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WhatNotToSing.com is an American Idol fan site with a distinctly statistical bent. They retrieve reviews from all across the internet to produce numerical ratings for every performance and archive this, along with editorials that used statistical data to project what would predict success on the show, and because they use hundreds or even thousands of opinions (at least in the early seasons; later seasons had less data to work with), they can be considered to be one of the most objective recap sites around for the show. They are also thoroughly convinced that the show will not be off the air for long, as even as its ratings continued to decline with each passing season it was still one of FOX's biggest hits and they'll be demanding its return soon, hence the use of present tense in this paragraph.

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If statistical models aren't your thing, however, you should still go there just for Camp Should-a-Been. Using their numerical ratings of each contestant's performances, they replay the season, eliminating the actual worst contestants each week instead of whoever was eliminated in the show itself. (Though their statistical models still receive some use behind the scenes, as by eliminating contestants earlier than they were canonically eliminated, it means other contestants stay longer than they actually did; they use something called "decay curves" to determine the half-life of these contestants.) Furthermore, they set it at a summer camp where the only thing more caustic than the counselors (aka the writers) is the meatloaf.

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Tropes found in Camp Should-a-Been:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Melissa McGhee gets hit with this, being instead called "Melinda McPhee" when she actually leaves.
  • The Ace: Season 6's Melinda Doolittle; Season 12's Candice Glover.
    • Possibly also Season 10's Pia Toscano, who managed to pull off the unlikely feat of winning a night after her canon expiration date (a combination of being a Shocking Elimination and the episode immediately following her elimination being a fairly weak one (and a very weak one by Season 10 standards.)
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: [[Invoked]] Frequently.
  • Ascended Extra: Semifinalists who fail to make the finals are often a largely forgotten bunch unless they were memorable for some other reason, especially in seasons where the semifinals are one-and-done. Here, however, canonically early eliminations are allowed to shine:
    • Season one: the trio of Adriel Herrera, Angela Peel, and Melanie Sanders are able to advance out of their respective semifinal groups and then outlast four canon finalists to wind up in 4th, 5th, and 6th.
    • Season two: Aliceyn Cooney and Kimberley Kelsey, both 1-and-done in real life, finished 6th and 7th; Vanessa Olivarez equaled the former's improvement by going from 12th place all the way up to 5th.
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    • Season three: Lisa Leuschner, who was the lone bright spot in the series' most execrable episode but failed to even advance to the wild card show in real life, made her way into 6th place, while Suzy Vulaca, snubbed by both the voters and then the judges after getting a wild card appearance, survived and moved all the way up to 4th.
    • Season four: In the first year of the three-week semifinals, Judd Harris managed to go from first-week elimination to 8th-place finisher, a 7-week improvement.
    • Season five: This is the closest to the canon field of any CSAB (except Season 13, which had the same number of holdovers in a 13-person field), but lone holdover Gedeon McKinney still managed a 6-slot improvement to wind up in seventh place.
    • Season six: AJ Tabaldo goes from second-week semifinal elimination to 7th place, outlasting five of the six real-life male finalists, while Sabrina Sloan goes from snubbed in the final week of semis to a respectable 6th and Stephanie Edwards goes from 11th to 5th.
    • Season seven: Alaina Whitaker goes from second-week elimination to 7th place, while 12th-place finisher David Hernandez jumps 8 spots to 4th.
    • Season eight: Original 11th-place finisher Alexis Grace jumps up to 4th, while Ricky Braddy, Felicia Barton, and Ju'Not Joyner—only the first of whom was even allowed to sing for a wild card spot in real life—finished 5th, 6th, and 8th.
    • Season nine: Nearly half the top 12 was composed of semifinalists, with first-week eliminee Joe Muñoz surviving into 12th place despite his baseline from his lone performance being a 31 while the trio of Lilly Scott, Katelyn Epperly, and Alex Lambert finishing 6/7/8 (though their names may be a bit better known than most semifinalists because the Top 16 results show was considered such a travesty; furthermore, with so many holdovers populating the Top 12, 10th-place finisher Didi Benami was able to jump up to 4th.
