Now that was an episode of reality television. After fighting through the last couple weeks’ X Factor results shows while desperately wishing I was doing almost anything else in the world with my Thursday night, I finally felt like tonight brought all the tension and anxiety that is essential in keeping people hooked and talking about a show like this. Tonight’s episode came down to a battle between two of the strongest personalities in this competition, and neither were going to go down without a good, satisfying tantrum.
The X Factor switched up its formula for tonight’s results show, and even though I was initially in favor of its decision to reveal all the results at once at the end, distributing them throughout the hour, Idol-style, actually made tonight’s episode feel a good deal more suspenseful than weeks past. Leroy’s fate once again set a precedent tonight; the fact that he and Lakoda Rayne were the first acts to be declared safe made the rest of the reveals all the more suspenseful. For the first time, a solo artist would be going home, which made it feel like we were finally getting down to business.
After the first results, it was time for Rihanna and her pack of writhing street urchins to take the stage. I think it’s pretty much a given that there will be no more lip-synced performances for the remainder of The X Factor after the mini-controversy of the first group performance, but that doesn’t mean that the audio has to be as shoddy as it was here. This performance was actually pre-taped after last night’s show, but I didn’t stick around for it. I like Rihanna pretty well and was kind of regretting the decision, but not after seeing it played back tonight. Weird styling and choreography aside, “We Found Love” is the kind of song I feel like I’m never going to be on enough ecstasy to enjoy. (I am, however, wondering what the set decorators are going to do with that neon “HOPELESS PLACE” light that was hanging in the background. I think it’s just what I need to brighten up my living room.)
Chris, Melanie, Josh, and Marcus were all ushered into the Safe Zone next, leaving Rachel, Drew, Astro, and Stacy. It’s important to note that Stacy began crying pretty much after the first name was called. Though it’s annoying every time Steve reiterates that the results are in no particular order, I understand why he does it, and its more for the contestants than the audience. Drew and Rachel were freaking out, both facing the possibility that they weren’t America’s sweethearts for the first time in this competition. I may not be either’s biggest fan, but they’re still just kids, and the brutality of this show was really starting to come through. But of course they’re still two of the most popular contestants, and of course they were declared safe. Which left Stacy and Astro.
As soon as I realized who it had come down to I was reaching for my popcorn and 3D glasses, Colbert-style, ready for a bloodbath. There was no way Stacy wasn’t going to go home at the end of all of this, but who could have foreseen what an agonizing process it would be to get to that point? I mean, it basically started with the most unintelligibly melismatic rendition of “Amazing Grace” that has ever been sung and came crashing down in beautiful, crazy flames from there. After Stacy finished singing ALL the notes, Astro came out and basically says he doesn’t think he should perform, but rules is rules, so he turns in a fine, if not a little defeated reworking of the Jackson 5’s “Never Can Say Goodbye.” It’s basically a rap about how cool it is to be on TV, and how if he was eliminated he wouldn’t be on TV anymore, and that sure would suck. It was clear that the judges’ decision would come down to attitude vs. talent.
Steve starts by asking LA who he’s sending home. Easy, right? But before LA votes in Astro he lays into him, calling him out for his rotten attitude tonight and saying he performed “like a quitter.” DAYUM. But the judges aren’t done giving the Astronomical Kid an astronomical spanking. After Nicole and Paula spout various soggy platitudes and vote to send home Astro and Stacy respectively, it comes down to Simon. And he just lets Astro have it.
“Think about your mum watching this show!” Simon chastises Astro, drawing the first tears we’ve seen out of him so far—Astro is people, too, you guys! He says he didn’t want to perform for people who didn’t want him there, and Simon is all, “Tough shit, be a grown-up and uncross your arms.” (I’m paraphrasing.) In the end Simon votes for the act that he thinks has the most potential to win it all, and sends Stacy home.
It’s rare to see such pure, unfiltered hopelessness on television, especially on big, thoroughly scripted reality productions such as this. But there is no other way to describe Stacy’s face in the sad little box in the corner as they ran her farewell reel. On the one hand, you have to roll your eyes at a 42-year-old woman who has bought in so fully to the idea that The X Factor would be the answer to all of her professional, personal, and economic problems, who took herself and her prospective pop stardom so damn seriously. On the other, even I was uncomfortable seeing that kind of despair in primetime, and I sincerely hope that the X Factor producers hook her up with a therapist, stat. Oh wait, that’s probably not going to happen, is it?