Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson at the judges table during the Hollywood round. (Michael Becker /Fox)

Last week, the beginning of Hollywood Week was a blur of retching, hacking and fainting as disease swept through the ranks of the auditioners. This week, we won’t be caught unprepared again. Got the vaporizer running, the Throat Coat tea brewing, so bring it “Idol.” Bring on the pain and the pestilence.

“The 42 groups are left completely exhausted,” Ryan tells us, and yet The Pasadena Civic Auditorium has been rented, and JLo’s schedule booked, so they must go on stage and sing their ravaged throats out, in order to qualify for the next round, when they will perform as singles.

First up, The Bettys, a girl quartet we last saw suffering form a combination of personality conflicts and dengue fever. They’re going to perform Blu Cantrell’s “Hit ‘Em Up Style.” Only two sound passable, including Cari Quoyser ,who gives we’re sure will turn out to be the most memorable line of the night: “I’d cry right now but I’m so dehydrated.”

Next, the producers grant us some time with Group Sauce, a very polished three guys --Nick Boddington, Reed Grimm, and Creighton Fraker -- and one chick named Jen Hirsch. They light up the stage with “Hold On” and are sure to all do well in the competition. Standing O from the judges and they’re all through to the next round.

Remember Brielle, who was in a group with Pia Toscano last year? No, we didn’t either, but it’s an opportunity for “Idol” to show us more footage of Pia eye candy. Anyway, Brielle is here with her gorgon of a stage mother, who’s getting a lot of screen time which can’t be good for Brielle’s career in the long run. Brielle’s group is called 6-7-9 for reasons we did not pay attention to last week. They’re passable on “Hit ‘Em Up Style,” though Kyle opens badly – as stage mom had forecast, and Brielle is flat. Shannon Magrane, the leggy 16-year-old daughter of the retired pro pitcher, is not great but very pretty. Judges send the three chicks through – Kyle goes home. Stage Mom tells the camera she really loves Kyle.

Next group contains Patient Zero, as Ryan calls refers to Amy Brumfield. Idol’s official line on all this sickness, on the advice of attorneys no doubt, is that it’s all Amy’s fault because she was ill early in Hollywood Week. Of course, it couldn’t be something got into the air conditioning system at the Pasadena Civic, or something they all ate -- no siree.

Anway, Amy is functional but one of her group-mates, Jacquie Cera, faints, and that’s all Amy’s fault, Ryan darkly hints. Their audition is miserable – Dustin Cundiff forgets his lyrics, Amy’s hoarse. Jacquie is on stage after fainting but even antibiotics can’t cure her pitchiness. The fourth group member, some guy named Mathenee, wails loudly – so loudly the judges put him through, though there seems to be a strong element of pity in the decision.

How much Nyquil can human beings take and still remember lyrics to pop songs? Not much, apparently, based on a whole series of auditioners we see briefly in the next sequence.

Last week, we met a cop from the St. Louis auditions, Alisha Bernhardt, who practically had to threaten to tazer the whole crowd in order to scare up anyone for her “group.” She ends up with three chicks and a guy – hence the group name Those Girls and That Guy. The guy, Christian, has come down a bad case of Idolosis or Idolemia or whatever the medical establishment will name the crud they’re all getting, when the scientific papers get written—we’re voting for Seacrest’s Disease. But the chicks’ performances are also weak, with no excuses. So, it’s not long before we see JLo yawning and they’re all excused. On the way out, Alisha offers to change careers and provide “personal security” to any of the judges.

Hollywood Five is the group of some of the younger and more interesting auditioners we’ve met in episodes past. They include David Leathers, Jr., the tiny teenaged ladies man, and another fresh-faced teener, Eben Franckewitz, as well as Ariel Sprague, Gabi and Jeremy Rosado. They do Duffy’s “Mercy” and it’s fun, so they’re through.

Area 451 member Imani Handy has a bad case of Seacrest’s Disease and her mother is at the auditions, but doesn’t want to tell her daughter to stay off the stage, even though she passes out on her way there, because says Mom, she wouldn’t want to have that between them for the rest of their lives. So Imani takes the stage and is good and loud for a few bars then passes out again – while JLo crush Johnny Keyser keeps on singing through the medical drama. And in the end the judges send Imani home, along with teammates Kristi and Bryce, but they put Johnny through. “Health first and foremost,” Randy intones, a little late for this episode.

The final group is called MIT because The Cowboy Jerk and The Three Other Guys Who Hate Him is too long a name. Richie Law, the lanky cowboy with the swelled head, has insisted throughout that “we’re going to do this my way and that’s it,” while group member Heejun Han savages him off to the side: “he has a mouth, but he doesn’t have an ear.” Richie further outrages the other three by seeking a private video confession session after the standard group video confession session, in which he rattles on with more self-puffery.

