tangent about Kewpie, prompting Randy Randy to say that for a moment, he thinks that she's going to say that she's proud of Sleazebag. Sleazebag asks her whether there will be tears tonight. She says no, but she cried last night when she hugged a crying Fantasia, right before Miss Paula started "laughing hysterically", and Miss Paula adds that Fantasia started laughing hysterically too. She has no idea how demented she comes off in that conversation. Demented with a bad and very obvious boob job, that is.

Xtina Xtian has found a new victim: Ray Romano. He is unshaven, dressed in some jacket thingie that has gone out of fashion since the 1970s. I know it's not cool to like this guy, but I always find him kinda hot in a tragic I-have-no-taste way. Please don't tell anyone. Ray tells Xtina that he accompanies his thirteen-year old daughter and her four friends to the finale of last season as well as that of this season. He complains that the young lady is out of school and asks Xtina to imagine what it's like to be stuck in a limo with five thirteen-year old girls. Sssh, don't let R Kelly hear that or he will start harrassing poor Ray to consider him for babysitting duties. Back to Ray, he tells Xtina that Piggy "started out great" but Fantasia "is great", and diplomatically hints that he thinks Fantasia will win. He then turns off-camera, probably to his daughter, and asks her whether she's ready to go into the theatre.

Jenny From The Jugs and Princess Jasmelisma are now giggling together on stage like two cloyingly vapid princesses. Jenny loves Hawaii! Jasmelisma thinks Hawaii is the greatest! They love the audience! They are so cute, omigosh! Kill me, somebody. Jasmelisma proceeds to sing Midnight Train To Georgia, which isn't very good as the performance is neither soulful nor passionate, but I enjoy the way the song seems to fit so well into Jasmelisma's story. "He kept dreamin' that someday he'd be a star. But he sure found out the hard way, that dreams don't always come true. So he pawned all his hopes and he even sold his old car, bought a one way ticket to the life he once knew," she sings, and she may as well be singing about her own predicament. Go back to Hawaii, Jasmelisma, sell your old pony. The person who chooses the songs for Latoya and Jasmelisma for the Greatest Soul Hits CD must be psychic. K-Burg, is that your doing?

King Tut has finally arrived and as was the norm, Sleazebag will always be the first to meet King Tut in the privacy of his dressing room. Because there are cameras around today and the advertisers warned those two that any onscreen graphic hanky-panky will not be tolerated, Sleazebag quickly pauses at the door and gives that secret warning to King Tut to zip up his pants in case Terri or Miss Paula or Kimborlee Caldwell is near: "Put your teeth in!" As opposed to "Oh, Tutty, baby! Put your teeth out!" or "Show us the teeth!", I guess.

The dressing room is wrong in so many ways. Remember that King Tut thumbs-down photo that is used often for publicity purposes? There's a large blow-up of that photo framed on the wall and another smaller version framed and placed on the dressing table. King Tut manages to put his teeth in but he is definitely caught in a state of dishabille, his shirt unbuttoned especially just for Sleazebag. Thank goodness the teeth is nowhere in sight. King Tut asks whether the camera is filming. See, he's not flirting with Sleazebag just for the camera - they are already so sweet on each other even when the camera is not rolling. The love is real, people. Like Fantasia says, all you have to do is to believe. Sleazebag asks him whether it is hard being a judge. Because sitting there every week and saying "Absolutely ghastly" while winking at Fantasia inbetween dipping his fingers suggestively into the cup while licking his lips at Sleazebag are very hard on a person, naturally. King Tut says that it isn't very hard actually because he's the only one who knows what he is talking about. He reminds everyone that he has predicted Fantasia's greatness the moment he sees her. Sleazebag, annoyed because King Tut's answer should have been "Hard, it's so hard, come ease my pain, baby!", demands petulantly to know whether this show is all about King Tut or the finalists. King Tut looks at the camera and says that he needs time to think. (Translation: bugger off, camera man, King Tut wants some privacy with Sleazebag.) When the camera man is not moving, King Tut says that the show is all about Fantasia and Piggy Di Guano.

