X Factor
Season 2, Top Finalists Perform

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Semi-Great

The pre-credits sequence has not one, not two, but six references to fighting. If it doesn't let up soon, someone's going to have to actually fight. We also learn that only one act will be eliminated this week, in advance of next week's finals. Okay, fine, I'll take it. Get on with it.

Mario and Khloe come out and welcome us to the semi-finals week, in which the top four will be whittled down to the top three. Khloe adds that there will be no sing-off or judges' decision this week, which kind of makes me wonder how they're going to fill three hours. I guess we're about to find out. Mario also announces a "leaderboard blackout" for the duration, which I suspect someone is regretting not instituting from the start. The hosts chat with the judges a bit, mainly to get us used to the fact that Simon's hair is extra tall tonight, making his head look even more like a can of spray-paint than usual, and then the semi-finalists are brought out: Tate Stevens, Carly Rose Sonenclar, Fifth Harmony, and Emblem3. Only on this show could the top four be ten people.

After the first break, the hosts are coming to us from high in the audience as they explain that the contestants will each sing two songs tonight: one that they chose themselves, and one designed to get them to the finals. So the first hour is just the singers performing for their own entertainment, then? Can I just skip to the second half?

All right, fine. L.A. is wearing a big black cowboy hat in solidarity as he introduces Tate Stevens. Who, we're reminded, won first place last week. In his intro reel, he explains to L.A. how he's chosen the song "Bonfire" in appreciation of his friends back home. His wife's had enough of his weekly musical tongue-baths, I guess. The only issue is that as we see in the intro reel, L.A. doesn't seem too convinced this song is going to do it. I admit to being entertained by the spectacle of Tate in "choreography," which seems to involve a lot of bouncing and pumping the mic stand.

At least it all stays in the performance, whose production theme includes mountains of tires shown on the projection screens for some reasons. Which would make it the smelliest bonfire ever. Tate works the unchallenging song pretty hard, belting it out and even ending on a high note, while L.A. holds up his end by keeping the hat on throughout. Britney says it has to be the best at this point, and this wasn't Tate's. Demi, who applauded over her head at the end in a sort of one-eighth standing ovation, couldn't disagree more. Simon gives Tate credit for not picking something mushy and bringing the song he wanted to perform, which made it one of Simon's favorites. Plus, "You look like a man right now who believes he can win the competition." L.A. gives Tate credit for picking the song and helping him have the most fun he's had since the show started. Maybe part of that was the hat. Khloe asks Britney what she wanted from Tate, and she says she's seen it before better. Man, Britney's strategy of running down her protégé's main competition couldn't be more obvious if she were getting out of a limo with it under her skirt.

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