In the end, these guys have actually figured out a way to make it work – they take turns doing solo turns, not harmonizing and it’s good enough to get them all through, though none of them are memorable and Cowboy was actually quite horrible. It was “definitely not perfect but we’re judging you guys based on every time we’ve seen you,” they are told -- a rewriting of the Rules of Idol that we were sure would spark a riot in the hall among the auditioners, but none of them has the strength to get up and disconnect their drips to riot.

Offstage Richie throws his arms around his group mates and congratulates everybody – really this guys natural place is in politics—and Heejun apologizes on camera to Richie’s parents for “talking a lot of crap” about him, though his smile suggests he’s not sorry at all, just responding to a phone call from his mother, probably .

OK, hour two -- groups done, solo time! We open with judges Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson jamming with the “Idol” house band and a bunch of auditioners on stage. Should the judges be fraternizing musically with the judges? JLo comes in after, because, we suppose, of the No Spontaneous Performances clause in her contract.

Wow, Joshua Ledet, 19, has a powerful, soulful voice on Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts” and we’re glad his sister talked him into overcoming his fear of flying to come to Hollywood Week. He’s going to do well.

Seacrest’s Disease has caused Colton Dixon to grow skunk hair. He sings something well enough at the keyboard. Phillip Phillips is all jumpy and twitchy from exposure to Seacrest’s Disease.

Jen Hirsch, 25, is a good jazzy/bluesy singer, which is not a ticket to ride on “Idol” by any means, but her “Georgia on My Mind” gets her a standing O from the judges.

Also standing O’d is Creighton Fraker – a weedy guy with a strong voice, singing “What a Wonderful World.”

Suspension of Disbelief Alert: So, Reed Grimm, 26, had planned to sing a cappella, and is only finding out, 30 minutes before show time, that he must be accompanied by the house band. And, apparently, the house band won’t play his song. But all this is his fault and not that of anybody on the “Idol” production staff. Got it?

So Reed, who’s a gangly guy with a semi-comical air, gets paired with a stern musical coach, Peisha McPhee. Naturally, he’s a bit stressed and wants to call his mom for a pep talk. Nanny McPhee won’t let him. “You know what’s crazy about this…” he starts. “Let’s focus,” she says. Anyway, he does end up calling his mom, also there’s a visit from “Idol’s” Associate Music Director and an awful lot seems to happen in just 30 minutes.

Anyway, Reed finally takes the stage and announces he’s going to sing while playing the drums. We like Reed Grimm! He’s actually the most entertaining, least careerist auditioner we’ve seen all night. And in fact, we like his “Georgia” while banging away at the drums.

It’s country time on “Idol.” Seventeen year old Skylar Laine was on fluids in the hospital not long ago, but now she’s really working the stage with The Band Perry’s “You Lie.” But Rachelle Lamb, who memorably brought her toddler daughter in to the audition room on her first appearance on the show, drops the words and generally looks ill at ease for Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me” so it’s not looking good for her.

“It’s time for American Idol to have some white chocolate up here”, says Adam Brock, 27, who looks like a pasty-faced accountant but sounds like he grew up singing in church choirs. He’s a Producer’s Favorite this year and he gives a strong performance of “Georgia.” What’s with the white handkerchief hanging from his pocket? Randy wants to know. Turns out it’s a keepsake from his grandfather and Tyler used it to mop his brow during the band warm-up jam session so, “I say it’s doubly blessed, pressed down, shaken together, run it over!” Adam says.

You know what comes next. The judges make their cut, which involves them poring over a bunch of mug shots of auditioners, like a scene from “CSI,” then the contestants are separated into four rooms while the suspense grows, though you can get a pretty good sense of which are the Rooms of Doom, based on where some of the Producers’ Favorites are not.

Also, the longstanding “Idol” Psych rule, the judges have to pull long faces and pretend they’re going to send everybody in a room home, no matter if it’s a Doom Room or not. And, if it’s good news, that must be delivered with the maximum surprise, though you can see it coming a mile away.

So we’re sorry to tell you that big-voiced Adam Brock, amusing Reed Grimm, leggy 16-year-old beauty Shannon Magrane, and promising jazzy chanteuse Jen Hirsch are all going home.


But Rachelle Lamb really is sent back to her daughter, and the hot NBA cheerleader we forgot about goes back to her previous, non-singing hotness.

“It’s so hard for us to make the cuts,” JLo tells the losers.

“This is the best talent in all the seasons I’ve seen,” says Randy. Are you listening, America?

Tomorrow night: They all go to Las Vegas to perform, where one of the vocal coaches will tell one of the contestants “What’s with the tears -- are you on Ritalin?”