Next we meet Marcus Canty, who's 20 years old and blessedly normal-seeming. His mom says she gave him two years to pursue a music career before he has to go to school, and Marcus tells us that this is his last chance. Then there's a bit of experimentation with narrative form not often seen in this kind of show: a title card reading "10 minutes later," and a cut to Marcus sprawled on the audition stage, Paula's voice coming to him from an even greater distance than Paula's voice usually comes from. And then we have to wait through a whole ad break to find out what Marcus's major malfunction was. In what I guess is now a flashback, Steve wishes him luck and sends him out onstage. He does fine with the judges interview, explaining to them about the two-year window. In the wings, Steve asks his mom how much of that he has left, and she tells him, "He's almost done." Marcus sings "I Wish" by Stevie Wonder, and he sounds absolutely fantastic. Dude has some moves, too. The audience is on its feet, and the judges are into it, with Nicole and Paula getting up and dancing. The song ends abruptly, and the audience sheers for so long that Marcus eventually flops down on the stage to take a rest. Which explains what he was doing down there, at least. L.A. compares him to Bobby Brown, like that's a good thing. Nicole and Paula and Simon love him as well, so he's got unanimous yeses. So does his mom's two-year clock start over now, or does he have to go to school if he doesn't win the competition in time? Marcus and his mom hug in the blinding white losers' box, so I guess it's not the losers' box any more.
Day two in Seattle happens to be Nicole's birthday, and sadly, an entire arena full of people singing "Happy Birthday" to her produces no standouts. In the dressing rooms, Simon presents her with a cake with his face on it. Montage of Nicole playing the birthday card throughout the day, until a three-hipster boy band called The Answer from SLC shows up. They start by sucking up with an a capella birthday song for Nicole, and then head into "Rolling in the Deep." That's when their name comes onscreen and turns out to be "The Anser," at which point I decide they must be stopped. Unfortunately they do a pretty good job with the song, and get four yeses. Steve says they're going on to boot camp. Oh, fine.
The next singer we meet is simply Nici, who is 23 but looks older than Tracy Francis. This is her dream, blah blah blah, but when she starts singing "Emotions" by Mariah Carey, it's so bad I hardly recognize it. Not that that stops her from attempting (and failing) the high notes. The judges sit there looking at each other like, Who decided we couldn't have a gong? Mercifully Nici stops mid-song, but offers to do another one, thinking the problem is with her microphone. Nicole diplomatically says Nici has "range." "It's the register," Nici "explains." "Yes, it is. Many, many registers," Nicole agrees, deadpan. Heh. Paula thinks Nici came and did this on a dare, like it's the first time anyone eve thought to do that. Simon starts by saying Nici has a horrible voice, and the others make it a unanimous no, along with the audience. "I am shocked and outraged," Nici declares from inside the white box. Simon mutters to the other judges, "It can't get any worse," which he should know is the one thing nobody on TV should ever, ever say.