Whatever happened to "Idol" surprises?

Remember when "American Idol" used to surprise us?

I don't mean happy surprises. I mean oh-my-God-they've-dumped-Daughtry surprises and Nicki-McKibbon-is-STILL-here surprises. They were the kind that made us grumble vaguely about not watching.

This year, that's gone. Last night, my three-person should-win list and my will-win list were identical. Tonight, those three all did win; a week earlier, two of my three predictions won and the third (Anoop Desai) was barely edged out.

This doesn't mean I've suddenly turned wise. In both weeks, there was a clear separation between the terrific and the others. And as luck would have it, the talented people also are telegenic; there was no reason for perverse tweeners to vote oddl.

So now we have half the final 12. The only two females -- Allison Iraheta and Alexis Grace -- are teen-agers with powerful voices and distinctive looks. Most of the guys -- Kris Allen, Danny Gokey, Michael Sarver -- are likable sorts with fine voices. One, Adam Lambert, stands out because of his unique look and music style. When he finished singing Mick Jagger's anthem, we sort of thought, "Oh, maybe that's how it should be done."

"Idol" tried to toy with us tonight, making us think Nick Mitchell might be voted through. His comic performance was clever and well-calculated -- but when Mitchell was standing alongside Lambert, we knew he'd be going.

Maybe Mitchell will be back during second-chance night (Thursday), when the judges consider several and choose three. I doubt it, though. In particular, I'm expecting to see Megan Joy Corkrey and Jesse Langseth return from this week's crowd, Desai and others from last week. Let me know which ones you're expecting.