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Simon Cowell returns to enlist three more industry heavyweights to find the next great pop act.

Recaps by Chico Alexander & Gordon Pepper, GSNN
Host Steve Jones
Judges Paula Abdul
Simon Cowell
Antonio "LA" Reid
Nicole Scherzinger
Announcer James Arnold Taylor
Creator Simon Cowell
EP Andrew Llinares
Rob Wade
Simon Cowell
Cecile Frot-Coutaz
Richard Holloway
Siobhan Greene
Packager Syco TV
FremantleMedia North America
Origins CBS Television City, Los Angeles
Web thexfactorusa.com
Airs 8p ET Weds & Thurs, Fox
@The X Factor (USA)

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Live Wild Card
October 25

The auditions have ended... the callbacks have made it through boot camp, and the best of the best have sung their way through the judges' homes. And now, we're ready to take the stage for your votes, America... Except... that we're not. Tonight, on a special wild card edition, the top 17 is pared down to the top 12. For the first time in America... FROM TELEVISION CITY IN HOLLYWOOD... "THE X FACTOR"... IS LIVE. It's time for GO TIME!

Each group will sing first, then their mentor will choose just three to return to next week's rounds.

First up, it's LA Reid and the BOYS.

1) ASTRO - The youngest boy in the group will be the first to perform with his own goof on "Jump" by Kris Kross.

Hitting all the marks, with the name drop here.. the show drop there... the play to the crowd.. It's a by-the-book performance, and it gives us one or two reasons why he was chosen in the first. He has yet to prove himself as "the real deal", though. I'm waiting for him to make something his own 100% and not riff on an established guy in the game. Think there's a law about that, some honor amongst thieves thing.

2) CHRIS RENE - He was called "the truth" in his first audition, but will the truth hold up to a live audience... This... is "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" by Madonna.

It's a mite flat and the song choice is questionable, but he has authentic showmanship. Could be the second-easiest in that LA Reid had to deal with tonight. That makes the NEXT two performances that much more important. And speaking of...

3) PHILLIP LOMAX - In a field of hip-hoppers, he is a crooner. That may or may not help him. It'll all be on how he delivers "I'm A Believer" by the Monkees.

.... REALLY, The Monkees?! I think you just sang your way out of the competition, sir. Not only did you pick the absolute wrong song, it was sharper than knives. And I agree with Simon: "LA, in this guy, you 100 percent failed."

4) MARCUS CANTY - He brought Rihanna to the shakes, but can he deliver the goods when it counts the most? He'll try to take us to church with "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" by Culture Club.

It's sharp. But he has great stage presence. I don't know if I would've picked THAT song, but he turns nothing into something... Unfortunately, he threw the ending. He gave it away. It's going to make LA's decision difficult. Will he keep the stereotypically R&B singer or the crooner who picked the wrong song?

It's time for LA to send three singers through to next week. Through to the final 12 are... Astro... Marcus... and... Chris. Unfortunately, song choice claims another victim as Phillip Lomax is the first to go home.

Next up, it's Paula and the groups.

1) THE STEREO HOGZZ - They could be "potential superstars", but first, they're going to have to make their opening argument with a modern take on a classic, "Try a Little Tenderness".

I think they got caught up in the performance aspect, because the actual singing was all over the place. The effects were cool, though. VERY hard to follow for 2 minutes worth of song. But this could be an easy in.

2) THE BREWER BOYS - This band of brothers takes us back to the age where folk music was king, but can they make a wave today? They're going to take on Hall & Oates' "Rich Girl" with a mash up of "Faith" by George Michael.

It was a creative mash-up. The melody was there. But the end of it was a bit of a cop-out. Suitable for AGT, maybe... X Factor? Remains to be seen, but different. There's just one more thing... They never really engaged with anyone other than themselves. Could be problematic.

Next up, the two groups that were cast from castoffs of other groups. For purposes of brevity, and just because we like the term, we'll call them the Frankengroups.

3) INTENSITY - Ten teenagers... one group. Will they prove that more of a good thing is better? Their song: "The Clapping Song" extrapolated with "Footloose".

A decent effort from the 10 teeny-poppers. Certainly the best that they could come up with given the limited amount of time they've been together. But can they build from that now?

4) LAKODA RAYNE - Cari, Dani, Paige, and Haley couldn't do it on their own, but they could do it together. Boy could they do it together. Now they have to do it together in front of a live audience with "Come on Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners.

This song fits in their wheelhouse, especially the way it is arranged... Of the two cast groups, this is the better and the more likely to go further and have a solid base of voters. But this is purely Paula's choice.

