Australian Idol Week 2 Recap: Kleenex Moments, Food Bribes & Premature Predictions

9 February 2023 | 2:34 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

Here are the best and worst moments from Australian Idol episodes four, five and six.

(Source: Supplied)

It’s week two of the audition rounds, and we’re told the enormous Australian Idol-branded truck has traversed 10,000 kilometres in search of the nation’s next singing superstar. The talent being unearthed is of a very high calibre, for sure, but we’re equally captivated by the growing friction between judges Harry Connick, Jr. and Kyle Sandilands (thankfully, they’re separated by fellow judges Amy Shark and Meghan Trainor). Did you know the judging panel has sat through over 5,000 auditions? That’s nuts, right? 

Here are the best and worst moments from Australian Idol eps four, five and six ICYMI: 

Kleenex Moments 

“Apparently I can sing”

Ethan Moon, a 20-year-old restaurant manager and reformed drug addict from Brissie, auditions exactly two years after he checked into rehab – he started using aged 12. The story goes that when he came out of rehab two weeks later, he announced to his mum: “Apparently I can sing and I want to sing for you.” Meghan can definitely relate to Ethan’s sobriety journey since her older brother – who happens to be on set today – is newly sober. He auditions with Half A Man by Dean Lewis and his voice cracks a wee bit, almost like a mini-yodel – he obviously needs help with his breathing technique. With two yeses and a no from Harry, Ethan’s future in this competition comes down to Amy’s verdict. He’s giving her “big sadboi vibes”, Amy says. Um, is that a yes then? YES! And nothing could’ve prepared us for Meghan’s aforementioned bro suddenly materialising to give Ethan a congratulatory hug – we’re not crying, you're crying!

“Yes, ma’am!”

During a video package, Jessica Clennett from Hobart, aged 25, shares that her dearly departed dad Michael – who was an amazing performer, singer and guitarist – would be proud that she’s auditioning for Australian Idol (we later discover that her audition day marks exactly four years, to the day, since he passed). 

Just like Ben Sheehy before her (ep 1), Jessica auditions with Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love and surprises us with her gutsy vocals (‘cause she looks so sweet and innocent). Following her impressive performance, Meghan throws up double devil horns before explaining, “Yes, ma’am!” Adding, “You don’t sound like anyone I’ve ever heard before.” Four yeses and she’s unanimously through to the Top 50. Then during a post-performance interview, Jessica remarks, “I’m sure that he [dad] was watching every second of it” – ouch, my heart! 

“You need to be right here on Australian Idol

Rough diamond James Vawser, a 28-year-old sparky from Adelaide, comes across as a deadset sweetheart with a heart of gold, standing before the panel of judges in his work attire. Following his impressive rendition of James Morrison’s You Give Me Something, the judges hold his fate in their hands and it’s one of the most nail-biting deliberations we’ve experienced on this season of Australian Idol to date (right up there with the emotional rollercoaster Charlie Chech from ep 2 endured during the judges’ feedback). 

Harry even keeps us guessing throughout his closing comments: “James, in life I think you find that there are certain places that you belong and certain places that you really don’t belong [He’s not gonna get through!]. And, as hard as that is to hear [Oh, NO! PLEASE give him a chance to follow his dream…], being on that jobsite is a place that you do not belong [Hang on, WHAT!?]. You need to be right here on Australian Idol.” He’s through to the Top 50! James understandably tears-up in front of the judges and then the waterworks continue while he shares the news with his support team.

“You crushed it”

Is it just us or does Alivia Hollis, an 18-year-old Brisbane school student, look the spitting image of Audrina from The Hills? She auditions with Piece By Piece, interpreting this Kelly Clarkson song as if she wrote it – “I travelled 15 hundred miles to see you/Begged you to want me, but you didn’t want to…” – and Kyle even squeezes out a few tears! Alivia explains her dad walked out on her family when she was around the same age (six) as is mentioned in this song’s lyrics and that’s why it so deeply resonates with her – no wonder her performance was so moving! Amy extols, “You crushed it!” Alivia scores four yeses and departs with a Golden Ticket in hand. 

