It's the second live results show, and the second week in a row where it all boils down to two of Paula's groups facing off against each other – like Russell Crowe and an unlucky peasant-slave fighting for survival in Gladiator. The stakes are a bit lower on The X-Factor, sure, but nobody has told the show's editors, and God bless them for that.
The contestants are again introduced with a company-wide sing-along. It's a typically elaborate affair, with Matrix-green strings of numbers scrolling by vertically in the background, as each performer emerges in neutral colors. Melanie Amaro is dressed like a sassy judge! In his all-white outfit, Marcus Canty looks like Mayor Goldie Wilson in 1955, just before Marty McFly changes his destiny! Astro and Chris Rene tag team their rap parts, back and forth! Now will someone please tell me what a Swedish House Mafia is, and should I be frightened of them?
After the opening number, a series of clips bring us up to speed on all the juicy backstage drama we didn't see during the previous evening's performance show. "I was overly harsh to one contestant," LA Reid says of Melanie, claiming he was just jealous (!) that she did so well with her Michael Jackson cover. Later, Drew diplomatically addresses a certain sartorial criticism. "I was really comfortable with my outfit," she says of her controversial Neon Insect dress, "Even though Paula may not have been." Snap! My favorite moment of the show, perhaps altogether, is when Nicole asks Josh Krajcik whether he heard her tell Simon, "Don't hate… congratulate," like she's recounting a classic burn. "Yeah, he had to say something back," Josh says, contractually forbidden from leaving her hanging.
Taking a cue from American Idol, the results show guests feel a little shoe-horned in so far. Would it have killed the producers to stay on-theme – perhaps by getting someone known for their soundtrack work to tie in with Movie Night? (Madonna could've swung by and blessed us with her song from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me or something.) Instead, we get Willow Smith and Jessie J debuting their new singles.
A series of factoids flash across the screen, trumpeting Willow Smith's pedigree ("Over 2 million singles sold") though not one of them reads: "Daughter of alpha Hollywood billionaire, Will Smith." The enthusiastic young curiosity is looking to follow up last year's catchy "Whip My Hair" with her new single, "Fireball," so consider yourself sufficiently warned. Thanks to a very literal set design, Willow gets to yell "I'm the fireball of the party!" here from inside of a giant fireball.
Cutting away to a commercial, host Steve Jones announces that Jessie J will be performing next. "It's gonna get real tense in here," he promises of the competition. Yep, right after the second arbitrary guest in a row. How about spacing these out and pretending not to just be padding out the hour? Soon enough, though, Jessie J comes out dressed like an in-her-prime Lady Miss Keir from Deee-Lite: in a skin-tight body suit with a Smurf-colored wig. Her post-performance attempts to flirt with the host go nowhere because, as attractive as Steve is, he doesn't appear to have anything approaching chemistry with other living humans.
Eventually, we get to the main event: the results revealed! Steve reads off the names of the top nine acts from the previous episode, as voted on by America. He makes sure to stress that these names are "in no particular order," in case Twitter explodes as a result of Rachel Crow not coming up soon enough. (He uses the words "in no particular order" three times by my count.) In the end, it comes down to Chris Rene and the two groups: Lakoda Rayne and Stereo Hogzz. Chris looks justifiably confident, but he still celebrates heartily when his name is called.
Poor Paula is again put in a tough position. "It's a nightmare situation," she confides when Steve asks whether it's a nightmare situation. Now it's time for the face-off. An under-prepared Lakoda Rayne performs first, and they seem to asphyxiate on Jordin Sparks' "No Air." The girls step over each other's harmonies, although the one who looks like a chromosomal hybrid of Hilary Duff and Charlize Theron packs a wallop. The Stereo Hogzz come out next and their performance is equally uninspired. The pace of Michael Jackson's "You Are Not Alone" here seems set at "most polite slow-dance ever."
Ever the cheerleader, Paula stands up and sways during both showings. In contrast, Simon looks bored and utterly impassive.
LA Reid is first to vote. "Throughout the competition, I've struggled with your song choices," he says of the Stereo Hogzz, before voting against them. It seems like specious reasoning, but it scans better than "I prefer looking at the ladies of Lakoda Rayne, and whoops: your name is STEREO HOGZZ." Nicole also moves against the Hogzz, putting the onus on Paula who has to cast the deciding vote.
In probably the most dramatic moment of the series so far, Paula cannot bring herself to choose between her babies. She attempts to recuse herself from voting, an idea Simon seems fine with since it's his show and why shouldn't he have the deciding vote? Steve Jones will have none of that, however. Somehow he's convinced he has the power to make rules up as we go along, like Simon does, so he threatens Paula that if she doesn't vote, the Stereo Hoggz will automatically get booted. Paula ends up tearfully voting against Lakoda Rayne, just so the Hogzz have a chance. Fat lot of good it does, though, since Simon votes against the Stereo boys, bringing their journey to a close.
Next week: Will Lakoda Rayne be able to break the curse of Paula's Groups?
Last Episode: Just Like in the Movies