The acoUstiKats really couldn't lose the week their final episode in The Sing-Off competition was filmed.
If they prevailed, they would move on in the competition for a recording contract and $100,000. If they lost, they were heading to Hawaii, and NBC was picking up the plane fare.
They got their Hawaiian vacation.
The University of Kentucky's male a capella ensemble was voted off the show by judges Jewel, Ben Folds and Shawn Stockman in the episode that aired Wednesday night. At that point in the competition, filmed last summer, acoUstiKat Jeremy Michael Lewis said they knew there was just one episode left before they would have to return to be in the show's finale, which will be shown Monday.
Each week, he said, the show books tickets for all the groups to fly wherever they want to go — usually home — if they get voted off the competition. Under the circumstances, group member Ross Hill had the idea to ask for tickets to Hawaii, and the whole group went along.
"It was the running joke that day that if we get kicked off, we have not missed out on one opportunity — we were on every show except one — and we went to Hawaii for the week off, and came back for the finale," Lewis says. "So it was a great opportunity."
While they didn't make it to the show's final four competitors, acoUstiKats had a noteworthy run on the show, turning in the top performance of the first night, having a member propose to his girlfriend the third night, and generally achieving their goals for the experience.
"We wanted to represent the state as best we could; getting up on national TV and putting our best foot forward, which would put Kentucky's best foot forward," Lewis said. "None of us would be there without the university, and we really tried to remember that the entire way."
Wednesday night's show, the fifth of this season, featured songs from movies. The acoUstiKats were given Bob Seger's Old Time Rock 'n' Roll, which was featured in the 1982 Tom Cruise starmaker Risky Business. Echoing the iconic scene with that song in the movie, three members of the group stripped down to their boxers.
Judges Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman and Jewel gave the group generally high marks for the performance, though there were complaints that their harmonies broke up in the more heavily choreographed moments and Folds said the performance did not feel very rock 'n' roll.
Also on that episode, all groups in the competition were put in "Ultimate Sing-Off" battles for survival. The acoUstikats faced off against VoicePlay in a performance of the Rocky IV song Eye of the Tiger. While the format of the show has been that one group loses in Ultimate Sing-Offs, both acoUstiKats and VoicePlay ended up in the bottom three and both were eliminated.
That outcome, essentially both teams losing, was a surprise to many fans on Twitter on Wednesday night, and Lewis said it was a surprise to the groups as well.
"That was never presented as an option, when we were told about this battle thing," he said. "I know when we ended up in the bottom three that one of us was going home, but I didn't know both of us going home was an option, until it came out of Jewel's mouth."
The judges saved Los Angeles-based The Filharmonic, who continued to the show's penultimate episode Thursday night against country ensemble Home Free, Oakland high school ensemble Vocal Rush, and Dallas-based ensemble Ten, which includes three sisters from Louisville: Sydnii Jazz Raymore, Lenisa Raymore and Teaira Dunn.
During Thursday’s show, Home Free, Vocal Rush and Ten earned spots in The Sing-Off finale on Monday.
Next up for the acoUstiKats could be the Sing-Off tour, which includes a Louisville date March 16. Lewis said the group did not know yet whether they will be on the tour, but they have told NBC they are interested. Lewis said the group has received inquires about a number of other opportunities, though he could not elaborate on them. He did say they plan to record an album, "and you will see at least one, maybe two individual artists from other groups on the show on that album."
But first, they have one more appearance — on the grand finale, the night before the night before Christmas.
Lewis said he couldn't say what the acoUstiKats will do or who they will perform with, "but we all look very tanned."
The Sing-Off finale airs at 8 p.m. Monday on WLEX (Digital 18-1, Time Warner Channel 8).