Before we get into this week’s episode, can I just say, without being too mean, HALLELUJAH! I didn’t think it was going to happen, at least this soon, but Casey is gone! I mean sure, yeah, he was talented and whatever, but you can’t deny that he was seriously creepy as hell, and I’m glad I don’t have to see him do his voodoo witchcraft all over the stage every week anymore. Looks like there’s some justice in this world after all!

But anyway, moving on, it’s a new week, and there’s five contestants left to battle for the title! This week the theme was “Now and Then,” meaning that our 5 would be superstars had to pick a contemporary song and a throwback hit and perform them both. Helping them with their journey this week was Sheryl Crow, who I have to say is looking really good. Seriously, she looks like she hasn’t aged at all in the past 10 years, and more importantly, hasn’t gotten any plastic surgery either. Whatever she’s taking, she should bottle and sell.

First up was James, who was hands down the best of the night. For his contemporary song he chose “Closer to the Edge” by 30 Seconds to Mars, and while the song itself is admittedly a little lame, James blew it out of the park. Seriously, he nailed it, and the judges officially proclaimed him the one to beat. He continued his streak later with his throwback song, “Without You,” which is an especially noteworthy feat considering THIS is what I immediately think of when I hear that song. However, Eastern European YouTube sensations aside, and in spite of James tearing up and hamming for the camera, he still did a really good job! He’s definitely destined for the top three.

Not so much of a sure thing is Jacob, who biffed his performance of Jordin Sparks’ “No Air” something fierce. He just didn’t seem to find his footing with the song vocally, and his cut-rate Beyonce stage presence succeeded only at making me really uncomfortable. He redeemed himself somewhat with his second performance of “Love Hurts,” but I’m not sure it was enough to save him (although Sir Anthony Hopkins was FEELING IT in the audience). Be afraid, Jacob!

Following Jacob was Lauren, who did probably the best she’s ever done this week. She really seems to be improving and coming into her own from week to week, both vocally and physically. Her performance of that Carrie Underwood song was awesome, and her follow-up cover of “Unchained Melody” was great as well. More importantly, she’s stopped looking dead in the eyes when she sings and has really started connecting to the songs. Plus, she looked AMAZING tonight, especially her hair. It was like a Shakira porno beauty queen fantasia. If tonight’s any indication, Lauren just may be top 3 material.

Scotty’s also in the top three for sure. Seriously, this guy can do no wrong. I mean, at this point, he could go on stage and burp the alphabet into the microphone and people would go nuts, but this week he honestly earned his praises. He started off up-tempo with “Gone,” bouncing around the stage and interacting with the crowd, and the judges straight ate it up. Later, he went a more somber route with “You Were Always On My Mind,” which he also blew out of the park. America seems to love Scotty, and unless he screws up royally in the next few weeks I think this competition is his to lose.

Haley, on the other hand, is on a bit shakier ground. Personally, I thought her performance of Lady Gaga’s “You and I” was great, and one of my favorites of the night, but the judges REALLY didn’t like it, and gave her the worst critique of the night, saying it was the wrong choice and wasn’t memorable. She managed to redeem herself later in the evening with her performance of “House of the Rising Sun,” which the judges loved, but I think her poorly received first act may have put her in the doghouse.

So, based on critiques, I’d say James and Scotty are absolutely safe. Lauren should be in the clear this week too. However, if you’re participating in one of our Fantasy Idol pools, I’d say it’s safe to put points on Jacob and Haley to go home this week. Both of them were the only ones to get negative critiques this week, and both have been towards the bottom for the past few weeks now. If I HAD to pick one, I’d say Jacob is going to be the one to go, but we’ll see what happens. This season has been full of surprises and curveballs, so for all I know both of them will be safe. Only time will tell! We’ll have to wait to see what tomorrow has in store. Auf wiedersehen!