If this is Miami and this is “X Factor” then it must be time for Boot Camp: Task 2.
In last night’s episode, 124 contestants got pared down to 60 by passing/failing Task 1, which turned to be, well, singing a song while the other contestants sat around on the stage. Which, apparently, is a whole lot tougher than singing a song in a giant arena in front of thousands of strangers, who are going to either cheer or jeer you, and the other contestants sat around backstage.
Tonight, the survivors take on Task 2: Make Britney Spears Cry!
Okay, we’re just channeling the certain frustration of the X-Producers, in that Chief Emotionally Fragile Judge Britney hasn’t come through with a breakdown yet, two weeks into the season.
Task 2 for realsies is that X-Testants must “duet against each other,” as one of the assistant directors says.
“One could make it. Both could make it. Neither could make it,“ says Simon Cowell, Chief Judge With the Most At Stake In the Success of This Show.
“It’s one-on-one. By the end, there will be only 24 left.”
Britney adds “The battle is on, for a place at the judges’ homes,” which we know, from last season, means that the survivors will be divided into teams and each team will be “coached” by one of the judges at a palatial rental property on a hilltop/waterside marina.
First pair: Cruella de Vil and a Dalmatian Puppy! It’s Tara Simon, the 27-year-old vocal coach/self promoter, and 18-year-old Jennel Garcia, a student who tells us this is her first time away from home.
We last saw Jennel strutting around the stage in a sexy outfit, in a performance that judge LA Reid called “spicy”.
Now she sounds like she’s suffering from buyer’s remorse about Tara’s song choice she got bullied into going along with, complaining to somebody back stage that “it would be nice to have a song in my style.”
That song is Fleetwood Mac’s/Dixie Chicks’ “Landslide.” It is the opposite of spicy.
Jennel, who’s donned a dumpy dress for the occasion, sings it simply and tentatively. Tara lays on the runs and licks.
“I don’t know why you chose that song, either of you,” says Simon.
“Was it too mellow?” asks Tara.
“Yeah. You didn’t represent yourself. “I’m going to guess, Tara, you chose the song. I feel really bad for you, Jennel.”
“She totally clipped her wings,” Simon says of Jennel, after the two have exited.
Two 13-year-olds, Carly Rose Sonenclar and Beatrice Miller, go next, and we know how conniving 13-year-old chicks can be. But sadly, they just seem to want to sing, and well. So little drama, such a shame.
Chief Youth Demographic Judge Demi Lovato says she knows “from experience, it’s so hard when you’re that young.”
The Two Tatted Guys, aka Vino Alan and David Correy, are roommates at the Mondrian in Miami, but vow to duet to the death anyway. “Vino is my brother,” says David. “ But today I need to crush the competition.”
The song is Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and they’re both good, though David’s incessant gesturing is tiresome. But Vino is only listening to his inner Simon and thinks he blew it, throwing his hat at a stagehand and stalking off.
“He scares me a little bit,” says Britney. We take that as a sign the producers will not only keep him on, but send him on the home visit to her rental house.
Two kids from poor families will duet-duel next: Diamond White and Dinah Jane Hansen, singing Kelly Clarkson’s “What Doesn’t Kill You”.
Dinah blows some lyrics, but recovers. Diamond ends up sitting down on the stage, which looks silly except LA calls it “genius.” LA has a low “genius” threshold.
We get a brief shot of Texas sister act Sister C, dueting with one very talented 16-year-old named Lauren Juaregui.
“Sister C is annoying,” says Brit.
“You two girls don’t want them and they don’t want you,” says Simon, implying a whole backstory of cat fighting we wish we’d seen.
We get only a quick look at Julia Bullock vs. Ally Brooke singing Guns N’ Roses “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” after which LA gives the instant analysis “somebody won and somebody lost in that battle.” We agree.
Jeffrey Gutt, 36, who brought his adorable toddler son to auditions and gave a knockout performance then, now looks like a man singing in his sleep.
Demi likes him, but Simon and LA decide “he’s had his moment.” We don’t even get to hear the duet partner who must have put those sleeping pills in his Jeffrey’s Pepsi.
The arrival of a Pepsi truck outside of the bounds of a normal commercial heralds this episode’s first product placement!
Seems Pepsi has developed a special flavor of their drink, Pepsi X, with apparently no consciousness that merging those two brands creates a name that sounds like something you’d keep in the medicine cabinet.
