Haley Reinhart

Every season, right after the results show that determines American Idol's finalists, the last two contestants standing toss a coin with their faces pasted on each side. The winner gets to choose whether he or she wants to sing first or second for their last night of competition. According to Idol associate musical director Michael Orland, the order is not only strategically important, it can be decisive to winning the whole enchilada.

"If it was me, I'd rather go first, and make your opponent top you," says Orland. "On the other hand, if you go second, you know what your opponent just did and you get to leave your mark on the stage at the end."

So on Thursday night, after Haley Reinhart's surprisingly unemotional elimination — which was very matter-of-fact compared to the shock and sorrow that accompanied last week's ouster of rocker James DurbinScotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina flanked stage manager Debbie Williams, who tossed the coin onto the stage. It came up with McCreery's face.

"What do you want to do?" asked Williams. But instead of answering her, Scotty turned to Lauren. "What do you want?" he asked. Lauren laughed and said, "I want to go second." Scotty nodded his head and immediately agreed, he would let her go second; he would go first.

It was a supremely gentlemanly gesture, and surprising in that it came from someone so young. (Scott is 17, while Lauren turned 16 during the competition.) And as if to remind us that we were witnessing a very big event for two very young performers, Lauren turned to judge Steven Tyler, who had joined them on stage, and jumped straight up and down, over and over again, in excitement. Tyler jumped right along with her.

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