Heading Toward a (Predictable?) Top Two on 'Idol'

Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze have been getting the most buzz, but don't count Casey James out yet

And then there were three. And on Fox's American Idol (8 p.m. ET) that means…hometown visits. This week, the remaining contestants -- Crystal Bowersox, Lee DeWyze and Casey James -- bask in some local love in Toledo, Chicago and Fort Worth, respectively.

During Tuesday's performance episode, viewers will see parades and key-to-the-city ceremonies, and at least two of the finalists throw out the first pitch at a major-league game. The hometown visit is a longstanding, feel-good tradition on the show. But it's inevitably overshadowed by the live drama unfolding on the stage. The top 3 are, after all, competing for a spot in next week's final sing-off. The stakes have never been higher.

Unfortunately, this year's penultimate episode doesn't have the buzz of those in years past. That may have to do with the season's lackluster vibe, according to some critics, anyway. And some fans agree: Ratings are down 10% this season.

But it also might reflect the fact that the final two are apparently a foregone conclusion among many Idol watchers. A casual Google search will turn up the same prediction, again and again: The top two will be Crystal and Lee. Here's a random sampling of regional papers: the San Jose Mercury News, the Seattle Times and New York Newsday, all expressing that opinion. That Casey's already hit the end of the road is implied in this L.A. Times blog post, which actually defends the 27-year-old Texan.

Even Ryan Seacrest appears to know the outcome of this week's sing-off. “It’s going to be interesting to see what happens this week," he told OK! magazine. "I think a lot of girls are voting for Casey, and if he has an off night, will they continue to vote because they think he’s cute?...I think that the best voices are Lee and Crystal.”

During Tuesday's show, the singers will sing two songs each, a judge's choice and a contestant's choice. For Crystal, Ellen DeGeneres chose Paul McCartney’s "Maybe I'm Amazed." For Lee, Simon Cowell selected Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” And for Casey, Kara DioGuardi and Randy Jackson chose John Mayer's "Daughters."

All great songs, but I've got to admit, I'll be rooting for Casey the Underdog. An upset is just what this lackluster season needs, wouldn't you agree?

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Do you think that Idol's top two are a foregone conclusion? 


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