Welcome back to the Making Children Cry Hour, a show about breaking the hearts of young people and leaving them inconsolable. It’s sort of like the gladiatorial competitions of yore, only the lions have names like Nicole and LA. On this week’s episode: more children cry. It is quite wrenching. But first: Mary J. Blige!
The performances on Wednesday were met with unusually positive reactions from the judges. None of them seemed to have a problem with much of anything. In fact, the good vibrations even transferred over to how they treated Steve Jones. “The judges were reasonably well behaved last night,” he says. “I wasn’t told to shut up once, which was nice.” He’s joking, probably, but I like to infer from this comment that backstage, all the judges treat Steve how Cinderella’s stepsisters treated her.
Because the hour of airtime on a results episode won’t fill itself, we get a sneak peek into the bustling scrum of madness that comprises the makeup and wardrobe departments. It’s a brief tour through the quick turnaround operation required for the contestants’ two costume changes the previous night. Waifish makeup artist Kristopher Buckle surmises, “These contestants aren’t used to having six hands on them at once,” leaving no room for the possibility that one of them is dating Squiddly Diddly.
The performers automatically moving on to next week’s semifinals turn out to be Josh Krajcik and Chris Rene, the latter of whom spins around like a little kid pretending to be an airplane before giving Marcus Canty a series of exuberant high-fives. After the commercials, it’s time to watch Mary J. Blige perform in the whitest space-businesswoman dress I’ve ever seen, but not before checking in backstage. Here is the first moment we get an inkling that Rachel Crow is going to fall apart tonight.
Little Rachel is already crying when Steve catches up to her and asks if she is confident about her chances. She can barely croak out a “no.” “I’m just trying to get a feeling for how much this means to you,” Steve prods further. Leave her alone, you monster! Just kidding, Steve, we all know that Simon and Paula will break your kneecaps – or, at the very least, tell you to shut up – if you don’t ask such questions.
The last performer definitely moving on to next week’s show is Melanie Amaro, she of the inscrutable accents of late. This departure leaves Rachel and Marcus in the bottom two, an outcome predicted by certain Nostradamus-like Rolling Stone recappers. Steve asks the two how they are feeling. (It’s always about feelings with this guy.) “Bottom two again?” Marcus says with an exaggerated eye roll, but he actually looks at peace with it. As he should – the man cannot seem to be killed. He is the Rasputin of this competition. Rachel Crow asserts that she is okay, but the gulf between the sheer panic in her face and the content of those words is enough to produce cognitive dissonance.
Both of the “save me” songs tonight are repeats, as the previous night’s Pepsi Challenge disaster burned up what they’d prepared for tonight. Marcus Canty revisits his take on “I’m Going Down,” which seems like it couldn’t possibly be more appropriate. He packs a lot of emotive vocal quavering into it, but since we’ve seen him “sing for survival” twice before, it’s no surprise to hear his voice crackle with fiery passion. Rachel Crow, bless her heart, pulls through “I’d Rather Be Blind” again with greater poise than I’d predicted. What we’re now used to with Marcus is surprising with Rachel: the power she invests into the song is evident, intense and fueled by the fear of losing. You can plainly see how badly she wants this.
Rachel’s fans are noticeably more vocal, and it’s looking kind of grim for Marcus. But if there is one thing we’ve learned the last few weeks it’s that you can’t count out Canty. LA is up first, and he pays some lip service to the great job Rachel did before sticking it to her. “I’m a man of principle,” he says. “Based on that, I’m gonna stand by my man, Marcus.” When it’s Simon‘s turn, we get a tiny glimpse into his heart. It seems like he was affected by Drew‘s dismissal last week because he clearly wants Marcus gone. “I’m gonna miss you, Marcus, but you’re going home,” he says with finality. Paula leans that way, too, leaving the decision in Nicole Scherzinger’s toooootally capable hands.
“I can’t make this decision,” she says, with all the plasticine effect of a talking Barbie. “Please, I can’t. Because I’ve been up there before, and I love and adore both of you. I have to go to deadlock, please.” What’s weird is that Nicole cries all the time on this show, but in this moment in which she claims to be so emotionally overcome that she can’t even arrive at a decision, she seems more like a Fembot than ever.
“Are you saying that you’re voting against Rachel so that we can go to deadlock?” Steve asks. “I don’t want to have to be saying that,” Nicole replies. This line deserves a slow clap, everyone, so take a moment to do that and then rejoin me. Still here? Cool. So, Nicole eventually uses air quotes to say that she’s voting against Rachel, as though that will absolve her if this non-vote isn’t received well. The crowd starts chanting Rachel’s name louder and louder, which must be weird for Marcus. It must be even weirder, though, when Steve opens the deadlock card and reveals that Rachel is going home.
After hearing the news, Rachel drops to her knees and goes into full-on Viking funeral mode. She screams with the grief of someone who is the victim of unspeakable tragedy. “I don’t wanna go!” she yells, and then, “Mommy, you promised!” It’s pretty brutal. Even Steve knows to leave her alone at this point. Instead he turns to Simon, who offers some kind words on the young star’s behalf. When Steve asks Nicole to say something, she declines in soap-operatic fashion, but is booed in full force by the audience anyway.
Next week: The remaining four contestants enter the semifinals, a.k.a the Terrordome.
Last episode: The Finalists’ Last-Minute Saves