SUSAN PIERCE: Tonight's episode of "American Idol" will show America that nobody can throw a homecoming parade like Chattanooga. I've watched YouTube videos of the other two finalists' parades and concerts, and they certainly didn't have as scenic a locale as hometown star Lauren Alaina Suddeth.
It was pouring rain for Haley Reinhart's homecoming concert. Allegedly close to 30,000 people came to Arlington Park Racetrack in Arlington Heights, Ill., to hear her, but you can't tell it by watching the videos. Online comments said the fans stayed up in the covered balconies of the track, which is why so few are at field level.
You can tell where Haley got her pipes: Her parents and their band, Midnight, backed Haley up, and they were quite professional.
Country star Josh Turner made a surprise appearance at Scotty McCreery's concert in Garner, N.C. You can tell by Scotty's reaction that it truly was a surprise. His reaction is great when he turns around and sees his "idol." It should make good entertainment tonight.
LISA DENTON: All the Lauren hoopla must have been a nice change of pace for her North Georgia fans who are still rebuilding after the tornadoes. This kind of celebration is disaster "relief" in the best sense of the word.
All of the finalists learned what one of their song selections would be during their hometown visits. The judges' choice for Lauren is "I Hope You Dance" by Lee Ann Womack. Scotty will sing "She Believes in Me" by Kenny Rogers, and Haley will do "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morissette. Of that combination, I'd say Haley will shine. She's good when she's gritty. Scotty should be able to deliver the power ballad with minimum googly eyes. While I'm sure Lauren will sound good, there's nothing in that song to give her a standout moment.
They'll also showcase a song they've chosen for themselves and one picked by "Idol's" in-house mentor Jimmy Iovine. That'll be the wild card. Iovine has basically been a fourth judge this season, with mixed results on how helpful he's been. I did enjoy when The Black Eyed Peas' Will.i.am sat in because his comments were sometimes as kooky as Steven Tyler's. He was effective at getting the singers to loosen up.
SUSAN: I almost hate to see this season of "Idol" end, because I've really enjoyed the new combination of judges. Jennifer Lopez revealed a compassionate, empathetic side that viewers had never seen. Tyler's humorous euphemisms kept his critiques unpredictable and entertaining.
I kept a running list this season of my favorite Tyler Talk. Here's my Top 5:
• To Paul McDonald: "You define a cool dude in a loose mood."
• To Pia Toscano: "E to the Z oooh twiddlee dee."
• To Karen Rodriguez: "Your what-it-is-ness."
• To Scotty McCreery: "I thought you were all hat and no cattle."
• To Lauren Alaina Suddeth: "You deliver a song like a blue-plate special."