Monday, May 30, 2011

A Valedictory Address

The following speech was delivered by Dr. Marc Gregory Y. Yu, valedictorian and the only magna cum laude honoree of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine Class of 2011, during the 102nd UPCM Commencement Exercises, SMX Convention Center, Manila, May 22, 2011.  

*   *   *   *   *

UP President Dr. Alfredo Pascual; our Chancellor Dr. Ramon Arcadio; PGH Director Dr. Jose Gonzales; our beloved Dean Dr. Alberto Roxas; members of the faculty, staff and administration of UP-PGH; distinguished doctors, parents, fellow graduates, and friends. Good afternoon.

Not too long ago, I was just another regular guy from the province, pleasantly thrilled to be in the metropolis for my medical education. I couldn’t call a code to save my life, and if someone came up to me and mentioned words like “spondyloarthropathy”, “calciphylaxis”, and “tardive dyskinesia”, they would have sounded like magic spells straight from the pages of a bestselling Harry Potter book.

It never occurred to me that several years after, I would go on to present an award-winning pilot study on “spondyloarthropathy”. “Calciphylaxis” became a crucial question that cost us the winning point in a quiz show; and somewhere in one of the whitewashed rooms of the OPD, I encountered my very first patient with “tardive dyskinesia.”

That patient, I would like to believe, had been my second most memorable patient. My most memorable patient was a forty-year old woman who approached me one day and said: “Doc, kamukha niyo talaga si Aga Muhlach!” To which her very observant companion replied, ““Mali ka! Si Dingdong Dantes ang kamukha niya!”

So what’s the moral lesson? In these difficult times, ditch med school. Watch out for the next Starstruck auditions!

But perhaps when we were younger, there was a time when we thought being a doctor was what we really wanted. Years ago, some of us showed up in Calderon Hall believing they could make a difference. Others have been drawn by the allure of such a prestigious profession; while still others, fearing expulsion from their homes, reluctantly exchanged business suits and ballet shoes for scrubs and surgical tools. As for me, I became a doctor simply because all I ever wanted to do as a child was to play with a stethoscope all day. Of course, that quickly became the least of my concerns.

Looking back, however, what matters is not why we became doctors, but that we chose to become doctors. And today is a fitting celebration of that choice.

So congratulations to everyone. We are not only graduates in the academic sense but also graduates from being called Hijo, Kuya, Ate, Ineng, ang lalakeng nakasalamin, ang babaeng maputi, ang bakulaw na singkit.  We have finally earned the enviable right to be called Doctors of Medicine.
Being a doctor is a rare power, and a vast privilege. Not only are we dealing with a constantly evolving array of drugs and diseases, but we actually possess the dynamic capacity to heal, to cure, and to care (also, to be sued for malpractice and sexual harassment.) As products of the country’s premier university and trained at the foremost national referral hospital, we have been part of a time-honored tradition of excellence, having studied with the best professors, mingled with the best students, and taken part in crafting some of the best ideas.

Five years – seven years for us Intarkids – have made us duly realize that this power is nothing short of tremendous. In the words of a balikbayan patient: “I came here to be treated because I believe in the ability of the UP doctor. I came home because I believe in what we have.”
Every day, hundreds of patients trudge to the gates of PGH, each bearing a tiny flicker of hope for recovery and redemption. We’ve met those who were easily content, and those who might have complained to their heart’s content. Those who were actually happy enough to have a rusty stretcher bed to lie on, and those who would be more than happy if the ER also served complimentary espresso. Some were extremely glad to have undergone a timely leg amputation, while others fiercely demanded a cure for metastatic disease. Time and again, we have been firsthand witnesses to these patients, who represent the staggering microcosm of life and its harsh realities. This incredible richness of experience has been our power, and to a certain extent, our responsibility as well.

