'The X Factor' recap: Judges pick the final 16 ... er, 17
OK, it's official. Simon Cowell is out of his mind. The good news is that by the end of Tuesday night's episode of "The X Factor," in which each judge decided which four acts in his or her category would be put through to the live shows, and which would be sent home, even Cowell seemed to recognize that he was completely bonkers.
Cowell had a change of heart, which still doesn't quite prove he actually has a heart, but was heartening nevertheless. Because some of his choices were completely and utterly (as he might say) ridiculous.
But let's save Cowell's big last-minute save -- a judges' save before we even get to the live episodes? I guess with a new show, you can make up the rules as you go! For a moment.
First, let's just review how the final 16 initially broke down:
My take: All of Reid's choices are solid. He didn't leave any of my clear favorites (Bradley, Rene and, to a degree, Canty) behind. The only mild surprise is maybe Lomax. I could see swapping Tim Cifers in for him. Like Rihanna, I admired Cifers' humble, family-man outlook. Like Reid, I enjoyed his voice. And as last season's "American" winner and runner-up proved, there's a big appetite for talented country singers out there. But, yeah, Lomax, the crooner, I guess I can get behind him. His secret weapon is that flashy smile.
Over 30s, mentored by fab-haired "hard worker" Nicole Scherzinger: Josh Krajcik, Dexter Haygood, LeRoy Bell, Stacy Francis
My take: Elaine Gibbs was robbed, done in by Dexter Haygood, whose homeless-guy storyline obviously counted more in Scherzinger's estimation than Gibbs' talent. Oh well. I can appreciate Scherzinger going with her "big heart," rather than her head, to pick Haygood, and she did look darn sorry for Gibbs. Scherzinger's other three picks were spot-on (and a total relief), though it was difficult to see the others -– Tiger Budbill, James Kenney and even Christa Collins -– deprived of their dreams. My heart dropped a little, too, Tiger.
Groups, mentored by this-hurts-you-more-than-it-hurts-me weeper Paula Abdul: The Brewer Boys, InTENsity, Lakoda Rayne, The Stereo Hogzz
My take: Sheesh! Was it a foregone conclusion that Abdul would be putting through both groups that had been hastily formed in the last round of auditions? Too bad for the four groups who'd been competing together from the beginning but were sent home, whoever they were. I'm glad to see category standouts Stereo Hogzz included, and imagine the teen-girl set will be pleased about the Brewer Boys.
Girls, mentored by Simon "What was he thinking?" Cowell: Simone Battle, Drew Ryniewicz, Tiah Tolliver, Rachel Crow
My take: Did Cowell just close his eyes and pick random names out of a hat? Is he so blinded and deafened by his own power and self-admiration that he can't spot talent when he sees it? How else to explain his confounding choices? Delusional lyric-forgetter Battle over the delightfully charismatic Tora Woloshin? Lush deli girl Tolliver instead of still-more-lush rugby player Caitlin Koch? Rachel Crow, cute as she is, over Melanie Amaro, arguably the best singer not just in this category, but in the entire competition?
At least Cowell figured out he'd goofed on that last one: "I can feel it in my gut," he admitted in the last few minutes of the episode. "I've made a mistake with someone."
And so Cowell -– who, it seems, got an earful from the other judges –- hopped on a plane and surprised Amaro at home with her family.
"I wanted to personally apologize to you and your family for the mistake that I made," he told the shocked contestant.
Then Cowell invited Amaro back into the competition. At first she seemed to waver. (How long do you think she'd been home, feeling let down before Cowell showed up with the good news?) But then a relative answered for her: Yes, she'd let Cowell off the hook and come back.
That means Cowell now has five contestants in the running, to the other judges' four: Ryniewicz, Tolliver, Battle, Crow ... and Amaro.
"He has a heart," the relative said of Cowell.
Hmmm … Maybe.
What did you think of the judges' picks? Did the right contestants make it through to the live show?
— Amy Reiter
Photo: "X Factor" judges Rihanna, left, and L.A. Reid work with a contestant. Credit: Jeffrey Niera / Fox.