    • Season ten: Lauren Turner, originally snubbed from the Wild Card show entirely, instead wound up in 4th place, while Thia Megia, originally tied for 10th following a double elimination, jumped to 5th.
    • Season twelve: Juliana Chahayed and David Willis, quarterfinalists who were never even allowed to sing for America's votes, finished 6th and 7th.
    • Season fourteen: 12th-place finisher Sarina-Joi Crowe moves up to 6th place.
    • Season fifteen: Olivia Rox, originally among the "three performances, never advanced by America" crew, survives to reach 4th place.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Per Blankens.
    • The counselors, hopped up on Five-Hour Energy in Season 12.
  • Ax-Crazy: Creighton Fraker gets saddled with this due to being very statistically close to Jermaine Jones, who left the show early in reality due to his criminal record.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: By Season 14, the camp is beset with past contestants' families, and the babies end up being more interesting than the contestants, especially once they start riding the sheep.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Season 4's mystery villain.
    • Taylor Hicks's real age.
  • Bamboo Technology: The piano that Kris Allen plays during Season Eight's Top 9.
  • Baseball Episode: Season 4's final five, Season 11's final twelve, Season 14's Final Six.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Season 14.
  • The Beastmaster: Carrie Underwood gets recast as this.
  • Beneath Notice: No, they're still not quite sure who Joe Muñoz is.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Again, Carrie Underwood.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: After the Wild Card Sing-off (to decide who the true 11th-place finisher was, so they could have 11 people on tour despite only taking ten contestants to the finals), a Stock Ness Monster attacks the camp, just to make this otherwise pointless night interesting.
  • Bizarre Taste in Food: Tony Bennett apparently actually liked the camp's meatloaf, having three helpings, as it reminded him of his mother's. The counselors ask if his mother is in the job market.
  • Blatant Lies: The text doesn't always match what's in the table, such as Season Six's finale and .
  • Boxed Crook: Jessica Sierra
  • Brick Joke: The counselors themselves get hit with Season 11's tranquilizer darts as they're about to board their plane back to Phil'adelphia.
    • Chekhov's Boomerang: And then the gag unexpectedly returns in Season 13.
    • In Season 15, they can't afford to rent out a crying girl again like they did in Season 6.
  • Broke the Rating Scale: Kelly Clarkson's guest appearance in Season 15.
  • The Brute: Viktor, Rocco, and Serge, the camp's enforcers.
  • Bunnies for Cuteness: Carrie Underwood in the Top 16.
  • Butt-Monkey: Usually the judges and producers; even the worst contestants aren't insulted that frequently. Of the past contestants, Leah LaBelle probably gets it the worst, but that's because they see her advancement to the top 12 as a judge's choice as emblematic of how loopy Paula Abdul is, not because they dislike her.
    • Also Brian Dunkelman, Seacrest's co-host from Season 1.
    • In-Universe, Haley Reinhart gets this, to the point where they keep bringing her back to keep the judges from being too nice.
  • Caffeine Bullet Time: Season 12, Top Four, Week 1.
  • Camp Gay: JDA
  • Camp Nurse: Amanda Overmeyer fills this role.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Season 10 opens with the counselors running the entire semifinals in four minutes flat, giving them plenty of time to go to the rec center, grab some beers, and catch the Phillies game on ESPN-HD, before being told that even by AI10 standards, that's too fast. The important takeaway from this is that the counselors hail from the Philadelphia area; this will set up the final gag of Season 11.
  • Chirping Crickets: Season 9's intro.
  • Comedic Underwear Exposure: In season 7's top 11 show, the counselors finally get fed up with the season's various fashion disasters and send Brooke White's canary-yellow sundress home on the Bus of Shame.
  • Crack Defeat: Even though he gets knocked out early in Season 12, Lazaro Arbos still manages to cost Devin Velez at least two weeks in the competition. note 
  • Dark Horse Victory: LaToya London over Fantasia Barrino in Season 3, the only time that a fourth-place finisher manages to take it all. It's not surprising that early-season Shocking Eliminations rarely win it all, because the late-season shows have more performances and as such, contestants past their canon expiration dates tend to decline rapidly, and contestants who outlast their original expiration dates almost invariably exit in order of their eliminations, with most aversions coming when someone who canonically left early in the finals is outlasted by a semifinalist that they didn't have to compete against.
