Warning! The following contains spoilers for American Idol Season 19's "Disney Night." Read at your own risk!
American Idol Season 19 went from ten hopefuls down to just seven on its annual "Disney Night" episode, and when compared to past versions in prior seasons, the latest had some major stakes accompanying the movie tunes. Not to mention 100% more John Stamos. With a twist that I'm sure surprised few viewers, the ABC series revealed Season 18 runner-up Arthur Gunn was selected to return after winning out for "Comeback Night." His re-entry into the American Idol competition was not without controversy, though, since the argument can be made that his return directly set up the season's most controversial elimination yet.
When the advancing Top 7 contestants were announced at the end of the night, Arthur Gunn (who'd performed a serviceable version of Coco's "Remember Me") found himself sharing the stage with Caleb Kennedy, Willie Spence, Cassie Bishop, Chayse Beckham, Hunter Metts, and Grace Kinstler. This meant, of course, that American Idol sent home Deshawn Goncalves, Cassandra Coleman, and Alyssa Wray, who was a heavy favorite to make it all the way to the finale, and possibly to win it all. Wray wasn't only a fan favorite, as Katy Perry went as far as to claim the contestant was the next Beyoncé after first hearing her perform.
For Alyssa Wray to already be leaving American Idol after the Top 10 eliminations is just mind-boggling, and this was definitely one of the most stunning eliminations in recent memory. Given the fact that the episode somewhat arbitrarily eliminated three contestants at once, combined with knowing that one of those Top 7 slots is now occupied by Season 18's highly popular runner-up, it's definitely worth having some thoughts and discussions about whether or not American Idol's polarizing comeback twist was itself responsible for Wray's exit. In fact, it's almost hard to avoiding pointing subjective fingers at it, considering Arthur Gunn seemed instantly destined to advance from the moment he stepped back onto Idol's stage two weeks before.
Had Alyssa Wray been eliminated from "Disney Night" without Arthur Gunn in the mix, it wouldn't feel quite as controversial. Sure, it would still suck for Wray's fans all the same, but least she would have lost authentically and without gimmicks. However, it all stings that much more knowing the already popular Gunn strolled into the Top 7 with just two performances, and also seems like a lock to get voted into the finale. Meanwhile, each of those eliminated contestants put their efforts into at least seven performances since the start of the season. Sure, Gunn did prove himself in Season 18, but there's absolutely an argument to be made that it isn't fair to bring any contestant in this late in the game, much less the guy who came in 2nd place last season.
As much as I love Arthur Gunn - because this definitely isn't a rant against his talents in and of themselves - there's no denying that he has a heavy advantage going forward in American Idol. He's made it all the way to the end of a season before, having earned a sizable social media following - more than 300,000 fans on Instagram alone - so he came into "Disney Night" with a pre-existing fanbase that Season 19's competitors could only dream of having at this or any other point
It's not at all Arthur Gunn's fault, obviously, and I don't blame him for taking the opportunity when the producers offered it. But even as American Idol is seemingly setting him up to run away with this season, one has to also ask if Arthur Gunn really needs to win American Idol after his earlier success. Alejandro Aranda seemed to make a career work from second place, and other former Idol hopefuls like Jennifer Hudson have achieved major fame without getting near the final two. This comeback twist was introduced in the name of fairness due to Season 19's pared-down experience, but after Alyssa Wray and other talent were sent home tonight, how is this fair to anyone but Gunn?
American Idol airs on ABC on Sunday nights at 8:00 p.m. ET, with a Mother's Day-themed episode coming up next.