Nicole Sherzinger with guest judge Enrique Iglesias on “X Factor.” (Ray Mickshaw)

Thanks to Fox’s schedule-scrambling relationship with Major League Baseball, “X Factor’s” herd-thinning night falls on Tuesday this week.

Show host Steve Jones reminds us that, as the 32 X-testants get whittled down to the 16 who will compete in the live shows:

Simon Cowell is in Somewhere, France, at Chateau Les Girls. LA Reid is at Boys Town in East X-ton, Long Island. Paula Abdul is at Mission Santa Paula with The Groups. And Nicole Scherzinger is with The Overs in Charlie Harper’s hood, whining about this being the hardest thing she’s ever had to do in her life.

Here’s how Judgment Day is going down on “X Factor.” All the X-testants loiter nervously around the various estates that we’ve been told are the “homes” of the judges, pacing in the gardens, huddling in the kitchens. We get video clips of them telling the camera how they’re going back to dead-end jobs and dead-end lives if this doesn’t work out. And it’s all starting to feel like The 99 Percent waiting to have their lives decided by The 1 Percent — and we just wish one of them would shout “Occupy Paula’s House!” and they’d all pull out tents and refuse to be sent home.

Instead X-testants are summoned to either:

a)Stand 20 paces from Simon, who’s seated poolside.

b)Stand 10 paces from Paula, who’s seated in her back 40 acres.

c)Sit in a garden chair directly opposite LA Reid, who has at least decided to give them that dignity.

d)Sit too close, on an outdoor settee, to Nicole, who tucks her legs under her in a yoga-class pose — the Kneeling Celebrity, we think it’s called — while delivering the good/bad news up close.

But before the judges can actually deliver a decision, we the audience must suffer the death of a thousand intercuts: multiple critiques by one judge of various singers are intercut but we don’t know which X-testant is getting which comment. The camera stops jerking around when anybody gets bad news, though. We get to see the shock and disappointment spread over their faces in real time — wouldn’t miss that!

Oh, and everybody gets to make a phone call home with the good/bad news on a Verizon cell phone – we know you’re weeping tears of defeat/joy but could you please hold the phone up to the camera? Thank you.

One other rule: Throughout the show, loud triumphal music will blares – real glutinous stuff, like Carrie Underwood’s “I’ll Stand By You,” which nobody seems to find ironic despite the quantities of rejection going on here.

Things kick off at Chateau Les Girls where Simon is giving his critique simultaneously to lyrics-forgetting Simone Battle – “Simonie” to Simon — and power-singing mechanic Tora Woloshin. No competition here – Simone’s a hottie. Bye Bye Tora!

Next, Simon tells that sweet, 14-year-old, Justin Bieber-loving, small-town girl Drew Ryniewicz, “You weren’t the best teenager” among the girls.

“Oh,” she responds in a small voice, looking heartbroken.

“You weren’t the best teenager – you were the best contestant of the whole day – you are in my final four!”

“Are you KIDDING? Are you serious? Are you legit?” Drew naturally wants to know, adding, once she decides he’s telling her the truth, “You scared me.”

“I know,” Simon simpers as he hugs her.

In Malibu, Nicole is suffering agonies, telling Josh Krajcik – who made about $12,000 last year making burritos – that he’s unassuming and like the guy next door, but she’s not sure the guy next door is a superstar. So, after “weighing everything up” she’s decided – Josh will be in the live shows!

“You are so sweet,” Josh responds instead of pulling her hair, like we would have done. “I think life just drastically changed for us,” he phones to someone back home.

And so, the long night wears on. We decide, about 10 minutes in, why should you be subjected to all this cat-batting-mouse stuff? And, so, we move directly to the Home Visit Winners and Losers. You are welcome.


*In: Simone Battle, who completely forgot her lyrics in her Hollywood audition, then gave a droopy rendition of “Help” at Simon’s House audition, is through, just possibly on the strength of being very cute and having worn a black bathing suit and see-through skirt.

*Out: Tora Woloshin, the spunky car mechanic who gave a low-gear performance of “Satisfaction” in her last chance audition.

*In: Drew Ryniewicz, the wispy girl with the Alanis Morrisette face and the interesting, emotion-laden voice.

*Out: Jazzlyn Little, of the powerful voice but bad case of nerves that limited her last audition. She was interesting to watch but in a train wreck kind of way, so we feel we can be a better person knowing she won’t be around.

*Out: Caitlin Koch, the rugby-league sweetheart of Buffalo, N.Y., who was maybe the night’s only surprise, what with her lovely voice, pretty blond self and good game-day demeanor.

*In: Tiah Tolliver, of the pouty lips and sexy moves, a.k.a. Simon’s big save during auditions against two judges who wanted to lose her because she couldn’t hold a key – or even two keys. Simon plainly is not about to be proved wrong by anybody on this one. We suspect that no matter what Tiah sings, the song playing in Simon’s head is, “Oh, you naughty, naughty girl!”

*In: 14-year-old Rachel Crow, Miss Dimples, whose rendition of “On The Good Ship Lollipop” – no, wait, she really can sing pop songs. No, she’s not going to win — but she’s great casting. “Come here – how could I say ‘No’ to you?!” Simon gushes at little Rachel as he folds her in an embrace.

*Out: Melanie Amaro. Well, they pay Simon the big bucks to make the hard calls, and he’s making it with this one. She’s arguably the best singer of the competition — we even see a clip of Simon telling her, when she first auditions, that knowing someone like her was out there is the very reason he brought “X Factor” to the United States. But there must be only four girls in the live competition show – The Rules are The Rules. And even he, The Man Who Brought “X Factor” to America, must obey. So he sends her home, though with a queasy look on his face.


