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We’re down to 9 tonight, and I’m happy to see that Ryan is taking some time off from making out on the beach to join us on the Idol Stage. Tonight’s theme is Country, and I’m going to be quite honest here and say that I am not a huge country fan, although I have spent some time in a bar with a mechanical bull. But, even though I’m not a big country fan, I am excited about tonight’s special guest, the Gambler himself, Kenny Rogers.

Sporting a new, rugged beard, Ryan introduces the Kenny career montage, and then we see footage of the group singing “The Gambler” with Kenny and I’m struck by how much Kenny Rogers looks like my dad. With trendy jeans and a fake tan. Hmmm. I don’t think I’m going to be taking my dad to the Gap any time soon.

Will Taylor set the tone for Country Night?
Kenny warns Taylor not to be too enthusiastic during his rendition of “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” and it appears that Taylor really takes his advice to heart. He’s not enthusiastic at all.

Country doesn’t really seem to be Taylor’s genre, which surprises me, but maybe he just made a poor song choice or something. Tonight, he’s standing pretty still behind the mic stand, and although the song doesn’t really allow for it, I’m sad that we’re not treated to some signature Taylor dance moves.

Randy thought the song choice was good, but the vocals were just okay, and didn’t exude Taylor’s personality. Paula knows that Taylor is full of life, but that song choice didn’t show it, and frankly, she expected more from him. Ooh, harsh! Simon thought the performance was safe, boring and lazy, and it seemed like Taylor chose his song ten seconds ago, and didn’t bother to rehearse. Ryan makes an oh-so-funny joke about how Simon’s love life is also safe boring and lazy. Ha, ha, ha. We’re obviously off to a good start tonight, aren’t we?

When I think of Mandisa, I don’t really think “country.”
What is up with the judges tonight? Randy tells Ryan that Paula loves him, and Paula snaps, “I do not,” and then Nigel Lythgoe tells Ryan that he loves him as well. Ryan is not amused, and I feel like I just described the antics of some naughty third graders.

Moving on to the actual singing portion of the show… and Mandisa is up next! Kenny says Mandisa picked a song with more lyrics than he’s recorded in his whole career. Exaggerate much, Kenny?

Mandisa is singing “Any Man of Mine,” and is wearing some sort of crocheted halter top with her jeans. As far as I can tell, she’s getting all the lyrics in, and seems pretty confident with the country genre.

Randy thought the song choice was weird, but she got her act together at the end of the song. Paula thinks that Mandisa could sing the phone book, (but that wouldn’t be very interesting would it now Paula?), and that her voice is amazing, but the song choice was not so amazing. Simon hated the song, and is mad because he gets booed for constructive criticism. I’m not sure what was so constructive about his comment, and I think he just likes to play the martyr. Simon then recovers by saying he liked Mandisa, just not the song choice.

Aw, snap! Ryan tells Simon his criticism was not constructive, Simon replies that he doesn’t like Ryan’s new Desperate Housewives look, and Ryan sputters back that Simon looks more Desperate Housewives in his tight fitting, baby blue sweater. What’s next boys, a round of “yo mama” jokes, or a walk-off? You just know that Ryan is going to be fit to be tied at the after-party tonight!

Elliott is Swell…iott.
Kenny Rogers thinks that Elliott tends to over-sing, and tells him that if the lyric is important, he should sing it simply. And, his biggest piece of advice for Elliott? Try to make ‘em cry.

Elliott is singing “If Tomorrow Never Comes.” He doesn’t really have a country voice, but sounds good anyway. He seems a little nervous during the song, and those lights must be pretty hot because he’s sweating. A lot. When he finishes up, I check and… nope. No tears. Sorry Kenny.

Randy loves the song, (of course, because he produced it with Garth Brooks), and loved Elliott’s performance. Paula adores Elliott and calls him a breath of fresh air, humble, understated, fantastic, and he sings with careless reckless abandon. Jeez, why don’t you start the I Heart Elliott Fan Club already, Paula?? Simon liked Elliott’s sing choice, but thought his performance was safe and hesitant… and the best so far tonight.

Paris, Paris, Paris… why did you pick this song?
Paris has new hair every week! The AI stylists must love her and her many hair moods. You know who else loves Paris? Kenny Rogers. Although she’s small, Kenny thinks she sure sings with a big voice, and is very believable.

Paris has chosen the AI country standard “How Do I Live,” and boy- I never get sick of hearing this song covered! Paris hits a nice glory note, but the rest of the performance is pretty boring, and I find myself, um, not paying attention.

Randy can tell that Paris struggled with the song tonight, and tells us that country is not easy to sing. He thought the start of the song was bad, but the middle was okay. Paula says Paris has a powerhouse voice but her performance wasn’t joyful and she didn’t connect with the song. Paula gets booed for her comments, which I don’t think is deserved. Simon disagrees with Paula, but I think he just wants to be the good guy for once. He didn’t really like that performance, did he? Oh, I guess he did. He even says that she reminded him a bit of early Dionne Warwick. With these words, I think Simon expects the audience, and Paris to bow down and worship him.

