Christmas is a time for miracles, and Simon Cowell was praying for a big one on Thursday night’s elimination episode of X Factor.
With just one week left in competition, it appeared that one of Cowell’s groups was in jeopardy, but in reality television, you just never know how things are going to play out -- especially when the decision is in America’s hands.
When host Mario Lopez tried to get Cowell’s take on who had the best shot to go to the finals, the seemingly nervous Brit predicted doom for one of his two remaining acts.
“It’s going to be difficult for my girls because the other three are so strong,” he said. “I do believe in miracles.”
And that's precisely what happened: Fifth Harmony, the group who overcame harsh critiques from now departing X Factor judge L.A. Reid (who tried to rename them Fifth Unison due to their lack of actually harmonizing, or so he repeatedly pointed out for weeks), discovered they had earned a spot in the finals.
“I’m very shocked,” said Reid as he learned the news. “Anything can happen.”
As the girls erupted in cheers and tears of happiness on stage, Britney Spears’ face morphed into one of her best expressions yet of the season -- somewhere between disgust and disbelief (we couldn't help but screen grab it).
“I’m disappointed,” she said, “I thought it was going to be the other way around with the groups.”
Of course, this shocking development meant that a favorite from the top of the leader board was in jeopardy, and poor Carly Rose Sonenclar looked so nervous and frightened that for a second it appeared we were going to get another Rachel Crow or Beatrice Miller moment. It’s heartbreaking to watch the younger ones lose it on stage, and Spears looked just as pained as her mentee.
Relief came courtesy of Bridget Mendler who performed her hit song, "Ready or Not" amidst a blast of confetti cannons. The newcomers looked comfortable and ecstatic to be on the X Factor stage. Perhaps she was looking forward to this since her appearance at the Z100 Jingle Ball in New York last week, where she introduced X Factor UK alum Cher Lloyd's set by mimicking her grunts on stage. Bruno Mars also came just at the right moment to break up the tension between the announcement of Tate Stevens predictable status of safe with a spirited performance of his latest single, "Locked Out of Heaven." Now there is a guy that has The X Factor.
“I’m very proud,” said a relaxed Reid, knowing there's a good chance he may have a winner in the category he didn't want -- and that his X Factor retirement is coming in exactly one week. Said Reid: “I can’t even claim to have been a country music fan, but you know what? I am now.”
That left Sonenclar and Emblem3 standing alongside their shocked mentors, particularly Cowell, who earlier in the show had a Cheshire Cat-type grin on his face as he watched his boys emerge to an audience of screaming girls as they handled the rap part on “Coming Home,” by Diddy-Dirty Money. Sonenclar, by the way, handled the Skylar Grey hook with aplomb -- ironically, the two acts earning the biggest applause of the night were left in the bottom two.
But it seemed America had enough of the Fab Three and Emblem3 were let go.
"This is the way it goes on these competitions," Cowell stated. "I'm very, very disappointed. I am gutted for them."
So what did the boy band in? If you listened to the judges on Wednesday night, you would have thoughts that Emblem3 were poised for world domination of Beatles-esque proportions. But in the words of American Idol season 10 finalist Haley Reinhart, who talked to The Hollywood Reporter earlier on Thursday, those comparisons were lofty.
“Comparing these three little boys to the Beatles? I’m sorry, it’s never going to happen,” said Reinhart, who had watched watched Wednesday's show. “There are moments when I laugh out loud with the things [the judges] say. But I am excited for the kids when they do a great job, and that little Carly Rose girl, she’s very young. She’s 13. It’s a great opportunity for them, I know it firsthand. I wish them all good luck. It’s a tough business, that’s for sure.”
Now that his golden boys are gone, perhaps it is time for Cowell to start properly preparing his girls for next week. Demi Lovato has repeatedly said that there have been mistakes with Fifth Harmony -- particularly pertaining to styling and the entire visual presentation. She has a point. Cowell’s desire to turn Emblem3 into his next One Direction (who, by the way, didn’t win X Factor UK, either), may have distracted him from concentrating on his other group, which has a few excellent singers and a youthful approach that, if handled right, can fill a hole in the pop market.
Of course, some say this is Stevens' contest to lose, but Sonenclar has her supporters and a big career ahead of her if she gets scooped up by a Nickelodeon or Disney (she already told THR she would love to do a show like Glee -- hey, it worked out for American Idol season 11 runner-up Jessica Sanchez).
So who do you think has a shot on next week’s finale to win the whole thing? Are you stoked for the return of One Direction to the stage? Pitbull will be performing too, and THR learned that season one alum Chris Rene is planning on attending the finale (here's hoping for a performance of fan favorite “Young Homie”).
Also, what do you make of L.A. Reid suggesting to Access Hollywood that Jon Bon Jovi should fill his vacated seat? (Never mind that Bon Jovi will be on tour during the same time as X Factor auditions in the spring).
Let us know your thoughts on tonight’s results in the comments below.