Murray, a 17-year-old who currently resides in Starkville, MS, and Nunez, a 21-year-old who currently resides in Carolina, PR, were sent home from Idol's eighth season based on home viewer votes cast immediately following Tuesday night's live performance episode broadcast that saw the Top 13 finalists perform songs from Michael Jackson's catalog.
Nearly 33 million home viewer votes -- the most ever cast at this stage in the competition -- were cast, according to American Idol host Ryan Seacrest.
"Last night, we talked about a twist that could shake up the entire competition, so here's the deal, Seacrest explained. "We're introducing a new rule this season: The Judges' Save. From this point forward up until the Top 5, the judges can save one contestant from elimination just once. It has to be unanimous and once they've used the save they cannot use it again the entire season. The week they use the save no one will be eliminated, but the next week two will go."
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Seacrest then asked Cowell if "The Judges' Save" would effectively serve as a means for the judge to reverse the public's voting results.
"Quite the contrary," Cowell responded. "The whole point of this competition is America votes for who they want to save. If someone happens to be at the bottom and we feel they deserve another chance we're gonna give them another chance."
Seacrest then also asked Cowell if, theoretically, Chris Daughtry could have been saved and remained in the competition if "The Judges' Save" rule had been in place during his surprise fifth-season Idol elimination.
"Maybe, it depends how we feel that night," Cowell responded.
Why Seacrest selected Daughtry as his theoretical example is unclear. Daughtry finished fourth on Idol's fifth season, which, based on Seacrest's prior explanation of the new rule, would mean that "The Judges' Save" window would already have expired by the time of his elimination.
"You really are tremendous, so talented," Seacrest whispered to Murray after she broke into tears following Seacrest's announcement of her elimination and the judges' subsequent announcement that they would not exercise the new twist to keep her in the competition.
Murray -- whom the judges had selected as one of their four finalist picks during last week's special "Wild Card Round" -- had sung "I'll Be There" by The Jackson 5 during Tuesday night's performance episode.
Jackson had complimented Murray's ability to mix both the Jackson 5's original and Mariah Carey's remake -- which he personally worked on -- and been impressed by her ability to handle such a tough song so well.
DioGuardi had been surprised that Murray was able to perform the song so well but wished she had sung it half-a-key lower. Abdul said that Murray had "some bright moments" but also some others in which she was singing "under."
Cowell had termed the performance a "good attempt" but suggested it was "a little bit robotic at times" and repeated his prior concerns that she sounded a bit like a little girl trying to act like an adult.
Nunez had sung "Never Gonna Say Goodbye" by The Jackson 5 during Tuesday night's performance episode.
Jackson had praised Nunez's "vocal chops" but also noted that he'd had pitch problems and wished he had performed a song that would have challenged him more.
DioGuardi had said that Nunez's performance lacked the same emotional connection of his previous performances while Abdul had panned his song choice and urged America to "remember the brilliant vocalist that you are because you deserve to be on that stage."
Simon had been less complimentary, calling Nunez's performance "corny" and saying that he was "out of [his] depth."
"It was so old-fashioned, actually I couldn't wait for it to end," Cowell said.
Similar to Murray's earlier elimination, Nunez's elimination was followed by an announcement in which Cowell revealed that the judges had decided that they would not use the new twist to keep him in the competition.
In addition to the eliminations and twist announcement, the results show also featured a Top 13 group medley performance as well as performances from first-season American Idol champion Kelly Clarkson, who performed "My Life Would Suck Without You," and rapper Kanye West, who performed "Heartless."
Then, barring the utilization of "The Judges' Save," another finalist will be eliminated from the competition and the season's Top 10 will be revealed during the results show broadcast on Wednesday, March 18 at 9PM ET/PT.
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