Man, the way these previouslies fade in all dramatic and blurry, it's like waking up from a coma and reentering the real world, when in fact the opposite is true. Steve and the onscreen text remind us, "The Auditions Are Over," and after a rapid-fire montage of yeses, Steve and the captions say, "Tonight, It's Boot Camp." The Boot Camp stage has a giant gold "X" that's even more overwhelmingly huge than the blue-and-red one at auditions. And there will be 162 acts here, who will "face the toughest week of their lives," unless of course any of those 162 acts have ever been in the armed forces, rehab, at a job or at school. The 162 will be winnowed down to 32, and I'm not going to get into the glimpses of the other 130 we get as part of the previews. We'll get to those soon enough. Again, there will be four categories: "Boys," "Girls," "Over 30s," and "Groups." After a replay of last week's preview of the judges learning which category they'll each mentor for the duration, "It's Time! To Face! The Music!" And then there's a long, long, long shot of Paula crying like an asshole before we go to credits. How is that facing the music?
With the L.A. skyline behind him, Steve tells us, "This...is Boot Camp." That was an awfully long "This...", Steve. Watch that shit. We see folks we saw over the last two weeks packing up and heading to L.A. from such locales as Tucson, New York, Santa Cruz, right there in Los Angeles and finally Chicago. Steve says that as they arrive in L.A., "the city where stars are made and dreams are broken, the tension is already building." Probably because they make everyone get into a big herd on the main street of whatever studio-backlot-looking street this is and walk in a giant clump to the Boot Camp venue, which I believe is the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. We hear from Marcus Canty (the kid with the two-year window from his mom, who'd better hope it doesn't run out before the contest is over), 4Shore, and rehab guy Chris Rene, who are all nervous. Another attendee at Boot Camp is Chris Rene's sister Gina. What are the chances? Steve tells us that over the next week, acts will be challenged on their styling, attitude and voices. Some of them will be cut every day until there are eight from each category left, which is when the judges will be assigned to their categories, become mentors and invite the finalists over to their houses to see who makes it to the live shows. "The battle is on for a place at the judges' homes," Steve narrates. See? That other show doesn't invite anyone to the judges' homes! Or maybe they do, I don't know, I haven't watched it since Hume Cronyn was alive. After contestants file onto the stage, we're reintroduced to the judges, who are riding to the venue with dire proclamations about the pressure of Boot Camp. Simon in particular says he's looking for someone who can have a long-term career. "We'll find out in the next few days if we have a star or not. If we don't, I'm in trouble." Now that I can get behind.