Before the performances even begin, there's a dramatization of last week's already way-dramatic Rachelgate affair. Everything occurs in slow-motion, like a parody of reenactments you might find on The Simpsons. Then, suddenly, the final four are on the beach for some reason, spouting interchangeably obvious statements about the ever-rising stakes. "I want to be one of the three standing on the stage in the finals," Chris Rene says, which we might have already inferred. Let the semifinals commence!
The un-killable Marcus Canty is up first. "This is for that special lady," he says. I'm sure he means his mom again, but then Marcus launches into "I'll Make Love to You" by Boyz II Men, and I stand super-corrected. He sounds strong and in control for the most part, but the background dancers are all doing weird performance-art cycles in red nightgowns and at one point, our man gives a single white rose to a girl in the crowd. It's all a bit much, but at least we can count on Nicole to say something incisive and/or relevant about it: "Marcus, you're bringing sexy back." Never mind. Now that Marcus has outlasted Simon's girls for two weeks in a row, Mr. Cowell is out for blood. "You were trying too many weird things at once," he says. "It was distracting, very corny, and for me the problem is you didn't change the song enough." Marcus' performance was by no means amazing, but this sounds like revenge talk.
Next, Chris Rene is saddled with Sugar Ray's "Fly" for his Pepsi Challenge song. "It's party time," he says en route to the stage, but considering the leather jacket with Dracula collar he's rocking, it seems like the kind of party you might throw on a goblin costume before attending. Unlike Marcus' sexyback squad, the dancers here are diverse in gender, age, race and probably political affiliation. Aside from a rap interlude in the middle, Chris sounds a little awkward and behind the beat. No matter, though. The crowd chants Chris' name afterward to the tune of "USA! USA!" and the judges basically do, too, barely touching on his actual singing. "You have the sparkle of a star," LA says. "What I like about you is that you make us feel good, whether onstage or off," notes Nicole, before mentioning that Chris looks like a million bucks. Paula disagrees, though. "You look like five million bucks… after taxes." Then she keeps going: "Plain and simple, you have the gift to communicate to the world. Your heart resonates with the world." Ironically, it's a statement that couldn't be communicated aptly to anyone in the world. Simon is more straightforward, at least: "Is it the best vocal performance I've heard from you so far? No," he says. "You've got one more chance to nail this."
Melanie Amaro appears with Sudden Beyoncé Hair to perform Mariah Carey's "Hero." The song was picked for her by the audience, but you can tell she's happy about it and she sounds terrific singing it. LA objects to the predictability, though, and more. "When you started, I didn't feel your love for the song – your usual passion." Paula praises Melanie, but complains about Simon's switching of the major chords to minor. Simon defends himself against this criticism by venting his distaste for karaoke, decreeing Marcus' song as rote and karaoke-esque in comparison to Melanie's. Dude really wants Marcus to go down.
The Beatles' "Come Together" sounds wonderful coming out of Josh Krajcik. He isn't very dynamic in terms of movement, though, mostly planted in one spot. LA gives one of his typical backhanded compliments, saying this is the best he's seen Josh in a few weeks. But what does Paula think? "Josh, you have the ability to not only affect our souls, but to attack our souls. You get into us," she says, likening Josh to a spiritual Osmosis Jones. Nicole then revisits last week's conversation about the intense look in Josh's eyes, calling it a look of "steel." Oddly, this is what prompts Simon to finally ask, "What the hell are you talking about?" Nobody knows, Simon.
Marcus's second song is a techno-remixed version of "Careless Whisper" that trades in sax solos for clubland bounce; the whole thing ends in confetti and another sappy wink to the audience. Nicole and Paula are happy, but Simon lays into Marcus yet again. "That was horrific," he says, causing the audience to drop their collective monocles. "It was like a Las Vegas stage show in 1983. It's not your fault, but that was a joke." Somehow, this doesn't lead to the Simon vs. LA monster battle we've been building toward all along.
A lot is made of the fact that Chris will be playing the piano in his next song, but he just does the intro to Alicia Keys' "No One" and then ditches it. He does a nice job with the song, though, and deserves a more lucid assessment than what follows. "Your spirit transcends across the universe," Nicole says. Again, LA dodges an honest appraisal of Chris's singing. "Stardom was never about singing," LA says. "It's about lovability. And you've got lovability." Okay! The only problem is: THIS IS A SINGING COMPETITION.
With her second song, Melanie does Nina Simone proud with "Feeling Good." "I know why you're the only female left," LA says afterward. "It's because you're the greatest female to ever grace this stage." Nicole is so moved, she can't even speak properly. Like, not even for her. "It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a lou life," she says. "That's the Amelanie Amaro anthem. Your freedom anthem." Paula sees Nicole's weird verbal gaffes and raises them to the power of That's-What-She-Said: "I'm feeling you, Melanie, and it feels good." Simon appraises the performance as Melanie's greatest to date, and pleads with the audience to vote for her.
Before Josh comes on again, we see a backstage scene from last week. While Nicole hugs Josh in victory, robot eyes open wide, she says: "Yay, buddy, let's get back to work!" Just let the man enjoy his moment, Coach! Josh's "Hallelujah," is a little overly familiar, perhaps, but with his amber vocals, it's the real deal. LA bemoans the song's lack of excitement, which causes Paula to get sad. "How could you ever say that?" she demands, choking back tears. Simon takes a moment to describe how the amount of money at stake here demands his total honesty before voicing his agreement with… Paula. Boom goes the dynamite. Crowd obliterated. Classic Simon fakeout. Finally, Nicole closes the night out with another astute assessment: "That song was like a beautiful prayer and you're just a gift to all of us." Indeed! Now let's get back to work!
Predictions for tonight: At this point, I don't think any of us can say they'll be surprised if Marcus Canty makes it to next week.
Last episode: Rachel Crow Breaks Down