I got what I wanted -- the Taylor/Kat finale -- but I found myself rooting for Elliott rather vociferously in the last few weeks. He was the perpetual dorky underdog who stepped up his game when it counted the most and became the easy sentimental favourite. It was like watching a low-seeded team go on a roll and come dangerously close to reaching the championship game. Eventually you start to forget about the finale you wanted to see all along and root for the megagigantic upset instead.
Taylor was outstanding this week, confirming that the competition is his to lose. Even though "Dancing In the Dark" is a song that needs time to build (no time for that when all songs are in the 1.5 - 2.0 minute range) but what we heard was inspiring. All that despite the fact that Paula's Courtney Cox moment seemed lost on the audience. "Try A Little Tenderness" allowed him to yell and scream to his heart's content. Oddly enough, "You Are So Beautiful", AKA the song that everyone had been waiting the entire season for him to inevitably sing, was the least remarkable (in my eyes), probably because he got a bit *too* involved in apeing Joe Cockers mannerisms and facial expressions.
Katharine's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was very good, but didn't deserve anything close to that sell job from the judges. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Elliot's "I Believe To My Soul" was vastly underrated. His other songs were underrated to a lesser extent (although his voice isn't big enough for something like "Open Arms" -- a poor choice by Clive Davis) but the cynic in me interprets that as the producers trying to influence the voting public and engineer the finale they want by feeding instructions to the judges. The best example of this was in Bizarro Season (#3), in which the judges engaged in a verbal blitzkrieg during final three week to prevent horrifically undertalented cutie Jasmine Trias from making the finals (and practically anointed Fantasia Barrino as the winner).
Things got even more memorable the next night when the clips from the homecomings were aired. Katharine didn't get a parade thrown in her honour, ostensibly because permits are so difficult to obtain in the LA area. The true reason was likely a combination of urban sprawl and the "small fish in a big pond" principle. Attending a parade, even in a centralized part of the city, would be a transportation nightmare -- I still don't have a clue how the immigration protest were so big (where did all those people park?). There are also a million and a half things happening in LA on a given day. In Hoover, Alabama, a Taylor Hicks homecoming likely saturates the local news and becomes the biggest thing happening in the area that week. It's not that simple in LA, which is why Katharine's schedule involved her travelling to see other people rather than people going out of their way to see her. Twelve thousand people packing a shopping mall to get a glimpse of Taylor Hicks was an extraordinary sight, but even that didn't compare to the screaming hordes that packed the streets for Elliott, who showed more vigour and enthusiasm during that four minute segment than in the entire season combined. He came off looking like the most popular and likeable superstar in America, and the vote ended up being so close that I firmly believe that he'd be in the finale right now had the footage somehow been shown before this week's voting began. Very few of us can even imagine what it was like to live through that kind of attention -- I was practically tearing up just watching it.