The purpose of a reality TV competition is to win, and in modern American television, it is generally to win by the dirtiest means possible, as viewers of "Survivor" and "The Bachelor" can attest. But on Wednesday night, Idol's seven remaining contestants chose to suspend the laws of nature and game shows and to collectively take one step away from victory -- in the name of keeping their friend on the show, fighting for the life of their opponent, Matt Giraud, and imploring the judges to use their one "save" to keep him in the show.
As the judges deliberated, a chant rose from the contestants' bench. "Save him! Save him! Save him!" which the Idoldome audience joined, creating an overwhelming groundswell that would have taken a more stubborn man even than Simon Cowell to resist.
An hour later, the group conga'ed into the Coca-Cola red room, their home away from home, a few floors above the Idol stage. Wednesday nights are traditionally the saddest of times for the singers, when usually they gather for the goodbye dinner to bid farewell to a newly eliminated friend. But Wednesday night they poured into the room for a "save dinner", high-fiving, climbing over Giraud, congratulating him as though they had together beaten the Grim Reaper. No matter that next week, two of them will have to go; that night, in the midst of their long struggle, they had for one moment slipped the surly bonds of Earth and touched the face of God.
And then it was time for pizza.
In their first backstage group interview, the seven survivors of Idol's eighth season shared their celebratory dinner with the L.A. Times and discussed, midway through the finals, the tribulations and rewards of life in the world's highest visibility pressure cooker. In a free-ranging conversation that ran the gamut from the pain of family separation to the paranormal, the seven revealed themselves to be, as their actions that night suggested, a group that has found in their relationships with one another the strength to endure Idol's unrelenting trial by fire.
"I'm still in the wow phase," said Giraud, sitting down but ignoring his pizza . "I feel so blessed to watch all the other contestants screaming, 'Save him! Save him!' And the audience just going crazy too. It blew my mind. I'm on a high right now that I haven't been on in a long time in this competition."
Nearly as giddy himself, Adam Lambert credited Danny Gokey with igniting the movement. He described, "I think that during the commercial break Danny was like, 'Let's chant for you. Let's really make ourselves be vocal.' That was a really good idea, and we all got onboard for that one."
Gokey himself recalled saying "'We're going to do whatever we have to do to keep whoever it is. We planned it out. That's what we did."
Assaulted with the downer question, so when does it hit you that next week two of you have to go, the group brushed such triviality aside. "We know that," nodded Kris Allen. "We're just still excited to be here right now," Gokey said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun