America's long national nightmare is finally over.  Sanjaya Malakar became the sixth finalist eliminated from American Idol's sixth season during Wednesday night's live broadcast of the smash-hit Fox reality show.

The 17-year-old Federal Way, WA native who became better known for his hair than his singing ability was sent packing after "over 38 million votes" -- which Idol host Ryan Seacrest said was the "biggest Top 7 vote in Idol history" -- were cast based on Tuesday night's live performances.

"I'm fine... this was an amazing experience for me.  I never would have been able to do this..." a teary-eyed Malakar said once his elimination was revealed.  Trying to comfort him, Secrest replied, "We won't soon forget you."

Malakar had performed "Let's Give 'em Something to Talk About" during Tuesday night's Idol broadcastIdol judge Randy Jackson had thought it was "really just like karaoke... bland and boring;" Paula Abdul had called Malakar a "loveable guy" who "thrives on adversity;" while Simon Cowell had described his performance as "utterly horrendous" and added it was "as bad as anything we see at the beginning of American Idol."

Prior to Malakar's elimination, Seacrest split the seven remaining finalists into two groups of three.  Chris Richardson, a 22-year-old from Chesapeake, VA who sang "Mayberry;" Jordin Sparks, a 17-year-old from Glendale, AZ who sang "Broken Wing;" and Phil Stacey, a 29-year-old from Jacksonville, FL who sang "Where the Blacktop Ends," were on Seacrest's left.  Malakar; Lakisha Jones, a 27-year-old from Fort Meade, MD who sang "Jesus Take the Wheel;" and Blake Lewis, a 25-year-old from Bothell, WA who sang "When the Stars Turn Blue," were on his right.

Seacrest then revealed Melinda Doolittle, a 29-year-old from Brentwood, TN who sang "Trouble is a Woman," was safe and one of the week's top four vote-getters before asking her to pick which group of three finalists she thought shared the same honor.  Instead, Doolittle sat on the floor in the middle of the stage. 

"That is fair and fitting of you," said Seacrest to Doolittle.

After Doolittle made it clear that she wasn't going to participate in his game, Seacrest eventually revealed that Malakar, Jones and Lewis were the week's bottom three vote-getters and asked the judges what they thought.  Jackson said that he thought it was "crazy" that Lewis was up there while Abdul -- without revealing which two she was talking about -- commented she "understood why two of them were up there." Meanwhile Cowell, who Seacrest noted was "grinning ear-to-ear," indicated that he had a feeling Malakar was finally going home.  "I'm beginning to sense something here," Cowell gushed.

Sanjaya Malakar and Lakisha Jones wait for American Idol host Ryan Seacrest to reveal which one of them will be eliminated on Idol's April 18 results show broadcast (Photo credit Frank Micelotta/FOX)
Despite his obvious vocal shortcomings when compared to the other finalists, Malakar was quite the center of attention during his Idol journey.  After Malakar made it to the season's Top 12 finalists, Cowell commented he would quit if Malakar won.  Then, within the span of a couple of two weeks, executive producers Cecile Frot-Coutaz and Ken Warwick each independently expressed confidence Malakar would not win; Idol 5 finalist Paris Bennett admitted to voting for him to prove Idol is "losing its taste;" and even Malakar's own sister said she didn't expect him to make it as far as he did.

When Seacrest revealed that Jones -- the other member of the week's bottom two vote-getters -- would get to remain in the competition and Malakar would be the finalist going home, thunderous cheers erupted from Idol's live studio audience and Malakar buried his face in Jones' shoulder and cried as a video montage of his Idol journey played in the background.  Then, as he began to perform one last time on the Idol stage, the audience gave him a standing ovation.

Last night's Idol results show broadcast also represented the season's second hour-long extended results show.  Fox filled the time with Fergie performing "Big Girls Don't Cry;" having the Top 7 perform "I'm Alright;" showing an extended commercial for next week's Idol Gives Back charity event; airing a video of what music the Idol hopefuls have been listening to lately; sending Seacrest to Hollywood's Kodak Theater (the home of Idol's finale broadcasts) to get some "buzz" from fans on Tuesday night's performances; offering the audience a "behind-the-scenes" look at Dreamwork's Shrek the Third; and Martina McBride (this week's cast mentor) performing "Anyway."

American Idol's six remaining sixth season finalists -- Melinda Doolittle, Phil Stacey, Lakisha Jones, Blake Lewis, Chris Richardson, and Jordin Sparks -- will all perform songs considered to be "life anthems" live on Tuesday, April 24 beginning at 8PM ET to kick-off Idol Gives Back.  Then on Wednesday, April 25 beginning at 8PM ET, Fox will air a special two-hour live Idol Gives Back results show featuring numerous artists and celebrities, including original Idol champion Kelly Clarkson, Idol 4 champ Carrie Underwood, Gwen Stefani, Josh Groban, Pink, Michael Buble, Annie Lennox, Il Divo, Borat Sagdiyev (an in-character Sacha Baron Cohen), and many others.  The Top 5 finalists will also be revealed.