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The X Factor Recap: And Then There Were Three

THE X FACTOR: Top 4 to 3 Elimination: L-R: Chris Rene, Marcus Canty, Melanie Amaro and Josh Krajcik perform on THE X FACTOR airing on Thursday, Dec. 15 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. CR: Ray Mickshaw / FOX.

Steve Jones opens tonight’s show thusly: “Whoo! Results! Deep breaths all ‘round!” So adorably hostiy and Welsh! But if anyone will need to take deep breaths, it’s ol’ Jonesy himself; tonight’s results show will feature no Save Me Songs and no bottom two, just the live elimination of one contestant, whose identity we can easily figure out for ourselves, so his stretching skills will be put to the ultimate test. It’s time to face ... the ... hour of television that has .75 seconds of action in it. (Was this "no Save Me Songs" semifinals thing planned all along, or were the producers afraid one of the judges would screw everything up? I’m not naming names. I could be talking about anyone.)

The final four’s group number is a medley of “No Diggity” and “Shout,” two songs that are similar in that they are both songs. They’re having fun, though, and showing some personality, which for Josh and Melanie is kind of a new thing. How has Simon not allowed Melanie to sing an up-tempo song yet? (Her dancey “Someone Like You” is dismissed on a technicality. No further questions.)

There is extra space to fill, so the recap package contains glimpses of the final four’s supporters, reacting to the performances via webcam. If there’s one thing I love about webcam reaction videos, it’s that the people in them are utterly guileless and not at all playing to the crowd. And these are no different, right down to the cans of Pepsi lovingly arranged logo-forward on each coffee table.

Steve asks the judges who had a standout night, and the consensus is that everybody is No. 1. They are all going to win. This takes about nine minutes. We continue this important discussion backstage, where Steve says this: “L.A., you must be feeling a bit smug because ... wait ... you can’t hear me ... L.A., you must be feeling a bit smug because ... oh, Paula is walking through the shot now ... L.A., you must be feeling a bit smug because ... L.A.? Where are you going? Come back. Stand there. L.A., you must be feeling a bit smug because ... can you hear me? L.A., you must be feeling a bit smug because you have two acts left in the competition,” to which L.A. responds, basically, “Yes.” Totally worth asking the question 27 times with the exact same inflection and ignoring the actual activity going on backstage. You are a sexy, sexy android, Steve Jones.

Florence Plus the Machine performs a song that goes back and forth between low parts I can’t hear and high parts that sound like she’s singing into a fan. It’s weirder and more grown-up than you think you’re going to get on a show like this, which I support.

On to the results! Marcus Canty is wearing pants that are extremely, distractingly baggy in the crotchal area. The first act through to the finals is ... Chris Rene! The second is ... Melanie Amaro! Unsurprising!

And then Nicole Scherzinger completes her transformation from America’s most ignored pop star to its most openly reviled. Now, you may think I’m being too harsh, but let’s review the facts: Nicole is coming off a week in which her failure to do her job resulted in the on-air assassination of a Muppet Baby. One would think she’d show some humility in her song. One would then sigh with resignation and pour oneself a tall glass of bourbon. Nicole’s song “Pretty” is about how she is pretty but she is also wonderful in every other way, but you’re missing it because she’s so pretty, and so now she doesn’t want to be pretty anymore. No, really, that’s what the song says. Also there is a lot of scowling and growling and lip gloss. Here’s how terrible and ridiculous and misbegotten it was: I’m actually starting to like Nicole Scherzinger.

Back to the results, which again are screamingly obvious. Josh and Marcus are brought out onto the stage, and the act of saying one of their names takes four whole minutes. And ... that ... name ... is Marcus, which we all knew at the top of the hour. He takes it like a champ: “Why are you looking so sad, Steve Jones?” This means (a) he’s more emotionally mature than all of the judges put together, and (b) he can detect emotion in Steve Jones’s face. Marcus Canty: Über-mensch.

Next week: the finals! Chris Rene, Josh Krajcik, and Melanie Amaro compete to record an album you will be briefly aware of! Pick out something nice to wear; I will take you seriously no matter how pretty you look.

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