“The X Factor” opened with a shocker on Thursday night’s results episode, and we’re not talking about the cast’s tribute to Lou Reed or Selena Gomez‘s performance. Simon Cowell’s teenage girl group Sweet Suspense, who were seemingly in no danger of going home coming off of Wednesday’s performance episode, were swiftly sent packing, leaving the group’s Millie Thrasher to openly mouth “wow” while a gobsmacked Simon Cowell looked like someone had just robbed millions from his bank account.
Thrasher quickly composed herself when asked to comment on the group’s surprise ouster. “I think we’re all just so grateful to be here,” she said diplomatically, thanking the judges for putting the solo contestants together into a group. Cowell, however, didn’t hide his feelings. “I can’t believe it,” he said, still looking stunned. “Look girls, it was not your fault, I don’t know what happened here. Because, without being rude, there were worse people than you last night.”
Sweet Suspense’s performance of Toni Basil’s cheerleader anthem “Mickey” the night prior was full of pep, but Demi Lovato was critical of the song, saying the trio’s stage presence lacked energy and that they were too focused on their choreography. Cowell’s response to Lovato’s criticisms? “Oh, shut up,” he said, saying the girls “looked and sounded like a real group.”
But there were no saves to be had and no rabbits to be pulled out of hats, and Sweet Suspense headed for the doors. Their final performance was part of the group tribute to Reed, where the 12 finalists sang a misguided-at-best rendition of “Perfect Day.”
Selena Gomez’s pre-taped performance of “Slow Down” aired on Thursday night. In a black, fringed leotard, the Stars Dance singer strutted onstage to belt out the song. Selena, who is currently on tour, brought some of her dancers with her to “X Factor,” and the segment highlighted more dancing than singing.
Sweet Suspense’s exit wasn’t the only surprise of the night. The night’s second elimination came down to a battle between Khaya Cohen and Rachel Potter, two performers who had good-to-great nights on Wednesday.
Cohen’s version of Madonna’s “Borderline” was dubbed “brilliant” by Paulina Rubio and was called her “best performance ever” by Cowell. Potter’s wind machine-assisted take on Heart’s “Alone,” meanwhile, was slightly critiqued by Cowell, who said she was “screaming” the song’s glory note, though the other judges said she did well on the song. Voters were less enthusiastic, throwing her to battle for her life in the competition against Cohen.
Cohen went very literal with her survival song, pouring her heart into Joe Cocker’s “Don’t Give Up On Me.” Turns out it was a song she’s been wanting to sing. “I mean it sucks being in the bottom two,” she told host Mario Lopez, “but I’m really happy I got to perform it.” After being compared to a cross between Shania Twain and Martina McBride by Lovato the night before, Potter went ahead and did Twain’s “From This Moment On.”
But it wasn’t enough: Cowell, Rubio and Lovato all elected to keep Cohen in the competition, sending Potter to join Sweet Suspense on “X Factor’s” road to ruin. Cowell was so over the show he was already playing with a lighter in his hand as he made his final decision. At least he’s still got Fifth Harmony, the second season “X Factor” finalists who performed “Me & My Girls” on the show.
A tip for the dwindling number of “X Factor” watchers: Tack on a few extra minutes of overrun while taping the results show, as the judges’ hemming and hawing caused Thursday’s show to runneth over, and not all viewers watching on delay were able to see the final results. When Lopez says he needs an answer “now,” that really means now, guys.