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American Idol: Three is a crowd

American Idol recap: On Thursday night, Season 13  took another important step in its search for America's new Idol. But to do that one had to go, who did America peg as this season's third wheel?

Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP
American Idol judges, from left, Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick Jr. are seen during the panel of 'Idol' at the FOX Winter 2014 TCA, Jan. 13, 2014, at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena, Calif.

On Thursday, American Idol reverted back to its one hour results show format to accommodate the hometown footage of the final three. First up was Jena Irene's hometown of Farmington Hills, Mich., where Jena visited Hercule's Restaurant, her former place of employment, and of course the town high school, which has become a regular stop on the Idol hometown visits. It was a heart-warming, although uneventful visit. Host Ryan Seacrest then informed Jena that she would be performing with Paramore on the finale. Of course, she was excited about it but her fate still was unsettled and would remain that way for the time being.

Cue the return of Season 8 third place finalist, Danny Gokey and Season 5's third place finalist Elliot Yamin who told us a bit about their lives and careers since their Idol experience. Then Season 10 winner, Scotty McCreery returned to the stage to sing his new single, "Feelin It." If you watched Season 10 you were probably taken aback by how much Scotty has grown and matured since his time on Idol; apparently now he only speaks in sound bites.

Alex Preston, resplendent in his grandmother's rose tunic, then got to relive his visit home to Mont Vernon, NH. Again, pretty typical homecoming except Alex went to the University of NH to perform rather than the high school and enjoyed a seemingly larger turnout than what we saw in Jena's hometown. Idol, always eager to milk all possible emotion from every moment, employed a split screen so we could watch the Idols relive their homecoming - well, we got to watch Jena relive hers. In Alex's case, we got to watch Jennifer Lopez as she watched Alex's return home - serves him right for wearing that shirt. But Ryan forgave Alex for his style choices and announced that he would be performing with Jason Mraz in the finale next week.

It was then the moment all the judges have been waiting for, Caleb Johnson's return to Asheville, NC. Caleb briefly visited his house and then made his way to Biltmore Estate to play the organ with a little old lady, who was seemingly the only person at the estate, making it an odd stop in Caleb's homecoming. We also got to meet Caleb's "little" brother who returned to the Idol stage with him tonight to jump around in delight when it was announced that Caleb would perform with KISS in the finale.

Then it was time to dim the lights. Ryan announced that Jena would be one of the final two, leaving Caleb and Alex to await their fate. As predicted, Caleb was then announced as the other finalist and we sadly had to say our goodbyes to Alex Preston. His final song reminded me how unfair it all is - so much talent that went under-appreciated because it was, by nature, less obvious and quieter than his competitors. 

Tune in next week, as we cap off our Idol journey together!

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