By the way, the Harlot Whose Breasts Kewpie Cupped is also in the room, doing King Tut's face. I can hear angry Kewpie fans screeching right now, "Is that right? Harlot!" Sleazebag, deciding that the best way to get King Tut naked and get everybody out of the room is to give away King Tut's black T-shirts to everybody, starts to do just that. King Tut looks at his own shirt and asks why he isn't given any Armani to wear. The door closes on those two, right before Sleazebag tells King Tut breathily, "Call me Armani then, and kiss me, you fool!" Okay, I'm kidding. Instead, Sleazebag calls out to Jenny From The Jugs, who hears King Tut's voice and asks Sleazebag whether King Tut is with him. King Tut demands that she comes into his dressing room at once. Heh. She looks as if she's just caught a whiff of something foul-smelling. Anyway, that's the last we see of her on this show. Adios, Jenny From The Jugs! See you at Wendy's!

Xtina Xtian harrasses Sharon Osbourne, who is too intoxicated by who-knows-what to give a decent response to Xtina. Still, Sharon loves Fantasia because nearly everyone else in C-Listville does and she likes the show so, uh, whatever, she's gotta go, bye! The show then whizzes to the backstage practice room where the Six Red Flags are practising This Little Light Of Mine, never mind that they will not be singing that during the show. Sleazebag, energized by King Tut's good-spirited TLC, hops around and howls into the microphone. The sad thing is, he sounds better than three of the four male finalists this season. Guess which three I am talking about. And then, to a cheering crowd, Sleazebag walks onto the stage of the mothership and announces that soon, we will all find out who the American Idol is.

Because the show knows that I love the credits and I will miss it tremendously when the season is over, they show the credits one more time. Thank you, Uncle Nigel. Now let me put this tin pot over your head and let me beat the crap out of that pot with a spatula.

Tamyra takes the stage to kick off the show with every Glory Note Ho's favorite song - The Star Spangled Banner, which I hear was once America's national anthem before Whitney turned it into a pop song and it becomes a karaoke favorite of every young woman who aspires to be the new Whitney, Mariah, or Celine. I don't know what happened to Tamyra, but this performance is wobbly. The notes are unsteady, the pitch is watery, and there is too much melisma going on. I think there must be at least four hundred different notes in that single "free" alone. In what must be the best moment of unintentional snark ever, the camera pans to Henry "Fonzie" Winkler in the audience staring at Tamyra in horrified fascination. Did someone say "jump the shark"? Ray Romano's expression is even more priceless: he is staring at Tamyra, open-mouthed, as if he is trapped in a bad dream and he desperately wants to wake up but doesn't know how.

Sleazebag calls the performance "beautiful" and the camera pans on Gargoyle Sebastian in the audience. Are there any hot guys around that actually watch this show? Oh wait, is that Matt Metzger in the audience? Okay, so at least one hot guy watches this show. I feel better now. Sleazebag announces that a record-breaking 65 million votes came in last night, which is impressive considering the fact that some people actually sat down for four hours straight, redialling the same number again and again. I admire their tenacity. Dispensing with tedious formality first, he introduces the judges. King Tut still hasn't buttoned his shirt. The better for Sleazebag to cop a feel during the after-show party, I presume. Buttons can be so annoying when you're drunk, horny, and very impatient. King Tut says that Sleazebag looks short. Sleazebag smiles - he knows King Tut likes him better that way. Sleazebag then asks Randy Randy to "set the mood". "Yo, yo! This is very hot! This is the place to be! If you ain't here, you ain't nowhere!" Randy Randy tells it as it is. No wonder the A-list celebrities stay at home and watch the horrid reunion special of The Bachelor instead.

Miss Paula babbles that she is nervous and she just wants the show to be over so that Fantasia and Piggy can move on to have number one CDs and bestselling concerts and other delusions of Miss Paula's addled fancy. Sleazebag asks King Tut not to stand up because nobody wants to see King Tut's navel. I have with me a papparazzi shot of a naked King Tut (with naughty bits pixellated out - don't click if you have a weak stomach) and yes, I don't want to see his navel. I don't want to see his hairy manboobs either. Miss Paula finds Sleazebag's joke so funny that she can't stop giggling and tapping the top of the table. Someone's meds are kicking in early, I see.

