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Ray Mickshaw, Fox
David Archuleta performs on "American Idol" Tuesday.

As "American Idol" fans have long anticipated, it's David vs. David in the finals.

Utahn David Archuleta and Missourian David Cook advanced to next week's two-man showdown after 56 million votes were tallied; Syesha Mercado went home disappointed.

When host Ryan Seacrest announced Archuleta was headed for the finals, the 17-year-old gasped and tears came to his eyes. In the audience, his parents — Jeff and Lupe — applauded and hugged one another.

It's the first all-male final since 2003, when Ruben Studdard beat Clay Aiken in Season 2.

Once again, Seacrest declared this was "the closest one yet" in the voting. And, to build suspense midway through the show, Seacrest added, "It's a very, very close race, and there's a real possibility this could be David (Archuleta)'s last time on the 'Idol' stage."

In the end, however, he must have finished first or second because he's on his way to Tuesday's final performance show. ("Idol" never releases vote totals.)

Archuleta will find out if he is this year's "American Idol" on Wednesday.

"If it's the final I'm hoping for, we're going to have a real humdinger next week," judge Simon Cowell said.

Utah got its (almost) five minutes of fame in footage of Archuleta's trip home last Friday. From the Murray cheerleaders mobbing him outside KSTU-Ch. 13 to a visit to radio station FM-101.5, from The Gateway to Murray High, there were lots and lots of screaming girls. THOUSANDS of screaming girls.

After all those negotiations between the "Idol" producers and the NBA, America saw Archuleta at the Jazz game but didn't hear a note of his rendition of the national anthem. And of all the politicians who turned out to honor the 17-year-old, only Murray Mayor Dan Snarr made it on TV.

(Let that be a lesson to Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon — grow big handlebar mustaches if you want to be on network television.)

The Fox cameras caught the humble Archuleta: "I'm not sure how many people are going to be there," he said on the way to The Gateway.

And they caught him overcome with emotion when he saw the thousands who turned out: "I can't believe how many people came out for this," he said. "I just can't thank them enough," Archuleta said. "It makes it all worth it knowing how many people appreciate this — all the hard work I've been doing for this. Gosh, sorry, I didn't mean to cry or anything."

And the teen was clearly taken aback by having that footage show up on Wednesday's episode of "American Idol."

"It's a little embarrassing," Archuleta said. "They show a lot of me crying. Gosh!"

(He said "Gosh!" a lot during the home-in-Utah video.)

"It's all right to show emotion, David," Seacrest assured him.

And even though the judges' reactions to his performance on Tuesday were mixed, Archuleta was upbeat.

"It was fun," he told viewers. "When I got on stage it was all worth it. I had a blast."


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com