Far from the most exciting episode ever, The X Factor chugged into round two of boot camp last night with a little manufactured drama at the judges' table when Britney Spears fell victim to a moment of empathy. Producers zoomed in on Spears' eyes, trying to find a single tear after 15-year-old Jordan Shane totally tanked and ran off stage crying. "I don't like that she's crying. It makes me want to cry that she's crying. I don't want to cry," Spears whined to L.A. Reid. "You already are," he replied while putting his arm around her while she made a sad face.
Anyway, with 60 acts remaining, the contestants went head-to-head in battle rounds. Each pair was supposed to mutually choose a song to perform, which sounds fair, right? Wrong. Because the truly cutthroat contestants made sure they picked something they knew better than their opponents, leaving many to mumble and melt down onstage. "It's a nightmare, this task," dryly admitted Simon Cowell while wearing the most distracting low-cut shirt we've ever seen on a supposedly straight man.
The night came to a head with a rematch between Paige Thomas and CeCe Frey, who duked it out Wednesday during a Whitney Houston sing-off. This time, CeCe showed her true colors – and we're not just talking about the annoying leopard-print spots that jumped from her forehead to her thigh. "I'm here to win, not necessarily to make friends," Frey said of bulldozing her opponent into performing "Secrets" by OneRepublic, a tune Thomas clearly didn't know.
Indeed, the Rihanna look-alike fumbled and mumbled her way through, but that wasn't her only problem. Her voice was just plain weak and she lacked stage presence. In comparison, CeCe came across as very confident. But aside from throwing her opponent under the bus, it was perplexing why CeCe thought "Secrets" showcased her voice – it really didn't. Still, again, she was the clear winner. And still, again, the judges seemed to be on Thomas' side, with Spears delusionally calling RiRi's twin "very good."
In other showdowns, diva-ish vocal coach Tara Simon sandbagged her opponent, Jennel Garcia, in the same manner by picking Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide." But, in the end, a disappointed Cowell said, "I don't know why you chose that song, either of you." Meanwhile, Willie Jones fell completely flat on "Nobody Knows," a song Tate Stevens picked. After, Reid chuckled that Stevens "hustled" the young black country singer. Also crashing and burning were 540-pound Freddie Combs; Vanilla Ice knockoff Nick Youngerman; and Latasha Robinson, who barely got a few words out before freezing onstage. And in the "mean comment of the night" column, Simon said of Jeffrey Gutt, who killed on "Hallelujah" in the initial auditions but was a bit lackluster this time around: "I think he's had his time; he's had his moment." Ouch.
While the episode was basically a Debbie Downer, there were a few good pairings, including cutesy tweens Beatrice Miller and Carly Rose Sonenclar, who sang the seemingly age-inappropriate but no less charming "Pumped Up Kicks"; and Diamond White and Dinah Jane Hansen, who turned Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger" into a ballad.
Alas, we have to wait till next week to see who makes the top 24.
Previous recap: 'X Factor' Boot Camp Opens With Whitney Houston Sing-Off