'The X Factor' results: Twists, turns and now the top 9
Well, although the ultimate outcome of the "X Factor" results show Thursday wasn't a total shocker -- Stacy Francis, who'd started the competition strong but recently had stumbled and made a particularly uninspired Rock Week song choice, was sent home, buying nine other acts at least another week in the competition -- the show itself packed a few unexpected twists and turns. There were revelations. There was attitude. There were moments in which contestants nearly went rogue. (Oh, the exciting possibilities of live TV!) Like the best results shows, nothing seemed predetermined and we were kept guessing until almost the end.
The anything-can-happen vibe was set right from the get-go during the opening number, in which the top 10 contestants sang Queen's "We Will Rock You." Leroy Bell, whose microphone gaffe earlier this season led to the disclosure that "The X Factor" performers regularly lip sync during group numbers, had another glitch that revealed just the opposite. He forgot to sing his solo line when the camera swung his way, and we heard vocal-track dead air until he picked it up again. (I will not call it a senior moment.)
Honestly, it just made my regard for Bell swell. (He's so chill, that guy.) I was sad to think he might be in danger this week. I'd figured he, Francis, sole remaining group Lakoda Rayne and perhaps even Chris Rene were vulnerable. But no, host Steve Jones put on his serious face just after he checked in with the judges (Simon Cowell said that, aside from his own mentees, he thought Josh Krajcik and Astro had been Rock Week standouts) and gave us a quick one-two punch of unpredictability: Both Bell and Lakoda Rayne had been voted through to next week.
The look on Cowell's face was priceless.
At that point, Francis seemed to know where things were headed, and she looked ticked.
Marcus Canty? Safe.
Drew and Rachel Crow, little girls still, really, were clearly fighting tears.
But then, phew, Drew was safe.
Last act to safety? Jones threw the life preserver Crow's way.
And it was Francis and Astro in the bottom two.
Astro? Astro? The adorable kid genius rapper for whom the judges have already predicted international stardom and who had practically already spent his $5 million prize?
Although Francis was dumbstruck, refusing to say a word when Jones, with trademark brusqueness, thrust the microphone in her face and asked her how she felt, Astro initially seemed to take it all in stride.
"Yo, yo, yo. Don't be sad," he said, as if he'd already been sent home. After all, he reminded us, it's pretty remarkable that a hip-hop guy like him had even made it as far as he had.
Astro's mentor, L.A. Reid, for his part, said he felt "very strongly about this young man's future."
Honestly, I would have been more surprised if I hadn't noticed that Showtracker commenters had been expressing dissatisfaction with Astro's performances almost straight through. (Yes, the young rapper had his fans, too, but they were far outnumbered.)
Anyhow, Francis sang the very non-pop song "Amazing Grace" in an attempt to survive.
Then Astro came out and almost refused to play along with the whole Survival Song script. "I really don't think I should perform. I think it's unnecessary," he said. But then Reid talked him into it, saying he'd come too far to give up. And so Astro rapped his way patchily -- heartbreakingly, I thought -- through "Never Can Say Goodbye."
Reid chewed Astro out -- "You acted a little bit like a quitter and it upset me," he said, but then threw his chips his mentee's way anyway, opting to send Francis home.
Nicole Scherzinger, who was Fancis's mentor, predictably chose to save her and send Astro home.
Paula Abdul advised both endangered candidates to "always walk with gratitude," cautioning that it's not how you start, but "how you finish" that defines you.
Cowell zeroed in on Astro alone, telling him, "I don't like your attitude right now." He made him uncross his arms and look him in the eye, and he tried to get him to say that he'd behave better if he landed in the same spot again in the future. Cowell went so far as to mention Astro's beloved mom.
That's when a tear trickled down Astro's cheek, reminding us that this swaggery performer full of blustery bravado was just a little boy -- a sad, disappointed kid from Brooklyn, who'd put his all into the competition despite being sadly separated from the very mom for whom he'd written the tribute that put him on the "X Factor" map. He believed this show would take him (and his family) somewhere, and it had let him (and them) down. The voters didn't like him, and he was hurt.
"I don't want to perform for people who don't want me here," he said, understandably injured.
Though Astro is still a child, Cowell reminded him that he was expected to behave like a grownup. "You know what the rules are," he said.
In the end, though, Cowell saved Astro and sent Francis home.
At first, it seemed as if Francis would continue to give Jones' mic the silent treatment. But then she made everyone else quiet down so she could say the same things everyone else says when they get the boot. She thanked the judges and said she'd "had an amazing journey." And then she kept talking -- "wasn't always happy with my song choices," "take responsibility for the performance," "can't believe I'm going home, but someone has to" -- until Jones cut to her highlight reel.
And there you have it, Stacy Francis is out. Astro and the rest of the top nine will survive to sing another day.
Were you surprised by the results? Do you think the right contestant was sent home? Will the "X Factor" voters forgive Astro for his teenage tantrum?
-- Amy Reiter
Photo: Stacy Francis performs on "The X Factor."
Credit: Ray Mickshaw / Fox