Fans of Bradenton's Sam Woolf had to sweat out almost an entire half-hour results show Thursday before they found out that he was not the "American Idol" contestant who would be going home this week.
Woolf and his fans had ample reason to be nervous. Last week, he got the fewest votes of the eight finalists, but the judges used their one veto of the season, overturning the voters' decision.
On Wednesday of this week in an '80s-themed show, Woolf performed a lovely rendition of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time." The judges loved his singing and noted how his performance had improved.
Judges Harry Connick Jr., who has always given Woolf more specific advice than his colleagues, Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez, suggested that Woolf go home and look up clips of Ricky Nelson on YouTube. He said Woolf could learn from watching Nelson.
Early in Thursday's show, Woolf was shown chatting with the other contestants. None of them had ever heard of Nelson.
Now that so few contestants remain, the "bottom three" format is gone. In the results show, candidates are declared safe until a bottom two remain.
On Thursday, host Ryan Seacrest called four of the contestants to the stage. Woolf was not among them. Seacrest said three were safe. CJ Harris was in the bottom two.
A few minutes later, the remaining four contestants, including Sam, took the stage. Eventually, only Woolf and Malaya Watson were left on stage. One of them would be in the final two.
Woolf, who had been in the bottom three a couple times before his last-place finish last week, looked down. Then Seacreast announced that he too was safe from elimination. Woolf looked elated, relieved and a bit surprised.
That left Harris and Watson in the bottom two. A few seconds later, Seacrest announced that Watson had been eliminated.
So Woolf, the Braden River High School senior who was one of 75,000 people who auditioned for "Idol" this year, is one of seven remaining finalists.
They'll all perform next week. The show's scheduled for 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 16, with a results show the next night.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.