Last night the Idol wagon headed to Charlotte, bringing that sleepy Bank of America town its first bit of joy since the Hornets packed up and flew off. Though, sadly, it wasn't much joy. No, for whatever reason last night's episode of American Tunefarm was kind of the freaks episode. There were a lotta sad jerks on the show last night, is what I'm saying, and I hope it's the only episode like it this season. Because the freaks just aren't fun. They're sad and strange and have been dragged through many producer auditions and possibly even brought back a day later before seeing the judges. So we are supposed to laugh at how silly and bad they are, but really we are laughing at them for being stupid and having hope even though a legion of producers has given them plenty of reason to have hope. I'm not talking about the dumb stunt ones — the people who are deliberately awful in the hopes of getting on TV, those people can go screw — I'm talking about the people who clearly have had some person in their lives at some point say, "Hey, you sound good," and so think they might have a shot. Those sad weirdos. I don't like being made to watch them. Sad is not a feeling we should feel so acutely this early in the season.

Speaking of sad, let's talk about last night's Big Event. In what was supposed to be the culmination of all the feuding that Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey have been laboriously involved in, Nicki stormed off the set in a rage after getting into some words with Mariah about some junk and it was dumb and overblown and was quickly resolved and nobody cared. Still, Fox promo'd it like it was the second coming, offering it up like it was some great Idol moment when really it was just a little summer squall that passed through Charlotte on its way out to sea. What happened was this: A nice young blonde creature named Suzie-Mae Hawkins or something, it doesn't matter what her name was, came up to sing and she said she'd "tried the country thing" but had now moved on to a more soul kind of a sound. After she sang it seemed that Keith Urban, the little pixie that Nicole Kidman gave to Ryan Seacrest in a jar, was upset by Fanny-Rae's dismissal of "the country thing." So there were some tense words and then Randy and Mariah and Keith started nittering about how Danni-Kae should really be focusing on country music and then, much to her credit, which surprises me to say, Nicki Minaj was all "Wait, guys, stop telling her what she needs to be, she's just being her, let her be her." It actually made some sense, but the other three, Mariah especially, didn't want to hear it, so they got into it and Nicki was very Valerie Cherish about it, not feeling like she was being heard, and so she turned on her candy-coated jetpack and flew out of the studio and back to her condo in Wario World.

Everyone was all in a tizzy, saying come back Nicki and please don't go Nicki, but Nicki was gone. She'd put on her rocket skates and zoomed back to the Gumdrop Mountains. But thankfully the Gumdrop Mountains are just outside Charlotte, so Nicki was able to get back fairly quickly in order to continue the show. So that's all it was. And really the conflict didn't even have that much to do with Mariah if I'm remembering correctly? It was a general sort of a thing? But to hear Idol promos tell it, it was Nicki vs. Mariah: The Reckoning. There was no reckoning. It was just Nicki Minaj, a trained actor, being dramatic. That's all. Ho hum. No big deal.

What else happened? Oh, Scotty "The Body" McCreery, aka Baby Lockthemdoors, aka the guy who doesn't like girls, was hangin' around. Yeah he's from North Carolina and lord know she's not doing anything else, so he was there hanging out with the crowd all day. Shakin' hands, takin' pictures with dudes (two dudes, even), reminiscing on what a long strange trip it's been. He seemed happy to be doing it, and he probably was. I mean, it sure beats sitting in your parents' shed all day. Which is what he's been up to lately. That's about it. Poor Scotty. If only someone would unlock them doors, the doors to fame and fortune. But they're pretty firmly shut at the moment, I'm afraid.

As for other singers, contestants that is, there were a few highlights. Randy did another Randy On Location bit. This one had him riding a big yellow school bus to some corn-pone high school out in the middle of a field and sneaking up on some pretty young lady and bellowing in her ear "You're going to audition!!!!" It was funny watching Randy sneak into a high school, and funnier still to see the kids' delayed reaction in realizing who he was. I mean, had Mariah Carey walked in it would have been instant. Certainly the same for Nicki Minaj. (Had Keith Urban walked in, everyone would have shrieked, "Eek! Dragonfly! Get it!") But Randy is a different story. But eventually they did figure it out, so they clapped and cheered and then Randy called this unwitting victim up and gave her her audition number and she was off to Charlotte, the big booming city of dreams. And, unlike the past Punk'd w/ Randy contestant, she actually did a good job and made it on to Hollyweird. And she will never return to that high school again.

There was a girl who sang the Fresh Prince of Bel Air song and it was kind of obnoxious, but then she sang something else and it was very good and she is through. She brought her cute daughter with her, which helped. There was also a girl with one of those awful septum piercings and bottle-blonde hair and you sorta figured that she'd be one of the freakos but she turned out to sing rather well, so she has been put on the Idol bullet train to California. Same for a big fat country singer guy who basically hit on Keith Urban. He said something about his wife having a "hall pass" for Keith Urban, meaning she can sleep with Keith Urban and it won't be an extramarital sin, but the guy was clearly talking about himself. I mean, what were we supposed to think when he said, "I'll even put on the nose from The Hours and recite lines from Practical Magic. I mean, my wife will. My wife will do that. Not me."? It seemed pretty obvious. But yes, he sang well, so we'll soon be seeing him unceremoniously eliminated in an early Hollywood Week round. (I mean, come on, that's his fate.) There was a girl who sang "You Oughta Know" really well and that was exciting. You don't hear that song every day at an Idol audition. Looking forward to seeing more from her.

There was a lady who sang who'd been on the show before, cut during some sad group number during Hollywood Week, and she earned some hefty praise from the judges. They were all "Best we've seen so far," "Most incredible thing ever," "Mariah Carey is stupid" or whatever Nicki said, and it was very dramatic. I'm not sure I completely buy it. It might be one of those sounds-better-in-person-than-on-TV things, but it only sounded good to me, not mind-blowingly great. It was no Melinda Doolittle, no Kelly Clarkson blasting Paula Abdul through the back wall with one of her banshee wails. It was very good, but in light of all that heaping praise I'm tempted to say it was just aight.

In general, the episode was just aight. Again, there were too many freaks. And they wasted too much time on the dumb Nicki storm-out. That's OK, I guess. They've got lots of time to fill, after all. But trying to pick a few pearls out of this heap of empty oysters is especially hard today. Maybe tonight's audition episode will go better. Maybe Nicki will accidentally stab Keith Urban with a wig pin while lunging for Mariah. Maybe Randy will put on a mortarboard and a professor's gown and start asking people "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" It could happen! Or it could just be more giggling, big-cheeked blonde girls whining out country tunes and dumb guys lying down on the floor and making buffoons of themselves. There's really no way to know until we watch. And that's why we do. Over and over and over again, we do.