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"The X Factor": Shocker as Rachel Crow cries her way out

"The X Factor" contestant Rachel Crow cries during elimination
Contestant Rachel Crow, left, judge Simon Cowell and contestant Melanie Amaro, right, onstage on "The X Factor," Dec. 8, 2011, in Hollywood, Calif. AP/Fox

(CBS) "Tonight you became a rock star," said L.A. Reid to Marcus Canty after Wednesday night's performance.

Surely this sneakily suggested that Canty, after two weeks singing for his life in "The X Factor," would finally be drifting towards a horizon of obscurity - one populated by so many who have staggered through several rounds of singing shows and now opened car washes.

Surely there wouldn't be another dramatic twist. Or would there? (Clue: Yes there would. But why give it away now?)

Pictures: "The X Factor"

First presenter Steve Jones, aka Mannequin Man, had to hit all of his sales points: the $5 million contract allegedly awaiting the winner; the reminder that next week would see the semi-finals of this dramatic (if nothing else) competition; and the need to wish all of the judges "the best of luck."

Because what is at stake isn't just some kid's future. It's some judge's ego.

In order to emphasize this, the show featured some of the backstage people who attempt to turn these raw contestants into comestible products.

"These contestants are not used to having six hands on them at once," said the chap responsible for, um, hair. How he knows what all of them get up to in their spare time is not for me to conjecture.

Soon the judges appeared on stage with their charges. There is some speculation about just how much time these alleged mentors actually spend with the contestants. Indeed, a lady from the Daily Mail suggested that - at least on the original U.K. version - the charges hardly ever see their riders, but the bonds, tears and hugs on display and edited for the TV viewing audience seem genuine.

The first to be told he was through to next week's jamboree was Josh Krajcik. His relief was as palpable as his embarrassment at having to sing a pulp dance ditty.

Next to be anointed was Chris Rene, who had produced the most - the only, in fact - original performance the previous night.

Could it possibly be that Cowell's two ladies, Melanie Amaro and Rachel Crow, would be dueling from their duodenums? Oh, of course not.

But first Mr. Jones had his original question at the ready: "Rachel, how are you feeling?"

As Crow fought back the tears, Mannequin Man turned up the originality: "Marcus, how are you feeling, sir?"

The addition of the "sir" was most welcome.

In order to leave the worried stewing a little longer, the imaginative host turned to Krajcik and Rene and asked them both, yes - good Lord, no - how they were feeling. Who would buy ad time around this dialogue? One pined for just three minutes of Ryan Seacrest.

So the singer spared a singoff was Melanie Amaro. Rachel Crow, just like fellow teeny Drew the week before, crumpled over in anguish.

Then steel began coursing through her veins as she turned to Simon Cowell and declared: "I got it."

Oh, of course she had it. In the singoff Canty, who has made survival something of an art form, kissed the crucifix hanging around his neck before he began to channel his most sexy areas of persona.

"I'm Going Down" he emoted. Of course he was. It could be no other way. Still, Paula Abdul indulged him swooningly, by swaying to his rhythms.

Cowell introduced Crow with a crowing smile.

"Something told me it was over," was her first line. No, it didn't. She knew she'd be fine. Didn't she?

Still, it was faintly bizarre to hear a 13-year-old singing the song of a jealous, jilted woman.

She ended with the words: "I'd rather be blind."

Somehow, one felt sure she could really see her way to next week's amusement. She had, after all, been by far the better performer.

Canty could smell the gallows. His eyes had the haunted look of a kicker who's wide right with two seconds to go in the Super Bowl.

Not even Tebowing could help him now.

Reid waffled. He said: "This is the toughest part of the show." He had to choose to save his own boy, even though he seemed to acknowledge that Crow had offered the superior performance. Loyal to the end for his singer, he was probably thinking that Canty was a goner.

"Thank you very much," said Crow, politely. Cowell countered with a vote for his girl.

It was down to the impartial lady judges. Abdul decided to be honest with her heart. She chose to save Crow.

Would Scherzinger tweak Cowell's ear to the horizontal by choosing to send Crow home?

Crow begged Scherzinger not to cry. No, really. It was that way round. So Scherzinger abdicated. She said she couldn't make such a significant decision. She chose to send Crow home, so that, after all, it would be down to the strange people at home who vote. Perhaps she calculated - erroneously - that Crow would have the votes and she could avoid the pain of booting Canty.

Crow, who had told Scherzinger it would be all right whatever she decided, collapsed to the floor when Mr. Jones told her she was going home.

Ah, yes. This was the twist, you see. Crow was sent home. How about that?

She wept like a baby - which, in a way, she still is.

"Without you, I am nothing," Crow told the audience, through tears. Cowell tried to make a gentlemanly speech. Scherzinger, consumed by guilt, wept and refused to speak.

"Mom, you promised me," Crow bawled at her mother, who told her it was "ok." Cowell had clearly promised that this show would have maximum drama - some would say at any cost.

Some might wonder, too, just what effect this night might have had on a clearly impressionable and talented 13-year-old. Between the rending of tears, Crow said she would continue her quest. "I hope this is not my ending. I know it's not and I will go so far. I promise you," she said.

The savvy judge and producer Cowell said, "We're going to be hearing a lot more from Rachel Crow, I can give you my word on that."

The show is produced by SYCO TV. Does one pronounce that Psycho?

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