What exactly was happening on American Idol last night? Didn't things seem off and strange? Wasn't the air charged with a particular doomed energy usually reserved for shows closer to the finale? Things were just rattling oddly, screws felt loose, the car seemed too close to the edge of the cliff. Guess this means we're getting toward the end, folks.

The weirdness of last night was probably mostly owed to the costumes. The fashions. Was the normal lady, who's not exactly Suzy Styles herself, out sick or something so they brought in a freelancer they found on Craigslist? "Hi, yes, is this Celeste?" "It might be..." "OK, well, we need a stylist for this week's episode of American Idol, would you be available this Wednesday and Thursday?" "I'll do it. As payment, I'll except a few hugs and an old violin." "I see..." But they went ahead and booked her anyway and, lemme tell ya, Celeste has some weird ideas about what kind of clothing people should wear. First off, she put almost every girl in some sort of sheer something covering something else. Poor Elise had to wear an orange minidress that was covered in a maxi dress's worth of orange mosquito netting. Then they made her go stand by a fan while she sang, the wind blowing everything awkwardly (like a first-timer at an orgy), the orange net billowing out like Cheetos dust. Celeste also seemed to be a fan of culotte-y gypsy pantaloons? She put Jessica Sanchez in a pair of purple ones last night and then paired them with some sort of shirt that involved fringe and it really looked like, and this is going to sound weird, it looked like she had been dressed by a Kevin Kline character. That might make no sense to you, but there was a certain gay whimsical pirate-y quality to the whole outfit that, to me, screamed Kevin Kline. Like, a drunken Kevin Kline character dressed her in this outfit as some part of an elaborate scheme. Probably a doomed scheme, but a scheme nonetheless.

But no outfit was wonkier, no outfit stranger or more unsettling or clearly woven in a place where the dark magic reigns, than whatever the hell that was that Colton Dixon was wearing at the top of the show and for his first performance. Couldn't you feel the judges trying desperately not to laugh at this getup? Colton's rubbery stork legs were wrapped in shiny red cloth, cinched in tight to the bone. And on top he was wearing some sort of jacket that had long, long tails coming down the back to form something of a half-skirt. He also had big black shoes on that made him look like Rumpelstiltskin auditioning for an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. "Hello, my name is Rumpelstiltskin and today I'll be reading for the role of Jareth the Goblin King." Colton had also dyed part of his hair a bright electric pink, perhaps after mistaking an old 1995 copy of Sassy magazine that's in Ryan's bathroom magazine bin with something current and contemporary. The whole look was so hilariously ridiculous, so thoroughly over-the-top that one would have to assume it was a joke if it was anyone wearing it but Colton. On Colton it's deadly serious, ludicrously serious. Colton is not joking around. Colton doesn't joke around. Colton, dressed there like the ringmaster in hell's circus, has no time for joking. He has dark plans to enact. Dark deeds. Dark things.

THE GOOD

Guys, I still really like Joshua and everything, but I kinda think Skylar Laine might be my new favorite singtestant. She's just kinda nailing it every time, isn't she? Last night she sang some boring soul song, everyone had to sing some boring soul song (they're boring not because they're soul songs but because we have heard them all a million, billion times), but she also did a country bumpkin, rootin' tootin' rendition of Lady Giggles' "Born This Way" that was so fun and burly and energetic. She sang the poop out of it. The poop just fell right out and landed on the floor and J.Lo pointed silently at the poop and Randy nodded his head and Ryan nodded his head and the Tyler witch's eyes narrowed and that was that. Well done, Skylar!

Joshua was also good, especially when he sang the 'Tasia classic "Have You Ever Reached a Rainbow Mountain of Hope," a beautiful and inspiring song written by a drunk angel that Ryan found buried in a hillside behind his house. Joshua knows what he's good at, knows that we all love to watch him corkscrew up and up and up into a high note screech, and so he does it, every week, with remarkable consistency. I don't think he has a chance of winning this thing, he's not exactly in the prime demo or something, but I'd imagine he'll make it to the top three at least. Which is good! Good for us and good for him. Wail on, Joshua!

