'X Factor' Recap: Two Guests Stop By, Two Contestants Leave for Good - Rolling Stone
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‘X Factor’ Recap: Two Guests Stop By, Two Contestants Leave for Good

Plus: The circus, hip-hop choreography and lasers

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Melanie Amaro performs in front of the judges on 'The X Factor.'

Ray Mickshaw / FOX

On Tuesday night’s Thanksgiving-themed episode, the contestants dedicated each performance to the person for whom they felt most thankful. (Parental units were amply represented here.) After Wednesday night, seven of the nine acts have even more to be grateful about – having survived a double-downsizing. None should be more appreciative than Astro, though, who knelt prostrate before an incensed public, and charmed his way back into their good graces. Of course, there are two others who won’t be so thankful; those for whom turkey time will be tempered with tears. We’ll get to them in a minute. 

First, the results show kicks off with a visit from the prodigal daughter of singing-based reality TV competitions, Kelly Clarkson, whose “Since U Been Gone” remains the number one reason to be thankful for such shows. (I’d like to promise that the Turkey Day puns will stop here, but I promise nothing.) Kelly comes out wearing a form-fitting golden dress – perhaps a subliminal clue for the Grammys committee – and performs the lead single off her new album “Stronger.” Unfortunately, Miss Independent is upstaged by the giant screen above her, where words of empowerment compliment her lyrics; words like stronger, taller, and… lonely? That last one must have snuck by. Kind of like the pilgrims snuck by the Indians before the first-ever Thanksgiving. (I am so sorry.)

Next, there’s a recap of the previous night’s events, during which backstage footage affords us a brief glimpse of LA Reid and Simon Cowell squaring off after their earlier catfight. “I’m really, really annoyed with you,” Simon says to LA, motioning for the camera to stop recording. We never see the resolution, though, and it’s not mentioned again, so here’s what I imagine happened afterward: a money-fight in Simon’s Scrooge McDuck-like currency fortress, followed by winner-takes-all arm wrestling. One can dream, right?

The weirdest moment of this episode is definitely the Pepsi Choice Performance. Over the past few weeks, viewers at home were encouraged to vote for the song, wardrobe, and set design of a special Thanksgiving showpiece. Now, America has spoken! They want a stage like a rotating turntable, costumes in the style of The circus, hip-hop choreography, and lasers. “This is going to be insane,” Steve Jones predicts, and it’s the most sensible thing he’s ever said. It’s like the cast of Alice in Wonderland collectively threw up all the way through the looking glass… with lasers. Never before, probably, have the contestants felt more like posable Barbie dolls – if they win, though, there’s a good chance they’ll feel that way again soon. Show business!

Finally, it’s time to get down to business. Elimination business. First, the bottom scoring act and an arbitrarily selected contestant are placed next to each other for reasons of trickery, before one of them is dismissed. Will it be Lakoda Rayne? Yes, in fact, it will. The Lakoda ladies may have stood a chance had they faced off against a different opponent – Drew, however, is all but guaranteed to make it to the final two, so the suspense here isn’t very suspenseful and we can just enjoy the sight of Drew with Raggedy Ann clown hair, feigning actual nervousness.

Before Steve Jones reveals the other contestants who aren’t coming back next week, three notable things happen that blow my mind out of my skull. 1) A Kohl’s commercial features heavily trolled Rebecca Black song “Friday” augmented into a jingle about Black Friday sales. What is even happening here? It’s ironic how unironic this brand of irony feels. 2) Howie Mandel stops by to promote Mobbed, his new TV show, thusly: “It’s Glee meets Punk’d. It’s Glunk’d.” Oh boy. 3) Bruno Mars’ new song is pretty great. I never expected to say that, but apparently every day is a winding road!

Back to the show. After most of the remaining contestants pass through to next week, it all comes down to Marcus Canty and LeRoy Bell. These two are a study in contrasts. Marcus looks unflappable and LeRoy’s entire face is coated in sweat. When Steve asks the sexagenarian how he feels, LeRoy simply says: “Scared.”

Marcus performs first and he brings it in a way that most mama’s boys might not be able to manage. He continues the tradition of on-the-nose potential exit songs with Christina Aguilera’s “You Lost Me”– reminding the judges what is at stake here if the vote doesn’t go his way. As usual for the lad, it’s soulful and stirring – better than most results show performances. There are about two seconds in which to savor the assurance that Marcus stole the show before LeRoy comes out and throws down absolutely everything he’s got.

A lack of confidence has been LeRoy’s biggest hurdle throughout the show, but you wouldn’t know it from the job he does here. During a spare take on The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down,” LeRoy owns the crowd, venturing to the outer rim of the stage and playing to them directly. Nicole stares at him with her trademark look of drunken befuddled hunger, and joins most of the audience in rising to her feet. Now it’s Marcus’ turn to be scared.

After a commercial break, the crowd is chanting Marcus’ name while the mentors deliberate. “If I judge it based on consistency, Marcus, you’ve been more consistent along the way,” LA reasons, accurately. “If I judge it based on sizzle, LeRoy, you’re sizzle factor is unbelievable.” Incidentally, this show was almost called Unbelievable Sizzle Factor before cooler heads prevailed. “If we’re talking who could be a massive star,” LA says with finality, “we’re talking Marcus Canty.”

Predictably enough, Nicole votes to keep her mentee, LeRoy around, as does Paula, leaving the deciding vote to Simon. Interestingly, here he agrees with LA. “In the competition, I think Marcus is nudging ahead of LeRoy,” he says. “But LeRoy, you did sing better tonight. I’m going to let the public decide.” With that, he votes to send LeRoy home, giving The X Factor its first deadlocked vote. (We know this because the word ‘deadlock’ flashes across the screen in ginormo letters.)

A deadlock means that the performer with the least amount of votes the previous night is booted off, killer Beatles cover notwithstanding. And so, we bid ado to the knitted hat, neatly trimmed goatee, and supernaturally youthful glow of the show’s sole senior citizen.

Next week: Is the public’s ill will toward Astro truly behind him?

Last Episode: Marcus Canty Throws a Mamapalooza


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