Here in our country, the ironic wonderland that is amazingly resource-rich and resource-poor at the same time, the young Filipino doctor has to grapple with long, horrendous hours of work, little pay, limited social life, and boundless exposure to dangerous communicable diseases. Our commitment has been tested by the minute, and our creativity stretched to the utmost. How many times have we performed CPR on the floor? Juggled two, even three, newborn babies in a single bassinet? Utilized Jollibee cups for ABG purposes?

Some people would call it the very essence of “community-oriented education directed to the underserved.” Others would brush it off as merely OA: overused anecdote. While still others would declare, it is something that needs OA: optimistic attitude.

Dr. Tony Dans, one of the most passionate doctors I’ve seen, has always emphasized: “We never have to work a single day in our lives as doctors if all of us had passion” (which may include passion in bed, as exemplified by a familiar doctor with his now infamous videos.) An attitude of passion and commitment allows us to emerge from 24 hour duties with enormous eye bags and splattered with blood, sweat, urine, and amniotic fluid all at the same time, and people would think we’re flaunting the newest fashion craze in town.

But let me tell you something else.

Last year, without benefit of a medical degree or a license, I received an unexpected surprise from a patient whom we pulled out of uremia: a box of cookies and a bottle of Coke. Not long after, it was a one dollar bill from an OFW. Cinnamon rolls from a grateful mother who was so relieved that her son didn’t have dengue. A pat on the arm from an elderly patient who commented that she finally understood her disease, for the first time in all these years. A year before that, I had been blessed with the most beautiful sunrise while on duty at the SOJR.

Maybe we’ve all had similar experiences, or come across similar patients. These are the things that continually renew our passion, the things that keep us waking up each day and raring to go, the things that often remind us why we turned to medicine in the first place, when we could be out there writing novels, selling shares in the stock market, or simply enjoying the perks of being a Starstruck grand champion.

The only words I could say right now are “thank you.” Thank you to our esteemed doctors, who have incessantly served as our lecturers, preceptors, mentors, and tormentors (just kidding.) No amount of scientific brilliance would comprehend how much you have influenced and inspired us, not only in refining our clinical eye and management skills but more so in the conduct of ethics and effective doctor-patient relationships.

Thank you to our patients, who have been our most indispensable bedside teachers. I will never forget how an enthusiastic mother lectured me on her newfound knowledge of epilepsy, or how a particularly persistent bantay taught me the value of sheer resourcefulness. And when I was about to perform my first ever gynecologic examination as an ICC, the young woman on the examining table gave me a knowing look, chuckled, and said, “First time mo no?”

Thank you to our families, who have provided unconditional love and support despite enduring an eternity of missed dinners, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, baptisms and reunions. Finally, we can confidently answer your queries regarding X-rays and ECGs – with matching journal articles to boot.

Thank you to the staff and administration of UP-PGH – the nurses, NAs, manongs and technicians who have offered invaluable assistance and made life in the wards, OPD, OR, ER, and ICU so much more worthwhile.

Most of all, we give thanks to the one Great Healer, who has wisely utilized us as His fitting instruments.

Med school had truly been, in the words of Charles Dickens, “the best of times, and the worst of times.” We salute our co-interns, block mates, poker pals and karaoke buddies – the people who have walked with us for better or for worse, on days when we only had oversized anatomy textbooks for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; got grilled for two hours in front of a poker-faced audience; fell in and out of love; flunked exams and barely passed others; studied hard and partied even harder – which turned out to be an excellent decision because in the end, we can’t even remember half of what we studied. Of course, even if we failed to study, we were assured that we can always have a “good time”.

Hovering between student life and the start of real medical practice, our minds may be riddled with questions: What do I do? Where do I go? What will happen to me when I’m bald, fifty, and still a bachelor? (I’m not referring to Mr. President.) And most importantly, how do I change the world?

Let me rephrase that: How do 150 UP students – and 260 PGH interns – change the world?

Our working knowledge of malignancies and chronic diseases tells us that obviously, it won’t be overnight. We won’t wake up to suddenly find an automated, fully air-conditioned ER, an expanded labor room that will comfortably fit a hundred pregnant women (the key word being “comfortably”) or all ICU beds equipped with the latest, most powerful mechanical ventilators.