Wondering who will join the illustrious ranks of winners with Kelly Cluckson and Ruben Studdard, Sleazebag introduces Piggy Di Guano and Fantasia who will be singing To Dream Impossible Dream with the two past winners. I see that Piggy and Fantasia's voices have recovered. Last night must be a case of nerves for the both of them then, I guess. They sing a few lines each, the Six Red Flags ooh and aah along with them, and the Kelly and her silver lame bra come to join them, adding about six thousand decibels to the volume in the process. Finally Ruben and the extra eight hundred pounds he'd put on since winning the contest waddle on to sing and it's a miracle that he doesn't drop dead by the time he reaches the ladies. He sounds breathless after taking a short stroll and he's also sweating buckets. They all insist that they chase after impossible dreams (such as actual credibility in the music business) and wail out all the high notes accordingly. The performance's remarkably similar to a Miss Universe guest performance. For "old times" sake, Sleazebag hands Ruben a towel at the end of the performance, which he accepts silently but gratefully. As the show moves into a commercial break, Sleazebag bangs chest with Ruben while the ladies stay at a discreet distance away from any stray drops of sweat and do their jiggy boogie thingie.

I want a "vi-si-tor pa-ass!"

Back to the show, Sleazebag stands with the Two and asks them for the millionth time whether they has ever dreamed that they would make it this far on this contest. Does he expect the answer to be any different from the last one million similar answers they've given him? Sleazebag, your talk show isn't doing too well, and you can start improving by varying the questions you ask your guests, your silly twit. Piggy says that she was sure that she wouldn't make it to the Finals when she was in the same group as Fantasia, and once she was in the Finals, she was sure that she would be gone during the first few weeks. She thanks everyone who helped her get this far. Fantasia says that Piggy is a powerhouse and Piggy scares her sometimes. "No!" Piggy laughs. She, like everyone else in the world except for the more delusional Piggy fans out there, doesn't believe that.

Now it's time to revisit the hometown parties. Kewpie comes on to introduce the county commissioner of High Point who is putting up a billboard for Fantasia. He holds up a small snapshot of what the billboard will look like. It's too small to make out on camera, so oh well. I'm sure it will be a pretty billboard nonetheless. Maybe it'll do the bobo too. Kimborlee introduces Piggy's choir teacher who thinks that Piggy is talented (surprise) and who flew down to spend some time with Piggy recently as well as the Mayor who repeats his belief that Piggy will win. Kimborlee and the Mayor make a big fuss about everybody being somebody in Snellville. Miss Piggy confirms this and Sleazebag says that he saw the same thing on a sign on a water tower. What is Sleazebag doing in Snellville? Does Piggy have a hot brother or something?

Sleazebag recaps the performances of the night before, using corny boxing metaphors. The last score, if one cares, is that Piggy delivers the first blow in round one, both ladies are equal in round two, and Piggy is reeling from Fantasia's "sneak attack" in round three. I guess even Sugar Ray Leonard is too classy to do that boxing thing this season. And then, commercials.

Sleazebag now stands in the audience, announces that tonight's vote is close, and then pretends to enjoy being surrounded by ladies. He announces that Kelly will be wearing her ugliest prom dress and singing a piano version of Beautiful Disaster. I've heard raves about how "original" this performance is, but it's actually a note-by-note faithful rendition of the CD track, only with piano accompaniment. Unless having a piano now automatically qualifies as instant innovation, this performance is ordinary and forgettable. Come to think of it, I like the album version better. It's the best song on that dire Thankful CD.

The last Ford commercial of the season commences. The ladies step out of a Ford car as the crowd cheers. They walk along with the car, which magically drives towards the camera, while singing Shining Star. Why does Piggy Di Guano keep wearing those unflattering baby girl outfits?

What's the finale without a group medley? Sleazebag, standing in the upper tier of the audience and surrounded by famehos in the audience mugging for the camera, says that this show is filled with talent so it's time for the Twelve to show their talent. Or what little of it that they have. Or whatever it is they have that they convince themselves is "talent". The subsequent performance only proves why there are almost no group performances this season: unlike those from the last season, these contestants just cannot perform together.

Huff Granddaddy starts off by leading the other guys in I'll Be There. Huff's singing is competent, but there is no choreography whatsoever. Rank Sinatra is doing small twitches, Huff Granddaddy is smiling and staring, the Pen Salesman is kicking and twitching in spasms, and Fatt Gross Bowel is just hamming it up like Brutus taking up ballet to impress Olive Oyl. It's a mess, this performance. The ladies push the guys back and sing 1-2-3, where Camile and Princess Tinkerbelle get a chance to show why they are accused of being unable to carry a tune. Tinkerbelle looks good, by the way. She may have a chance to join Matt Metzger in a soap opera one day. Amy also has a lead, but the camera doesn't show her until the end of her solo. Her double chin may have something to do with it. Still, Amy's Hot Boyfriend should seriously consider joining next season. I hear that they want a male winner so they will load the finals with guys. This means all you hot guys out there better audition or else.