Proud dad

A 27-year-old wedding singer from Sydney, Kartik Kuna grew up in Singapore. He’s definitely got something about him and is extremely well-rehearsed for his successful audition, during which he performs Treasure by Bruno Mars. When he shares the good news with his dad – who we’re told tried to discourage his son from pursuing a music career in favour of medicine – Mr Kuna bawls his eyes out and we’re in bits. Follow your true passion, y’all!

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“I want to be thrown into the lion’s den”

“I got this! They’re just normal people with lots of money,” Emilie Suter – a 17-year-old plaid fanatic from Adelaide – chuckles, trying to psych herself up before facing the judges. After explaining that music has helped her cope with being bullied over the years, Emilie performs Not Pretty Enough by Kasey Chambers, accompanying herself on guitar, and her vocal tone evokes Dolores O’Riordan (The Cranberries). When Harry reiterates the competitive nature of this show, sharing his concerns about whether Emilie is adequately equipped to embark on her Australian Idol journey right now, her response leaves no doubt in the judges’ minds: “All I possibly want at this point is to be thrown into the lion’s den.” You go, girl! Snatch that Golden Ticket you so richly deserve!

More Standout Auditions 

“Dinner and a show!” 

Wearing a colour palette inspired by Big Bird’s legs (bright pink and orange), 24-year-old Montana Lara – a retail worker and part-time baker (she even gifts the judges personalised cookies with their faces on them!) knocks Chains by Tina Arena outta the park. “Usually when we get food it’s a sign of, uh-oh!” Meghan observes following Montana’s audition. “Yeah, it’s a bribe,” Harry agrees, before Meghan continues, “You’re the first person that fed us and it was dinner and a show!” The judges are unanimous and Montana is a worthy addition to the growing list of Golden Ticket recipients.

“Good is good”

Another self-confessed Harry Connick, Jr. super-fan, 19-year-old voice actor Chandler Campbell from the GC reveals he’s in five bands and two choirs and is also the lead singer of his school’s jazz band. One of Chandler’s teachers once told him he should give up and “would never amount to anything in music” – grrrrrrrrr. His performance of Let’s Face The Music And Dance is a lil OTT, but what a gorgeous tone and stage presence he possesses! “Good is good,” Kyle declares, before admitting, “It isn’t my cup of tea.” Chandler’s smile is so genuine and contagious, and we’re thrilled when he makes it through to the Top 50. Take that, Chandler’s dream-crushing former teacher! 

“Entertaining and mesmerising”

Anya Hynninen, a 19-year-old bartender from Selby with neon pink hair (and matching brothel creepers), comes armed with a “secret weapon”: accompanying her on guitar is stepdad Bernard, who played bass for Hot Chocolate and Santana in his heyday. Ring Of Fire by Johnny Cash is an inspired song choice, showcasing her vibrato and country lilt, and Amy finds Anya’s performance “entertaining and mesmerising”. Four yeses later and she’s in!  

Out of office, activate!

Peter Karagounis, a 21-year-old office administrator from Melbourne, sings Almost Is Never Enough by Ariana Grande and delivers a poised, mature performance. Harry: “Whoever was in your heart that you were singing that to, I believed you were singing it to that person.” He has such a calming presence and we look forward to seeing different sides of him emerge as he advances through the competition.

“YAIRS, Kween!”

Talk about #squadgoals! Triston Joynt, a 20-year-old aged care worker/twerk enthusiast, gets in a huddle with his besties pre-audition and one of them delivers the following pep talk (with a twist): “You’ve got it in the bag. Just do what you do, and if it all goes to shit – shake it off!” He’s immediately loveable and we can just tell he’s a good egg. Some people (ie. Triston) just glow from within, brightening the existence of everyone within their orbit. Triston performs Ordinary People by John Legend with lots of gestures (too many) and excess vibrato, but makes the cut. Meghan aptly extols, “YAIRS, Kween!”   

