Mentor Jimmy Iovine and all the "American Idol" judges were surprised to see the make-up of the Bottom Three on the Top 7 results show of "American Idol" this week. But there they were -- Joshua Ledet, Elise Testone, and Jessica Sanchez. Judge Randy Jackson was so annoyed he told host Ryan Seacrest that, although he had never said it on the show before, America got it wrong. Judge Steven Tyler said that given who the three that received the least votes were, the judges would definitely use their only Save for the season. And when it was revealed that the bottom vote-getter was never-in-the-Bottom-Three-before Sanchez, the judges rushed the stage, Judge Jennifer Lopez took the microphone, and the 16-year-old vocal powerhouse was Saved.
But will it do her any good?
Historically speaking, those 'American Idol" finalists who have been Saved at one stage of the show or another have only participated in a few more performance shows before getting eliminated (for good) again. Depending upon how one looks at the Wild Card round, it could be argued that this, too, is a Save.
If the Wild Cards are considered (where the judges choose to give certain contestants another chance and choose from a selected few), and they were used in Seasons 1, 2, 3, 8, 10, and 11, the best performance by far was by Clay Aiken, who finished as the runner-up in Season 2. What makes his story unique is that he was the Wild Card (of four) chosen by public vote. No other Wild Card has placed higher than the Top 5 (Trenyce in Season 2, George Huff in Season 5, and Matt Giraud in Season 8). If one takes into consideration the length of time -- in number of shows -- the Wild Cards have remained on the show, Aiken's Top 12 to No. 2 remains the best run.
This season, all three Wild Cards were eliminated by the time the Top 7 were named (DeAndre Brackensick was the last holdout, receiving his walking papers on the Top 8 results show).
But if one were get technical about the "American Idol" judges' Save, it has only been in use the past four seasons.
Matt Giraud (who was a Wild Card) was saved from elimination in the Top 7 round of Season 8. He advanced to the Top 5 before being voted off.
During Season 9, Michael Lynche got the judges' Save when he was kicked off by the "Idol" voters in the Top 9 spot. He stayed on the show for five more episodes, finishing fourth.
Last season (10), Casey Abrams was voted off during the Top 11 show. The judges' Save kept him around for another five episodes as well, and he was eliminated on the Top 6 results show.
Oddly enough, though, Jessica Sanchez' Save wasn't the only judges' Save used this season. Back at the start of the live shows, the Top 13 were pared down to two sets of three lowest vote receivers -- three Girls and three Guys. Of the two lowest -- one Girl and one Guy -- the judges chose which would remain on the show. That honor went to Elise Testone.
Testone made the Bottom Three for the third time on the Top 7 results show (and perhaps a fourth time, because it is unknown exactly where she placed in the six bottom contestants in the Top 13 elimination, just that she was the lowest vote recipient among the three Girls) but escaped having to worry about a Save. She has to get to the runner-up position to beat Clay Aiken's record (by one spot due to there only being a Top 12 in Season 2). As for those who have been Saved by the judges, however, she has lasted five extra shows and will break that record with her sixth appearance in the Top 7 redux. She has already moved ahead more places than any other "Idol" contestant in history (due to Jermaine Jones' disqualification during the Top 12 week) with six, even if she places seventh overall.
As for Jessica Sanchez, history suggests she will be eliminated before the finale -- unless you consider Testone's run. If so, Sanchez could very well be in the "American Idol" finale vying for the title. But there's truly no accounting for how the voting will turn out from week to week on the show. Before the Top 7, Sanchez had never placed in the Bottom Three.
In a strange historical twist, Season 3 finalist (and Wild Card choice) Jennifer Hudson, who finished a surprising seventh, appeared on the Top 7 results show to promote her latest single with Ne-Yo, "Think Like A Man." She also appeared on "Idol" on the Top 11 results show where the judges used their seasonal option to Save Casey Abrams.
(photo credit: Adam Bielawski, Creative Commons)