Pia Toscano

"I'll stand by you, Pia!" yelled one distraught male fan in the crowd, echoing the lyrics of her farewell tune after the cameras stopped rolling. "I'll buy your records!" called another.

It was truly a bizarre evening on American Idol that featured the shirtless antics of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Iggy Pop — who dropped the S-bomb and pumped the microphone from his crotch, both of which were censored. Before him, there was a jarring, ear-splitting rendition of "Unchained Melody" by Season 4's Constantine Maroulis. Everything felt a little off color, and off-key.

So when the beautiful power balladeer, Pia Toscano, 22, long considered a Season 10 frontrunner, was shown the door, there was a collective gasp in the Idol Dome, followed by widespread disbelief and boos. The stunned look on Stefano Langone's face was priceless: Pulled back once more from the brink of elimination, he had been nodding his head, waiting for Ryan Seacrest to call him name.

Instead, it was Pia, and Seacrest's promise from the top of the show was fulfilled: It was a "very shocking" elimination.

As they played her videotaped memory package, Toscano broke down, and Seacrest put his arm around her. On the couches, Stefano, 21, the only remaining wildcard, looked almost as distraught as Pia. James Durbin, trying to comfort him, put his arms around his shoulders.

"Everybody must have thought she was safe," were the words heard from the crowd in the bleachers. "That she didn't need the votes."

Every Thursday night ends with the judges walking on stage and saying a few encouraging words to the booted contestant. But this session lasted much longer than usual. Jennifer Lopez stood in front of Pia, smoothing her hair and stroking her face. Randy Jackson took her in a bear hug, twice. And for once, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe joined the panel on stage, adding his words of comfort.

The remaining eight contestants formed a circle around them. But there was little solace for Langone, who must've thought the boos were directed towards him rather than a reaction to the overall vote. He turned his back to the rest of the contestants and once again, it was James who came to the rescue, grabbing Stefano and holding on tight.

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