‘American Idol’: Shock Exits for Fan Favorites, Plus a Surprise Twist (RECAP)

Spoiler Alert
ABC/Eric McCandless

[Warning: The below contains spoilers for American Idol.]

The final slots from the “Showstoppers Round” were filled on American Idol. Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan had their work cut out for them during “Final Judgment,” further narrowing down the field of 55. There was plenty of drama, high emotion, and some shock exits for fan favorites. Then at the very end of the episode, the judges revealed a surprise twist.

Before learning their fate, the contestants did put on a show for the audience alongside the backing of a band. Those chosen to move forward learned they would head to Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii to continue their Idol journey.

Find out who is headed to the island paradise stage and how the judges flipped the script with an unexpected twist.

Paige Anne vs. Megan Danielle

During the Sunday, April 9 episode, the the pair had been called into the room for the “Final Judgment together. They were challenged to a sing-off so the judges could hear them one more time before making a decision on who to send through. Paige and Megan took turns on Adele’s “Easy on Me.” Luke revealed Megan would be going forward.

Marybeth Byrd

The radio DJ from Armorel, Arkansas got the crowd hyped on Carrie Underwood’s “Flat on the Floor.” This small-town girl with big dreams admitted it wasn’t her best vocally. Luke was surprised by some of the vocal choices. In the end, she did enough to move onward.

Oliver Steele

The 25-year-old took us back to the 1980s putting his cool spin on “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears. He spoke about his battles with self-confidence issues but found the further he got in the competition the more validation he felt. Katy said that musicians like him tend to overthink things. She continued that he is his own hero who doesn’t need anyone’s approval, and welcomed him to the Top 24. Oliver then got to break the good news to his beloved father.

Emma Busse


The theater performer brought a  little dramatic flair to “Chasing Pavements” by Adele.“That’s Top 10 material,” Katy said listening to the 20-year-old Canadian onstage. A comment like that made it no surprise when Lionel told her she would be going on to the next round.

Preston Duffee


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The “young Luke Bryan” brought the energy to “Crazy Town” by Jason Aldean from the moment he ran onstage. Katy thought the country contestant was cool. Luke just wished his voice was a little stronger. He felt the 21-year-old was not altogether ready, and it was the end of the line. Luke did say he probably wouldn’t have been ready if he had entered the competition at his age either.

Elijah McCormick


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America’s vote platinum ticket went with “Believe For It” by CeCe Winans. Luke felt the 21-year-old found purpose in life after surviving a near-fatal car crash a few years ago, and that showed on stage. The ophthalmologist technician who tugged at the heartstrings will continue to fight for his Idol dreams.

Elise Kristine and Olivia Soli


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Two Las Vegas standouts entered “Final Judgment” together. Katy said Elise sang notes on “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone. “We’ve seen people die by that song, and she did not,” Luke said. Katy also called Olivia an incredible talent. The 20-year-old tore the house down on another big song All By Myself” by Celine Dion. She was dubbed a red-headed Ariana Grande. Katy said there were a lot of arguments between the judges and chose to send them both through.

Dawson Wayne

The 21-year-old prefaced his performance by saying it was a story about his faith and letting the audience know they are so loved. He then sang “Flying” by Cody Fry,” hoping to put out a positive message. Lionel said he loved what he was hearing and later revealed the student would go on to the Top 24.

Cam Amen


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Platinum ticket winner Cam had just found out his girlfriend is pregnant, so he felt added pressure. Lionel asked what has gotten in his head to cause a mixed bag of performances. The 27-year-old wanted to show the judges what he could do on “The Impossible Dream (The Quest)” from “Man of La Mancha.” The server felt confident after and that he did enough to go forward. Unfortunately, the judges felt otherwise. Lionel gave him some words of encouragement on the way out and said they still believe in him.

Caroline Kole


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Katy appreciated how Caroline let her hair down and showed a different side of herself through “Iris” by The Goo Goo Dolls. Yet the 25-year-old social media manager was not included in the Top 24.

Mikenley Brown


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The 17-year-old took on Brandi Carlile’s “The Joke.” Sadly, the string of rejections kept coming as the judges felt the fan favorite high school student was not ready and sent her home.

Kya Monee’


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The 21-year-old  was nervous going into the “Showstoppers Round” because this phase is where she was cut in 2021. She aptly sang Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb.” The daycare worker sadly experienced deja vu hearing the same bad news a second time.

Mariah Faith


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The hairstylist felt nervous when her name was called to face the judges after watching so many go home. Luke complimented her individuality as a soul singer who does country. The 21-year-old’s unique style was on full display with “I Ain’t Living Long Like This” by Waylon Jennings. Luke said she made the Top 24 as a result.

Hannah Nicolaisen

This ex-volleyball player looked to score a place in the next round with Gavin DeGraw’s “I Don’t Want to Be.” The 23-year-old felt she sang her best, and the judges agreed. Game, set, match for Hannah going into the next round.

Nailyah Serenity


The retail advisor-astrologer hoped to tap into a more vulnerable side of “Superstar” by Luther Vandross. Katy called the performance divine and was surprised she had another ace up her sleeve. You could say the stars aligned for the 22-year-old as she made it into the Top 24.

Trey Louis


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The school shooting survivor was on edge watching many favorites sent home. Luke called him the winner of American Idol in personality, which was evident in his take on “Waiting for the Thunder” on Blackberry Smoke. The 21-year-old mattress salesman rocked a Texas shirt and went for the Eric Church sunglasses look. Trey admitted the performance wasn’t his best. Luke said he just missed the Top 24. Despite the setback, Trey said he found himself on stage.

Matt Wilson, Colin Stough, and Iam Tongi

The three early standouts from the New Orleans auditions were each first inspired to realize their Idol dreams by loved ones. Matt, a 21-year-old teacher’s aide, sang Chris Brown’s “Forever.” Lionel liked his vibe. Colin, the 18-year-old HVAC technician, performed “Cold” by Chris Stapleton. Katy felt he looked like an artist now. Iam, an 18-year-old Hawaiian, felt he took a risk with a darker song choice on “The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel. Lionel said it was everything they wanted. A teary-eyed Katy added that this was what the show was about. Iam no doubt earned the Top 24…BUT in a surprise plot twist, Katy revealed that there is so much talent there is actually a Top 26 with Colin and Matt joining him, too. Those two extra places awarded means there are now 26 competing to be American Idol 2023. The excitement is building.

American Idol, Sundays, 8/7c, ABC