Through to next week's shows are... The STEREO!!!!!!!hogzz... Lakoda Rayne... and InTENsity. Paula hates to do this (never mind that she's done it repeatedly)... but the Brewers are bounced.

Now, let's go to the elder statesmen of the contest, it's Nicole and the Over 30s.

1) DEXTER HAYGOOD - He had a spot of fame back in the day. Now he's looking for his 15 minutes... part deux. He needs to grow past the James Brown Mick Jagger vibe, though. Will he do it with "Womanizer" by Britney Spears mixed with "I Kissed a Girl"?

.... it is NOT star time. America's not ready for not star time.

2) LeROY BELL - The oldest man in the contest is also one of the front runners in this bracket. He has certainly surprised all of America with his voice. Can he do it again with "Nobody Knows" by Pink?

His voice is perfect with this song (even though it's a little lacking in the choice department... again), but he didn't need to bounce in time with the song. It's somber with just the right amount of grit to it. Doesn't need anything more than what LeRoy can give it.

3) STACY FRANCIS - One of Simon's favorites is now under Nicole's tutelage. Will she do her proper justice with "One More Try" by George Michael?

Stuck on vibrato. Shame really, because she has a great voice and the off-books are almost gospel. But she's stuck on vibrato. She needs a challenge.

4) JOSH KRAJCIK - the story of the series was him going from making burritos to going on a roll. Today, he'll make his case for top 12 with "Forever Young" by Bob Dylan.

Perfect song choice. Perfect tone. Josh is in it to win it.... wait, that's another show... Anyway, it's the best of the night so far and perhaps the best of the series so far. I just hope Josh has saved up some more for later.

Nicole's got three tickets to the public vote.  No doubt Josh Krajcik's going to get one, but who will join him? How about a little Stacy and a little LeRoy? Dexter Haygood, it's time for your final curtain call.

Up against it, it's time for the final group, Simon's little girls... a rare opportunity for Simon to correct an earlier mistake.

1) SIMONE BATTLE - She's full of ferocity and swagger, but does she have the vocal to back it up one time? Starting the bracket off is "Just Be Good to Me" by Deborah Cox.

Taking a little-known song and cheesing it up for the cameras. This is indulgence DEFINED, ladies and gentlemen. Yes it's technically correct and hits all the marks, but in the end, is this more about me or about YOU?

Oh, and the judges all give Simon the business for it. Just to take your mind off.

2) RACHEL CROW - She sounds like an old soul, and that can take her places, but can it take her to the Top 12? She'll make her case with "Where Did Our Love Go" by the Supremes... with a little bit of "Baby" thrown in for the Justin Bieber vote.

It's creative, I'll give you that much, and it does go together, but it's completely out of element and doesn't really do her enough favors. She did a good job with the material given her, but she's capable of so much more if she'll only fight for it.

And if you're settling in for your local news, it'll start just as soon as we finish here. So settle in, enjoy yourself.

3) DREW... who wisely dropped the hard-to-pronounce-and-spell surname of "Ryniewicz" - A lot riding on her as well, because Simon's cutting TWO. So this performance of "Flashdance... What a Feeling!" is crucial.

It starts... abnormally slow and takes a long time to get to its proper position in the pop pantheon... if ever. And she's a bit of a warbler. And I'm left with the thought, "Who's fool idea was it to go mezzo adagio and give it to Drew and tell her it was a good idea?". She's a good singer, but that was the wrong song (I'm starting to repeat myself, not good!).

4) TIAH TOLLIVER - Simon fought like hell for this woman, but does she have any fight in her left? Her choice... "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)" by ... sounds like the Marilyn Manson version.

All over the place. And scary to boot.

5) MELANIE AMARO - Simon believes he was in the right to give Melanie another chance after admitting to making "a huge mistake". Will the other judges be rectified... or scared... after she takes on Whitney's "I Have Nothing"?

Definitely no mistaking here... She was MEANT to be in this competition. She's one to watch, and she hits all the notes dead on... well, most of them. The strongest of the girls by far. Simon, good job bringing her back.

But will she stay? Simon has made his decision. And this time, it's permanent...

I hate to be in Simon's shoes right about now.. He has to cut TWO girls. Going through... Drew... Rachel... and...

.. pause for effect...


Tiah's gracious in her defeat. Simone says that she's planning on releasing her debut single with or without the show...

... and that's the show. Once again, here's the lowdown.

Marcus Canty
Chris Rene
Melanie Amaro
Rachel Crow
OVER 30s
LeRoy Bell
Stacy Francis
Josh Krajcik
Lakoda Rayne

The Stereo Hogzz

Now it's all on you, America. We have the chosen few... Who will be the chosen ONE?

To see extras from this episode and a Pepsi Precap of the next episode, visit thexfactorusa.com.