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In the world's ultimate talent search - where the eyes of a nation are upon the best undiscovered singers in the country, where the audience has the power to make or break you, and where a million-dollar recording contract is on the line, there is only one rule: If you can sing it, bring it.

Recaps by Chico Alexander, Jason Block, Don Harpwood & Gordon Pepper, GSNN

Ryan Seacrest
Judges: Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson
Creator: Simon Fuller (based upon "Pop Idol")
Nigel Lythgoe, Ken Warwick, Cecile Frot-Coutaz, Simon Fuller
Packager: 19 TV, FremantleMedia North America
Origin: CBS Television City, Los Angeles, CA
Airs: Tuesdays at 8pm ET and Wednesdays at 9p ET on Fox


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Auditions: Omaha
January 29

American Idol auditions run the gamut of the nation's biggest and best cities... Los Angeles... New York... Seattle... Chicago... Houston... Omaha?

Yep, the auditions continue in America's heartland.

It's Idol's first time in this city, with a bustling arts community and the main export of... corn. Hopefully these 10,000 people won't sound too corny as American Idol invades...

OMAHA, NE - Qwest Center Omaha

"Omaha is... really not that exciting."

Apparently the captain flying Paula's plane didn't think so either, as only Randy and Simon will assess on day one. And apparently, when Paula's not around, Simon's actually a nice guy, as he complements Randy on his glasses.

First up, Chris Bernheisel (24, Fremont), who's a "Cold-Hearted (out of tune) Slave". He says he comes one-in-a-million, and begs for Simon not to ruin his dream. Oh, by the way, he comes bearing gifts. A dawg for Randy and an England track jacket for Simon (C-Note: They prefer money). He also brings a photo album with him and Kelly Clarkson. After thanking Idol for stopping here, we go to his song, "Since U Been Gone." Let's go over the rules.

1) Never sing a former Idoler's song.
2) If you do sing a former Idoler's song... You better nail it. Kellie Pickler did... and that's why she was able to afford enhancements last year.

Chris... breaks both rules... and dances while doing it. Randy wonders if this all for real. Simon likes Chris... as a person. He's a nice guy. Consolation prize? Chris gets to audition for the red carpet at the finale... That didn't work either. But Simon's going to make sure he does sidelines for Fox 42. So if you're reading from Omaha... watch out for Chris.

Still waiting for Paula to arrive.

While we're waiting, we get Jason Rich (21; Stout, IA), who works on a farm for his girlfriend's dad. He's thought about what it's like to be the next Idol, but it seems far off from him.

Fact: Stout rolls 500 deep.

Jason sings Keith Whitley's "When You Say Nothing At All". Well, the first line from it. It's actually not too bad, but he needs to remember the rest of the words from it... quickly. Simon tries to coach, to no avail. Somehow, he manages to rescue the rest of the words. Randy says he's got a good voice, but no star quality. Both judges give him another shot, but Simon gives Jason his first, last, and ONLY warning.

And Paula finally arrives in time to watch tonight's episode of "You Forgot the Lyrics!"

The judges need some energy. Enter the heavyweight champion of the holding room, Rachael Wicker (23; Richmond, MO), who says she'd been raised aroung guys a long time. She loves to arm wrestle. She draws Ryan, and she wants to take out Simon. She sings "Don't Tell Me to Stop Loving You" by Leann Womack. We haven't had a good nice warbler this season. I believe this one may fit the bill. Simon thinks it's too old for her. Randy says it's a good voice, but she can do without the yodel. He says... yes. Simon says no. Paula... says yes. She's going, but she needs to work on the voice.

Next up, Sarah Whitaker (25; Council Bluffs, IA), who says she used to be a professional wrestler named Lady Morgue. She enjoys playing a British heel, so how would the pretender fare against... the real thing. She sings (get this)... Tiny Tim's "Living in the Sunlight". It's a very theatrical song. It's a very theatrical performance. It totally won't get her to Hollywood. Simon says she's really strange. Randy likes the macabre laugh, though. Paula was the only yes.

Ryan, having heard all of this, wonders why she didn't get through. That sparks a change of job, as Paula winds up hosting, and Ryan judges Samantha Sidley (22; Los Angeles, CA). She thinks she's a good singer. The audition: "Don't Know Why" by Norah Jones. Nice contralto, and she adapts well to the song. She needs to work about the pitch. Ryan, this is your first big judge... Go get'em tiger.

"I like your voice, but I think you need to work on your self-confidence. The performance part was a little stormy." He would've said yes...

Ryan... Stick to hosting. Paula... stick to judging. She needs to work on showmanship. "See ya in Hollywood."

So three words for TV hosting and talent judging: "Looks easy... Isn't." But this sparks a run on yellow paper courtesy of Elizabeth Erkert (19; Springfield, IL) singing "(I Heard It Through the) Grapevine", Denise Jackson (17; Madison, WI) singing "One Night Only" from "Dreamgirls", and Michael Sanflippo (19; South Barrington, IL) singing "If You Really Love Me" by Stevie Wonder, all of whom we'll see in Hollywood...

Line of the night: "I can't wait to make it to Hollywood and to prove Simon wrong; I am America's Next Top Model."

Angelica Puente (17; Kenosha, WI) is here on a mission, and believe it or not, it has nothing to do with singing. She is here to reunite with her father, whom she moved out on. She left a message with song on his answer phone. She just wants him to be proud of her. She'll be singing "The Power of Love" by Celine Dion. Not bad for 17 year old, but she needs to control her pitch. But Omaha needed a good old-fashioned belter. And Angelica fit the bill... even if she was affected. They all think they can sing, but she needs to work on performance. Simon thinks she can be good with a little effort. "You've got to stop listening to all of these records and figure out who you are." We'll see if she takes Randy's advice to heart in the Hollywood round.

Now we come to the point of the show when we have people who swear that they're the next Chris Daughtry (C-Note: I've met Chris Daughtry's brother, and sir, you're no Chris Daughtry). Among them, David Cook (24; Tulsa, OK), a bartender and musician. He was in need of an edge. He brings something different and is versatile. He sings "Living on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi. It sounds a little Daughtry, but once he gets into it, we hear David Cook. Good to hear. Judges like it, but Randy wants to see some persona. Three yesses, he's off to the Wood.

Will Johnny Escamilla (18; Scottsbluff) follow him? He thinks that he's the next James Brown. After hearing him sing "Shout" by Otis Day and the Knights... Not likely. Doesn't help that Paula has the hiccups. Well, she HAD them until he heard about 10 seconds of that. Simon hated everything about that. Three nos, and he's just... off.

Fake audition montage. Song: "Stuck in the Middle with You".

And after all that, we're down to the last contestant Omaha has to offer. The closer... Leo Marlowe (23; the smallest town in history, Charlotte, IA), a man who says... "My mom always says she raised the perfect homecoming queen. Too bad it wasn't one of her daughters." He sings "A Song For You." Elliott did this better two years ago. But this one is passable. Simon says it's very good, and that he's very open. Randy calls him a nice guy.

We start with a nice guy. We end with a nice guy who just so happens to be one of 19 people from Omaha going to the Hollywood round.

So we leave the bright lights and small city feel of Omaha for the glitz, glamour, and heat of Miami. Ten thousand people arrive in South Florida; how many will leave for the beach on the OTHER side of the country? Will it be a former American Junior? Will it be a guy who makes quite an entrance? Or maybe two heavy-set ladies? Find out in 23.