Phil Phillips! Look who's back in town! Last night for his contemporary song choice he sang "U Got It Bad" by Ursher and it was real sensual-like. J.Lo just about climbed over the judging table and jumped his bones right there in front of everyone. My friend and I joked last night that were Phil sitting on a college dorm room bed somewhere playing his guitar like that, he would be knee-deep, nay chin-deep in coed strange for four intense years. Not that he's likely to be having many problems in that department as is, but hoooo boy, can you imagine all them girls talking about the guy who lives on the third floor and plays the guitar. That kid would be a god among the freshman at Sunny State U or wherever. Just an absolute legend. So yes, it was good to see him back in crooning form, and even his soul song, "In the Midnight Hour," was effectively a sexual awakening DMB concert. A million meal points for you, Phil Phillips.

Hollie rescued herself a little bit last night with a strong rendition of "Rolling in the Deep" (guys, no more Adele, please?) but she had problems with her other jam and she still isn't that solid in the non-belting stretches of her songs. She was cute when the Liverpool soccer team said video-hi to her and, again, she did Adele well, but I'm not sure it was enough.

THE BAD

Elise sang "Let's Get It On" last night and it was profoundly uncomfortable. It's a sad state of affairs when a 28-year-old seems like the old timer on a show, but that's what's happened with this season of Idol. So Elise lurching around singing about doin' it felt very much like an elderly person doing some sort of halting striptease. You're lovely Elise and you sing very well, but you're just not right for this show right now! It's sad, it's a shame, but that's what it is. She did mildly better on her Alicia Keys ditty, but it was sort of robotic and unfeeling (J.Lo criticized her for this) in a way that suggested to me that Elise has grown very tired. She is really old, after all! She's an ancient, practically a tree, a redwood. She can't keep up with all these spry, sexually actualizing youngsters. No sir. She'd just like to sit a spell in the shade and not have to pretend that she's feeling something real while she stands in front of a wind machine and is swathed in orange see-thru. I hear ya, Elise. We're tired too.

Jessica Sanchez was similarly robotic, clumping out another Alicia Keys song in reliably capable but boring fashion. They tried to really sell the fact that she "almost went home" last week, but I'm still not buying it. She's a corporate entity, that one. Sold, bought, owned. I'm sure she'll go on to make competent pop records that people will like well enough, but there will never be any meat behind it. It's just what it is, it's just that. Ah, well.

EXPANDING HIS BOX

Last night played almost as if Colton and company were just trolling me. Like, the outfit. And then Ryan imitating Colton's patented Coltron Stare in a way that was flirtily teasing. At one point Colton was talking to Ryan about his musical repertoire and he said "I want to expand my box," and I basically skipped off this mortal plane and went soaring into an alternate dimension, a place of sound and flowers, of rushing water and loud rounds of applause. Thank you, Colton! Thank you for expanding your box. Best of all, or really worst of all, was that, in case we didn't already think Colton was some sort of terrible, ancient Lovecraftian demon, they brought his sad sister up on stage to ask her about what she thought of Colton and how she felt seeing him up there instead of herself and Colton just stood there and smiled while his sister was shamed and embarrassed for the delight of millions. "Demons do not recognize the bonds of siblinghood! Debase her all you want, my pretty silky minion." And so Ryan, pretty silky minion that he is, did just that. Asked whether she'd be auditioning next season or not, Sad Sister said she wasn't sure, to which Randy, somewhere off camera, hooted that she should. Why, Randy? So you can not put her through Hollywood Week for a third time? Terrific.

Colton's songs were silly. He did a pretty bad rendition of Lady Giggles' "Bad Romance," though it was delightful to watch him strut and wriggle around in that outfit from Daniel Day-Lewis' evening wear collection. After that he sang a weird emo rendition of "September" and it kinda worked, I guess, for me, but the judges really didn't like it. Are they trying to slow Colton's terrible momentum? Have they finally realized, too late probably, that his dark forces are consuming the entire show? That Ryan has become his glassy-eyed puppet, that Tim Urban has been missing for weeks and is presumed dead, that if Colton wins this thing there will be nothing to stop him from ritually devouring Jimmy Iodine and thus gaining the power to unlock the Demon's Door and unleash the horrors of supernatural chaos upon this mortal world? Well, guys, I'm sorry but it is definitely too late. There is no stopping him. He is present, he is past, he is future and forever. There is no time anymore, there is only Colton. And we can worship him and pay homage to him and be blessed with a quick death, or we can defy him and suffer unimaginable pains and torments. Which will you choose?

Me, I'm strapping on these witch booties and putting on my shiny chicken pants and my magician's coat and I'm joining the Colton army. Get thee in front of me, satan. I'm following.