Paula Abdul coming back as a guest judge hasn't been the only recent surprise on American Idol. On Monday, during the ABC program's first live show of the season, host Ryan Seacrest made an unexpected announcement that one of the singing competition's lead contenders, Wyatt Pike, who'd just made it into the top 12, had left the show. "He had to drop out, but we wish him the very best," Seacrest said, with no further elaboration, per People. An AI spokesperson would only add Pike's departure was for "personal reasons," the magazine noted. The news shocked viewers, who, along with the judges, had fallen in love with the 20-year-old singer's "folksy charm," per USA Today.
Fans had already started to wonder what was going on even before Seacrest's announcement, as Pike had put up a cryptic Instagram post on April 7 tagging his hometown of Park City, Utah (not Los Angeles, where American Idol is taping its live shows) and noting, "Something to feel this through: home. Thankful for the rollercoaster I'm on today." A Wednesday Instagram post from Pike didn't clear much up about why he'd left the show, though he gave fans a reason to be hopeful. "I had to leave the @AmericanIdol competition for personal reasons but am so thankful I get to play music for the rest of my life," he wrote. After wishing his former competitors good luck and thanking everyone for their support, Pike added: "Do stick around for more musical things soon!" He offered a taste of that promise Thursday by posting a clip of himself playing a snippet of Thirdstory's "Searching for a Feeling." (Claudia Conway had previously been the biggest news on this season of AI.)