In the gymnasium, TyJuan sets up the microphones and gives the boys last-minute tips about how to compensate if they miss a step. "Any time you have an audience, there's a natural excitement in the air," Ashley says in voice-over. "When you do it in front of a mirror four-hundred times, you lose that." Kids file in, a hustle-and-bustle of twelve-year-old feet that sounds to me like a stampede, but which Lou hears as a symphony of cash-registers ringing up merchandise sales. Trevor repeats that they're supposed to run right in and avoid immediate eye contact. "Coming from TyJuan's opinion, there's no room for mistakes," Ashley says. But coming from the band's opinion, there's an entire guest bedroom being prepped just for Mr. Error, his wife and their four kids. Outside, blissfully unaware of the brainwashing that's about to occur, a gaggle of young girls squeal and bounce in anticipation. Mini-Lou coaches the guys one last time and insists they focus on the breathing. "If you can't get hold of the breathing, all the work you've done up to this point is for no reason," Mini-Lou states dramatically. Erik talks about his emotions overflowing because this, the performing part, is why they're all here. Nicky, a deejay from a local radio station, heads out to warm up the gymnasium crowd. I think she has them doing laps. "Don't let the emotional part of this override the fact that you have a job to do," Li'l Jabba warns his students. "Do a good job and make sure you get to keep it." Everyone gathers in a circle to join hands. Erik and his lips feel that this is the time to shine and get the crowd jumping. Someone spews the hackneyed phrase, "keepin' it real," and Ikaika invokes a higher power by doing the sign of the cross. I suppose he didn't hear the news today that the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost caught the last train for the coast. Ashley catalogs all the people they'll be representing out there on stage -- Mike, Bryan, Paul and the final twenty-five. We see black and white clips of those people as they're mentioned. It's got that warm-and-fuzzy eulogy feel to it. "We're the final five, this is the group, these are our songs," Ash says. "We have to make it happen." In the green room -- here, the storage locker where gym teachers stash basketballs and hockey sticks and teenage heartthrobs -- Ranger Marc tries to pump up the guys one last time. He shouts as though it's halftime at a football game. "What, are you gonna give me shoulder pads now? Am I gonna go tackle somebody?" Ikaika jokes in confessional. His look of disdain amuses me. You know he wants to ask Ranger Marc what the fuck drugs he's taking, but R.M could snap Ikaika like a twig so the tenor refrains. Nicky the Deejay asks for a few loud cheers, and O-Town runs out onto the floor. "Right away I was just like, 'I love this,'" Ashley shares. "It's a rush...it's a like a healthy drug."
The crowd of hormonal girls claps, points and screams way too much for it to be genuine. A few hold up very creative orange signs reading, "O-Town boys." That sums it all up rather neatly. Shrill screaming continues, and the neighborhood dogs come running when the din gets a decibel too high. "Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that" people would cheer without knowing a thing about him, Ikaika says. A familiar intro plays, and the band swings into "All For Love." Ashley's got the first solo, and it's a little weak and soft. Trevor goes solo next, and he's as unremarkable as you'd expect, flat but not egregiously off-key. Girls scream. The camera zooms up to a girl whose face is scrunched because her mouth's so wide open. Yup, she's had her tonsils out. Erik botches his part a bit, as the others all do, but they get back on track and acquit themselves a tiny bit better than usual. One kid looks like she's crying from the thrill of it all, but it's also possible she's been enduring painful electrical shocks to get her bored behind off the bleachers. "The bands change, but the girlies stay the same age," Lou thinks. A brunette in a skin-tight "Boys' Life" t-shirt mouths, "You're so FINE!" at O-Town. But she's near the back row, so I'll forgive her. Lou offers her ten bucks for the shirt. Jacob tries to work the crowd by pointing at them, eliciting another yell from Boys' Life. The dancing is very contained and cautious, as though they're afraid of flamboyantly committing to each move in case one of the others is a step out of sync. On the whole, it's an improvement, but it's still pathetic compared to C-Note -- and it's at the bottom of the boy-band barrel, or it was until now. At the end, the guys all freestyle. Ashley grabs his crotch and wiggles backward, forgetting that the crowd of infant girls is too young to understand the goodies contained therein. "What's up, Southwest Middle School?" Jacob shouts. "Make some noise!" A ruckus ensues, and Lou heaves a sigh of relief that little girls -- and they look like fifth-graders, folks -- are so damn easy. To us, Jacob recalls that the crowd screamed so loud, the singers couldn't even hear themselves so the harmonies were off. Sure, that's it. Blame it on the delirious audience.