Thanks to People magazine for this behind the scenes report ...
Say What?! When Ryan Seacrest announced that Sanjaya Malakar was going home on Wednesday's show, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe gasped with surprise as he turned to Simon Cowell. The rest of the Idols were there to support a tearful Sanjaya: the remaining Top 6 made their way over to their fallen pal for one final group embrace.
And after the 17-year-old singer's final performance, Randy Jackson came onstage to shake hands and give him a hug goodbye, all the members of the house band walked over to wish him well and members of the crowd screamed, "We love you, Sanjaya!," prompting him to flash his famous smile one last time before leaving the stage.
Timed Out: Each week, the judges have been getting closer and closer to missing that mark when the stage manager starts to count down 30 seconds to airtime. On Wednesday, Paula Abdul â€" who had cut it about as close as one can previous times â€" finally did and was only halfway to her seat as Seacrest introduced the show. Lucky for her, the host kept his focus on the task at hand as she subtly tiptoed by just a few feet away and squeezed into her chair.
Tsk, Tsk: When Ryan tried to make Melinda Doolittle choose which of the two Idol groups (Jordin Sparks, Phil Stacey and Chris Richardson or Sanjaya, LaKisha Jones and Blake Lewis) was the night's bottom three, Jackson turned to Lythgoe during the commercial break and shook his finger in shame at the man who orchestrated the stunt â€" and had been lining up the Idols just moments before onstage.
Bucky in the House! Season 5 finalist Bucky Covington, who countrified last season with his vocal stylings, was in the house â€" and the judges were happy to see him (Randy even gave him a high five). Other former Idols there for country night: season 4's Amanda Avula and season 3's Matt Rogers, who was greeted by an excited fan screaming, "You rock, Matt!"
Sadly, Olivia Mojica was nowhere to be seen.
Uncomfortable Scene: In order to make it clear that Simon was not disrespecting the victims of the Virginia Tech tragedy, the show aired the judge's yet-unheard comments to Abdul about Chris Richardson's nasal-y performance. Chris sat stone-faced as he had to relive the moment and listen to Simon trash his singing to Paula. But Chris got a boost from some Redondo Beach, Calif., high-school cheerleaders, who came out to support their favorite Idol.
During the commercial break, one of the girls took the microphone from warmup comedian Cory Almeida and shouted, "We love Chris 'cause he's a hottie!"