Who would be in the top three? Who would be sent home to a career of - who knows - vast fame, utter ignominy or something in between?
It turned out to be Hollie Cavanagh who would depart.
But first, we had to enjoy a group number that consisted of a cheerily painful, happily funereal version of the Mamas and Papas' "California Dreamin'." And then first to the light-dimmed podium of verdict (or so we thought) was Phillip Phillips.
Uncle Jimmy Iovine was not critical of Phillips' choice of "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" He truly believes that Phillips is beginning to hear his own voice and is therefore creating versions of songs that will suit that voice. Iovine called it "magical." Which just goes to show that magic can, occasionally, be out of tune. When it came to Phillips' "Volcano," Iovine deemed it perfect. He even praised the lighting guy. "If I had seen that in a club on a cold night one night, I'd sign him right there. I'd go in and shut it down," insisted Iovine - who has a face that could shut down an airport, never mind a club.
Ah, but signing someone is so much cheaper than it used to be. Singers are so much more dispensable these days, as "Idol" has proved.
After all the build-up, Seacrest told Phillips to head straight back to the couch, without telling him whether he was safe, in jeopardy or cast aside.
Then Cavanagh was called to suffer Seacrest's tease. Iovine admitted that he'd decided in rehearsals he wasn't going to push anyone in any song direction. Their second songs were those they wished they'd written.
"They could've finished Mozart's Unfinished Symphony," he said. One assumes he was referring to Mozart's Requiem (to which Wolfgang never gave an ending), rather than Schubert's Unfinished Symphony. But Jimmy gets excited. And he was very excited about Cavangh's choice of Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me." Not in a good way.
"I assumed she understood the core of the song. Evidently, she did not," he said. She lacked personal or professional experience, he continued. "At that point, she crashed and burned," he concluded. She, too, was sent back to the couch without resolution.
"The Last Song I'll Write For You," was suddenly heard. It came from the mouth of David Cook, the very nice man who'd won Season 7. He seems to have matured - or aged, if you prefer.
He offered something suitably Daughtry-esque, which was now to be launched into an extremely fickle and competitive arena. (Yes, Daughtry had been dismissed at this stage of "Idol".)
Cook represents the best of the white boys with guitars who became successive winners of "Idol" - with none of them having truly stellar careers. This surely served as a slight warning to anyone thinking that Phillips was the person to beat.
Next to hear the Iovine review was Joshua Ledet. He hadn't liked Ledet's "You Raise Me Up" at all. "He went for the full, glorious gospel rendition," he said, not in flattery. "I would try and talk him out of putting songs like this on his album," he added.
On the other hand, he believed Ledet's James Brown had been "a piece of magic." It was like he was "speaking in tongues." He found it utterly captivating. "How do we find an original song for his album?" moaned Iovine, one that would be this good. He already seemed to assume that he would be producing it.
By now, we realized that no one would be given their result until all had received their Iovine report cards. Well, he is the best part of the show.
"Was impersonating a great, older jazz/blues singer a good idea?" asked Iovine of Jessica Sanchez's version of Etta James. While Jennifer Lopez had loved Sanchez' growling of the previous night, Iovine had wished it had been a rabbit that had remained in her hat. On the other hand, the growl was, apparently, appropriate for her second song "Am I Am Telling You."
Iovine revealed that Tommy Mottola, the man who had started the careers of both Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey (whom he married) and, um, Jessica Simpson, had emailed him to say that Sanchez was the real thing.
Even more perplexing was that Iovine is still perplexed. Last year, he claimed he knew that the dreary Scotty McCreery would win. This year, he claims he doesn't have a clue.
And then we were presented with a judge actually performing. Yes, Jennifer Lopez has a tour to sell. Dressed with extreme bravery - I'm guessing Tommy Hilfiger had nothing to do with it - she sounded the sexy siren. At least two of her accompanying dancers stroked her whole leg with intent. I can only that hope one of them, at least, was her current beau.
But then just one of them grabbed her around the posterior and stroked her ribs, her hamstrings and her back to within an inch of an NC-17 rating. Yes, this was her cute little bald man, Casper Smart. They two young lovers then performed a duet that was slightly more affecting than that offered by Phillips and Ledet the night before.
So finally came the moment of truth. The judges were allowed to offer one more meaningless appraisal of the contestants. Today, Howard Stern, who is arriving as a judge on "America's Got Talent", described these judges as "selfish," because they protect their own images and offer no meaningful criticism at all. Tyler, Lopez and Jackson managed to affirm Stern's judgment is by literally repeating the very same things they had said the night before.
The first person through - or at least to be told she was there - was Sanchez. Ledet was next. This left Phillips and Cavanagh, the latter of whom was already beginning to seem distressed. We needed one more commercial break to add a little tension.
Cavanagh managed to look both resigned and desperate in successive seconds. When she was told she would not be going home to a heroine's welcome as one of the Top Three, she managed to maintain her composure. Lopez was, naturally, teary. So was Ledet. As Cavanagh sang her farewell, she hugged the remaining contestants.
Will her dreams be ultimately realized? Or will she slowly melt into music's great beyond?
When she had finished singing, Steven Tyler hugged her. What more could any girl want?