According to an announcement early in the American Idol Top 13 performance round, two contestants will receive the boot during the Results Show on Wednesday.

In addition to top panelist Simon Cowell’s initial announcement, the crafty Brit also teased that possible alteration in the American Idol structure involving the show’s judges would be revealed. Host Ryan Seacrest said it will change “the entire theme and concept of the show.”

Beyond the rhetoric, what does it mean? A euphemistic way of saying “the fix is in”?

Those harboring such suspicions wouldn’t see it as the first steps during Season Eight the show has taken to artificially enhancing it’s slowly slipping year-to-date ratings.

According to E! News, American Idol producer Ken Warwick said “conversations surrounding the possibility of adding a thirteenth finalist only popped up a couple of weeks ago” due to the eighth season’s high talent level. That’s not exactly how Cowell tried to sell the move, having waited until the show’s closing seconds Thursday to offer North Carolina hopeful Anoop Desai an exemption — and admittance to the finals round Tuesday.

Warwick’s thin explanation to USA Today “it’s almost unfair to get rid of two kids if they’re really, really great” begs the question: Since when has that stopped producers in the past? C’mon, be serious. Combined with a premeditated “we discussed it beforehand,” it smacks of a run-n-gun, self-serving way to shape contest rules.

Despite the moves, Fox reality chief Mike Darnell doesn’t believe the alterations will “change what you think of American Idol,” he told TV Week on Thursday. Darnell said the show is “… American, it’s apple pie. We’re not changing the core of the show.”

Huh? Is Darnell watching the same TV series as we are?

No changes? What would you call?
– adding a new show evaluator,
– stretching the semi-finalist field from 24 to 36,
– whacking the early-rounds talent pool at three times the usual rate,
– inserting a judges-vote-only Wild Card round,
– adding a thirteenth contestant to the Finalist group.

Same old, same old — right? Oops, our bad.

How does that impact tonight’s results episode? Don’t be surprised if Idol judges reclaim more voting rights tonight and/or spin another way to shore up the contestant body to 12 — a prime way to neatly fit Idol into May Neilsen Ratings sweeps.

On second thought, that doesn’t sound like change — more like business as usual.