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Johns out while Jason's stock rises

Ouster of Michael Johns (left) gives Jason Castro a smoother road.

Bat leadoff on American Idol and your chances of hitting a home run with judges are maybe one in 100. Viewers tend to forget you, too.

Michael Johns, who began Tuesday's show with Aerosmith's "Dream On," is the latest to be sent to the minors. His eviction, after a lukewarm reception from Simon Cowell et. al., leaves seven singers still standing.

They include, of course, Rockwall's Jason Castro, who's looking like a stronger and stronger possibility to make the show's Final Four. Getting Johns out of his way is big. The field's studly oldest competitor, at 29, had been tabbed a long distance runner who'd easily outlast the 21-year-old soft-server from North Texas.

"A lot of shock right now," said host Ryan Seacrest.

But Castro's rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," in which he used a dinky, newly purchased ukulele, won his strongest comments yet from the only judge who really matters.

"Fantastic," said Cowell after Randy Jackson primed the pump by calling the performance "blazing, molten hot."

Johns was joined in the weekly Bottom 3 by frequent flyer Syesha Mercado and second-timer Carly Smithson. It was his first and last trip to never-never land.

Thursday's vote-off, delayed a night by Wednesday's Idol Gives Back special, also made room for several previously announced celebrities who instead were missing in action. They included Jim Carrey, Dr. Phil and major party presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama, who made their pre-taped pitches for donations in that order.