I heard last week - and this is just hearsay but here I go anyway - that Clive Davis allegedly told a Big-Name Star who told her contact who told the music connection I was talking to (how's that for convoluted) that "Yeah we already know who the winner is. We're working with them on their album before the season's even over."

I hope there are enough "allegedly's" in the above paragraph...
And granted, this came to me a loooooooong way from the original source.... it's just a thought. It wouldn't surprise me in the least, though... in fact, it would sort of explain a lot.

Is it a law anywhere that in a contest like this they MUST count and tally all the votes recieved, AND honor the count? Where is that written out? Are there any legal loopholes? (C'mon... when are there not?)

I suspect that they really, REALLY want to make good television out of it, which means pitting those toward the bottom who shouldn't be (to increase popular interest), voting off those they don't think are all that marketable, and promoting those they want to win, all so it doesn't "look" as fixed as it may actually be.

I hope I'm wrong.