    • Season 5's Shocking Elimination, Chris Daughtry, would have easily beaten either of the canon participants in the finale...but instead loses to third-place finisher Elliot Yamin after both of the canon final two fail to make the CSAB top three.
    • Even actual winners aren't immune. Despite being by some measures the least impressive champion ever (he's the only one to never turn in a 5-star performance), Season 14's Nick Fradiani is one of the ones that defends his crown. This actually makes perfect sense in a way, as being consistently the best isn't important, only avoiding being the worst—and while Fradiani was never outstanding, he was consistently average and turned in some of his strongest performances late in the season, which is usually when contestants' ratings start tailing off.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Gianna Isabella
  • Deus ex Nukina: The Season 10 finale.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Season Six's Paul Kim.
  • Drama-Preserving Handicap: They try to force these upon Melinda Doolittle to try to give the other Season 6 contestants a fighting chance. Since the ratings are based on what's in the database, however, it naturally fails.
  • Dwindling Party: Season Nine.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Invoked in the Season 5 finale.
  • Elimination Houdini: In-Universe, the entire point of this is to defy this; whoever has the worst performance that week leaves, even if it means that a fairly worthy runner-up gets knocked out in 12th place.
    • Season 10, however, shows that it's still possible. Thia Megia winds up in the bottom three every week of the top 13, only winding up third-worst instead of second-worst twice (one of which had the bottom three separated by just two points), before finally exiting in fifth place.
  • Elvis Impersonator: A whole group of them is brought in for Elvis Presley week in Season 5.
  • Exact Words: The counselors assured Kelly and Justin that there would be no From Justin to Kelly II if they happened to make the finale of the replay as well. They didn't say anything about what would happen if Justin Guarini wasn't Kelly's Finale opponent.
    • The season will play out exactly as it would have had the voting perfectly matched the ratings, and the judges can't do anything about it. This means that when Season 4's Mario Vasquez made the decision to withdraw from the competition after reaching the top 12, forcing the show to bring back the seventh-place male singer from the top 16, the CSAB replay must follow suit rather than keeping Vasquez around on projected rankings.
    • When one contestant told the counselors she wished to be addressed by Only One Name, they addressed her by her last name.
  • Executive Meddling: Defied; the producers and their attempts at this serve as the closest thing to a villain in this series.
  • Fake Defector: Kelly Clarkson in Season 11.
  • Fan Disservice: Simon Cowell in a French maid's outfit.
  • Footnote Fever: Much of Season 12, and eventually Season 13 once Per's reaction shot abuse gets out of control.
  • The Generic Girl: Season 12's Kree Harrison. They couldn't find anything about her to make fun of.
    • Season 10's Scotty McCreery is a downplayed example; they mention as he exited that despite liking him (and actually believing him to be underrated by their numbers despite actually winning the season), he was tough to parody.
  • Gentle Giant: Jermaine Jones gets cast as this.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Contestants who weren't actually in a show in canon are usually given songs that allow the writers to make another joke, rather than ones that would actually be sung on Idol. Except the "joke" song that Eric Yoder was given for the Season 3 Wild Card show actually ended up as Season 13 runner-up Jena Irene's Signature Song on the show.
    • Thanks to the Season 1-7 replays all being done after Season 7, Season 5's Mandisa had a song of her own that managed to fit within a theme for a show that she performed in. Self-penned material would make its official debut (as in, not just limited to non-voting rounds like auditions) in Season 12.
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard: The counselors at the end of Season 11.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: Simon falls victim to this in Season 4's Top 20 (Girls) episode.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Many of the judges' hand-picked favorites flopped in Season 8, but the ratings said that polarizing Jesse Langseth wasn't quite good enough to advance out of the semifinals, either, to the disappointment of the counselors who were firmly on the "love" side.
  • Ill Boy: David Cook; Phil Phillips.
  • Improbably Female Cast: Season 3, which had an all-female final six—something that Season 12, which was infamous for the producers stacking the deck for a female winner, mathematically couldn't do.
