Review: Duets: Third Time’s the Charm

It’s time to du-et again! As you enter the theater, we ask that you move all the way across your row, filling in all available seats. Welcome, ladies and gentleman, to the “American Idol Experience” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Seriously, if you’ve ever seen the attraction, you’ve seen this show…except the Disney version has a better voting system. To further prove my point, Jennifer Nettles & John Legend open the show with a rousing performance of “Music in Me.” I honestly couldn’t make this up. If you’ve been to the Idol Experience in Disney, you’ve participated in a dance break to this very song, led by Idol-winner Jordin Sparks. I hope the Duets studio has taken a cue from the theme park attraction and installed armchair audience voting devices so we can shatter the judging tablets of doom.

After a brief recap from our host, Kudos (Do they still make Kudos bars? I loved them in elementary school…), we’re off running with Team Robin. Sir Fluffy Hair sits his team down for some “girl talk.” What’s the deal with this guy? One second he’s grinding against their legs, and the next, he’s trying to braid their hair and play Dream Phone. Robin also declares that he was “born an underdog.” Dude, you’re dad was on “Growing Pains” and your mom was a singer who starred on “Days of Our Lives”…Underdog my butt. His first partner of the night is Alexis Foster, who once again forgot to wear pants. She’s tackling “Killing Me Softly” and the only thing I can think about as this performance begins is how their silhouettes look like those creepy commercials for that new reality show, “The Glass House.” Robin’s falsetto adds nothing to this song, but his creepy grunts and moans add even less. They’re killing me softly with this song.

Jennifer Nettles and Graham Elliot from Master Chef are up next. I’m confused as to how he escaped Gordon Ramsay’s clutches, but that’s the only joke I’ll make about John Glosson who takes us to church with “How Great Thou Art.” Jennifer tells us “you can’t rush Jesus” and I want her to be my best friend – except, I’d be embarrassed to be seen out in public with her because she has a penchant for wearing weird clothing. Tonight is no exception as she appears to be wearing some variation on angel wings. The outfit is fitting since John is performing in honor of his deceased brother. They sound all kinds of incredible together. Kelly remarks that she’s secretly plotting on how to get him off the show, and once again, therein lies the problem with a voting system where you judge your competition. Despite that, he jumps to first place and it’s clear that those threats were in jest.

Jordan Meredith is up next, tackling Miranda Lambert‘s “Mama’s Broken Heart” alongside of her idol/mentor/life coach, Kelly Clarkson. It’s clear that Jordan took Kelly’s advice to heart this week because this isn’t the same girl who has been on the show the past few weeks. She braves all kinds of foot fungus by performing barefoot, but they bring the sass hardcore. At times, they both appear to be possessed by some sort of man-hating, foot-stomping demon, but seizure-inducing stage lights aside, this performance is actually pretty fantastic. My only problem is that I feel like Jordan’s tattoo needs a microphone of its own and that the show should be renamed “Trios” to accommodate its performance. Jordan jumps into second place.

John Legend and competition latecomer Meleana Brown are tackling Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You,” and our Lilo-lookalike looks like a different person this week in her sleek white pantsuit. The way John Legend moves his mouth distracts me during this performance and he looks like some sort of odd puppet. Stitch, is that you? They sound great together, but the performance falls a little flat for me. Not good, not bad…just meh. It’s meh-ness puts her into third place.

I think Olivia Chisholm might be the most boring contestant on this show, so she opts to take on one of the most charismatic performers and iconic songs, Beyonce and “Crazy in Love.” Dressed like the “Dancing with the Stars” mirror ball, she takes the stage alongside of Fonzie Thicke. Fonzie takes on Jay-Z’s portion of the song and it comes off like some cheesy hype man at a Bar Mitzvah somewhere in New Jersey. The performance is surprisingly entertaining, but I’m not sure whether it’s due to Olivia or the fact that she picked a great song and has a swarm of backup dancers.

J. Rome & Jennifer are singing “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You,” and he’s dedicating it to his deceased grandfather. This is going to be emotional for him. It’s also going to be emotional for me because this song always reminds me of Zack and Kelly’s breakup at the prom…Damn you, Jeff! While it’s hard to compete with Jessie and Slater, Jennifer and J. Rome slay this song. How am I supposed to write a snarky review with performances like this?! Jennifer, J. Rome and the rest of the superstahs are all a blubbery mess and if I had a a heart, I assume I would be as well. J. Rome takes first place for the third week in a row.

The Bieber-squeal-worthy Jason Farol is up next, and we learn that he auditioned from his car so his parents wouldn’t hear him singing. KC brings in Jason’s dad who gets all teary-eyed as the two tackle one of the most over-covered songs on the planet, “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen. They sound great, but Jason needs some of the confidence juice that Kelly gave Jordan to really shine. In the most baffling critique of the night, John the Muppet criticizes Jason’s pronunciation. Hello, Pot, meet Kettle

Closing the show is Miss Hoop Earrings herself, Bridget Carrington with Mr. Mumbler. For the first time, we see the “Duets” band on the stage and these two deliver another solid performance. Kelly says that this girl shines so bright, but I think that it’s just her tinfoil-striped dress. She falls squarely in the middle of the board, grabbing fourth place.

It’s now time for the ominous “show down” between the bottom two. Jason and Alexis must each sing acapella for a chance to stay in the competition. Jason is up first with a rather impressive version of “Me and Mrs. Jones” that stuns Jennifer Nettles. Methinks she wants to be his Mrs. Jones. Pantsless Alexis takes on “Natural Woman” and it’s all kinds of pitchy. In my untalented and untrained opinion, Jason should stay and the pantsless wonder should be sent home. First, the judges give a cheesy, cliche-filled “don’t give up” talk to the contestants before taking to their tablets of doom to send someone packing.

Our host Caboodle, wearing an unusually shiny suit, needs to take some lessons from Mr. Seacrest and work on creating the elimination tension in the studio. For a second, it looks like Kelly Clarkson thinks that SHE is the one possible being voted off the “duets” island. Nope, our first casualty is Team Robin member, Alexis Foster.

Duets, you’ve redeemed yourself tonight. In fact, I suspect that if this episode had been the first of the season, this show would be a much bigger hit. The judging is still flawed and John and Robin’s teams sorta blend together, but consistent contestants like John and J.Rome and underdogs like Jordan and Jason make it worth watching. They also make it clear that the best contestants are those whose names start with J.

Next week, we’re tackling party songs on Wednesday, so put on your party pants (even you, Alexis!) and join us for more tears, more cheese and more obscure Saved by the Bell references!