Warning! The following contains spoilers for the American Idol Season 19 finale. Read at your own risk!
American Idol's Season 19 finale was a three-hour epic with tons of cameos and performances, and the ending was certainly a surprise to some. It turns out that wasn't the only surprise of the night, as a previously planned performance with former two-time contestant Arthur Gunn and Sheryl Crow had to be changed last minute. Season 19's Graham DeFranco was there to fill in, but why wasn't Gunn present at the finale to do his performance?
Arthur Gunn's absence was apparently even a mystery to the judges of American Idol, who did not have an answer at the post-show Q&A. With that said, EW reported that someone with knowledge of the situation stated that Gunn did not want to perform. Luckily Graham DeFranco (who was eliminated ahead of the Top 12) was literally in the crowd on finale night, and at a moment's notice, took the stage with Crow to perform a medley of "If It Makes You Happy" and "Every Day Is A Winding Road." Luke Bryan had nothing but praise for the performance and broke down the situation to USA Today.
He literally came to cheer. He was there to support Chayce [Beckham], and we're pulling him out of the crowd going, 'You're gonna sing with Sheryl Crow.' And he's like, 'Hell yeah!'
Graham DeFranco did so well that I personally wasn't aware anything was unusual until Ryan Seacrest said afterward he had been plucked from the crowd. Meanwhile, there's still a mystery as to why Arthur Gunn, who came in second place in Season 18 and missed the Top 5 in Season 19, did not appear to perform. Gunn posted on Instagram just two days ago, though the picture and caption didn't really indicate one thing or the other in terms of American Idol.
Arthur Gunn's unexpected absence was a curveball for American Idol, but something producers should've expected in Season 19. The latest season of the ABC series saw Wyatt Pike decide to unexpectedly drop out of the competition, and Caleb Kennedy was expelled after controversy. It will be interesting to see how or if American Idol will change procedures for Season 20, if for no other reason than to have more options for when a contestant unexpectedly doesn't show up.
Arthur Gunn's reasons for skipping the finale can only really be explained by Gunn, though it is worth noting his return via the season's Comeback Challenge was somewhat controversial. Some in the American Idol fandom didn't believe it was fair for someone who came in second place in the previous season to immediately enter the Season 19 Top 10. Gunn's absence may have been an effort to avoid backlash from fans or even frustration that he didn't make it to finale night, but again, we can only speculate until he answers.
American Idol Season 19 is finished at ABC, but auditions are currently being held for Season 20. For more on the recent finale, read up on the joke Ryan Seacrest made to winner Chayce Beckham during the big night that some believed to be in bad taste.