Princess Jasmelisma kicks off Heaven Knows and then the ladies screech two lines of She Works Hard For The Money before the guys join in for a hammy rendition of Solid. The camera pans on King Tut and Miss Paula rightfully making fun and laughing at these people. And then it's Big Band Swing with It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing) where Rank Sinatra gets one pity line for his, er, solo. Piggy leads off I'm Still Standing, which goes well until she is joined by Rank Sinatra and Fatt Gross Bowel and the result is a mess. If only the guys, other than Huff, can disappear from this medley, my ears won't be suffering so much. Finally, J Hu comes on to sing a few lines from I Made It Through The Rain, Latoya takes over the next few lines, and Fantasia comes on to finish the song. It's the Final Three that should have been. By putting the three best singers together, the show is throwing that to the faces of the idiot electorate, because I Made It Through The Rain is the only portion of the medley that isn't a train wreck in any way.

The performance makes me yearn to listen one more time to the medley of the finale of previous season. Remember the Burger Queen's Midnight Train To Georgia? Ruben's Tears Of A Clown? Trenyce's Baby Love? The glorious group performance on Neil Sedaka week where Trenyce and the Burger Queen's duet of You'll Never Go To Heaven (If You Break My Heart) sends chills up and down my spine? I even enjoy Josh Don't Tell's creepy solo in Young Girl. Ah, good times, those times.

If anyone cares, Amy Yasbeck - John Ritter's widow - is in the audience.

What's next? A gag where DaddyKewpie puts on a hissyfit when a make-up lady intentionally mistakes the piano guy for DaddyKewpie. He thinks that it's "f**king depressing" that nobody recognizes him. I've no doubt that there would be some housewives right now sending him letters admonishing him for the foul language along with some photos of their children for him to admire. He only laughs, reluctantly, when the gag is exposed and Debra Byrd asks the make-up lady to choose a different color for DaddyKewpie.

And next, Ruben comes out and drives everyone to sleep with his dull rendition of What If. Everyone wakes up screaming in terror when he opens his jacket to reveal the giant head and gaping maw of Luther Vandross. Oh no, Ruben and his T-shirt are going to eat me now, help!

Now Piggy gets a turn on stage. What will she be singing? I Believe. Thanks for giving away the results so early, Uncle Nigel, because Piggy will be singing another song if she's the winner. Piggy dedicates the song to Snellville. Realizing that she's not the winner, perhaps, she belts the life out of this song, sounding even better than last night. Maybe I'm reading too much, but towards the end, when she weeps, she knows that this is her last chance to prove her naysayers wrong about her age and her abilities. I think that she's succeeded in doing so; I really enjoy this performance. Sleazebag points out that Kelly in the audience is crying along with Piggy too. Maybe she's crying in joy because Piggy doesn't win and hence poses no threat to Kelly for another year or so.

Sleazebag now brings out the "competition", Fantasia, who says that she will sing Dreams for North Carolina. I really enjoy this performance. Fantasia is good when she's rocking the house down, but she kills when she has the right ballad in her hands, and Dreams is one of those. It brings out everything beautiful about her: the way she can infuse determination and melancholy into cheesy lines about chasing dreams, as if she believes so passionately in everything she sings, and sings everything she does with a voice that's so unique yet so beautifully controlled. I love every minute of the performance.

After the commercials, Sleazebag talks about the show celebrating the perfect performance from its contestants (ha, ha) and because the Two are equally matched (yeah right), Fantasia and Piggy will now combine vocal prowesses for the duet of I Knew You Were Waiting. Piggy walks out among the audience, urging people to woo, stand up, have fun, et cetera, before singing. Fantasia walks out from the other end of the audience, singing her lines, before she joins Piggy on the stage for the sing-out. Watching those two is an affirmation of what I already know: Piggy is good, but she's outmatched by Fantasia in stage presence and charisma. Their voices go together so well though and there's a camaraderie between them that's genuine to me. They finish the performance with a hug. King Tut, watching them, laughs. So much for his insistence that those ladies hate each other. Share the love, King Tut!