*In: Brian “Astro” Bradley, who LA had dismissed as too young to be convincing as a hip-hop artist. And of course he’s right, but Astro is a charmer, good for casting, good for younging up the demos, etc. “You’re a champion on my team,” Reid assures him, and Astro starts plucking the shoulders of his shirt saying he’s “got to pop the top of the shirt, brother!”

*Out: Nick Voss, hard to place musically, hard to look at with the tiller-accident hair cut.

*Out: Skyelor Anderson, who simply gave a terrible audition at LA’s house.

*Out: Brennin Hunt, who sings passably well and looks like a guy from a hair products commercial – maybe too pretty?

*Out: Tim Cifers, the self-described “everyday country guy” who we keep seeing in taped bits talking about how this is his last chance in life and it’s back to drudgery jobs to feed his family.

*In: Phillip Lomax, the jazz crooner, a surprise pick, given that jazz crooners never succeed in singing competition shows outside the Berklee College of Music. He looks truly stunned when LA gives him the news.

*In: Marcus Canty, who’s got a great stage personality but was better in his original audition than at Boys Town.

*In: Chris Rene, the likeable rapper just out of rehab whose back story we’ve seen again and again. His opening audition of his own tune was one of the few memorable “X Factor” moments to date – and, of course, as casting goes, people will tune in each week to see if he stays sober. “I wouldn’t want to let nobody down,” Chris pledges.


Something tells us that Paula is kinda angry at drawing Groups—this isn’t the Paula we were expecting based on singing-competition shows of years gone by, the Paula overflowing with empathy, giving that little patty-cakes clap. Don’t think we saw one patty-cakes clap the whole time X-testants were singing their little hearts out for her at Mission Santa Paula, come to think of it. And we never knew “X Factor” Paula could be so cruel as to give some innocuous girl group Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” to sing. Which brings us to:

*Out: 2Squar’d, the innocuous girl group, done in by Paula’s machinations.

*In: The Brewer Boys. With their teen girl bedroom poster looks and their folky harmonies, these brothers were a no brainer for Paula to put through.

*Out: 4Shore. Made up of nice guys. They get to hug little Paula each in their turn.

*Out: The Anser. (See 4 Shore, above.)

*Out: Illusion/Confusion. (See 4 Shore, above.)

Talk about hostile to The Groups—the producers had to go out and form their own Insta-Groups from rejected “X Factor” soloists, they were so disappointed with the walk-in talent. Which brings us to:

*In: Insta-Group Lakoda Rayne, the girl quartet troups across the garden. First, Paula has to work through her quibbles with these groups, most memorably telling one of the Lakoda Raynes that her “facial expression is lacking” (hope it’s not clinical!)

*In: Insta Group InTENsity. Ten very young singers file by in a line, looking like they’re on a field trip to see the working home of a rich person. We also see some tape of a lot of lip quivering on the part of the 10 kids, so we figure there’s no way Paula is going to dispatch them, though she does tell the boys of InTENsity they’re fine, but the girls need work.

And, finally,

*In: The Stereo Hogzz, more nice guys.


*In: Josh Krajcik, the affable and talented Joe Cocker-ish burrito chef, who was always a sure thing.

*Out: Christa Collins, the one-time teen Disney recording artist and self-described Britney prototype, gets disqualified based on a thin voice and generally disquieting air.

*Out: James Kenney, whom we can’t even remember.

*In: LeRoy Bell, the 60-going-on-40, soft-spoken, most likeable X-Testant of them all, goes through, natch, and gets a very big, consoling hug from Nicole, still kneeling. This is a feel-good choice for all of us even if nobody believes he’s going to win.

*In: Dexter Haygood, up from Skid Row, is another feel-good choice, even though we know, deep down, it’s just casting, because “X-Factor” is television — not life. Nicole “This Hurts Me More Than It Hurts You” S. tells him her heart says one thing, but her head says another. On the other hand, she continues, warming up to her theme, her head hurts from all this thinking, so she’s going with her heart, which, she assures Dexter, is “very big.”

*Out: Tiger Budbill, the DJ who’s surely going to lose his home at auction now. But – be brave, Nicole! – he really has to go because his talent was good but not stellar. And, with Josh in, two guys over 30 and overweight exceeds your limit.

*Out: Elaine Gibbs, powerful voice, but outclassed in the ladies division by...

*In: Sobbin’ Stacy Francis, who’s been a vast favorite of the producers, for the difficulties of her personal life and for her ready propensity to make deltas on her face with teary mascara. And she can sing pretty well, too!

And so that’s it. Sixteen chosen and that’s all the X-spaces they’re going to fill, no matter how much good talent is left behind. Talent, for instance, like Melanie Amaro. She was very good indeed. Well, too bad because, host Steve Jones notes, “As night falls across the globe, the final 16 have been decided. …Or, have they?”

Cut to Simon, sitting at a candle-lit dinner table at his place in Somewhere, France, muttering to someone, “I think I made a mistake. … An hour ago I felt fine. … Now I can feel it in my gut. … I made a mistake.”

We think he’s talking about that last escargot he ate, when – whoosh! Simon’s being limousined through a palm-tree lined neighborhood, and knocking on the door of a modest house, in search of – Melanie Amaro!

“She doesn’t know I’m here,” he assures the camera crew. He enters her house and finds Melanie in her living room – with 30 relatives or so, who all just happened to be there at the time.

“I had to come here and tell you something,” Simon begins to tell Melanie while the camera rolls. “I want to personally apologize to you and your family for the mistake I made…I’m going to ask you to come back on the competition.”

Stall him, Melanie! Call your attorney! Negotiate! You’ve got him!

But, no. She meekly accepts. Hugs all around. Wait a minute! Isn’t this show supposed to be a competition among the judges, who are now “mentors” battling to make sure someone on their “team” wins? Simon just gave himself an extra player.


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