American Idol in Galveston: Just like the good ol' days

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Last night's episode of American Idol offered us a few strong contenders and an out-of-place space shuttle opening sequence. Houston, we have a problem: we're not actually in Houston -- despite misleading promos, we're in Galveston, Texas. Don't be deceived, people.

Skylar Laine, a sweet seventeen year-old, performed an excellent take on Pistol Annies' "Hell On Heels." True to her audition, the young 'un is all Southern strength, shooting a rifle and being all cutesy. And it worked.

Then there was the earless Ramiro Garcia. Yep, he's earless. That's born without ears, in case you missed it. But like the Aspen episode in which bipolar disorder didn't stop one contestant from going to Hollywood, Garcia is pushed through. Now don't misunderstand, it wasn't a sympathy three-way vote. After teaching himself to speak and even to sing, Garcia absolutely deserved to move on with a self-taught, robust take on "Amazing Grace."

Others who went to Hollywood included Cortez Shaw, twenty, with Adele's "Someone Like You" -- only as an R&B song. It was a unique spin on the assuredly overused audition song. Continuing with Adele, Kristine Osorio, eight years older, did the superstar's "One And Only" and was also sent through.

Another contestant, Baylie Brown, returned to Idol again after being sent home five years ago from the Hollywood round. Now 21, Brown's voice had a newfound confidence to it during Bon Jovi's "Bed Of Roses." It didn't hurt that she grew up to be prettier, either.

The best part of last night's episode, though, was the judges' version of stepping back in time, as we finally saw the judges duke it out -- Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler versus Jennifer Lopez in a battle of the sexes. Lopez would have sent three of the female contestants on, but Tyler and Jackson stopped them dead in their tracks.

It was like watching Jackson spar with Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell again, like America's favorite threesome was back again finally. Here's hoping that confrontational attitude carries through for at least a few more episodes.

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