X Factor
Credit: Fox
Simon Cowell, American Idol

Before heading out to last night’s The X Factor, I spent a few hours watching Syfy’s new Peter Pan miniseries Neverland, which features man-eating spiders, 10-legged crocodiles, and Bob Hoskins. Yet all of those fantastical creatures were nothing compared to what awaited me inside the Xanadome: an audience that was absolutely bonkers. They were crazy loud, reaching a decibel level comparable to a symphony of jackhammers. They were crazy energetic, sometimes jumping up and down as frequently as this adorable dog. And some of them were simply crazy crazy, like a woman in the audience who, during a commercial break, delivered an incomprehensible speech in support of LeRoy Bell — a speech that, for reasons that’ll be debated for centuries to come, ended with the words “women power!”

So when Bill the Warmup Host allowed the audience to ask the judges a few questions at the end of the show, you can imagine some of the inquiries were, um, interesting. Read on for the judges’ answers (including Paula’s response as to why the group acts have been struggling so far), plus some other on-the-scene highlights:

The judges will take your questions now: At the end of the program, the audience had to sit tight while the stage was set up for Rihanna’s “We Found Love” performance, which was being pretaped for Thursday’s show (more on that soon). The judges returned to their chairs in new outfits, and Bill decided to help pass the time by opening the floor to questions.

For the first question, Paula Abdul was asked why the groups are having a harder time than the solo acts. Her response: “Because people like L.A. Reid say that they’re not good enough! Seriously, America has to approach [the groups] like a solo act. Do you like Lakoda Rayne? [The crowd halfheartedly cheers.] You need to vote, vote, vote. It’s because [groups] are brand new to America. These competitions have never had groups. I know it’s different and new, but if you like them, then vote.”

One girl asked L.A. Reid how long he’s known Justin Bieber. “Since he was 14,” the judge replied. Another audience member asked Nicole Prescovia Elikolani Valiente Scherzinger (her full name, or NPEVS for short) if she’ll perform on The X Factor this year. Her response: “Yes, I’ll be performing in December for sure. Maybe a few times.” And one person asked L.A. Reid how the judges wound up being paired with their respective contestants (boys/girls/over-30s/groups). According to Reid, those decisions were all made by Simon Cowell. Speaking of Simon, someone asked him why he’s letting Reid be the “meanest” judge. “I’ve known L.A. a long time,” said Simon, “and he is a naturally unpleasant person.”

But the hardest-hitting question came from a young girl, who asked L.A. Reid this: “No disrespect, but do they have special sponges for your head?” Clearly someone noticed that Reid has a personal groomer who, during commercial breaks, pats down the judge’s bald cranium. Reid laughed at the question. “Yes, they have this special L.A. Reid brand [of sponges],” he said. “It’s called toilet paper.” That explains why the Xanadome ushers refused to let me use the restroom.

Rihanna redo: Rihanna performed “We Found Love” twice after the show. The key difference between the two performances was her post-song interview with host Steve Jones. After the first performance, Jones asked Rihanna, who’s worked with L.A. Reid in the past, if the judge is really “that cruel” in person. Rihanna replied, “He’s doesn’t hide anything.” Jones chuckled, “So he really is that cruel!” After the bit was over, Simon signaled over to Jones and a stagehand. The trio huddled for a moment and, before you knew it, Bill had informed us that we were going to film the whole shebang a second time.

After the second performance, Jones instead asked Rihanna to give some advice to the show’s singers. “You have to love what you do,” she responded. I’m not sure which interview you’ll be seeing Thursday night, but my money’s on the latter, less L.A.-hating version.

One other observation: Rihanna didn’t even attempt to hide the fact that she was lip-syncing. Several times throughout the performance, she lowered her mic a good two or three seconds before finishing the verse. Clearly this was intentional, but it’ll be interesting to see whether The X Factor editors choose to cut away during those moments.

Turn around, Nicole: After the judges were introduced, NPEVS was so distracted by waving to the audience that a stagehand had to leap onto the judges table — a la Joan Cusack in Broadcast News — and remind Nicole that she needed to introduce LeRoy Bell like now.

Simon says: While LeRoy prepared for his number, Simon took a mic and addressed the audience. “I think we should all be badly behaved tonight,” he instructed us. The pink-haired woman sitting next to me certainly complied. Throughout the night she yelled derogatory remarks whenever Nicole spoke, like “Someone shut her up!” Heart of gold, this one.

Rachel Crow’s a natural: I’m not speaking about her vocal talent, although she has plenty of that. Instead, I’m referring to her personality. The 13-year-old girl seems completely at ease on that stage. As she prepared to sing, she casually waved to the audience and gave a nearby stagehand an impromptu fist bump. Singing live to a national audience? No big deal. Five million dollars on the line? Whatever, let’s have some fun.

Booing begets booing: In response to Simon’s criticism of Stacy Francis’ performance, the audience — on cue — started to boo. And then the volume of the booing rose so high that we could no longer hear the remarks we were supposed to be booing. So, naturally, we booed some more.

Nicole rocks out: During the course of Josh Krajcik’s rendition of “The Pretender,” NPEVS was pumping her fist in the air, banging her head (at times inches away from Paula’s face), and jumping up and down. I, on the other hand, was distracted by those psychedelic video screens, which made me feel like I was trapped inside a Dippin’ Dots factory. At the commercial break, Nicole was so happy that she literally bunny-hopped off the stage.

Paula vouches for Lakoda Rayne: After the only remaining group act performed, Paula stood up and pointed toward the four singers. Then Paula started to walk off stage, but Bill briefly stopped her. “Good job, Paula,” said Bill. Paula replied, “No, they did a great job,” referring to Lakoda Rayne. I wish I had more to report regarding Paula’s behavior during this number, yet from where I was sitting, she looked very composed. She didn’t seem to mind that Simon called her choreography “stupid” — she even gave him a little hug when she returned. But let’s see how Paula holds up during the results show.

Glow sticks! Glow sticks! Thank the Lord, we’re getting glow sticks! Sorry, where was I?

The Astronomicals: That’s what I’m calling Astro’s fans. After his performance, Astro walked over to hug a few young girls in the front row. However, the girls got a little too aggressive with their hugging, causing a security guard to run up and pull Astro away from them. Later on, Bill chatted with the same girls about their passion for Astro. “I’m his woman,” one of them said. And goodnight, everybody!

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Episode Recaps

Simon Cowell, American Idol
The X Factor
Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland, and Paulina Rubio judge Season 3.
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