Host Ryan Seacrest explained: "We're working in teams tonight, so we make it in on time."
Judge Simon Cowell said they had to do it that way because fellow female panelists Paula Abdul and Kara Dioguardi talked too much last week.
Still, the popular Fox talent contest ran three minutes over schedule.
Last Tuesday's show ran over by eight minutes. Judges did not have time to comment on Adam Lambert's rendition of "Mad World."
The division of labor: Cowell and Abdul judged Lambert, Lil Rounds, Danny Gokey and Allison Iraheta. Dioguardi and Randy Jackson reviewed Anoop Desai, Matt Giraud and Kris Allen.
The night's theme: songs of the cinema.
Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, an "Idol" superfan who appeared as a judge on the series' third season, was a guest mentor.
This time, Lambert performed in the middle of the telecast, thereby avoiding the danger of getting clipped by viewer recording devices.
The 27-year-old actor sang "Born to Be Wild" - and, as usual, Abdul went wild. She said Lambert dares "to dance the path of greatness." Cowell was less enthusiastic, saying Lambert's edgy take on the song from the classic 1969 film "Easy Rider" reminded him of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and might polarize people.
On the other extreme, Cowell said he was "bored" by Gokey's version of "Endless Love" from the 1981 romance of the same name. But he called the smokey-voiced Milwaukee native a "brilliant singer
The Cowell-Abdul team enjoyed Iraheta's Aerosmith cover of "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" from the 1998 blockbuster "Armageddon," while the Jackson-Dioguardi duo heaped praise on Desai for his soulful take on the Bryan Adams ballad "(Everything I Do) I Do it For You" from 1991's "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves."
Jackson and Dioguardi were on the same page in reviewing Giraud, who sang Adams' "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?" from the 1994 movie "Don Juan DeMarco." They agreed it wasn't his best performance; Cowell, meanwhile, opened his mouth like he had something to say.
Rounds, 24, of Memphis, was left in the lurch once more.
She endured another round of criticism, this time for her rendition of the title anthem from 1979's "The Rose."
"There's no excuses anymore - you're not the artist we met" earlier in the competition, Cowell said.
Rounds argued back, saying she tried to inject some soul into the Bette Midler song.
"Don't ever be afraid to say what you feel, Lil," Abdul soothed. "Those who matter don't mind."
And that's where the show cut off.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
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