'American Idol': Yep, the auditions are still going

Tonight's American Idol gives us the highlights (and lowlights, I am sure) of the auditions in Omaha, Neb., which means there will be a lot of corn jokes.

Judges Randy and Simon had to start without Paula because of her delayed plane.


Christopher Bernheisel, 25, sings a little "Cold-Hearted Snake" to the camera and talks about how this is the most life-altering thing in his life. Based on his speaking voice, I do not predict good things from his audition. Also, he brings gifts for the judges. (Or "bribes," as Simon says. Though I don't think it's going to work.) He starts crying in front of the judges about trying to achieve his dreams, and it's kind of sad. He sings "Since U Been Gone" with spins and acrobatics, and I just hope this is all a joke. Immediately, Randy says, "Is this real, dude?" They just full-out laugh at him. Simon says they like him as a person, but the singing was not good. He asks if he can audition for the red carpet, and clearly he's been practicing this forever, because he has a whole monologue prepared. Simon says he needs to tell his local Fox affiliate that they want to see him reporting on the finale. Well, OK, then. I guess they decided he was for real. He jumps up and down in the confessional about how awesome it was and how he gave them gifts, and he just seems a LOT younger than 25. Maybe there really isn't that much to do in Omaha.

Jason Rich is from Stout, Iowa. He is keeping is cool, especially in comparison to the first dude. From his speaking voice, I think he might be OK. He sings a line of Keith Whitley and then freaks out and can't remember the words. On the third try, he gets through a couple of lines and loses it again. Fourth try, he gets it, but will the judges forgive him the first three tries? Randy says he has a nice voice, but he doesn't have star quality. But he says yes anyway, and Simon says he gets through, too. But he warns him that that was his last chance and if he did that on live TV, he'd be off the air.

Then Paula shows up (and she seems awfully jet-lagged for the rest of the episode), followed by a montage of people forgetting lyrics.

Rachael Wicker says she loves arm wrestling and that she wants to take Simon down because of the things he says to people. He declines an arm-wrestling match. She sings with a nice tone and a quite a bit of a twang. Simon says she is performing as if she has been doing this for 50 years and is at the end of her career. Randy says he doesn't understand the half-yodel in country songs and that she should knock it off. Paula, who hasn't yet said a thing, asks Randy, "Yes or no." He says yes, and so does Randy. Ryan makes the required "strong-armed her way to Hollywood" joke.

Sarah Whitaker says she used to be a professional wrestler, "Lady Morgue." She demonstrates her trademark laugh and she hits Ryan. Ow. Then she sings some musical theater song in her audition, but I have no idea what is going on. Simon says, "You're just really strange, Sarah." Randy and Simon say no and Paula says yes? Ryan comes in and asks why she didn't get through, and they all start sparring (verbally -- no more hitting). He and Paula trade places, and now Paula has no idea what is going on.

Samantha Sidley says she doesn't know whether she can win the competition, but they tell her that is the wrong answer, so she says she can because is a good singer and loves music. She sings quietly but with OK tone. Ryan says he likes her voice, but she needs to work on her self-confidence. Ryan says he would have said yes. Paula says she can sing and her showmanship needs some work. Isn't that what Ryan said? Anyway, she gets through.

Montage of good people. I like these. One girl (Elizabeth Erkert, I think) gets a golden ticket and comes down the escalator with her parents and says, "I can't wait to get to Hollywood and prove Simon wrong and show him that I am America's Next Top Model." Half a beat before she realizes what she says and she and her mom crack up. Whoops!

Angelica Puente is 17 and says she lives with her grandma because her dad is really strict and she really wants to show him how much she loves him and make to proud. With lots of crying. In the audition, she sings Celine Dion's "The Power of Love," which is a HUGE song, but she seems pretty equal to it, all things considered. Randy says it was a little too much mimicry. Paula says she has a "lack of performance." Randy says yes and so does Paula. Simon says that with some effort she could be really good and that like Randy said, she needs to stop sounding like other artists and to work on her performance. Ryan calls her dad, and he says she's always been his American Idol. Awww.

David Cook is inspired by Chris Daughtry. He tells the judges that he is a versatile vocalist and a personable guy. He sings "Living' on a Prayer," which is a little slow to start, but he still does a nice job. Simon says it was "a little bit wordy, but good." Randy says he needs to work on his persona and performance. Three yes votes, and he is going through. That was fast.

Johnny Escamilla and his bowl cut say he is the weirdest guy you'll ever meet and that he can't compare himself to anyone but James Brown. He starts his audition and Paula has ridiculous hiccups. He "sings" "Shout." Simon: "In every single way, that was everything I hate." It's a no.

Montage of badness to "Stuck in the Middle With You." You know, because Omaha is in the middle of the country?

Leo Marlowe is the last audition of the day. (See video clip at top.) He says, "My mother always says she raised a perfect Homecoming queen; too bad it wasn't one of her daughters." Heh. He sings "A Song for You," and it's lovely. Simon says he likes him because he has a good voice and because he's not defensive or anything. Paula says, "Touchdown!" He cries and turns red and is so excited. It's very sweet.

Nineteen people made it through, and tomorrow: Miami.