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The X Factor Recap: And That’s a Wrap

Winner Tate Stevens performs during FOX's "The X Factor" Season 2 Finale (8:00-9:00PM ET/PT) on FOX on December 20, 2012 in Hollywood, California. Tate Stevens

Two hours. Simon Cowell, you stole two hours of my life with the X Factor season two finale, and though I’m hazy on exactly how this is going to work, I am going to find you and I am going to get them back.

“Okay, sure,” you’re thinking, “these big singing-competition finales are always a little padded. How bad could it have been?”

I will tell you.

The show begins with close to ten minutes of red carpet arrivals and interviews. Of the judges. You know when live red carpet arrivals are useful? When the people who are arriving are going into an awards ceremony, or a movie premiere, or really any other event where they will not be sitting at a table with nothing to do but answer your questions for two more hours. We could lose this chunk. Sure, we’d miss Khloe Kardashian telling Simon Cowell “I love your chest hair” in a strangely somber way, and Britney Spears saying of Carly Rose Sonenclar “I am so nervous for her but also I’m exciting.” But we’ve got a whole show ahead of us to coax awkward moments out of these monsters, so going forward, let’s skip the part where the judges get out of Escalades that have brought them to the soundstage from their trailers ten yards away.

Still, the arrivals conceit does provide one deliciously clunky moment, when Mario and Khloe announce the top three, who are somehow not yet ready to arrive. They’re supposed to start a musical number on the red carpet, but their cars are stuck in closed-studio-backlot traffic, so after their introduction, nothing happens. May I tell you who I don’t want to be around when something doesn’t go as planned? Mario Lopez and Khloe Kardashian-Odom, that’s who. They simply sit and grin through the silence, like they’re sending a distress signal with their teeth, until Mario offers up this priceless ad lib: “They’re so nervous they’re probably backstage making a deal if one of them wins!” Yes, that’s probably what they’re doing.

Here is another suggestion for the producers of The X Factor, offered free of charge: Do a sweep of every introductory improv class in Los Angeles, and you will find two people just as attractive as these two knuckleheads. They may not have the cachet of Saved by the Bell or Whatever It Is We Know Khloe For, but they might be able to engage with each other and the show. Mario and Khloe seem to have given up weeks ago, and tonight they are particularly chilly. I almost think they had a fight just before the show started, but in order for me to picture them fighting, I have to imagine either of them giving a shit about anything, and that’s a trick my brain cannot perform.

Anyway, after an eternity, the top three show up and sing “All You Need Is Love,” and on their way to the stage, they exchange cheery waves with the rest of the top twelve. It’s one Goerge Takei short of a full Old Navy commercial.

The show is also padded out by tribute packages to our judges, starting with a greatest-hits compilation of LA Reid’s head bobs. They string it together to the tune of “Carol of the Bells,” making it look like he’s conducting it, and then Mario tells him, “You were like a conductor there!” Yes. 

Also, each finalist will perform a holiday song. Tate begins with “Please Come Home for Christmas,” surrounded by women in Santa hats and micro-skirts pointing their butts at him. One of the two things we know about Tate is that he’s a devoted family man, so there’s no way for him to interact with Santa’s little skeezers without all of us thinking of his wife, so he kind of just stands there. Like he’s being held hostage. I know how he feels.

And then they go back to his hometown in Missouri, where literally every single person is crying. Everybody on the street, every patron of every diner, every child on every bus. Tate struggles to hold it together, as ever, and Khloe asks: “You keep taking breaths. Why?” No, I’m serious.

Simon’s package is scored to “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” Because, you see, Simon is grumpy. Except that on The X Factor, he’s been kind of a benign presence. So there are maybe two comments from the early days of the auditions, and then the one time he let the shouty gay guy have it, and ... that’s about it. You are correct in assuming that it takes forever.

Fifth Harmony’s holiday classic is “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” Man, somebody at SyCo Entertainment really wants me to come home for Christmas, and I will remind that person that I am at home, and you are making me want to run away forever. Anyway, it’s a little all over the place, and then they go back to all the girls’ hometowns and talk to all of their weeping families, and everybody loves everybody, except maybe the director, who still hasn’t figured out which girl is which; the camera is on Normani while they’re interviewing Ally’s family, and then on Jasmine’s when they’re talking to Celeste’s, and I don’t know whether those last two are actual people, but it’s not my job.

