"I think the judges are somewhat to blame," Ross said. "There's been not a lot of criticism. There's been a lot of 'you're great, you're great, you're great.' They're not really offering any guidelines or direction for the viewers in terms of who's doing well and who's not doing well."
Toscano remained poised as she accepted the news of her elimination, tearing up only during a video clip when she talked about how her now deceased grandfather had inspired her to sing. Then she took the microphone from Seacrest and belted out "Stand by You."
Toscano, a native of Howard Beach, N.Y., had once been considered the contest's front-runner. The judges had often compared her vocal chops to divas Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Celine Dion. She is already being compared to Chris Daughtry, Jennifer Hudson and Adam Lambert, previous "Idol" contestants who either looked like they would win or were sent home early.
Brian Mansfield, USA Today's "Idol" blogger, called Toscano an old-fashioned "American Idol" throwback in the same vein as a previous winner, Carrie Underwood.
"She can throw down a big ballad," he said. "I'm still waiting to see if she can do more than that."
Perhaps it was her departure from her strong suit, the big ballad, that did her in. Or it could have been voters thinking she was safe and not voting for her.
The past two weeks, Toscano had gotten some competition from Illinois native Haley Reinhart, who has had two strong weeks back to back.
Reinhart seems to have found her niche, choosing songs that showcase her bluesy, soulful voice. This week's cover of Janis Joplin's "Piece of My Heart" was an impressive follow-up to her winning rendition of Elton John's "Bennie and the Jets."
Now only two women remain, Reinhart and Georgia native Lauren Alaina, putting the odds in favor of another male Idol. Favorite fellows Casey Abrams, Paul McDonald and James Durbin were put on notice this week by young gun Scotty McCreery.
The 17-year-old country crooner with the deep voice cut loose on stage with his honky-tonk take on Elvis Presley's "That's All Right, Mama," impressing even Jennifer Lopez with some of his moves. McCreery not only sounds like he's about to sell millions of records but he's acting like he could win this "Idol" thing.
Abrams, who was saved from elimination by the judges two weeks ago, appears to be back on track, telling the judges he had to give "150 percent" in his performances now.
"I want to make them proud," he said of the judges. "I want to make America proud, but I want to make these guys proud."
Durbin, considered to be the second coming of Adam Lambert, showed his sensitive side, performing George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," then weeping at the end.
McDonald, who was in the bottom three last week, turned in a fun, swinging version of Johnny Cash's "Folsom City Blues." Last night, he sat on the couch, looking as surprised as his fellow competitors when Toscano's name was called.
If Americans didn't respond during the vote, they certainly did after the results. Twitter lit up instantly with messages of outrage and disbelief.
Nearly everyone looked surprised when Seacrest announced she was in the bottom three, along with Stefano Lagone. Jacob Lusk took the third seat. Seacrest sent Lusk back to safety, leaving Toscano and Lagone, who nodded his head as if he knew he would be going home.
Instead, it was Toscano, whom many had presumed could win the competition.