"The X Factor" celebrated the '80s on Wednesday, but Carlos Guevara didn't get a chance to travel back in time with the rest of his fellow contestants. As the show opened, Guevara was sent home, after tallying the lowest number of votes following last Thursday's surprise performance episode.
"You're a champion," Paulina Rubio told Guevara, even though his version of Damien Rice's "Cannonball" fell flat with voters.
Two more acts will be sent home on Thursday's double elimination episode, making this trip to the '80s rather perilous. Here's a recap of who's safe and who's in trouble heading into the results.
Demi Lovato's Girls
Khaya Cohen did Madonna proud, making over "Borderline" with girl-group flair, and her Amy Winehouse-style vocals may have been the evening's best. "We shouldn't underestimate just how good you are," Simon Cowell told her, after praising her burgeoning confidence in her performances. "I think we've discovered somebody really, really special who's getting better and better and better."
Ellona Santiago suffered a brief slip onstage while performing Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," but Lovato was quick to forgive her. "If I had a penny for every time I've slipped onstage," Lovato said, "I'd be a millionaire." Cowell thought her loss of footing was indicative of a bigger problem, and he asked her to curb her choreography next week and focus on her vocals.
And although 13-year-old Rion Paige had no clue what the '80s were — she named the Spice Girls as her favorite '80s representatives, for crying out loud — she acquitted herself just fine on Pat Benatar's "We Belong." "You're a firecracker," Rubio told her, though Cowell said she needs help truly connecting with a song.
Paulina Rubio's Boys
Josh Levi — remember when he was nearly eliminated from the competition? — emerged as one of the night's big winners when he expertly took on Paula Abdul's "Straight Up," earning the title of "future star" from Cowell.
That was the kind of praise Cowell was once giving Carlito Olivero, but no longer; "if you stay, which is doubtful, you've got to start taking more control of what you're doing," Cowell told Olivero, after he was overwhelmed in a sea of choreography during his version of Gloria Estefan's "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You."
Production also got the better of Tim Olstad, whose vocals on Phil Collins' "Against All Odds" (yes, another ballad for Olstad) were outshined by a weird interpretive dancer that even he couldn't seem to take his eyes off of. "You do have a wonderful voice, but there is no 'X Factor,' " Lovato told him, her toughest critique of the night. "If it were up to me, you would be going home this week. You just aren't growing at all."
Kelly Rowland's Over 25s
Funky grandmother Lillie McCloud took on Rufus and Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody," and the upbeat song allowed her to move around onstage more than she typically does. It was a mixed blessing, and her moves prompted Cowell to call her "a naughty little thing," which is always kind of creepy.
Jeff "Rhymes With Boot" Gutt did a straightforward rendition of Cutting Crew's "(I Just) Died In Your Arms"; Lovato praised him for representing rock, but Cowell said his version of the song wasn't memorable and his theatrics reminded him of rock pranksters Spinal Tap.
And Rachel Potter deserved equal billing with her wind machine during her version of Heart's "Alone," which for some reason was staged with her singing through a chain-link fence. Lovato called her a mix between Shania Twain and Martina McBride, though Cowell rightfully called her out for shrieking the song's big glory note. Rowland took offense at Cowell's critique, firing back, "I don't think anyone else in his category really hits those notes." Shots fired!
Simon Cowell's Groups
"X Factor's" own cheerleaders, Sweet Suspense, took on Tony Basil's cheerleader anthem "Mickey," staging it as a kind of "Grease"-style bubblegum motorcycle rally. Lovato said the girls were too focused on their choreography, to which an "impressed" Cowell replied, "Oh, shut up" to his blue-haired counterpart.
Country trio Restless Road, which Cowell has been pushing the hardest so far this season (look closely and you can already see the dollar signs in his eyes when he addresses his cash cows), were rather stiff during their take on Kenny Loggins' "Footloose," but they received a pass from the judges, who praised their potential (Lovato) and had "a real good feeling" about them (Cowell).
Couple duo Alex & Sierra struggled with Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love," which was performed with the pair separated by a partition. Even Cowell was critical, a rarity when judges critique their own contestants, saying Sierra lost the melody and that the performance "wasn't as good as it should have been."
Thursday, viewers will find out who stays and who goes. Along with the elimination of two acts, Thursday's results show will also see performances by Selena Gomez and second season "X Factor" contestants Fifth Harmony.