But then maybe, just maybe, we will wake up to know that a patient survived a hypotensive episode, thanks to our diligent monitoring efforts. That another patient escaped a potentially fatal arrhythmia, because we stayed on to retrieve labs and aptly discovered a potassium level of 7. That a patient in sepsis finally became afebrile, because we ensured a sufficient supply of antibiotics. My most uplifting moments in medicine have been these little everyday things, simply because these are the meaningful things that count, the tiny changes that triggered an earthshaking world of difference.

Change will forever mark the bountiful frontiers of medicine. Soon, we will be diagnosing TB with just two sputum smears, more and more molecular agents will target cancer cells, and the rise of novel endoscopic interventions may eventually obviate the need for more invasive surgeries. Soon, more terms will crop up, terms even more peculiar and more bizarre-sounding than “spondyloarthropathy”, “calciphylaxis”, and “tardive dyskinesia”.

This is how our stay in the UP College of Medicine has changed us. We have been granted the collective power to think and to imagine, the ennobling responsibility to accept challenges with open arms, the steadfast commitment to drive all our undertakings, and the burning passion to keep our efforts aflame. History will fondly remember us for our unbeatable record in the TRP Chorale Competition, and for our perpetually perfect attendance in the BSLR Tuesday Conferences that so impressed our beloved Dean.

Before I lose credibility as a patient-certified Aga Muhlach and Dingdong Dantes lookalike, allow me to do away with overpriced TV commercials and instead echo the words of renowned physician and UPCM alumna Dr. Fe Del Mundo, who is exactly 76 years older and wiser than I am: “Give to the world the best you have, and the best will just come back to you.”

My fellow Swabes, as we emerge from this hall today, let us give to the world nothing less than the best we have, and nothing less than the best that there is to offer. Who knows? It may not be too late for Starstruck auditions, after all.

Thank you and good day!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The 30-Day Musical Theater Song Challenge, Part 4

I came across this challenge on Facebook and thought I'd give it a try. By now, it should be no secret that I'm an avid fan of musical theater, which is not the case for many people in this country (and it's easy to understand why). If you're a Broadway junkie like myself, then my 'repertoire' is yours to sample. Otherwise, you're in for some 'new' music to... add to your playlist, perhaps?

Note: The instructions say to post this on your 'Wall', one song per day, but since we're in Blogger, I'm having it my way.

A song sung by your favorite male singer in a musical.

"I'M ALIVE" from Next to Normal
by Aaron Tveit

Before anything else, I'd just like to say that this is not a definitive answer for me, since I actually have a lot of favorite male singers. But here is Tveit showing off the beautiful tenor that he is in a song that Broadway first heard him sing, the anthem of Gabe Goodman (who's existence is highly questionable, if you know what I mean) in Next to Normal. I once read online that in choosing the actor for Gabe, the casting directors looked for someone who possessed the voice of a 'child', and that Tveit's vocal comfort zone actually lies in that stratospheric zone.

Felix Rivera was a 'creeptastic oedipal weirdo', as a reviewer described his performance, in the March 2011 Manila staging of the musical, a thrilling supporting performance that stood on its own without overshadowing the leads. Although I did find his singing and acting voice weirdly smaller than usual at times (whether its him or the sound system's anybody's guess).

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The 30-Day Musical Theater Song Challenge, Part 3

I came across this challenge on Facebook and thought I'd give it a try. By now, it should be no secret that I'm an avid fan of musical theater, which is not the case for many people in this country (and it's easy to understand why). If you're a Broadway junkie like myself, then my 'repertoire' is yours to sample. Otherwise, you're in for some 'new' music to... add to your playlist, perhaps?

Note: The instructions say to post this on your 'Wall', one song per day, but since we're in Blogger, I'm having it my way.