“The most surprising voice of the competition”

Australian Idol ads have teased “the most surprising voice of the competition” and Jakob Poyner, an 18-year-old caravan park maintenance worker from Narooma, certainly delivers. After speaking openly about his learning difficulties and terrible memory (he forgot his own birthday once, apparently), Jakob says music is “pretty much everything” to him, ‘cause it helps him push through these challenges. He auditions with Broken Cowboy by The Dead South and has an elastic, how-low-can-you-go range. The decision comes down to Meghan and after complimenting his cool, unique voice, it’s a no from her so his dream is over. Or is it? After he’s left the audition space, Harry encourages, “If you’re slightly on the fence, why not give him a chance?” So Kyle and Meghan chase after him. Meghan to Jakob: “I think I made a terrible mistake and there’s nobody else like you in this competition. And if you’ll forgive me and take this we would love to have you in the Top 50.” And just like that she turns his frown upside down.  

Premature Judge Predictions

“You could win, okay?”

Harry Hayden, an 18-year-old school student from Melbourne, started singing in church when he was seven. But once he came out as a proud gay man, he left the church. While he performs I Am Changing (from Dream Girls), we can just tell that performing is his true passion and he belongs on the stage. Amy says she “gets Troye Sivan vibes”. While judging the aforementioned cute sparky James during the previous ep, Meghan shared her disdain for singers who overuse the reach-forward-with-one-arm gesture. So when Harry starts doing this, we worry she’ll get the ick. But au contraire! She squeals at the end of his audition, admits she “got whole body chills” and then gushes, “You could win, okay? You’re a superstar.” Phew! Harry’s an early fave.

“I would bet money that you’re gonna be in the Top 5”

Lachlan Izzard has the best job descriptor ever: Bus Ad Installer. And the 19-year-old certainly divides the judges with his stirring rendition of You Are The Reason by Callum Scott. Amy: “It wasn’t the best audition, and it wasn’t the best vocal…” Meghan interjects: “I think you’re very special and… I thought it was beautiful.” Then Kyle announces, “It’s a bit, like, weak for me. It’s gonna be a no from me today.” I mean, it's certainly not the first time Harry and Kyle have batted heads, and Harry immediately jumps to Lachlan’s defence: “To me, that’s one of the best auditions I’ve seen and I would bet money that you’re gonna be in the Top 5…” (even though Lachlan is yet to receive a Golden Ticket). His fate now rests in Amy’s hands: “It wasn’t, like, a perfect performance, but I always say perfect is super-boring. And that’s why I really still bought everything you did, because it felt real. So I’m gonna say yes!” Cue: tears of combined relief and joy.

More TV Gold

“It’s not a disability, it’s a different ability”

Billy Dyer, a 21-year-old delivery driver from the GC who’s been diagnosed with autism, has a message for “anyone who watches this who has his autism”:

“Just don’t let the autism hold you back because, to me, it’s not a disability, it’s a different ability.” He auditions with Avicii’s Wake Me Up and is such an inspirational, self-accepting dude that we can’t wipe the grin off our face. Amy: “How bad do you want it, Billy?” Billy: “It doesn’t really bother me, really.” Even after only scoring one yes, from Meghan, his spirits remain sky high. During a post-audition interview, he announces, “As they say in a movie that I’ve seen, [puts on his best Arnie voice] ‘I’ll be back’.” He brings so much joy! Be more like Billy.   

“Here for vengeance”

Since her uncle was ‘robbed’ of the inaugural Australian Idol crown when he came runner-up to Guy Sebastian back in 2003, we’re hilariously told Shannon Noll’s 24-year-old niece Tessa from Condobolin is “here for vengeance”. She performs Like I’m Gonna Lose You (why do so many hopefuls audition singing one of Meghan’s songs, in her presence!?) and has a pretty voice, but isn't adequately prepared for her audition. Still, it’s super-cute to hear that Uncle Nollsie told her he still considers his time on Australian Idol to be the “best time in [his] life”. 

Squeaky stage ensemble  

We’re tipping that Anastasia Skourtis, a 22-year-old servo worker from Adelaide, regretted both her choice of audition song (Thriller by Michael Jackson!?) and outfit: a distractingly loud PVC ensemble, which sounds like farts (or stepping on a rubber duckie) every single time she moves.