It's Top 12 night on "The X Factor" -- where "the fight really starts," according to Demi Lovato.
But hold on for a sec. The amped-up, 'roid-rage announcer guy says there's a "big twist!!!!!" coming our way. Moments later, Simon Cowell announces that a mistake was made last week and they're bringing back an eliminated contestant. And that contestant is ...
Justice is served. Britney Spears never should have dumped the teen dyamo. (And actually, this isn't such a surprise. We thought all along they might bring her back).
The other headline is that, one night after America went to the polls, it's time to vote for our "X Factor" favorites. Yes, the judges are getting out of the way and letting us make some decisions around here.
And so here's how it went down on movie theme night:
Arin Ray (Teens)
"American Boy" featured in Obsessed (2009)
This song sucks, but Arin delivers it smoothly and with confidence. (Though, what was with the whole checkered flag/race-car motif?) Simon compliments Britney on the work she's done with Arin and says "You're turning into a little pop star."
As for Britney, she drops her first "amazing" of the night (We sense a drinking game in the making).
But the first really awakward line of the night is delivered by co-host Khloe Kardashian-Odom, who tells Arin, "You can be my American Boy." Ugh.
Paige Thomas (Young
"Take My Breath Away"
Look, up in the air! Is it a bird? A plane? No, it's Paige descending from the ceiling in a billowy white angel dress. Yes, it's the "X Factor" in all its wretched, overproduced glory. Once on stage, there's a guy rubbing up against her like a dog in heat. This is just absurd. As for the song, who really knows? "You don't want to to turn this into a karoke competition. You've got to make records," says Simon, who goes on to say more attention should have been paid to the song itself. Coach Demi disagrees, but Simon's right. It did not take our breath away.
Vino Alan (Over 25s)
"When A Man Loves A Woman"
This soulful rendition is 100 times better than last week's performance (and he's not even dropping from the ceiling). Just him alone on the stage with that big raspy voice of his. Demi calls it "phenomenal," but says she has a hard time seeing Vino as a "No. 1 artist." Simon tells Demi that was a "stupid" thing to say (We love it when they fight), pointing out that he watched Susan Boyle become a star. Coach L.A. Reid is proud of his singer, even admitting that they took notes from Simon last week in order to make improvements.
EMBLEM 3 (Groups)
"My Girl"/"California Girls"
Last week's headliners again bring their infectious energy to this mash-up, which is a bit uneven, but plays well to their SoCal roots and is as buoyant and catchy and fun as we've come to expect. Right in their wheelhouse. (Turns out that they had only one day to learn it, according to Simon). L.A. Reid says he wants to be critical, but that was "perfect." Britney: "I was blown away ... you owned it." Meanwhile, the little girls in the audience continue to squeal.
Beatrice Miller (Teens)
We love this 13-year-old cutey-pie, but to our ears, this performance comes across as a bit rough and strained. L.A., however, says he loves her tone, and Demi admires how she pours her heart into every song. Simon points out that there were a few "vocal issues," but says he can see her working in the business. Britney adds to the compliments by saying she feels that Beatrice has the "best personality in the competition."
Jennel Garcia (Young Adults)
"I Love Rock 'N Roll"
Jennel goes all Joan Jett on us tonight and she's working it -- ferociously belting out the lyrics and vamping her way across the stage. L.A. isn't a fan, calling it a "Joan Jett parody." But Britney says it was "Hot, hot, hot." As for Simon, he says he doesn't like what Demi has done with Jannel's look, asserting that she used to be "fun and charming" and is now "unrecognizable." You are better than this, he insists -- as Demi tries to butt in and protest.
Tate Stevens (Over 25s)
"Wanted Dead or Alive"
Our country crooner channels Bon Jovi and on a steel horse he rides. And he's also stalking the stage with more confidence and showmanship than we're used to seeing from him. Tate has a likable, everyman appeal and you just can't help rooting for the guy. Says Britney: "You're a slice of America. You nailed it." Demi: "As a person who loves country music, I feel you have what it takes." Simon: "It feels like you've arrived back in this competition."
Lyric 145 (Groups)
A shocker! This hip-hop trio takes on Disney and Mary Poppins (while dressed in costumes straight out of "Alice in Wonderland"). It's wild. It's trippy. It's inventive. Most of all, it's fun. L.A. says it's not his cup of tea, but it was "perfect." Britney calls it "intriguing and entertaining." Demi points to coach Simon and says, "Who knew that in that rusty old brain that there were some fresh, cool, hip thoughts? ... You nailed it." Simon, however, credits Lyric with the song choice and calls the performance "bloody fantastic." But we want to know: What does Julie Andrews think?
Diamond White (Teens)
"I Have Nothing"
Little Miss Reprieve comes roaring back into the competition with this Whitney Houston favorite from "The Bodyguard." OK, so she's not on Whitney's level, but Diamond proves she belongs. Welcome back. Demi: "That just tugged at my heart." Simon: "This proves dreams can come true ... You come back fighting. ... Great song. Great performance." Britney, the woman who sent her home, adds that, "I feel like you definitely channeled Whitney in that performance and she would be very proud."
CeCe Frey (Young Adults)
"Eye of the Tiger"
This song from "Rocky" is loud and theatrical, but it's no knockout. The vocals are all over the place (again) -- with more shouting than singing -- and her red leather costume is pretty darn wacky, too. Britney calls her a rebel and "courageous," but Simon says, "I think anything recognizable about you from the beginning has been thrown away and this song choice was absolutely horrible." We'll second that emotion.
Carly Rose Sonenclar (Teens)
"It Will Rain"
Oh, so much better than last week. The silly schoolgirl skirt and dancers are gone and we get to concentrate on Carly's powerful voice in this cover of the Bruno Mars hit (featured in the first "Twilight" film). The arrangement is still a little much, but L.A. calls it "heartfelt and honest," while Demi says, "I would watch this over and over. You're incredible." "I feel like you should have closed the show because nobody can follow that," adds Britney.
Jason Brock (Over 25s)
"I Believe I Can Fly"
Dressed in a bright red blazer, Mr. Entertainment (as L.A. calls him) seems to be in his element with this hokey song, backed by a choir and lots and lots of candles, for some reason. It all feels more like retro Vegas than cutting edge, so we think Mr. Entertainment could be in trouble. Demi feels that L.A. Reid hasn't guided Jason in the right direction, calling him "very predictable and very cabaret." As for Simon, well, "I like you, but I don't believe you could fly," he says. "Maybe jump a couple inches off the ground. ... "You look like a singer in an Italian restaurant,"
Fifth Harmony (Groups)
"A Thousand Years"
The girl group formerly known as 1432, which was formerly known as LYLAS, takes this song sitting down (on stools) amid a fog bank to close out the show. Nice, sweet harmonies, but it doesn't exactly blow us away. There's potential here, though, and we want to see more of them.
Up next is Thursday's elimination show and our guess is that either CeCe or Jason is going to be headed home. But more importantly -- at least for the teen girls watching -- the boy-band sensation One Direction will appear and perform two songs.