A song which makes you happy.

by the Original Broadway Cast

This is a song about racism, and it makes me happy. Not enlightened-, proud-, or teary-eyed-happy, just sort of sitting-back-with-a-smile-happy. But really, it's a work of comedic genius - basically what Avenue Q's made of. It pokes fun at a very sensitive issue yet does not fail to deliver an all-important message: That it is all right to be racist because it's natural.

I saw the fourth Manila run of Atlantis Productions' Avenue Q more than a year ago, and I was laughing my heart out through both acts. The show made me a devotee of Felix Rivera and quelled any doubts I had over whether Rachel Alejandro's any good (in singing, acting, or both). And who could ever forget Joel Trinidad in the comedic performance of the night as the sex-starved Trekkie Monster? Theater people of Manila are shouting: Repeat!


So I had my 19th birthday last Friday, and it was as I'd envisioned it to be: plain and uneventful, simple and totally unremarkable. I think the fact that I went out for lunch with just four of my closest friends proves the 'simple' point quite enough. 

I did have two celebrations that day. First one's the lunch. The second one was with family from my mother's side (we're huge on that side, you see, and quite small on my dad's - but all this talk of family deserves more than just one separate blog post). It was a joint celebration with my mom's second youngest brother, who happens to share my birthday. I wonder how it must have felt, him celebrating his birthday while his sister gave birth, almost two decades ago.  

The best part of my birthday? The surprise from my Intarmed classmates. For the day, they changed their profile pictures to ones which had me in them - sort of like Jarby Devotion Day on Facebook. I've never received such a gesture - ever - in my life, and for that deeply meaningful 'present', I'm forever in awe of these people. Especially to my closest friends (who are both awesome and brilliant). 

There was an even grander celebration two days after my birthday. 

My brother graduated from med school, bringing along with him the Most Outstanding Medical Graduate and Most Outstanding Straight Intern in (Internal) Medicine awards, in addition to being Class Valedictorian and the only Magna cum Laude among the roughly 150 graduates of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine Class of 2011. That means he's now an unlicensed doctor. The board exams stand massively before him now, and frankly, everyone's quite excited to see what happens after he and the rest of the Class of 2011 scale that wall.

In the meantime, here's to Dr. Marc Gregory Yu Yu.

Photo by Melissa Litao

I'll be publishing his valedictory address here sometime soon.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The 30-Day Musical Theater Song Challenge, Part 2

I came across this challenge on Facebook and thought I'd give it a try. By now, it should be no secret that I'm an avid fan of musical theater, which is not the case for many people in this country (and it's easy to understand why). If you're a Broadway junkie like myself, then my 'repertoire' is yours to sample. Otherwise, you're in for some 'new' music to... add to your playlist, perhaps?

Note: The instructions say to post this on your 'Wall', one song per day, but since we're in Blogger, I'm having it my way.

A song demonstrating how underrated you think a musical is.

"HAPPINESS" from Passion
by Marin Mazzie and Jere Shea

Not many people would say Passion when the subject of Sondheim is brought up. Not many people know about it, see. It's only been staged here in the Philippines once, way back in the late 90s, and on Broadway, there's not much sign of a revival. The thing with this musical is that it's actually a story set into song, a tragic romantic drama with quite a few songs that can stand on their own, and lots of dialogue set to music. 

Happiness opens this Tony Award-winning musical with the two lovers Clara and Giorgio in bed, singing of all their happiness (so much happiness, so much love). The video above is actually a snippet from the live recording of the musical back in the 90s with Marin Mazzie and Jere Shea in the roles they originated, in the not-exactly conservative opening scene. Someone upload a torrent file of the video quick!

Friday, May 20, 2011

The 30-Day Musical Theater Song Challenge, Part 1

I came across this challenge on Facebook and thought I'd give it a try. By now, it should be no secret that I'm an avid fan of musical theater, which is not the case for many people in this country (and it's easy to understand why). If you're a Broadway junkie like myself, then my 'repertoire' is yours to sample. Otherwise, you're in for some 'new' music to... add to your playlist, perhaps? 

Note: The instructions say to post this on your 'Wall', one song per day, but since we're in Blogger, I'm having it my way.

A song from you latest musical obsession.

a concert cover by Lea Salonga

Lately, I've been sort of obsessed with Stephen Sondheim, otherwise known as the American god of musical theater. In Company, we have the commitment-phobic bachelor Bobby celebrating his 35th birthday, and throughout the musical we are introduced to his girlfriends and married friends. Another Hundred People is sung by his latest flame Marta, a wild-spirited New Yorker, in a number that juxtaposes song with scenes of Bobby and his women. In the barest sense, its about the seemingly ephemeral lives that people run in the big city, about fleeting loves and one-night flings, about a city of strangers where people seem to just come and go, where you meet someone one second and say goodbye the next. The tempo illustrates just that - making the song a tongue-twister as well as a breathing-technique challenge for the singer.

In January 2008, Lea Salonga opened her Iloilo City concert debut with this song; I was still in 3rd year high school, ignorant of Sondheim but quite enthralled by the repetitive nature of the song, the mention of trains most especially.

American Idol 10 - Top 3

How our TV looked like last night.

Sky Cable (our TV cable network) went berserk last night, so I wasn't able to watch American Idol again. This morning, I decided to take a peek at the results in Yahoo! News and was totally saddened by what I read.

I therefore declare that there is no longer any point watching the finale next week, since we are left with Scotty and Lauren - the former, a satisfactory performer though not exactly worthy of a spot in the top three; the latter, a wildly immature girl suddenly thrust into the limelight she's obviously quite not ready for. Although Scotty's become more appealing (in terms of talent) to me in the recent weeks, and Lauren's somehow shown a wee bit more potential, the two of them bringing the house down - individually or as a combined effort - is still a Martian notion.

Let's take seasons 7 and 8, for example. When Carly Smithson was eliminated at Top 6 week, we still had Jason Castro to hate, Brooke White to pity, and the Davids and Syesha Mercado to root for for the Top 3. When Syesha was eliminated, we had one heck of a David showdown for a finale. And when Danny Gokey was eliminated (I still rue that day), we had Adam Lambert and Kris Allen vying for the top spot, which was quite exciting, considering how different the two are.

Now we're given Lauren and Scotty, so maybe I'll just skip the Finale and continue with my Oscars marathon. Or maybe I'd drop by the borefest. We'll see.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

American Idol 10 - Top 4... sorta.

First Pia. Then Casey. Now James. How fun!

So Blogger sort of died yesterday.

Which means that I couldn't post my American Idol review for this week. Oh, I forgot I actually didn't write one since I was out 'til one in the morning last Thursday night. So I had to catch the 11AM Friday rerun, by which time the results were already out. So I thought it kind of irrelevant to still write a review.

Just kidding. Here's what really happened. I finished watching, had lunch, and then thought I'd write. Thing is, I write directly here in Blogger (not in MS Word, which was what I used to do). So when the website revealed itself to be down, all thought of writing simply dissipated into thin intestinal air within me.

Anyway, what do I need to tell you that you still do not know? Probably nothing.

You saw how good Haley was, how she delivered one of the season's best and most unmatchable performances with her second number. You saw how Randy was so mean to her in commenting on her first number, which really got her angry and led her to pour out all emotions into the second song. You saw how stupid the judges could really get (I was really turned off by the entire Haley fiasco, because most of it didn't make sense). You saw how cocky and arrogant Haley is, despite the fact that she's now my bet for the title (as I'm basing on performance and talent alone). You saw how stupid Lauren is, when she initially refused to sing the word 'evil' because her fans might think she's evil (That was just BS, Lauren). You saw how Scotty kissed his cross out of I-don't-know-what, and yes, he was good that night. Most of all, you saw how James got booted out. I was actually starting to lose interest in James, but his second number was 'the bomb'.

So, bests of the night: HALEY II and JAMES II.

