NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - "American Idol" judges used their one-time save to rescue Michael Lynche from elimination on Wednesday after viewers of the talent show gave the thumbs-down to the burly singer's version of "Eleanor Rigby."
"This is unanimous...We have decided we're going to see you next week," judge Simon Cowell said, drawing wild cheering from the audience and a look of clear relief from Lynche.
The fans' vote to send Lynche home after a Lennon-McCartney themed week was a jolt, because he consistently staged strong performances and won the judges' praise.
Audience voting was overruled when Cowell and fellow judges gave Lynche their once-a-season save, but the singer's return means two others will be sent packing next week, when last season's runner-up Adam Lambert mentors the finalists.
Wednesday's "Idol" featured season 7 star David Archuleta, who reprised his cover of John Lennon's "Imagine."
Jason Derulo performed his hits "Whatcha Say" and "In My Head," while Rihanna took to the stage with "Rockstar 101."
"American Idol"'s finale airs in May when viewers will choose the next "Idol" star, and he or she lands a recording contract, not to mention bragging rights and invaluable media exposure.
Past champions include Grammy-winners Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. But last year's winner, Kris Allen, has found himself overshadowed by glam-pop singer Lambert.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte