Chris Daughtry, <EM>American Idol</EM> Chris Daughtry, American Idol

So much for Elvis' plea that people don't be cruel. That look you saw on Chris Daughtry's face at the end of last week's American Idol results show vividly sums up the front-runner's take on his surprising fate. "[My jaw] was pretty much on the floor," he told the day after his ouster] He later used such words as "bummed," "disappointed," "shocked" and "speechless" to describe his reaction to the "gut-wrenching moment" he anticipated "not even a little bit." 

Few predicted the outcome, including his bottom-two companion as well as Idol's judging triad. "[Katharine] and I didn't get a chance to talk after, so I don't really know what was going through her mind, to be honest with you," Chris shares. "I had the inclination that she was expecting herself to go that was the picture I got." And the one that viewers more or less witnessed for themselves on screen.

Crossing paths with the judges after the show, he says, "Randy was pretty much saying, 'Don't worry about it, man. You're going to be fine.'... Paula was crying too much to really say anything.... And Simon said he didn't see this coming. He wished me the best of luck, so I think things are going to be OK."

Perhaps further consoling the chrome-domed crooner was the nearly instantaneous tendering of offers from established bands, one of which Fuel has since been named as wanting him on board. Not wanting (or perhaps contractually able) to detail the discussions, Chris will only allow, "There's going to be a flooding of opportunities... and I just have to field all the offers and do the right thing for me. I think everything's going to turn out great in the end."

In a conference call with reporters, Chris also had this to say about...

... his early status as a favorite to win:
"I tried to block it out and just do the best I could, and I think I accomplished that. But you know what? Maybe people thought I was safe and didn't vote as much."

... why he might and might not get Fuel'd up:
"They're really good songwriters, and great songs are what makes someone successful. But part of me is debating: Do I go and do my own thing and have success on my own, or do I get into someone else's success? I'm really unsure."

... his wife Deanna's reaction to the viewers' vote:
"I was expecting her to be out of control and [that] I was going to have to be the one to console her, but it was the other way around. She was telling me how proud she is of me."

... making ends meet while he was off doing Idol:
"I've had family and friends [who have] really [helped] out, and my wife works really hard. She works two jobs. People do what they have to do to make things happen."

... having a real Ace (Young, that is) for a pal:
"We became like brothers on the show, and we probably always will be. He called me [after the ouster] to check in on me and see how I was doing."

... Ryan's atypically abrupt dismissal:
"I thought he was building up [to say], 'Chris, you can sit down,' or 'Chris, you're going home... on a private jet to visit your hometown.' That there was going to be some sort of kidding factor there. But that wasn't the case."

... his first dash of reality:
"I actually auditioned for [CBS'] Rock Star. It didn't go too well, though. I realized then that that was because I was supposed to be on this show."

... the big question: male pattern baldness or follicular fashion statement?
"It's probably a little bit of both. I started with the recession thing and I was like, 'I like this and I'm going to stick with it.' I've probably been shaving my head for three or four years now, and I'm not planning on growing it out anytime soon."