American Idol headed south Thursday as thousands of hopeful singers gathered in Texas with dreams of grabbing their golden ticket to Hollywood. Alas, those dreams would be shattered for all but 54 starry-eyed singers, but there were a few memorable moments along the way.

We were welcomed to the show by Commander Dan Burbank floating 250 miles above the earth in the International Space Station. Back on earth (or are they?), judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler gathered in Galveston, while the night's contestants were corralled in Houston awaiting their chance to be judged.

It seemed the producers hoped to spice things up in Texas, giving a spotlight to a few more unusual contestants. In an audition reminiscent of William Hung, Houston resident Phong Vu teared up as he awaited the judges' verdict of his rendition of "Unbreak My Heart." Although he believed he was destined for pop stardom, the judges weren't buying it.

Phong was followed by a few cowboys, who met with similar fates, before we were introduced to Skylar Laine, 17, from rural Mississippi. Laine, as we saw from the deer head proudly mounted on her bedroom wall, has an affinity for mud-riding and hunting — not to mention a killer voice. After she belted out "Hell on Heels," the judges unanimously passed her through to Hollywood.

Baylie Brown, 21, returned for the first time after she was cut during Hollywood week in season 6. The judges gave her another shot after her delivery of Bon Jovi's "Bed of Roses."

Kristine Osoria, 28, was certainly confident in her singing ability. The mother of three used money saved for a divorce lawyer to buy a plane ticket to Houston. Fortunately for her, the judges sent her to Hollywood, with no cost to her!

The final contestant of the night was Ramiro Garcia, 28. When he was born, he didn't have any ears and the doctors said he would never be able to speak, let alone sing. Thanks to a number of surgeries he now hears and sings – well enough to impress the judges and earn the final golden ticket to Hollywood.

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