MTV News' own Jim Cantiello is exclusively covering "The X Factor" rehearsals. Read on for his fly-on-the-wall backstage report!
LOS ANGELES — One week after one of the most dramatic eliminations in reality-TV history, the energy on the "X Factor" set is still uneasy. Rachel Crow's sunny presence is noticeably absent from backstage, with the remaining four contestants taking the semifinals deadly serious. The $5 million contract is on everyone's minds, and they're not letting anything distract them — not even Rachel's shocking exit.
Meanwhile, the judge who facilitated Rachel's booting, Nicole Scherzinger, was still visibly upset days after the results show. Her main-show interview, normally shot right outside the stage doors, was relocated to a quiet third-floor area for extra privacy. She couldn't even talk about the incident in complete sentences until Tuesday. But now she's focused on making her remaining contestant, Josh Krajcik, the first U.S. "X Factor" winner, as well as prepping a brand-new single she'll be debuting live on Thursday night's results show. The million-dollar question: Will the audience that booed Nicole a week ago be receptive to a performance? We'll know soon enough!
Nicole doesn't have to stress about any more hairy decisions. From here on out, the judges have zero voting power. It's just America's vote, and the contestants are nervous that they won't have their mentors in their corner when the results are revealed.
Adding to the stress: a mystery bug that's making its way around the crew. Both Chris Rene and Marcus Canty have suffered through the X-virus in previous weeks. Now the show's last remaining female, Melanie Amaro, has been floored with it. She was more than 30 minutes late to press interviews on Monday and she barely got through her interviews with the main show, yet when it was time to hit the stage for rehearsal, you'd never know she was battling a bug.
Musically, expect some exciting things from all four contestants. Chris Rene is trying his hand at a new instrument. Josh is determined to put his unique stamp on a song we've all heard on reality singing competitions several times before. Despite being in the bottom two three weeks in a row, Marcus refuses to give up and is rehearsing harder than ever. And Melanie has been practicing a power note that may shatter your windows.
And finally, "The X Factor" was able to secure private dressing rooms for the remaining four contenders, but the show won't let their egos get too big. After two days, they had to give them up for another production. The Cowell giveth and the Cowell taketh away.
Catch Jim on "The X Factor Pepsi Preshow Live," streaming at 7 p.m. ET tonight on TheXFactorUSA.com!