NEW YORK: Paula Abdul stopped just short of declaring Adam Lambert the future winner of "American Idol."
Instead, she compared him to a certain Olympic swimmer.
The "Idol" judge praised yet another Lambert performance Tuesday night, telling the 27-year-old actor that each week "it's like watching the Olympics and you're our Michael Phelps."
Lambert was the final performer on the "Rat Pack"-themed show. He strutted down a neon pink-lighted staircase while seductively crooning "Feeling Good," which has been famously sung by Nina Simone and Sammy Davis Jr.
Indeed, as the popular Fox show winds down to the finale, it seems Lambert is destined for a spot in the showdown to win the title.
Who else will compete to the end?
That's anybody's guess as the other four finalist delivered strong renditions of retro "Rat Pack" standards.
Jamie Foxx — a stylish singer himself — was the guest mentor.
Foxx, who has the hit song "Blame It" on the charts, helped Danny Gokey channel his inner Frank Sinatra.
The Academy Award winner demanded that Gokey sing a few notes of "Come Rain or Shine" just inches away from Foxx's face, holding his gaze the entire time. Whatever he did must have worked — because Gokey wound up on Simon Cowell's good side after the acerbic judge criticized him for a lack of star power last week.
"What you had tonight was swagger and confidence," Cowell told the 28-year-old Milwaukee native.
Cowell was on a roll Tuesday. While the rest of the judges' panel gave Kris Allen high marks for his sexy take on "The Way You Look Tonight," he inexplicably described the rendition as "wet."
Ryan Seacrest, not letting that comment slip by, asked: "What do you mean by wet?"
Cowell's cryptic answer: "Not dry."
Meanwhile, Allen's father made a face.
And Cowell, ever the contrarian, took an opposite view of Allison Iraheta's bluesy cover of "Someone To Watch Over Me."
"I have a horrible feeling you could be in trouble tonight," he told Iraheta, noting a "mechanical" feel to her performance and a lack of confidence.
But Iraheta, who turned 17 Monday, drew rave reviews from Abdul, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi, who called Cowell "crazy."
"If that doesn't land you in the finals, I don't know what will," DioGuardi reassured Iraheta.
The judges were split on Matt Giraud. Jackson rated Giraud's "My Funny Valentine" as a "six out of 10," and DioGuardi — one of his biggest supporters — didn't feel he connected to the emotionally charged ballad.
But Abdul and Cowell begged to differ.
"It was the only believable authentic song I've heard tonight," Cowell told Giraud, who performed in the middle of the telecast. Cowell compared Giraud's vocal phrasing to that of Nat King Cole.
Another aspiring Idol will get the boot on Wednesday's elimination show, and the two-part finale is three weeks away.