In a perfect world, the top 3 would be James, Pia, and Casey - and James would be eliminated next week. But no, this ain't utopia, boys. So, Scotty, Haley, or Lauren? Though I've mentioned that I want Haley to win, I certainly won't be one of those who'll be utterly dismayed if the results don't go my way.

American Idol, it's quite understandable why you're losing your viewers.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Religion, Reproduction, and Respect

One of my dream churches.

I had an awful time in church last Saturday.

It was as if the priest was 'celebrating' mass for the sake of celebration itself, like throwing a really lousy birthday party. His homily was a bunch of incoherent sentences and paragraphs strung together by his dead-pan speaking, and he breezed through the entire hour without even the slightest hint of gusto or genuine enthusiasm. His excuse: He was supposedly just passing by when the resident priest asked him to celebrate the last mass of the day because no one else was available. Now that's just pathetic.

So your being unprepared is an excuse to suck at your job? And it doesn't even require cutting up a body or singing inhuman notes or extracting a tooth, not that any of these makes sucking at one's job even slightly permissible. Oh, and have I mentioned my bafflement over why those two chaps who did the first and second readings were even asked to read in the first place? I really had a difficult time keeping up. Sometimes, the state of the church and the quality of our priests and masses sadden me.

* * * * * * * * * *

Before Glee made them into household names, Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele simulated live sex eight times a week in the original Broadway cast of Spring Awakening.

So there was this nationally televised debate last night on the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, and I must say that after watching only a single five-minute segment, I already had to turn off the television for fear of developing a headache. If you're not from the Philippines, you must know that despite the Vatican's current stand on reproductive health laws, contraception, and such things, our Catholic Church here continues to strive to keep this country in a wayward mindset. 

Hearing the anti-RH Bill people talk last night was excruciating and hilarious at the same time - because many of their arguments were quite contrary to what's actually written in the Bill. What's worse, however, is that for the longest time, those against the Bill have striven to twist the facts and spread the lies - very much an irony, considering that they label themselves on the side of life and God. If you're not from this country, consider yourself lucky. 

I'd enumerate my reasons as to why I'm for this Bill (an improved version would be even better), but I'd like to give just one - and let me get my Broadway thinking cap: There is this little musical called Spring Awakening. Wendla, the female lead, is deprived by her mother of information concerning reproduction and sexuality. Melchior, the male lead, knows the technicalities of sex without a full understanding of its consequences because he's had to dig up the information from outside his home. Moritz, the secondary male lead, is confused because the 'legs of a woman' haunt him at night in his dreams - and this contributes to his suicide later on. Ilse and Martha, supporting females, are sexually abused by their fathers - and their mothers let such acts pass. Melchior later has sex with a confused Wendla and gets her pregnant. Wendla's mother forces her to have an abortion (in one of those dark-alley clinics) and the complications get her dead.

Spring Awakening is set in 19th-century Germany, but God knows it's as relevant today as it will be in a couple of decades. Today, Filipino Melchiors and Wendlas with totally different lives and entirely different stories continue to haunt this country - walking proofs of the backwardness that some in our society unknowingly (or even worse, knowingly) push for.   

* * * * * * * * * *

Closed-ear communication.

During that excruciating homily, a random thought occurred to me.

We have Confucius's Golden Rule: Do unto others what you want others to do unto you. Yet, many of our adults believe that the young are required to respect the old, but the old are allowed to treat the young like trash. Parents can shout at their kids, slap them, punish them, make them do all sorts of things - and yet, the slightest protestations from a child can incur another wave of retribution. What kind of values are we promoting then?

I'm not campaigning for all-out rebellion. I want consistency in the principles and the value systems that we pass on to the future generations. I want communication in the very sense of the word, because shouting and slapping and hitting is never effective communication.