Khloe asks the girls: “You guys have become like sisters. How does that feel?” It feels good, Khloe. It feels good. Of tonight’s two hours, a good 40 minutes are eaten up by questions like these. “You might win $5 million. How does that feel?” “You have so many fans. How does that feel?” Broad, silly questions whose only acceptable answer is “amazing.” Seriously, if you cut all the amazings out of the show, it would be about nine seconds long.

Mario says: “Our princess of pop has given us some really cute reactions. Let’s look at the best moments of Britney Spears!” And then we get Britney’s Fifth Harmony Dowager Countess stankface from last week, the look of terror she flashed when the lights dimmed during the auditions, and then ... some nice smiles. Britney never really melted down this season, but on the other hand, she didn’t do a whole lot of anything. It is a measure of how little Britney has brought to the table this season that at least six of these little snippets are of Britney blinking. The results of the great Britney Spears Experiment are inconclusive.

Carly does “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” and I feel like LeAnn Rimes ate her soul last night. (More likely: drank it.) It’s a bit lackluster and in the wrong key for her and I feel like she knows her goose is cooked. They go back to Westchester to interview her family and friends, and in stark contrast to the last two of these hometown packages, every eye is bone-dry. Amazing things are more commonplace in Westchester.

By the way, several people have mentioned that in last night’s visit to Carly’s hometown, Mario and Khloe introduced the “mayor of Westchester,” which is not a thing because Westchester is a county, which would be governed by a county supervisor. Do me a favor. Look at these faces: [PIC]

Do you see these faces and say, “I am going to explain the details of local government to these people?” Or do you give them something easy to say like “the Mayor of Westchester,” so they don’t call the guy “Mr. President” or “Big Bird” or “Dad?” Exactly.

Khloe interviews some fans, and it goes like this:

Khloe: Who are you here to see?

Fan: Carly! Because she’s so cute and she’s so beautiful!

Khloe: Do you hope she wins?

If this finale were just two hours of Simon Cowell doing a Sudoku and occasionally giving the camera the finger, I would at least respect the honesty. (By the way: She does. She does hope Carly wins.)

After another long introduction of the judges and the finalists, Mario and Khloe announce the third place act, which is ... Fifth Harmony. I have to say I was hoping for an upset here, but I think it’s for the best. In a music industry this sluggish, a $5 million contract amounts to a lifetime of indentured servitude. Be free, young ladies! Be our next 3LW! Go forth with momentum and a much smaller investment to recoup.

Backstage, Khloe chats with some of the other top twelve acts. Diamond is rooting for Carly, because they are best friends! Vino is rooting for Tate, because they were roommates! Drew of Emblem3 says this: “We should get all? The finalists? And like ... get a cabin? Up in Whistler? And like snowboard!” The other two E3 guys jump up and down in approval and it is a genuinely unscripted, unpredictable moment, so of course they cut away from it immediately.

Demi’s greatest moments are actually kind of great moments! She’s spunky! She says whatever comes to her mind! Often in complete sentences! Alone among these judges (and, I would argue, among all the judges of all these shows) Demi seems recognizably human. I have come to like Demi Lovato. There, I said it.

Okay, then Pitbull performs, and Mario says something to him in Spanish, and Khloe reacts with wonder, like he’s recited some kind of incantation. And then there’s One Direction, and I’m doing a thing where I’m trying to determine which one is going to be the Robbie Williams before I learn any of their names. (My guess: the one with the hair.) And then Tate and Carly duet on Miley Cyrus’s “The Climb” while climbing down a staircase. And everything is amazing and everyone is excited and all of this takes a full hour.

Our winner is ... Tate Stevens! Mario says “A life he never dreamed of, and now the dream has come true!” Which is difficult to dispute, really. Carly takes it well enough. She is going to be fine. In fact, she is a Broadway star, a beautiful young woman, a stunning talent, and the heiress to unimaginable wealth; the English language doesn’t have a word for how fine she’s going to be.

And now Tate the family man is going to have to pull his children out of school so they can spend the rest of their childhood on a tour bus while he earns Simon Cowell his five million dollars back. Merry Christmas!

That’s a wrap on The X Factor season two! We are all so much older now. Best of luck to all the contestants, who all have exactly the same shot at actual stardom now. Drew, I’ll be in touch about the cabin in Whistler. Thanks to all of you who went on this journey with me this season. You are ameezeen.

Photos: FOX; FOX