'American Idol' axes first finalist

NEW YORK "Honestly, things happen for a reason," Hernandez said before leaving the stage. "I think we all have a plan. ... This isn't it for me."

Hernandez, who sang the Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There," made headlines last week after it was revealed to The Associated Press that he worked as a stripper at a Phoenix club with a "mostly male" clientele.

Kristy Lee Cook, a 24-year-old from Selma, Ore., and Syesha Mercado, a 21-year-old from Sarasota, Fla., rounded out the bottom three vote-getters.

Finalists had the opportunity to perform classics from the John Lennon-Paul McCartney songbook this week. The show's producers recently got permission to use songs belonging to Sony/ATV Music Publishing, a company formed by Sony and Michael Jackson.

The standouts were Carly Smithson ("Come Together"), Brooke White ("Let It Be"), David Cook ("Eleanor Rigby") and Chikezie ("She's A Woman").

David Archuleta, whose cover of Lennon's "Imagine" drew heaps of praise two weeks ago, showed that he's merely mortal when he flubbed the lyrics to "We Can Work It Out." That didn't fly with Cowell, who called the 17-year-old's performance "a mess."

Wednesday's show also featured a performance by season-five finalist Katharine McPhee and musician David Foster (on the piano).

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