So we're all jacked up for the third installment of "The X Factor" and ready for whatever the night will bring: The glitz. The excitement. The five pounds of glitter caked on Britney Spears' eyes ...
And then what happens? Simon doesn't show. Nooooooo! Major buzz kill.
We're told that he's too sick to make the Kansas City auditions. That some guy named Louie is going to take his place on the panel. Louie informs us that he's Simon's right-hand man -- his go-to guy for record-industry advice. That must be why we've never heard of him before.
Louie -- or Louis Walsh --does the Kansas City portion of the show and is just fine. But he's not Simon. We miss the bratty Brit and his T-shirt and jeans, and his poisonous venom. Fortunately, he returns in the second half of the show, which includes more clips from the auditions in Oakland, and he immediately brings the mean.
After Britney, Demi Lovato and L.A. Reid all heap praise on a boy band called Citizen, which performed En Vogue's "Don't Let Go," Simon just shakes his head and mutters, "I didn't get it. It was 10 years out of date."
Moments later, he tells an unnamed female vocalist, "You're a bit like a singing candle. You just stand there and melt. I wouldn't play that at my funeral."
Oh, don't you just love the guy?
Overall, it's a wildly entertaining episode, complete with a "freestyle" white rapper (Rizzloe Jones), a 37-year-old country crooner (Tate Stevens), a
We also had a birthday celebration for L.A. Reid, one trip to the hospital and even an arrest. Yes, a very bad singer named Deangelo Wallace high-tailed it out of the arena with a $3,000 microphone after the judges trashed his performance, and cameras followed him as the cops tracked him down. Now, let's see THAT on "The Voice."
The aforementiond Panda is a 42-year-old dynamo with big-league pipes and a personality to match. She jokes about wanting Simon to be her "baby daddy." Taking the stage just one day after being released from the hospital for a bout with pneumonia, she absolutely slays Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home."
The judges love her and Simon says she sounds "like a legend." Unfortunately, her respiratory troubles resurface and she's whisked away in an ambulance. Hopefully she'll be OK for boot camp. We need us some more Panda.
They save the best for last. Jessica Espinoza, 22, is the kind of story we all love. A native of San Antonio, she's had a hard-luck life. She's already a big hit on YouTube (reportedly with videos drawing 6 million hits), but that $5 million prize could go a long way toward easing the pain. She performs Pink's "Nobody Knows" and blows everybody away.
"I didn't like it ... I loved it," says Simon, who calls it "my favorite audition so far."
Something tells us we've found ourselves a star.
One to watch
Keep an eye on Stevens, a 37-year-old family man -- and road worker -- with a white cowboy hat, a charming sense of humor and the kind of deep, smoky voice that country fans seem to crave.
Blake Shelton would love to have him on his team. Oh, wait, that's that other show.
"I kind of have a girl crush on you." -- Demi Lovato, to CeCe Frey, after she vamped her way through "Ain't No Other Man."
"I felt like you were a young Vanilla Ice Ice Baby." -- Britney Spears' assessment of Rizzloe Jones.
"That, to me, was like something out of a horror movie." -- Simon Cowell, to a girl group called Harmony.