Syesha Mercado and Chikezie Eze stood next to each other on stage, clutching what was left of their possible time on "American Idol." Both veterans of the bottom three, Syesha managed to dodge another bullet, sending Chikezie packing his bags.

The former Los Angeles International Airport baggage handler took the exit with his usual grace and utmost charm. After his Tuesday night's performance of Luther Vandross' "If Only For One Night," Chikezie seemed shaken by the judges' responses. In choosing his song, the California native said the song touched his heart unlike any other during his birth year. His renewed sense of stage presence and emotional connection with the audience didn't win over fans as much as his upbeat performances had in the past. The 22-year-old seemed to sense his time was up even prior to host Ryan Seacrest confirming his worst fears, by motioning to the stools with his head.

Fortunately, because of one of the show's biggest voting records - with an estimated 30 million votes - Chikezie will hit the road around the nation with the rest of the Top 10 as they go on the 2008 "America Idol" Tour.

Joining Chikezie in the bottom three was Syesha Mercado, whose rendition of Stephanie Mills' "If I Were Your Woman" was one of her best performances yet. Paula Abdul labeled her as one of the dark horses in the competition, rising to the occasion each week. Unfortunately, America didn't seem to agree. Also with low votes was Jason Castro, whose bilingual performance of Sting's "Fragile" didn't seem all that risky, compared to others. If he doesn't step it up soon, Jason is headed toward boring, similar performances that even his endearing stage presence can't save him. America seemed to love both singers anyway and pushed them through to the next round.

In a twist of events, Carly Smithson found herself denying rumors of a possibly pregnancy. In defense of her performance, she told the audience she may have looked uncomfortable Tuesday night from wearing "Spanx," an undergarment that helps people look slimmer. Despite the lack of positive comments from Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell, Carly's performance of Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" won my vote just as much as her Beatles' cover of "Come Together" and Celine Dion's "I Drove All Night."

Aside from the usual performance reviews and future show updates, the elimination segment last night featured more time-wasting elements such as additional personal questions toward the contestants and Simon, as well as a cheesy version of Maxine Nightingale's "Right Back Where We Started From" by the entire group. Rounding out the evening was former season two "American Idol" contestant Kimberley Locke with a performance of her new single "Fall."

As the "American Idol" finale inches closer, we are now down to Kristy Lee Cook, Syesha Mercado, Brooke White, Ramiele Malubay, Michael Johns, David Archuleta, Jason Castro, David Cook and Carly Smithson. Next Tuesday will feature performances by Dolly Parton, who will perform her latest single, "Jesus & Gravity" the following day. The Clark Brothers are also invited to perform that night. Stay tuned!

Story by Kathryn Sparks
Starpulse contributing writer