'X Factor' Eliminates Emblem3, Britney Spears 'Disappointed'

Fifth Harmony beats out the boy band for spot in the finale

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Ah, the power of the pimp spot.

If you read our X Factor recap yesterday, it probably wasn't as shocking as producers had hoped when Fifth Harmony squeaked by Groups teammates Emblem3 to secure a place in next week's Season Two finale alongside front-runners Tate Stevens and Carly Rose Sonenclar. (Alas, the breaking news that mentor L.A. Reid is leaving the show didn't involve an epic on-screen meltdown over results; the more mundane explanation lies below.)

There was never any doubt that Tate and Carly Rose would sail through to the Top Three, even though the 13-year-old Teens starlet seemed delusionally convinced she was the one going home. The real question was, who would get the remaining slot?

'X Factor': Rolling Stone's Complete Coverage

On the surface it seemed like surfer-dude boy band Emblem3 was a no-brainer for the coveted spot, considering their screaming tween following and the fact they had never dragged the bottom. But our Spidey sense tingled Wednesday night when Fifth Harmony landed the vote-grabbing pimp spot that has become the subliminal way that reality show competitions sway viewers into doing their evil bidding.

When Fifth Harmony was the first act to be deemed safe on elimination night, the girls seemed genuinely surprised, shrieking and hugging each other. Of course they weren't "in" on the ruse, they just do what they're told. But mentor Simon Cowell is no dummy, spending a lot of time hinting at the idea of a "miracle" happening for his girls. Still, he played the role of "shocked" mentor well. "You're dead to me now, Emblem3," he then cackled. OK, we kid, but the boy band must have immediately known their number was up.

Someone who clearly didn't see this coming, though, was Britney Spears, who made her most unflattering face to date as the news was announced. The pop princess doubled her chin, scrunched up her face and comically shifted her eyes in disbelief while Carly Rose looked just plain nauseated as Fifth Harmony and Simon celebrated. Later, Britney admitted she was "disappointed" that the girl group didn't go home instead of the guys.

Recording contract up for grabs: $5 million. Eating Chinese take-out while sitting on a couch watching Bruno Mars perform "Locked Out of Heaven": $10. Reading all the catty comments circulating on Twitter about Britney's and Carly Rose's matching stankfaces: Priceless.

While the show made it appear like Emblem3 and Carly Rose were the bottom two, the leaderboard was actually blacked out and the results were in "no particular order," which almost certainly means Fifth Harmony doesn't have a chance in hell of winning next week. How they've even hung on this long is a little baffling; we think they just got lucky by lurking in the shadows while more polarizing, high-profile acts like CeCe Frey and Paige Thomas became reality show punching bags. Call them the X Factor equivalent of the Big Brother "floater."

Surely they'll be the first to go on the finale, leaving Tate and Carly Rose to fight for top dog status. Tate's mentor L.A. Reid seems to be preparing to go out on a high note, as he just announced he won't be returning next season. While he says it's time to re-focus on his day job as chairman and CEO of Epic Records, it's probably really just the beginning of a broader shake-up as the show limps into a third season.

If it's indeed true that Reid is leaving (and it's not, say, a negotiating ploy), we'll be sad to see him go. He's easily rivaled Simon in terms of being a voice of reason at the judges' table. It's been real, Mr. Chill-Bumps. 

Previously: 'X Factor' Groups Emblem3, Fifth Harmony Fight for a Spot in Finale

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