Instead of going back home to Texas to play gigs for $50 and a plate of free food, Casey James probably left the American Idol stage Wednesday night and went directly to Las Vegas.

He did not pass go. He did not collect $200.

Because despite having his worst performance of the season - and the worst performance of any of the five remaining contestants - with Frank Sinatra’s “Blue Skies” on Tuesday, James was surely in a hurry to try his luck at the craps tables after the Idol voters surprisingly granted him a stay of execution and sent Aaron Kelly home instead.

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For his next trick, James will pull Sanjaya out of a hat.

It seemed inevitable that James would be going home.

The judges seemed to know it. Harry Connick, Jr. seemed to know it. Even James himself admitted that not having a guitar in hand wrecked his performance.

And all day, I told people that it was going to happen. All day, that is, until a local police officer insisted to me that it would be Kelly going home. I did not argue with the officer - proving that I actually did retain some of the lessons my parents taught me as a child. And even though I did not agree with him, the seed of doubt was planted.

“Could it happen? Would the American Idol voters actually forgive one wretched performance for the sake of sending through the four contestants who have been the best since Week 1?” I asked myself. Surely not.

But, alas, I was wrong. The judges were wrong. And even the great Harry Connick, Jr. was wrong - I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s true.

And the millions of female Casey James fans who voted to keep their blond-haired eye candy around for another week, rejoiced. And my wife was front and center in that celebration, with a megaphone in one hand and a giant-foam finger in the other.

But I’ll admit, I am thankful that it is this season’s four most impressive and consistent contestants who are the last four standing.

I don’t think anyone will be able to catch Lee DeWyze at this point, except maybe Crystal Bowersox. But it is reassuring that the four people who deserve to be there the most, have an opportunity to do so.

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