So the beat goes on at American Idol Inc, and after the Entertainment Weekly All AI, All the Time issue, we all know our Idolettes, wannabes and never weres so much better. But where does that leave the final five? Who will win? Stay tuned...

[insert corporate shill for Coke here]

Welcome back. Now, where were we? Oh right - your monitor. *waves* (nice lamp, btw). Anyway - where will we be after tonight? More importantly, where will we be in the next few weeks? And who will win?

5. Trenyce - Trenyce/Lashundra or whatever her name is. She's been up - the first few weeks she shone through and surprised, and she's been down - possibly for 2 to 5 - but that's another story. Trenyce is the show's self-proclaimed diva. She often seems like she's robotically channeling Whitney - and in fact, listed God and Whitney as her two personal heroes who inspire her. I think God felt a bit slandered by the company. Anyway, Trenyce has done well enough not to get voted off, but she's been in the bottom three a number of times. Given the show's amazing ability to have an equal number of men and women on 'even' weeks, she's probably safe for another week. But she does not deserve to be. Trenyce hit her peak in week one, when she made her best performance. She can sing fine, and fine she was then, but fine she's been each week hence...just fine. Blah. Nothing special, and we've seen her best, so she's no where to go. Odds of winning: 1:200

4. Josh - AI's boogie-woogie bugle boy didn't have to run to Canada to avoid the war - he just had to enlist and then get cast on a TV hit. Okay, that's not fair, but whatever - he's still around despite all the 'worry' that he'd be shipped out. That's not going to happen now...well, at least not on account of the US Marines. Josh may be storming a beach soon, but it will be at the local swimming hole back in Macon or Nashville or wherever he's from. Josh is the weakest remaining AI contestant, and has been the most erratic. He has shown himself to be able to elevate his performance above the animated mannequin that is Trenyce, but he's also been much worse (Celebrate Good Times, C'mon! Blech). He is at his best doing good-old country songs, but after watching Nashville Idol last night (yes, I actually did - just to see if Josh could win that) I can say conclusively that he'd not make the final three on that show. And that says a lot. Toss in the increasingly annoying head-bobbing and facial contortions that make Josh often look like he's trying to pass a kidney stone while singing, and finally add in the fact that there are only two women left, but three men - and you have the recipe for saying 'Dismissed!' to Josh. His ace in the hole, however, has been his Marine standing. Now that the war is over, even that may not save him. However, country IS a popular genre in America, and he is unique in that way, so he might just stick it out longer than Trenyce. I doubt it though. Odds of winning 1:100

3. Kimberley Locke - Kimberley has come on each week, and better than being consistent, she's been consistently improving. In fact, Kimberly has arguably out-performed both Ruben and Clay in recent weeks. With a greater range of genres and songs, and with a voice just as strong, and with fantastic control, Kim's performances and talent have made this a three-person race. She deserves to be in the final two, and she might make it too, likely being the last female remaining. With vote splitting, she just might edge out Ruben or Clay to get to the final 2 - though sadly I doubt it. She is the oldest contestant remaining, and definitely the most mature overall (Ruben has a mature sound, but his image is much 'hipper', and Clay, while sounding more like a 35 year old Broadway star than a pop-idol, has been presented as geek-chic boy-band-member-for-the-dorky type). So, Kimberly's possible votes come from mostly the over-20 crowd - and AI has a lot of voters under that age, and more importantly, there are more 14 year olds willing to call in 100 times a night for Clay or Ruben than there are for Kimberley. My personal favorite, she will finish 3rd, or possibly has high as second. Odds of winning 1:10

2. Ruben. Yep, the velvet Teddy bear is the frontrunner, but he may just be the victim of vote-splitting. If not for that fact, he may be the odds on favorite, but with both he and K-Lo singing bluesy-R&B type songs, they're pulling votes from the same demo. As such, it's possible that this 5XL talent could end up as low as third. No one thought Tamyra would be eliminated last year - but she was, probably b/c of the same situation of vote splitting. Ruben may win, but he might end up third, so he's not my odds-heavy pick to win, despite being the most polished talent. Odds of winning 1:3

1. Clay. Picture this scenario: Final show. Clay on stage. The big announcement has just been made. Clay, eyes in full-on monarchs-in-migration flutter mode, studio lights flashing, confetti falling, Ryan and Clay clutched together in a tight embrace, Clay's fuzzy head appearing over Ryan's Andy-Travis-tight shirt, catching the camera with is orangey-tinged pancaked skin and we see him mouthing the words "Thank-you America, thank you"...... Yeah, it doesn't quite seem right to me either. But it's the most likely finale. I'd vote for either Kim or Ruben above him, but the Clay backlash hasn't happened yet. It still may, but time is running out. More importantly, Clay seems to be the darling of the young'ens. Like Willow from Buffy, Clay appeals to those who empathize with the geeky kids. But he also appeals to a fairly broad section of the more mature post-teen audience. And not having any uber-popular kid to compete against, and no blonde bombshell to draw away votes, Clay looks a lock to make the final two, unless enough people finally clue in that he keeps singing the same song over and over again, just with different words. But since that hasn't seemed to happen, we have to guess that Clay will get a slide to the final two. If he does, I think only Ruben can beat him. But Ruben may just get caught in a numbers game. Odds of winning 1:2

So there you have it. It's a three person race. Everyone anticipates Trenyce and Josh being voted out over the next two weeks. Then it gets mildly interesting, but if vote-splitting fails to materialize, we'll have a Ruben/Clay final - as most watchers have been expecting since about week 2. Not a lot of drama left until that final announcement - and, well, the interest in just how tight that Clay/Seacrest embrace will be.