  • Innocuously Important Episode: Season 10's opener. It establishes that the counselors are from Philadelphia; see Scunthorpe Problem for why that's important.
  • Insufferable Know It All: Harry Connick Jr.
  • Intoxication Ensues: Rather than standing their ground as they normally do, the counselors just pumped copious amounts of alcohol into their bosses so they wouldn't notice that David Archuleta wasn't part of the Season 7 Finale.
  • Lethal Eatery: The camp's food is awful, with the macaroni-and-cheese and the meatloaf being the only things even remotely edible.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: After Season Five's "mystery blogger" compares the Final Ten episode to the Grand Guignol, the counselors decide that "Guignol" will be the last name that they lend Mandisa for the night.
  • Mad Libs Catch Phrase: Generally contestants are sent home on the Bus of Shame, but there are numerous variants:
    • Bus of Victory: Every season's winner and runner-up
      • Ambulance of Victory: Carrie Underwood and Bo Bice
      • Bus of Preordained Victory: Melinda Doolittle.
    • Limo of Shame: Kelly Glover, as a consolation prize for being eliminated without giving a single sub-par performance due to the way Season 1's wild card show worked.
    • Bottomless Molten Pit Of Hot Flaming Shame: Jennifer Fuentes, the first victim of the "Idol Death Song"
    • Yugo of Shame: Marisa Joy
    • Tricycle of Shame: Briana Ramirez-Rial
    • Floating Garbage Barge Of Malodorous Shame: Kara Master
    • Hummer of Shame: Jesus and Noel Roman (note that the gas tank was intentionally left empty for them)
    • Trap Door of Shame: Elizabeth LeTendre ("Idol Death Song"), Tiara Purifoy ("Idol Death Song"), Paula Abdul (trying to send Leah LaBelle to the finals again), George Huff (for refusing to choose a group during the Sadistic Choice in the Final 7), Asia'h Epperson ("Idol Death Song")
    • 16-Ton Weight Of Shame: LeTendre and Purifoy again, the former because she dodged the trap door, the latter just because.
    • Starving Hyenas Pit Of Shame: Where Purifoy wound up falling after failing to dodge the Trap Door of Shame.
    • Water Cannons of Shame: Also unleashed upon Purifoy and Epperson.
    • Steamship Freighter of Shame: Camille Velasco and Jasmine Trias (because the Bus can't make it all the way to Hawai'i)
    • Bullpen Cart of Shame: Nikko Smith
    • Postal Van of Shame: Vonzell Solomon
    • Minivan of Shame: Lisa Tucker (actually the counselors just slapped a bumper sticker with this phrase on her parents' minivan when they came to pick her up, since she was both very young and a local)
    • Saturn Rocket of Shame: Jared Cotter
    • B-B-B-Bus [bum-ba-da-boom!] Bus-Bus Of Shame [ba-BOOSH!]: Blake Lewis
    • Phaser Of Shame: Garrett Haley
    • Hot Coals of Shame: Epperson again.
    • Electrostatic Generator Of Shame: Epperson again.
    • Giant Contestant-Eating Weasel Of Shame: Still Epperson.
    • Meatloaf Of Shame: The last of the many punishments inflicted upon Epperson.
    • ICU of Shame: Where they had to retrieve Epperson from when they discovered that her performance of the "Idol Death Song" was not only good enough to advance, but was actually the fifth-place song in a week where the top six advanced.
    • Canoe of Panic: Alex Lambert
    • Horse of Shame: Casey James
    • Space Shuttle of Shame: Paul McDonald
    • U-Haul of Shame: Casey Abrams's instruments
    • The Bus They Call the City of New Orleans: Burnell Taylor
    • Cab of Shame: Stephanie Negrete
    • Another "fill in the blank" is Mandisa's last name. Note that she isn't even mentioned during the top 9 and top 7 episodes
      • Top 24: Knockwurst
      • Top 20: Dunkelman
      • Top 16: Squarepants
      • Top 12: Barrino
      • Top 11: unknown; it got drowned out by the standing ovation she received
      • Top 10: Guignol
      • Top 8: Mercury
      • Top 6: Pickler
      • Top 5: As she's preparing to leave, they find her real last name, Hundley, in the supply closet.