I'm all for mutual respect, because that's the only form of respect that should exist in society.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

American Idol 10 - Top 5

So this week, the contestants sang one song from the 21st century and one from not too long ago, if 'long' equates to a century or more. Not surprisingly, many of the numbers were again headache-inducing, but there were a few that did catch my attention. The Finals are in three weeks and with last night's performances, I'm starting to lose interest in who's really going to win. It's more likely the game will turn towards 'who's going to give the better performances'. Casey's gone, Pia's gone, James is all about the screaming, and neither Haley nor Scotty seems likable enough to be really worth rooting for. Seasons 7 and 8, please come back.

Top 7: Songs from Now and Then

JAMES I: So he sang this 30 Seconds to Mars song, and - guess what - screamed his way to the end. I'm seriously asking it now: Why does James feel the urge to scream through every song he does onstage? I wasn't jumping up and down with this; it almost gave me a headache, in fact. Which brings forth the second question: Is he really the best in this Idol?

JACOB I:  He sang No Air, and yeah, I was pretty much under the impression that he was running out of air. His vocals seemed coated in some sort of goo or something because believe me, even Lea Salonga with coughs and colds would have sounded better. J-Lo's comments just didn't make sense. Randy said most of (his singing) was sharp, and yes, the whole number felt like some sort of dagger was being driven through Jacob's weirdly gyrating body. Most concise description: a failed diva number.

LAUREN I: Vocally, that was fairly spot-on. I think I could listen to that number a few more times. But man, those eyes: so beautiful, and yet so blank. It's like she's going, "Ok, what's my next lyric?... what's my next note?..." Push a little more, Lauren, because yes, you're getting there (perhaps in time for the Finals?).

Can Scotty convince me that he's worth the Finals?

SCOTTY I: That number was the definition of performance. I wasn't going up and down with the vocals (because with Scotty, there's not much to jump for), but I agree with Randy: It was like Scotty in a concert. Gone? Probably not for another week.

HALEY I: Singing an unreleased Lady Gaga song, and sort of nailing it? Not bad. The judges (because Steven is not a judge, just a mere clown) didn't like the number because they wanted her to do something famous at this stage of the competition? Well, yes, agree... if it's about winning. But by performance alone, that was the best of the five, I believe.

JAMES II: That. was. Clay. Aiken's. song. Was it good? Fair. Was it better than Clay's? HELL NO. Emotionally perfect, Randy? Yes. I loved the first half, then the second half just blew it: On one hand, it was so beautifully emotional; on the other - guess freakin' what? - he chose to shriek through the song to the end again. That pause in "I can't (pause) liiiiive" just destroyed it for me. It's like in one second, all the sincerity and truth in that song just vanished into thin air. On the brighter side, miles better than that screamfest that's his first performance. Had he toned this down a bit more, I'd have given it to him for best of the night already.

JACOB II: The emotionally sincere first half just said: Jacob totally deserves another chance. The shouty-wailing second half said: Jacob, please go home. You can't control your emotions? That's the result right there, that second half. Not at all impressive, Jacob. If one wants to be a real diva, one needs to get a grip, because not everything is about belting and screaming and high notes that one can't really manage. 

Yeah, Jacob, scream some more.

LAUREN II: So maybe Lauren was deep down really connecting with the song, but as a viewer, I was absolutely not connecting. She came off as like, "Hey, look at me, I'm singing, I like singing, I'm a good singer." I expected a vulnerable and emotionally naked moment, but instead got some sort of artificial number. Ok, so maybe she really was trying to reach out, but her grasp was just too short. Lauren, this was you're one big chance to pull us in, and you blew it. Sad.

SCOTTY II: There's actually a beauty to Scotty's voice, because when he sings a soft number like that one, the story-telling becomes crystal-clear. That said, he gave half-of-James II and Haley I a run for their money.

HALEY II: Vocally, the best of the night. And the performance wasn't bad, either.

Bests of the night: For the second week in a row, I can't believe I'm finally saying something like this, but overall, it's SCOTTY. And yep, HALEY comes a close second.

Who should go: JACOB. Please go home, Jacob. Please.

Who went: JACOB. In the words of Chicago, coincidentally a musical about two divas, "He had it coming..."