Anyway, some taste testing went on and Demi correctly picked the winning flavor. We think it is distilled from the tears of losing X-Testants.
Country death match: Willie Jones, 17, vs. Tate Stevens, 37. The song “Nobody Knows” by Kevin Sharp. Willie barely gets started before he’s forgotten the words utterly. Tate picks it up and sings his part smoothly.
Tate exits the stage and LA asks Willie if he knew the song before. Willie says no. Simon asks who chose it. Willie says Tate.
Demi: “I think Tate knew what he was doing.”
LA: “Tate hustled him.”
Backstage, Willie weeps. At least he’s learned an important life lesson. If a man named Tate in a big hat asks you to duet with him on a country song from the 90s, just walk away, because you will surely end up backstage crying.
An otherwise innocuous two singers, now turned into an annoying made-for-X couple, Normani Hamilton and Arin Ray, both 16, are going with an unconventional strategy. They are actually going to cooperate and sing the duet to each other. “Our chemistry on stage has to be 100%,” Arin tells her patronizingly in rehearsal. They sing One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” and they’re mildly winning, if not super-talented. Let’s hope this doesn’t start a trend.
Here’s an intentional mismatch set up by the producers. On one side; Jillian Jensen, 19, who gave a very weepy audition and got a hug from Demi after revealing that she too had been bullied in her past.
On the other side: Latasha Robinson, 27, who exudes self confidence and says she’s not here to duet, she’s here to “focus on Latasha.”
Jillian is practically shaking in her boots. “After what I’ve been through in life, I really don’t know how to stand up for myself,” she says.
They hit the stage and LA sets up the fight. “Are you feeling competitive with Jillian? You feel you can take her? “ he asks Latasha.
“Oh, yeah,” she says.
“What do you feel about that, Jillian?” LA asks.
“Ready,” says Jillian staring ahead with her wounded animal look.
Big surprise here: Latasha forgets the lyrics and is forced to stand by while Jillian steps up to finish the song with confidence. We begin to suspect Jillian may not be so defenseless as she claims.
Give it up for Britney, who appears to have figured this out better than the producers.
“To go up against Jillian is really hard,” she says.
Speaking of Britbrit, the producers haven’t given up trying to break her down. Several more auditioners bomb miserably.
“I don’t like that she’s crying,” Britney says of one poor failure. “I don’t want to cry,” she says, which is of course the cue for the camera to zoom in close so we can see her trying not to cry. She succeeds. In the control room, they ask themselves what does it take.
Last night we saw CeCe Frey and Paige White, both 21, give back to back auditions with the same Whitney Houston tune. And did we mention that the producers have also put them up as roomates in the hotel?
So of course, they have been set up to duet/duelthis time on “Secrets” by One Republic.
Paige tells a vocal coach backstage that she doesn’t want to perform it, but CeCe picked the tune. “I feel I got played a little bit… I feel like one person has a better advantage against the other because they know the song.”
Elsewhere, CeCe tells the camera “I’m here to win not necessarily to make friends.” We see her painting leopard spots on her legs to match the spots she’s already painted on her temple.
“How did you girls choose the song?” Simon asks.
A moment of silence. Then CeCe says “we were actually going down the list and Paige said oh, what this song “Secrets” by One Republic? CeCe insists her only input was to say, “We could do a lot with it.”
Simon asks Paige why she thinks she should win.
“I don’t fit anywhere except for under the spotlight,” Paige says and starts to weep. “I’ve tried so many different things, I mean besides being a mother that’s about it. “
Cut to Britney who has teared up.
“I’m tired of seeing all these artists do things that I know I can do,” Paige continues, weepily.
CeCe’s turn. She also gets a tremulous voice, though we’re not sure we detect actual tears. She says she wants to succeed like she wants to breathe.
Paige starts the singing as a mumble, though she winds up giving a decent performance.
CeCe, however, is far more confident with the material.
When it’s over, Simon says they both looked exhausted.
“It was warrior time,” says LA, happily.
We’re not going to find out who the surviving 24 are till next week.
First some teasers about the home schooling of the contestants, in future episodes. Demi Lovato will home school her team with the help of guest coach Nick Jonas. Simon gets Marc Antony; Brit will.b.paired with will.i.am. And, for LA, it’s Justin Bieber.
In a hint of drama, we see LA slam down a phone and stalk out of an office. No explanation is given, but we presume he just got a call from the producers, informing him another week had passed an Britney Spears had still not broken down.
“The competition starts now,” says Simon.