Thursday’s results show narrowed “X Factor” contestants down to the Top 10. (Ray Mickshaw/Fox)

For the second time, viewers will get to almost eliminate an X-testant on “X Factor.” Yes, viewers get to pick the bottom two, then the four judges get to decide which of the two gets the hook -- unless they’re split, in which case the act with the fewest viewer votes goes home. Everyone clear?

Good. Then it’s times for X-group sing. After last weeks botched lip synch – one of the X-testants was heard to sing loud and clear when they had forgotten to put the microphone up to their mouth – this week’s group sing seems refreshingly live and ragged.

Judge/mentor LA Reid apologizes for being too hard on Melanie Amaro. When he nicked her for her tune choice he was jealous. He does not elaborate and it rings very untrue. We see footage of him nicking her afer Wednesday’s performance show backstage.. He must’ve been some kind of jealous to continue the gag off-camera.

Time for Willow Smith to perform. When not busy being part of the Will and Jada Pinkett Smith clan – the Barrymores of pop culture – Willow’s the chick who sings the wildly popular number about whipping her hair back and forth. She’s followed closely by Jessie J., who is dressed in a Seussian jumpsuit and blue wig.

Enough fun, it’s time to settle this thing, show host Too-Tall Steve Jones tell us, and puts on his best party-pooper face before reading – in no particular order – the names of the X-safe X-testants. One by one, the X-testants are saved till only two acts remain: Lakoda Rayne and the Stereo Hoggz. That’s right, once again two groups are the bottom two vote getters. Meaning that for the second week, Paula’s protégés are elected to put on a singing gladiator show.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this” Steve says, as he asks Paula to introduce the first to perform, Lakoda Rayne. Paula says some nice words but the fight has gone out of her.

They’re performing Jordin Sparks’ “No Air” which is fitting because it starts with a solo by Lakoda Brunette that’s so breathy it’s hard to make out a single word. The three Lakoda Blondes join in (joined by what sounds like another backstage backing girl group) and it’s all kind of indistinct.

Poor Paula next has to bring out the Stereo Hogzz for slaughter, performing Michael Jackson’s “You Are Not Alone.” The Hogzz, four engaging guys who did not get the right material this week, are pitchy and uninspired.Paula listens to the performance on her feet, her hands held prayerfully like she’s at a wake.

Time for the judges to vote. Steve reads the rules; If there’s a tie, the act with the lowest votes from last night’s public voting goes home. Of course, if Simon were coaching these acts, you can bet a loophole would be discovered -- like that 17th contestant save that got him an extra player in Melanie Amaro -- and a new supergroup would be formed: The Lakoda Hoggz, which could then go on to compete. But no.

LA Reid tells Rayne that they’ve struggled, then he tells Hoggz that he’s struggled with their song choices, then he votes against the Hoggz. Nicole Scherzinger says she admires how the Hoggz have grown but “I’m all about female empowerment …so the act I’m sending home is the Stereo Hogzz.” Somewhere in Vegas, the oddsmakers just reduced the odds for all of this competition’s male X-testants by 25%.

Now Steve wants Paula to vote. “I can’t do this, I’m too close to both acts, and I love them both“ she says tearfully.

“I totally understand, but give me a name,” Steve demands.

No, she won’t.

“She’s not going to vote”, says Simon.

Steve: “Are you telling me Paula is abstaining from voting?” Steve asks. “The rules state I have to go with the majority of the other three judges which means you have the deciding vote,” he says to Simon.

Simon leans over to consult with Paula.

“Actually, Simon I have to take it out of your hands. It’s a done deal. If Paula doesn’t vote -- if she’s abstaining -- Stereo Hogzz have to go home.” Because, of course, if only three judges are voting, two have already voted out the Hogzz, so it’s over and Simon’s vote is irrelevant. Or maybe Steve is all about female empowerment, too.

At this point, we imagine a producer begins to shout into Steve’s earpiece, “No, you bloody fool! The biggest rule of this show is ‘Never cut Simon out of any dramatic parts. It’s his show!”

Paula again refuses to vote and looks to Simon to make a move. Simon just looks back, as if to say “No, you bloody fool! It’s my show and I’m not going to be cut out of the dramatic parts!”

“Then I want the Stereo Hogzz, I want to save the Stereo Hogzz,” she wails.

“Paula for clarity’s sake, you’re sending home Lakoda Rayne?” Steve booms, because Paula won’t actually say it, and that Steve is such a stickler for the rules, he’ll run this thing half way through “Bones” if that’s what it takes to get the rules followed.

Paula indicates Steve understands what she’s driving ag. “OK, we got a vote in the end,” Steve says, and that leaves it to Simon to create a tie by voting for Lakoda Rayne, or end it for the Hogzz.

“I need an answer as quick as possible, please,” says Steve.

“The act I’m going to save is the one…” Simon starts out.

“The act you’re sending home,” Steve demands .

“I don’t think America has got to know either act properly yet,” Simon says.

“The act I’m sending home is the Stereo Hogzz.”


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