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American Idol Red Wine Recap: Say aloha to my little Top 20! (Part 1)

Louis Knight crying happy
Louis Knight cries tears of joy as he makes Idol’s Top 20. Pic credit: ABC

Monsters & Critics columnist Liz Long recaps American Idol Season 18, Episode 9, with a little help from a glass of pinot Mai Tai (or two)…

Hello my Idol-Addicts, and welcome to beautiful sunny Hawaii, where a bunch of tanned, happy people sing and dance on stage as groups of other tanned, happy people socialize and sing along!

GEE! Looks like the life, don’t it?

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m FULLY enjoying my little vacation over here. You know. The one that is taking place in my living room and/or bedroom?

Now I know there’s a fake palm and little plastic lei around here somewhere…

Ah, who am I kidding?

Tom Hanks on a beach in Castaway
Pic credit: Giphy

And send it now. I’m out of wine. I’m out of crafts. And I’m just about out of sanity.

So how’s about I just pour myself a little Mai Tai, or whatever expired concoction I can come up with, and let’s winnow our contestants down to the Top 20, shall we?

Because let’s face it. Are we doing much of anything else right now besides watching Tiger King? Again. HELP!

The Idols going through to America’s Vote:

1. Just Sam shows a whole new side … and (of course) it works!

Just Sam singing on stage
Just Sam sings a Spanish song in Hawaii, making Idol Top 20. Pic credit: ABC

Just like Arthur Gunn was at the top of last week’s recap, I have to put Just Sam at the top of this one. This little fighter has always been in my Top 3 because she has that hunger that winners are made of.

She showed a whole new (beautiful and free!) side to us tonight, boldly singing a Selena song, though she does not speak a lick of Spanish.

Not only this, but I love how Just Sam shows constant appreciation.

From her “I woke up next to a beach” musings, to thanking the band as she walks off stage, to her love and respect for the judges, Just Sam is our modern-day Fantasia.

Just Sam listens to Katy Perry and Lionel Richie
Just Sam wisely nests under the judges’ wings as they guide her to her dreams. Pic credit: Giphy

She is going to prove to Grandma (who couldn’t afford a plane ticket to Hawaii) that oooo-ooo, child, things are gonna get easier.

Well deserved Top 20 slot Sam I Am. Uncle Richie, Auntie Katy (and I) love you and are proud of you.

2. Dwayne Crocker, Jr. (aka, the Grandma’s Boy) shocks me

In the surprise twist of the night, Dwayne Crocker, Jr. makes it through.

It’s okay if this name didn’t ring a bell. I had to find my old recap about him to remember. We haven’t seen him since his audition, when his great-grandma danced with Lionel, stealing the show from Dwayne.

Now tonight, it’s grandma’s turn! Take it away grandma! How did you feel about Dwayne making Top 20?

Dwayne Crocker Jr.'s grandma does a funny dance
Go Grandma! Pic credit: Giphy

Say no more. I’ll look forward to seeing more of this woman (and her whole family) come Live rounds. As for more of Dwayne’s alleged “reggae” versions of “Old Town Road”?

Well, that’s to be determined.

3. Franciso Martin comes through with some newfound confidence

Francisco Martin singing on stage
Francisco Martin comes out of his insecure shell in Hawaii. Pic credit: ABC

Franciso?! Is that you?? I didn’t recognize you with all that confidence!

Why this boy has been insecure his whole life, I have no idea. He’s beautiful, he sings well, and he seems like an all-around likable dude!

We learned tonight that Franciso apparently “left behind” many people during his insecure days, and now dedicates Harry Styles’ Fallen to them.

But, hey, they already seemed to have come around, judging by the size of the crowd waiting to congratulate him on his new Top 20 title. Shoot, he even had Luke Bryan doing Tom Cruise couch jumps.

Luke Bryan jumping on chair
Luke Bryan is excited over Francisco! Pic credit: Giphy

Come on now. Did we have any doubt about this modern-day Ritchie Valens?

4. Louis Knight is the side bet that pays off

Louis Knight crying happy
Louis Knight cries tears of joy as he makes Idol’s Top 20. Pic credit: ABC

Louis is one of those contestants who has gotten face-time like every single episode thus far. So I can’t say I’m surprised that he has been one of the judge’s “side bets” all season long.

Now don’t get me wrong. I like Louis.

This lovable Londoner, with his bare feet and rolled-up jeans, apparently was a “dice roll” for the judges, but they weren’t fooling us.

He has been giving us Ed Sheeran vibes since his audition, and, hey, the Top 20 needs a guy with an accent. P.S., three cheers for his mom going in for a Bachelor-style hug …

mom runs and hugs
This ain’t The Bachelor, Louis Knight’s mom. Pic credit: Giphy

5. Nick Merico comes full circle

Also not psyching us out, Nick Merico apparently has come full-circle for Lionel Richie and now, Lionel “tolerates” him … or something like that.

