Idol: Why the Judges Saved Michael Lynche

 Michael Becker/FOX

On Wednesday night's American Idol, the judges used their once-per-season wild card to save contestant Michael Lynche from going home.

An eyewitness says Kara DioGuardi and Simon Cowell "kept whispering" throughout commercial breaks while deciding if they should keep Lynche, 26, on the show.

PHOTOS: Look back at Idol's Top 12

The audience clearly wanted the Queens, New York personal trainer (who welcomed his first daughter, Laila, during Hollywood Week) to stick around. They were "chanting his name" after he performed "This Woman's Work."

While on stage, "Kara was clearly fighting for him," the insider says. "She was gripping Simon's arm and waving her hands in the air, gesturing at Mike. Randy [Jackson] also got up and went to talk to them, while Ellen [DeGeneres] leaned in. Kara was gripping Randy's arms."

VIDEO: The season's worst auditions

Read article

After Cowell announced they'd use their wild card, "the atmosphere was crazy, with all the judges hugging and Mike blowing kisses to the crowd," the witness tells Us. "Crystal [Bowersox] leaped up and was the first to give Mike a huge hug."

"Kara ran on stage and hugged Mike. He lifted her into the air, her feet dangling. Simon went up and patted him on the back, although Mike hugged him," the insider adds.

So what else happened during Wednesday night's show?

Rihanna pre-taped her performance of "Rockstar 101" after rehearsing it three times. A source tells Us she was "really singing, not lip-syncing."

The Blind Side star Quinton Aaron sat in the audience with a male pal and two security guards. Also in the audience: a lot of signs for contestant Katie Stevens "because her mom has been making extra and handing them out to random audience members," the witness says.

PHOTOS: Last year's dramatic Idol finale

Jason Derulo performed, and the engaged Cowell "couldn't stop grinning" at one of his dancers. "Kara gave him a look," the witness jokes.

Season 7 runner-up David Archuleta sang "Imagine," (Tim Urban whispered to DeWyze, "He's really good") and Season 8 second place finisher Adam Lambert was announced as next week's mentor.

For access to all our exclusive celebrity videos and interviews – Subscribe on YouTube!