At that point, I realize that I don't really care who wins, because I'm happy with either of them winning. There's a part of me that wants Fantasia to lose because she'll be alright while Piggy needs the title more than she and also because I fear of what the overlords of this show will do to Fantasia's voice and personality, but at the end, I don't care who wins.

Sleazebag joins them on stage and holds up a necklace. Apparently it's Fantasia's - she broke it while singing. Sleazebag says that they will buy a new one for her. He then asks King Tut to tell the ladies what the winner will get. Fame, a lot of money, stardom, King Tut says nonchalantly. The ladies nod happily, not knowing that the money will all go to the studio fat cats while all they get is transient fame and not much else. Sleazebag invites the judges to give any final thoughts. Miss Paula babbles about those two to enjoy their future undoubtedly successful careers while Randy Randy tells them that they are both winners.

Finally, it's down to what Sleazebag calls the "moment of truth". The new American Idol is... Fantasia! Everyone goes wild as Fantasia pretty much collapses in Piggy's celebratory hug. "Thank you so much!" Fantasia says, adding, "I broke my shoe!" which makes me laugh. She says that she hasn't had the easiest life but she has worked so hard to get here, sniff. Okay, I'm crying along with her. Sue me, but I'm touched by the fact that Fantasia is really moved by her victory. The idiot Sleazebag waves for Fantasia's family to come up on stage, but the guard holds them back, no doubt because Fantasia still has a song to perform. Sleazebag, you tool.

Sleazebag also orders a round of applause for Piggy Di Guano, who is crying maybe for herself as well as for Fantasia. She says that she has grown as a performer and she thanks everyone for their support. She also asks that Fantasia, her "girl" whom she is so proud of, be taken care of "right". Aww, that's so sweet of her, really. The Six Red Flags choir file into the stage for Fantasia's encore performance of I Believe. Fantasia manages to get a hold of herself for nearly two-thirds of her performance, but she finally just sits on the stage and cries as, after singing herself hoarse, she sings softly, "And finally... I believe." The confetti falls, and then the Twelve dash out to hug Fantasia and grab any screentime they can get for themselves, leaving poor Piggy to watch as she makes her way back to the stage too slowly and fails to break the rank of famehos surrounding Fantasia. She sniffs, claps forlornly, and finally smiles luminously back at a handsome Six Red Flags guy who gives her a gentle smile. Ooh, can this be the start of a beautiful romance for Piggy? Won't her mother hit the roof if she finds out, heh heh. Meanwhile, Sleazebag asks everyone to tune in on early January next year when the new season begins. There will be auditions held even in Alaska. And then, "American Idol - out!"

Before "Mrs Giggles - out!", can I say something? I think this is the best Final Two of the entire three seasons we've had so far. I mean it: both Piggy Di Guano and Fantasia can sing, but unlike Ruben and Kewpie who don't connect to me during their performances, these ladies do. Piggy makes me cry with her I Believe earlier on this show and her Don't Cry Out Loud is one of my favorite performances ever by a contestant. Then there's Fantasia. What can I say? She breaks everything that is cheesy about this show. She doesn't reach for high notes like Kewpie and Kelly or rely solely on glory notes to carry a song. Instead, she knows her vocal limitations and she exhibits beautiful control most of the time to carry off a song. I have never seen stage presence and charisma as brilliant as Fantasia's on this show and I find her voice pure pleasure to listen to - a unique voice that is Fantasia's alone. Anyone who can make me cry while performing a horrible song like I Believe and make it sound like gospel gold can't be bad in my book. I love her and I look forward - with a little terpidation - to discover the kind of music they will make her sing.

So, at the end of the day, despite being a lacklustre season, American Idol 3 closes on a high note. Who would've thought that Piggy Di Guano would be a worthy Final Two contender? The right winner is crowned. For a short while, talent and quality - the real kind as opposed to generic and safe pop that Latoya, Piggy, J Hu, and American Idol stand for - seems to reign in American Idol. For a while, King Tut is right, so is Randy Randy, and so is even Miss Paula. For a while, this show comes off as a genuine talent contest and the audience still cognizant of honest talent and raw passion. For a while, I believe.