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The X Factor Recap: Double Unhappiness

It’s a double elimination tonight, folks! That means not one but two acts will be banished from Pepsi Stadium and sent back to their humdrum lives never to be heard from again. Speaking of which, who won the X Factor season that One Direction came out of? If I ask you to name the winner of Jennifer Hudson’s American Idol season, how long does it honestly take you to come up with “Fantasia Barrino?” Is Melanie Amaro in the Federal Witness Protection Program? No real reason, just asking.

The show begins with Mario Lopez and Khloe Kardashian in slow motion. They read their lines with such deliberate pacing that I actually briefly think my television is playing at the wrong speed. But that’s not a thing, so this must just be a session of Remedial Hosting 101 for Khloe. Mario reveals that tonight is “intense,” which means it’s different than regular episodes of The X Factor, in that Mario is telling you it’s intense.

And this is as good a place as any to slide this in: Britney Spears has been serving up hot Suzanne Somers realness all week. Maybe that’s why she’s so far back from the judges’ table: maybe she’s squeeze, squeezing her way to shapelier buttocks and thighs with the Thighmaster.

On to the recap and backstage moments package! There is not much to this one, as everyone now knows exactly where they stand in the rankings, everyone wants to move up (or in Tate’s case stay put), so they’re all going for maximum likeability by telling each other how great each other is. Some thoughts:

  • Glee seriously needs to snap Beatrice up right away. She has emotional depth, she can play a high schooler for about the next twelve years, and in working with Carly Rose Sonenclar, she has already proven that she can play against a Rachel Berry type. Plus, I get the feeling she would work cheap.
  • CeCe is doing a lot of trying to cry backstage. That’s her thing now, kind of more than the music is. Someone in the comments section a few weeks ago took me to task for noticing this, pointing out that she sometimes cries real tears. Great. So does Claire Danes. Professional wrestlers bleed sometimes. Doesn’t make it real.
  • Tate offers CeCe a shoulder to cry on: “Anytime you need to talk, you come find me.” I have no doubt that Tate is a virtuous and stalwart husband, but it feels like the beginning of an adultery storyline on Nashville.

Mario promises that one act will be eliminated right now, and after two minutes of panning up and down the stage, he Seacrests us: “The act being eliminated is ... going to find out after the break.”

You know what I just realized is missing from this season — and I’m almost afraid to say it, because maybe the reason it’s missing is that they forgot about it, and now maybe someone from the production will read this and be like, “Oh! We must start doing that again”? Group numbers.

Aaaand after the break we find out that Lyric145 have been eliminated; which is sad, but not much of a shock, as they haven’t had much to do in the last few weeks except shout the lyrics of pop songs, syllable by syllable. They’re charming, though, and I’d put money on Lyric da Queen going far.

What Might Have Been (a new section that I just invented, wherein I share what I wish I’d gotten to see from the eliminated acts. Share yours in the comments! Or don’t! I’m not the boss of you): Simon made the mistake of trying to push these guys in a pop direction, giving them no outlet for the hip-hop talent that got them this far. But pop and hip-hop have collided successfully in the past; wouldn’t their version of Neneh Cherry’s “Buffalo Stance” have been refreshing?

Along comes Taylor Swift, who we are told is very successful, in an outfit that is one necktie short of a full Diane Keaton. She performs “State of Grace,” a song that is about some famous person that I’m not going to bother to look up. Khloe tells her “great job,” and Taylor seems validated by it. Aren’t we all, in our way, waiting for Khloe Kardashian’s approval? She says: “You’ve been a young star, do you have any advice for these people?” Taylor says, “Be nice,” Khloe affirms, “That’s the Golden Rule,” and Mario adds: “That’s good advice for life.” Actually, the Golden Rule is to treat others as you would have them treat you, so in that spirit I will nicely suggest that maybe Mario and Khloe go out and have lunch sometime this week, so that they look less like strangers hosting two different shows in two different languages. It’s good advice for life.

And then Khloe bungles her intro of the contestants and judges, and Mario gives her the same patient but withering look he gave Miss Teen South Carolina.

It’s time to find out who’s safe! This takes forever! Here’s who’s safe:

Arin!

Vino!

Carly!

Diamond!

Tate!

Emblem3! (Drew responds by motorboating Simon Cowell. It is marvelous.)

Beatrice!

CeCe, who begins a whole new gale of fake tears!

Fifth Harmony!

Which means it’s Paige and Jennel in the sing-off, but you wouldn’t know it unless you were paying close attention, because once again Mario and Khloe are off hosting their own individual shows. They pull it together just long enough for Mario to ask Demi to announce the first act, and she is enough of a human being living in the moment to be honest: “I don’t know who’s first.” Demi is disarmingly present in this show. Britney would straight-up short circuit if it happened to her.

But for real: Sometimes it helps to show up a couple of hours and run through some of the important beats of the show before the audience shows up and the cameras roll. Call it rehearsal if you like.

Jennel ends up being first, with a strangely accusatory take on Hoobastank’s “The Reason.” There’s an undercurrent of anger, like: “hey, assholes, I’m doing this for you.” It’s okay, though the one thing that unites our contentious country is that we’d all rather not be passive-aggressively reproached via Hoobastank.

Man, all of these save-me songs are duds. Would it kill someone to do an upbeat one once in a while? I’d swear this show is supposed to be fun.

Paige counters with a slowed-down (always slowed-down, these things) version of “Paradise.” That’s where we are: the Coldplay song is by far the more electrifying choice. It’s actually not bad; when you give them a Chris Martin-ectomy, some Coldplay songs can go on to live full, happy lives. 

And then the judges must choose, but if there’s a tie, we go into deadlock! I’m on the edge of my seat! It’s the back edge! LA chooses Jennel to be sent home, as does Britney, and then it’s time for Simon, who demurs. Mario reminds Simon that he needs an answer, and Simon reminds Mario who signs the checks, and that settles that, so it’s up to Demi. After what seems like 45 minutes of grimacing, Demi attempts to send it back to Simon, and then Mario has a Will McAvoy moment: “Demi, enough fooling around. These are people’s lives and careers we’re dealing with here.” Settle down, Lopez. She chooses Paige to be sent home, clearly hoping Simon will agree and send it into deadlock so she doesn’t have to cast the deciding vote.

But what she has forgotten is that Simon Cowell is a huge dick. He chooses Jennel, saying it’s an easy choice, and that’s that for young Ms. Garcia. She takes the news rather less well than you’d hope.

What Might Have Been: In Jennel’s audition, she sang Grace Potter’s “Paris,” and never quite got to have that kind of sexy rock and roll fun ever again. I would love to have seen her take on Wild Flag’s “Romance,” or Alabama Shakes’ “Hold On,” anything halfway contemporary and playful. Instead, Demi turned her into every singing show contestant ever. Alas!

And then it’s off to the rankings, which maybe they’ll be doing every week, or maybe not? It goes a little something like this:

10)  Paige

9)  Arin

8)  Beatrice

7)  Diamond (this week’s biggest drop, down from #4!)

6)  Fifth Harmony

5)  CeCe (our Leap of the Week, which is maybe now a thing I’ll be doing every week but maybe not! Up 7 spots!)

4)  Emblem3. (Still not at the top, which is just crazy.)

3)  Vino

2)  Carly

1)  Tate

So the top three are unchanged, and CeCe is on a temporary rocket ride to somewhere near the top. Tate thanks his fans, which he calls Tate Nation. I would have gone U.S. Department of Tate, but that’s just me.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to investigate this Taylor Swift. I’m told she’s very popular.

Photo: FOX