Samantha Novacek sings and sister Patricia "The Planker" Novacek helps. Sortof.
Samantha Novacek sings and sister Patricia "The Planker" Novacek helps. Sortof. (Michael Becker / FOX)

This time, "Idol" pays a visit to Pittsburgh, the City of Champions. Is this where we will find the ultimate winner then?

THIS! Is "American Idol"!

Side note: I love how the Scotty McCreery clip that the producers added to the opening credits this year is that of him holding the microphone like a flute.

Tonight's episode features a planker, an impromptu two-man show and a waitress from my town, Baltimore! Let's take a look at the highlights and the lowlights:

Heejun Han, who had the excitement of a turtle during his pre-audition interview. He sang Michael Bolton's "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You." I used to think choosing a Michael Bolton song for an audition (actually, for any kind of performance) was a recipe for disaster. But Heejun proved me wrong. I was floored. Randy Jackson was shocked. Steven Tyler said Heejun could be the next American Idol. I'm almost ashamed to say he made me like a Michael Bolton song now. Come on! (Verdict: Hollywood!)


Travis Orlando, who auditioned last year and came back vocally stronger. While he sounded good, there was nothing special about his audition. But the judging panel (who Idol followers have realized is the nicest judging panel in the show's history) felt sorry when Travis talked about his tumultuous year: Mom left the family, Dad getting sicker and sicker, moved into a shelter, etc. Give the guy a break, right? So Travis received another chance and got a golden ticket. (Verdict: Hollywood!)

Creighton Fraker, who likes wearing neon-green shoelaces. A street performer from Queens, N.Y., Creighton has a distinct tone that Jennifer Lopez described as "It's like Jamiroquai and Justin Timberlake had a baby." You know what, I'd throw in Adam Levine to that mix. Put those three voices together and stir that melting pot. (Verdict: Hollywood!)

Reed Grimm, 26, who has been singing since he was 2. I loved his jazzy audition so much that I forgot to criticize his baseballs shirt-plaid shorts-white belt get-up. Don't you just love it when somebody sings with his whole heart, exuding happiness? I have to admit that audition left me smiling. (Verdict: Hollywood!)

J.Lo's tardiness, because it gave us a chance to see Steven and Randy's two-man show. I mean, who wouldn't love an impromptu performance of "Pink" by Steven Tyler, with Randy Jackson on guitar? Nobody!

Samantha Novacek, who brought her sister Patricia with her to the audition. It's not uncommon to see family members join an auditioner to lend support — unless the family member believes her planking will get her sibling to Hollywood (say wha?). Samantha did deliver a very strong performance and got the unanimous vote to advance. And Patricia did not speak at all while planking, because planking is serious stuff, you guys. It brings people to Hollywood. (Verdict: Hollywood!)

Shane Bruce, who is a 19-year-old coal miner. There was nothing special about his performance, and he didn't get a golden ticket, but I'm still mentioning him because he referred to "Hallelujah" as the song from "Shrek."  (Verdict: Go back home!)

Steven's red comedy sound machine. 'Nuff said.

And finally … Hallie Day. A waitress in Baltimore, Hallie moved to New York to pursue a career in music. It didn't turn out so well for her, so she went back to B-more. That didn't turn out well either, so she tried to kill herself. But all is well now, as she just married a man who loves her and supports her dream. Hallie sang "I Will Survive" (Ha! Of course!) and showcased her powerful voice. Steven asked her to sing something else. No, not because he wasn't impressed. "I like watching her when she sings." Oookay Steven. She's through to Hollywood ,though. B-more represent!

Next up is San Diego as "Idol" airs on a special night—Sunday right after the NFL’s NFC Championship.