  • Meta Girl: Aubrey Cleland, as the eleventh-place finisher in Season 12, is tasked with asking the counselors about their bizarre attempts to insert excitement in that otherwise boring season.
  • Mismeasurement: See The Great Ratings Recalculation, following the tenth season. Due to accidentally reading a 3 as a 2, Scott Savol gets knocked out of Season 4's CSAB during the top 20, when he should've at least survived that show and possibly the top 16 as well, as he'd be in a near dead-heat with Joseph Murena, who ended up as the last male advancing to the top 12. The writers said that they think Murena would've probably still advanced, but were afraid to check because while Murena was already a week beyond his original exit, Savol was an Elimination Houdini who wound up in fifth place in canon. If Savol did advance... 
    • They also forgot that Jeremy Rosado originally advanced through the Wild Card show and thus had a "real" rating to use for his first projected rating, which would've kept him around one week longer.
  • Mood Whiplash: Fantasia's reaction to being included in the jokes about how young Season 3's contestants were invoked this.
  • Mr. Fanservice: David Hernandez.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Jessica Sierra, Becky O'Donahue.
  • My Nayme Is: They make fun of Season 10's Ashthon Jones for this.
  • The Nondescript: Melissa McGhee, Joe Muñoz.
  • Noodle Incident: Finishing the story of what happened to Fantasia after her showstopping performance of "Summertime" would get them in trouble with the FCC and the Audubon Society, so you'll have to figure it out for yourself.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: Offered up after stating that Danny Noriega performed the Pussycat Dolls' cover of "Tainted Love".
  • Oh, Crap!: When the counselors realize the real reason that David Archuleta was so distraught at Kristy Lee Cook's departure.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Kelly Pickler is actually a genius.
  • One Steve Limit: Idol never had this anyway (see Seasons 2 and 7), but Season 11 had four female contestants with very similar (but not identical) names, leading to this trope's lampshading.
  • Only One Name: Having this is a good way to get made fun of.
  • Precocious Crush: What the counselors think David Archuleta has developed at the start of Season 7's replay; in reality, he knows that he would win the replay finale against David Cook, but only if Kristy Lee Cook can survive the semifinals, as her even bigger disaster would protect him from an early exit due to his awful Top 12 performance. He forgot to pay attention to the scores in the Final 3; both David Cook and canon third-place finisher Syesha Mercado outperformed him.
  • Present-Day Past: Contestants with actual performances from a show, and only those contestants, must reprise those songs. Holdovers, on the other hand, are free to sing songs that hadn't yet been released during their original runs (though since Season 8 and beyond were released about a month after their respective finales, this really only applies to the earliest seasons). Mandisa in particular manages to end up singing one of her own songs.
  • Rasputinian Elimination: Poor Tiara Purifoy... and Asia'h Epperson. Note that both of those contestants survived their brushes with that song...
  • Recruiting the Criminal: Season 11 confirms that Viktor is a parolee; no word as to whether the same is true of Serge or Rocco.
  • Red Shirt: Discussed Trope in Season 7's opener.
  • Repetitive Name: A couple of jokes are made at the expense of Phillip Phillips for this, too.
  • Rummage Sale Reject: Blind Scott MacIntyre gets forced into this by the sadistic costuming department.
  • The Runner-Up Takes It All: Second-place finishers took 6 CSAB titles to winners' 5; when the CSAB finale was a rematch of the actual finale, runners-up were 4-0.
  • Running Gag: Bad things happen to people who decide to sing "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)"
    • Or to those who mention Adele, in Season 11 and Season 13.
    • Also, don't try to go by Only One Name; the counselors will tease you mercilessly. Season 14's JAX got the worst of this by, in their words, "using an airport code as her stage name," but Season 5's Mandisa had to endure a load of bizarre last names. Using your middle name as a last name will only fare slightly better.
    • When it comes time to choose a wild card, it doesn't matter which season it is, Paula will choose Leah LaBelle.
    • Nadia Turner singing "Go Your Own Way".