Ryan says tonight is a night of firsts- the first time Randy is dressed as Cupid, the first time Paula got booed, (actually Ryan, if you watched the show from my living room, you’d know she gets booed about 12 times each show), and the first time Simon has shown his jealously. Of what, I’m unsure.

At least we can always count on Ace to look good.
Ace is singing “I Wanna Cry,” and Kenny thinks the song choice/ contestant match up is the best of the evening. With all that build up, I hope Ace is better tonight than he was last week. And the week before that.

Ace is using the stool tonight, and sounds pretty good, until he hits a few rough notes. He saves himself in the end with his falsetto. And, most importantly- he looks good. Say what you will about Ace’s pitchiness, or his horrible song choices… the man always looks fine.

Randy thinks the performance was nice but really boring; Paula disagrees and thinks Ace has a knack for picking songs and an incredible falsetto, and Simon says that although Ace has been doing a terrible job at picking songs over the last few weeks, he made the right choice tonight.

Ryan brings Ace to center stage, but refuses to have any witty banter with him, which just reinforces my opinion that Ryan is jealous of Ace’s boyish good looks..

Hey Kellie? Sometimes letters are silent.
Ryan tells Kellie that a lot of people think her naiveté is just an act. C’mon now Kellie, you have to know what “ballsy” means, right? No? Oh, so you’re just not very smart then. Okay. Glad we cleared that up.

Tonight Kellie has decided to sing “Fancy.” Kenny loves Kellie’s wonderful charm, tells her the money is in the high notes, and thinks she made the perfect song choice.

Kellie starts her performance in the audience, but makes it to the stage in no time. Not surprisingly, Kellie is doing well tonight, and the audience seems to really like her. I’m just thinking about one thing as she sings though- are tapered jeans in again? If so, I’m in trouble because that is just not a flattering style on me!

Randy says that tonight was Kellie’s night, and she was really in her element. I guess Paula can’t think of anything to say, because she repeats Randy’s critique almost word for word, and Simon hated the song, but thought the performance was good. He tells us he would have been shocked if Kellie hadn’t done well on Country night.

I’ll bet we’re in for some country-rock!
Look, Ryan is standing with Whoopi Goldberg, and there’s Chris Rock… with a sign!! Okay, it looks like his daughter is the one with the sign, but I love the thought of Chris Rock making a “Bucky’s Just Ducky” sign so much, I’m going to pretend he brought it himself. I can’t actually read what the sign says, but I’m sure it’s clever.

Tonight Chris Daughtry is singing “Making Memories of Us,” and Kenny thinks that he’s tackling a hard song, and although Chris comes from a different place musically than he does, his heart is in the right place.

Just like Ace, Chris is using the stool tonight, and sounds… pretty much like he does every other week. At least he’s consistent!

Randy likes how Chris does his rocker thing no matter what, and enjoyed the performance. Paula says Chris is versatile and is true to who he is. Simon liked that his performance was different, but thinks that his song choice hasn’t been great over the past few weeks. He tells Chris and the rest of the Idols that he thinks they owe it to the audience to stop picking such crappy songs, and I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for looking out for us, Simon.

Katharine, how does one bring out the Elvis in you?
Although she doesn’t have a classical country voice, Kenny knows that Katharine will do well with her choice of “Bringing Out the Elvis.”

Like Kellie, Katharine starts her performance in the audience. Unlike Kellie, Katharine can probably read past a fifth grade level. She’s all smiles as she belts out her song, and throws in some sexy dance moves to boot.

Randy calls the bluesy- country performance “very nice,” Paula thinks Katharine is hot, sexy and has great style, and Simon doesn’t know what to say. He thought the song was peculiar, and hates country music.

This is Bucky’s night to shine.
Bucky is at home with country music, and has chosen to sing “Best I Ever Had.” Kenny is afraid that not many people have heard this song, and I don’t think he needs to worry as it was a fairly decent hit for Vertical Horizon before it was all countrified.

Out of all the Idols, Bucky looks like he embraced the whole “country” thing the best tonight in his cowboy hat, leather jacket and boots. He sounds good, and uses his country rasp to its full effect.

Randy thought the song was a little pitchy, but that Bucky was in his element. Paula again repeats what Randy says, and Simon admits that he’s not an expert on country music, and that Bucky sounded okay.

It must be time to wrap up, because Ryan barely allows the judges time to ramble, and there’s no chatter with Bucky, only a recap of the performances, and a pitch to watch tomorrow’s show.

So, what’s it gonna be? Who is going home tomorrow? More importantly, will Kenny Rogers perform “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town?” Tune in and see!

I’m trying to learn the “Bubba Shot the Jukebox” line dance, but you can reach me at: SueEllenMishke@fansofrealitytv .com.