As host of American Idol, Ryan Seacrest has the unenviable task every week of telling one finalist on the hit show that his or her "journey has ended." But the way he delivered the news to this week’s evictee, Michael Johns, has some Idol fans crying foul.

At the end of Thursday’s live results show, which continued the week’s charitable Idol Gives Back theme, Ryan delivered the bad news to Michael, who had been placed in the bottom three with fellow finalists Syesha Mercado and Carly Smithson, that he had received the lowest number of votes.

And then, in what appeared to be a hopeful surprise twist, the Idol host reminded everyone that during last year’s Idol Gives Back week, all the finalists were given a reprieve and no one was sent home.

"You could see in Michael’s eyes that he seemed to think he was going to be safe," one person in the Idol audience tells OK!. "And the audience seemed poised to cheer for the good news."

Alas, for the handsome Aussie transplant and his legion of fans, Ryan was only jerking his chain, as he announced that Michael would not be so lucky and would indeed not be returning next week.

"That was a real low blow," longtime American Idol fan Megan told OK! after watching the show. "There was no reason to be so mean and tease him like that."

Michael did his best to maintain his composure after the shocking dismissal. Following his encore of Aerosmith’s "Dream On," he hugged judges Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul and even shared a manly handshake with Simon Cowell before heading backstage.

A few weeks ago, the married 29-year-old told OK! that being the AI champ isn’t always the key to having a solid career. "I think what American Idol is showing now is you don’t have to win this thing," he explained. "If I win, great, but if not, I at least want to be able to get my face out there, to say, ‘Okay, I know exactly what kind of record that guy is going to make and I want to buy it.’ "

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