    • Melinda Doolittle, eventual Season 6 Replay winner.
    • Erika Van Pelt as one continuous Peanuts Shout-Out.
    • Lashundra Cobbins.
    • David Cook is...very injury-prone.
  • Scunthorpe Problem: A phonetic version is applied in Season 11; after placing a taboo on Adele's name in which anyone who speaks it gets hit with tranquilizer darts, they manage to trick Randy into getting tranq'd by saying that his new laptop is "a Dell". This comes back to bite the counselors at the end of the season when they're about to catch their flight back to Phil'adelphia.
  • Shallow Parody: Of LOST, in Season 9.
  • Shocking Elimination: [[Invoked]] Despite being Elimination Houdini-proof, CSAB still gets hit with this from time to time. Season 7 runner-up David Archuleta had one bad performance very early in the competition, and in CSAB, it costs him. Season 10's third-place finisher Haley Reinhart was the rare contestant who seemed to get stronger as the competition went on, but she just misses out on even making the final 13—though they make sure to point out how she would've fared. If you look at the finale alone, she doesn't get it, losing out to Lauren Alaina, but if you look at the whole season, she would've pushed Alaina out in third place and beaten James Durbin for the title.
  • So Bad Its Awful: In-Universe example. Since Season 13 featured more episodes than eliminations, the second Week 8 was filled with...reprises of some of the worst performances ever, which thanks to reprise penalties resulted in negative ratings. (However, since this was the period of time when Simon Cowell had "taken over", it was limited to performances from the nine seasons he'd judged, avoiding the closest that any performance ever came to actually winding up below zero, Lazaro Arbos's "(They Long To Be) Close to You".
  • Southern-Fried Genius: Kelly Pickler.
  • Spontaneous Human Combustion: Steven Tyler in Season 10's Top 13 episode.
  • Status Quo Is God: The Summer Campy aspect disappears at the start of Season 10. The Reset Button comes in the form of James Durbin nuking the place.
  • Stock Parody: Season Eight takes a How the Character Stole Christmas track...once it's finished dealing with the overwhelming levels of Executive Meddling involved in the canon season.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: A highlight of James Durbin's performances. Even after the camp has to sell off everything in Season 15, he still manages to blow up three rival Lake Trainwreck camps with only a box of sparklers, two road flares, and a match.
  • Summer Campy: The camp itself.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: David Cook was taken to the dispensary after the Final Nine because of a spike in his blood pressure, and not because he was injured by flying underwear from Michael Johns's fans. Honest.
    • The counselors know nothing of how Simon Fuller left camp sporting a "Kick Me" sign on his back at the end of the final season. Nothing whatsoever.
  • Take That!: The counselors don't impose a handicap on Melinda Doolittle during Latin week because they felt that the theme was torture enough.
    • Season 9's opener, Kara DioGuardi's "new job".
    • The judges would let the counselors gag them again for Disco Week in Season 8 as long as their ears were plugged too.
    • MacArthur Park, end sentence.
    • In Season 14, they couldn't afford to fly the contestants to Detroit for the latest "Motown Week", so they did the best they could do—send them to an abandoned factory.
    • And of course, the constant shots taken at other reality show competitions in later seasons, sometimes literally when James Durbin performances are involved.
  • Tank Goodness: James Durbin in the Final Five.
  • Trade Snark: The Best Top 24 Ever™, aka Season 7.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: Does anyone else remember that Kelly Clarkson was a judge on another singing competition roughly ten years after winning Idol? Because Season 11 of CSAB will remind you that that happened.
  • Vindicated by History: [[Invoked]] Carrie Underwood, most successful American Idol alum ever, doesn't actually win her season's CSAB.
  • Wedgie: Another Running Gag in Season 11, though it's overshadowed by the bit about the tranquilizer darts.
    • Clay Aiken also received a number of these in Season 2's Top 4, as well as in his semifinal group.
  • We Sell Everything: Who knew you could rent out crying girls online?
  • Younger Than They Look: In classic CSAB fashion, after seemingly going for the obvious joke about Taylor Hicks being too old for the show, they reveal upon his elimination that he's actually too young and dyed his hair gray to make himself look older.
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