This is not the spirit of Uncle Richie, and I’m not tricked that easily.

I’m still thinking Nick belongs on a Disney TV show, and I truly felt like I was watching some sort of Camp Rock performance tonight: complete with an outdoor stage and a set of blue eyes that would melt any Mouseketeer in the audience …

Nick Merico singing onstage
Nick Merico woos his teeny-bopper fans and makes Idol Top 20. Pic credit: ABC

Oh, Nick. You’re in. I think we knew this would happen long ago. Welcome. I guess.

6. Johnny West flies solo into Top 20

Speaking of a love/hate relationship, Johnny West also slides into our Top 20, as Margie Mays looks on from the audience, still wearing presumably big hoops and a high scrunchie pony.

I don’t know, guys.

I’m kind of glad Johnny made it in. I can’t deny his unique voice, and I’m still riding high on that original song of his.

Johnny West plays piano and sings
Johnny West (sans Margie) makes Idol Top 20. Pic credit: ABC

But he has to get rid of the self-doubt if he’s going to make it. The self-doubt that has been lingering ever since Hollywood Week. Just ask yourself, Johnny: What would Just Sam do?

I choose to believe she’d find that perfect balance of ego Uncle Richie was talking about… He’s so wise, isn’t he?

7. & 8. Jovin Webb & Faith Becnel

Jovin Webb singing outside
Jovin Webb makes Idol Top 20. Pic credit: ABC

I had to put these two together because ever since their duet, they have become obvious best friends, and they couldn’t be cuter.

Jovin Webb’s wheelhouse is the blues, which made me just realize —did we already abandon that whole “genre” thing, or was that only for Hollywood Week, never to be discussed again?

Faith also has some sauce, but in the “I’m not afraid to sing Chaka Khan in a bedazzled jumpsuit” kind of way.

I like them both. Faith might be more interesting to watch, though, and she could be the dark horse in this game. But she’s going to need to lose that whole constant tapping of the microphone thing …

Faith Bencel tapping her microphone while singing
Faith Bencel’s microphone tapping is becoming a thing (for me). Pic credit: Giphy

9. Spiritual Cowboy Dillon James is a …. Maybe?

Ah, Dillon James. So full of love for your fellow contestants and grateful for all the fresh breaths of “airs.” Never lose that wonderment.

Dillon sang Bob Dillon’s “The Times They are a-Changin'” and truer words have never been spoken. As Katy noted, he looks like a star.

Though he had “the look,” in his black silk shirt, cowboy hat, and lustrous lips, his performance felt a little too even-keeled.

So I was extremely pleased when I heard Katy say, “I wish he would have leaned into the emotional part of his voice a little more.”

Katy, your astute observations are quickly making you my new favorite judge. Bravo, Ms. Bloom!

The producers have left us in “suspense” of whether Dillon makes it through, but I’m thinking he’ll be a yes. We need a man with some life experiences ’round here.

The Idols who went home:

Idol contestant faces who went home
These Idol contestants went home last night, just shy of Top 20. Pic credit: ABC

Finally, we had to say goodbye to our Kelly Clarkson look-a-like Camryn Lee Smith (who sang a worship song that didn’t awaken the Hollywood judges), “Geena” (who presumptuously goes by just a first name, which only Just Sam can do at this early phase, mind you), Devon Alexander (whose shirt buttons kept getting looser and looser), Makayla Brownlee (whose country risks didn’t pay off for Luke), Jordan Jones (who couldn’t be as cool as his song choice), and Amber Fiedler (who simply sang off-key).

Tomorrow night, we complete our Top 20.

Of course, as I predicted, our two country gals (Grace and Lauren) are pitted against each other (although judging by the looks of their smiles as they walk off, I’d say they both make it through).

I’ll also go ahead and predict Makayla Phillips, Arthur Gunn, Shannon Gibbons go through. If there is any justice in this world.

Though this all feels a bit anti-climactic, knowing the live shows won’t happen in the near future, I hold out hope that we will still be excited about these cats whenever the time does come.

I mean, how weird was it tonight seeing the large crowds in close proximity, sharing the same Hawaiian air? Is this the way we used to be? Memrieeees! Of the way we were!

In the meantime, stay healthy Idol-Addicts and drop the ones you think will round out our Top 20 below. See you tomorrow night! I’m off to stare at my fake palm…

American Idol airs Sunday and Monday at 8/7c on ABC. 

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Christina Boyer
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Christina Boyer

Just Sam to Sam I am ! Love her and your recaps