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There is a time and place for everything. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like it but the principle is still true. For those who believe in it even the Bible clarifies it for us if we refuse to understand by telling us that there is a season for everything under heaven. So often in the past the judges’ criticism has been absent, nonexistent or just plain bogus. Some of the kids seemed unfairly sent home by the public voting after listening to bad advice and silly comments. However, the statements by the judges for the most part were constructive, accurate and gently delivered (all except for Steven – he seemed to have a bug up his butt from the very beginning of the show and his attitude showed it clearly). I have been hard on Randy and Jennifer especially. Randy is often technically correct but sends mixed messages and tends to back down from his initial assessments. Jennifer is still not the most articulate even if she is the most verbose. But their comments were on point. It’s the critical time of the season, just before the finals. They were being judges – finally.

So Haley chose the wrong time to fight with the judges. She has received some very minor criticism in the past, but it was nothing of any consequence. And whatever it was she seemed to disregard it. However, for two weeks in a row her first performance was weak, and her second was better, but still not great. She has been coasting on acting, pretending, flirting and evidently what she feels is sex appeal. But now is the time to perform. If the other contestants are trying to deliver two “perfect performance,” why should she be allowed to get away with doing only half the job? Further, she truly screamed one-note for almost the second half of her first song. I have read some comments that state that she has been criticized every week and has never fought back for her. Well if she truly felt that way and didn’t speak up she made a critical tactical error. Some of the contestants went home because they stood up for what they believed. Others were able to do it and get more support from the judges and the public. She has been in the bottom three several times, but never took that experience seriously. And she was put there not by the judges but by the fan votes. So when the judges become critical for real suddenly there is something of a reality check.

It was completely obvious last week that she was destroyed with the first set of comments she received after doing the first song. It appears that she had not gotten over last week so her emotional pump was already primed. But she has no clue of how to accept criticism gracefully. For her it seems personal. And that may be her undoing. She is not a diva. She hasn’t done anything to have earned it or to deserve it. She is competing just like the other kids. Her smugness, arrogance and tendency towards tantrums may not be well received by the public. She smiled when the contestants before her were voted off, but wilts like a sunburned flower when negative commentary comes her way. Further, there will be other critics and naysayers out there. If she can’t handle the negatives now, she never will. If she goes home tonight she needs to learn some very valuable lessons: speak up for yourself if you thing you are right, but learn how to be agreeably disagreeable; take all criticism seriously even if you decide to throw some of it out; learn a little grace and tact – it will get you by when other things fail; and, remember that sex does sell, but it depends on to whom it’s being sold.

I have to contrast her with Lauren and the trajectory she has been on for the past few weeks. I have been very hard on her, too. In fact I was absolutely no Lauren fan. She seemed to act like a silly, airheaded kid – and she is a kid – but this is not the time or place to let that dominate how she is perceived. She made many excuses for not delivering, and did not push herself. She looked like a tenth-grader with attire that looked more like after-school play clothes. And she pandered to the judges – particularly Steven – too much. I tend to believe that maturity is an issue. Elimination prior to the final may not be her fate, but it's hard to ignore. How many times have we seen this? It seems that a lot of the "child stars" who are either immature or don't have good support end up dope-heads, acting out, in jail or getting into some other trouble. Once she starts her career there will be even more stresses, pressure, temptations and troubles to deal with and she won't be in the AI protective environment. If her family is pushing her to become a star just for the fame and fortune and not really supporting her they are helping to set her up for a fall. They will be just as much trouble for her as any drug dealer she may meet while she's on tour. Becoming a star won't help her handle the pressure - growing up will.

However, she has been criticized, yet she has been able to use it constructively. She has been in the bottom three – and it scared her enough to make her commit to doing her best. She is pushing herself to new limits in her performances. She is taking some chances. She has looked beautiful and well put together. And she has handled praise and criticism with some grace – and she is a teenager. We have watched her grow up in front of our eyes the past few weeks and it’s been a pleasure to see. Whether she makes it or not, she is doing what she needs to earn her place in the final.

Of course James was James and Scotty was Scotty. But I must say that I don’t think that Scotty’s performances have been quite as strong the past few weeks as they have in the past. Or maybe the others around him have improved significantly had his relative level of improvement has been minimal. But he still seems to do enough to keep advancing. Let’s see if that comes back to haunt him.

I had no idea what Lady Gaga had to offer in the way of advice and counsel, but I was surprised and even impressed with some of her observations and recommendations. More important, she was able to keep Jimmy Iovine silent during the time that she was there – a very impressive and much needed feat. Still, I history is any indication I’m not expecting much from her much anticipated performance tonight.

I was totally irritated with the screening of the Jennifer video. I was more irritated with her as a special guest performer. I am fairly disgusted with the gigantic Coca Cola cups on the table and the stupid Ford commercials that the kids have been impressed into doing (talk about shameless plugs.) But to have to suffer through the debut of Steven’s video and to have to hear about his book makes me have to ask when doe it ever end? I have seen Jennifer’s performance several times in the past few weeks and am more and more underwhelmed each time. I don’t expect much more from Steven’s video. The judges may have been stars at some point in time, but their stars have diminished and it is really appropriate for them to take a step back so that the new talent can shine. Evidently they are not going to go out gracefully. If the show continues in this direction they may need to amend the name from American Idol to American Idle!

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