what I’m getting from the finale, which saw Lee Dewyze win the season nine crown over Crystal Bowersox. Bowersox was the better performer for most of the season, is more polished on stage and is a much better artist. But Dewyze emerged as a contender early and was at his strongest in the weeks leading up to the finale, staying in his comfort zone and looking more confident each week.

Though he struggled to match Bowersox on Tuesday, he had developed enough of a fan base that it didn’t make a difference. He looked overwhelmed when host Ryan Seacrest informed him that he’d won. Dewyze appeared as if he finally grasped how much his life has changed from the days when as a paint salesman, he helped suburbanites pick out the right neutral color for their living rooms.

This continues a tough stretch for women on the show, who seemingly can win only by arranging it so that Blake Lewis is their competition. Since Jordin Sparks became the season six champ by outsinging Lewis, “Idol” has been all guys, all the time, with Bowersox the only woman to crack the final two in the last three years.

Last season saw Kris Allen defeat Adam Lambert, while season seven featured David Cook shocking Simon Cowell by knocking off David Archuleta. For all the talk in January about this being the season where the girls would make a comeback, the voters apparently want to hear the same kind of voices on Top 40 radio that they did a year ago.

What makes the result striking is that Dewyze didn’t save his best for last. Bowersox outshone him on Tuesday, and he struggled mightily in his duet with Chicago on Wednesday. It might have been the worst performance by the eventual winner in the history of the “Idol” finale, but it’s tough to place all the blame on him. Memo to the “Idol” producers: Just because Dewyze is a native of the Windy City doesn’t mean he should have to try and hit notes two octaves above his range. Give the guy a break.

Bowersox, meanwhile, got to sing “You Oughta Know” with Alanis Morissette. Of course, with all apologies to the hilarious Ricky Gervais and the “Pants on the Ground” crew (and slightly fewer apologies to Dane Cook), it also featured the funniest moment of the night.

In a nod to the censors, the duo changed a key lyric to “does she go down with you to the theater.” The original song uses that passage to depict a sex act, while the revised copy creates the visual of a well-dressed duo heading to Broadway to see “Wicked.” That was just … weird.

The big story wasn’t just the winner, but all the Simon tributes, which included appearances by seven of the eight former champions (David Cook was apparently at a charity event) and many of the prominent finalists from recent years. More important, Paula Abdul came back for a ramble-y but touching tribute. And apart from offering Ryan a breath mint when the event began, Simon was nothing but nice.

As for the judge who replaced Paula, Ellen DeGeneres sat around with nothing to do. Ryan and Kara at least got some extended run in the videos, but Ellen’s participation was much more limited. Paula’s return reinforced that Ellen still isn’t really part of the club, which hopefully will change if she returns next year.

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