The judges "don't have a say this week" in who goes home, so they waved their magic Pepsi wands over the $5 million bonfire and proclaimed "These X Factor contestants shall sing beloved Beatles songs!" It was preposterous, particularly in the case of Emblem3. But let's not jump the gun.
With an all-new LEADERBOARD BLACKOUT this week (another nonentity designed to distinguish this week from all the others, when really it's the same), your votes will be "more important than EVER," croaked out Mario Lopez. His ability to multitask this line-reading while also coughing up a hairball was staggeringly impressive and I take back anything weird I ever said about him.
"This is crazy I cannot believe the FINALS ARE NEXT WEEK!" Khloe Kardashian bellowed in her odd two-toned chat/scream cadence. She's still officially the worst. Moving onto the contestants….
Our old country pal Tate Stevens made a killer choice for his first-round performance -- "Bonfire," by singer-songwriter Craig Morgan. "There's no fancy cars," Tate explained to his cowboy hat twin L.A. Reid re: the concept of bonfires. "People just sit around and play. It's about them. It's about friends." Aw, it was cute watching L.A. grin in bewildered awe as his last remaining act spoke this absurd foreign language about not having a ton of money. Anyway, this was an electrifying performance by Tate and I don't think we have only the flames to thank. The position changes -- down to the front of the stage, then back, then rising gradually on a precarious structure -- worked well for him. It's not like he should pull off choreography per se, but things do get boring when he just stands there. Tate's vocals were on point as usual. Only Britney thought this was not Tate's best work, and delivered a MASSIVE eye roll when the crowd booed her following a comment about needing to "see his heart."
I was disappointed Tate ditched the intriguing shirt he'd worn for the first round -- was it black and grey plaid, or camouflage…or both? -- but he made cranberry work as well during his judges' choice round song, Clay Walker's "Fall." He got to be emotional and take his time with the notes here so the choice was a perfect complement to round one's. To reiterate the meaning of the lyrics, Tate helpfully pounded his chest on "never worry, never fear," and pointed vigorously to the floor on "I'm still here." His wife is one lucky woman, mentioned Demi Lovato again.
Tate's wife Ashleigh wanted nothing for their anniversary except for Tate to stick around in the competition this week. Hey, it beats being healthy and happy with a solid job in your hometown. "There's as much chance of you going back to your old job as me flying to the moon after this is over," Simon reassured Tate. I couldn't help but picture both scenarios and I'm sorry but Simon Cowell's maiden lunar voyage does seem like an inevitability within the next few years. I may be wrong.
NEXT: Imagine all the people cringing at that power note