On a day when gossip and innuendo about his father threatened to spin out of control, David Archuleta did what David Archuleta does best — displayed his amazing vocals.

He may not have wowed the "American Idol" judges as much on Tuesday night as he has in some other weeks, but the consensus was that the Davids — Archuleta and Cook — are headed for the finals next week.

The results of this week's voting will be announced at 8 p.m. today on Fox/Ch. 13. As always, "Idol" doesn't release any vote totals, but host Ryan Seacrest said this season has been "the closest race this show has ever seen."

Each of the three finalists — the Davids and Syesha Mercado — sang three songs on Tuesday: one chosen by a judge; one by themselves; one by the producers.

Archuleta opened with Billy Joel's "And So It Goes." Judges Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul raved; Simon Cowell disagreed, to some extent, calling it "predictable" and saying, "I don't think it was outstanding."

All three judges agreed that Archuleta chose badly when he chose to sing Chris Brown's "With You."

"It was a little bit like a Chihuahua trying to be a tiger insomuch as it's not really you," Cowell said as Archuleta forced a smile.

And, while none of the three was particularly happy that producers chose Dan Fogelberg's "Longer" for Archuleta, they defended his performance.

"You can sing the phone book," Jackson said. "It was another hot one from you." Abdul called it "a lovely performance."

And Cowell declared, "I do think you've done enough to get into the finals next week."

Unfortunately for Archuleta, gossip and tabloid reports about his father — that Jeff Archuleta is an overbearing stage father who was banned from the "Idol" studio by producers — have reached a crescendo in the past couple of days.

And speculation about how all of this will affect the outcome of the "American Idol" competition washed across the media. Fairly typical was an assessment in the Dallas Morning News that "the scandal involving his dad" will hurt David. "That leads to the question: Does David want this, or is Daddy Dearest forcing him into showbiz. Then again, the hoopla over his father could also increase his fans' puppy love."

In an interview with TV Guide magazine, the Murray teen dismissed the stories about his dad.

"I think I, of all people, would know what's going on, and he's been great," David told TV Guide. "He's given me a lot of good advice and helped (keep) me from making any dumb decisions. He understands more than anyone what I want in music, and I've felt really blessed to have someone like that."

"Idol" executive producer Nigel Lythgoe told EW.com that Jeff Archuleta had not been "banished."

"He has been asked not to participate in the choice of music with David or be in the room when David is working out his routines that he wants to sing. He's fine to be in the studio — nothing wrong with that. We just want David to be able to be free like everybody else to get on and do what they want to do," Lythgoe said. "And what is a stage dad, or a stage mom? It's someone who's protective. That's all."

Jeff Archuleta was in his customary seat in the audience on Tuesday night; his wife, Lupe, was at his side instead of home watching on TV.

On the night, Cook got most of the good news and Mercado got most of the bad news from the judges. Two of Cook's three performances got thumbs-up, with Abdul going so far as to say, "David, see ya in the finals!" and Cowell — who seemed to be lobbying for Cook most of the night — declared, "David Cook wins the night," after he sang "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing."

As for Mercado, Cowell told her she "will probably regret" her decision to sing "Fever," which he called "quite a lame cabaret performance." And her rendition of "Hit Me Up" caused even the ever-optimistic and supportive Abdul to say, "I don't know if it's going to be good enough to get into the finals of 'American Idol."'

The final two will perform on Tuesday; this year's "American Idol" will be revealed on Wednesday, May 21.


E-mail: [email protected]