By Adam B. Vary
Updated December 02, 2011 at 10:15 AM EST
Credit: Fox
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“Does it get louder than this?” asked the woman sitting a few seats down from me at The X Factor, after one of the CBS pages asked her if she wanted earplugs before the show. At that point, the pre-show dance mega-mix was pumping through the Xanadome at a volume usually reserved for jet engines or Mary Murphy, but I quickly answered for the page. “Yes. Oh yes. It does.”

I thought about the health of that woman’s eardrums while Drew was singing her save-me song while the Xanadome, as it had been instructed to all night, erupted in a deafening torrent of cheering and cat-calls. I could barely make out Drew’s wispy, earnest warble, and it struck me that no audience at an actual Drew performance would ever behave like this, and no honest judge of talent and singing ability would expect to be able to gauge the quality of a performer like Drew in a setting like the cerebellum liquefaction disco that is the Xanadome. Josh Krajcik, maybe, or even Chris Rene, but not a girl destined to top the tween Christian pop charts. (Meanwhile, for some reason, the term “save-me song” just makes me think about falling frogs and wan, zombie-eyed blondes.)

As for the other highlights of what you didn’t see on TV, here they are:

Pay no attention to that masked fashion apparatchik! As the judges took to the stage — Nicole dressed, coiffed, and dancing like one of Austin Powers’ fembots — Paula made her way over to the area of the audience where Michael Jackson’s promotional spin-off franchises children sat for Wednesday night’s show. In their place sat a grown-ass man in a bright-white Gaga-ian military jacket with black vinyl shoulder pads and sash, and sporting a black silk surgeon mask over his mouth. After Paula went over and air-kissed him like he was jus’ folks, I realized that he was X Factor choreographer and consigliere artistico Brian Friedman. Later, I also realized his shoes were bedazzled. Taran Killam, if you’re reading this, you have just found your breakout new character for SNL.

Simon has no idea what is going on, man When the judges first stepped on stage with their respective acts, Simon turned to Melanie Amaro and appeared to ask her if she knew what, exactly, was about to happen. Melanie, not having created the show she’s currently the frontrunner on, just shrugged and smiled. Steve Jones quickly sent Chris, Melanie, and Rachel to safety, and suddenly we were already in another ad break, something I myself found a bit jarring, but I didn’t create the show I am currently snarking about. Simon, on the other hand, stood blankly for a second after the show cut to commercial, and then appeared to ask a stage hand what, exactly, had just happened. When the stagehand’s answer did not satisfy him, Simon scowled; to make himself feel better, he took Bill the Warm Up Guy’s mic and thanked the audience for misbehaving.

Tinie Tempah gets Simon Totally Trippin’ The only time I employed my pair of earplugs was during this Brit rapper’s neon assault of a performance. (Should you like to recreate the experience of seeing it in person in the comfort of your own home, might I suggest first swallowing a 500 watt subwoofer*.) (*Do not actually do this.) Nicole and Paula obviously were into it, but what gobsmacked me was that for the first time since I started doing on the scene reports back during the sixth season of American Idol, Simon Cowell actually moved to the music. It wasn’t much more than semi-vigorous head bopping, but progress is progress. After the performance, Simon even leapt from his chair to congratulate Tinie on his performance. (L.A. Reid, meanwhile, barely moved at all.)

The loneliness of the 14-year-old pixie After Tinie’s performance, Nicole joined Josh and L.A. joined Astro and Marcus on stage, but poor Drew was left to stand by herself, stage center, for the entire ad break. Simon finally joined her with just 15 seconds before they were back on the air. After Astro was sent home, and Paula and Nicole raced on stage to envelop him into their respective awaiting bosoms, Simon did give Drew a comforting kiss on her forehead, and then handed her off to Generalissimo Brian Friedman, who promptly enveloped her into his awaiting bosom.

DREEEEWWWW! vs. MAR-CUS MAR-CUS! As per X Factor custom, in the final ad break of the night, Bill the Warm Up Guy polled the audience on who they thought should go home. At first, the low chants for “Dreeeewwwww!” seemed to win the day, but then a chorus of “Mar-cus! Mar-cus!” began to battle back for supremacy. Neither side appeared to prevail, so eventually, despite Bill the WUG’s repeated entreaties for more yelling of Drew and Marcus’ names, the audience just petered out. Throughout this spectacle, Drew was full on into the ugly cry, whereas Marcus could not stop grinning from ear to ear, which, when you think about it, is kinda the exact personification of each of their musical personas on the show to date.

Paula’s passion for precise positioning With roughly a minute to go before coming back from the final ad break, Paula suddenly raced over to one of the producers and pointedly asked him about… something. Then she grabbed L.A. and began ardently screaming into his ear about… likely the same something as before. (Screaming into ears, by the by, is the only method of verbal communication possible inside the Xanadome, if you’re not already miked.) Mystery… solved! When Paula spoke with reporters backstage after the show, she explained that she was panicking after hearing that Steve Jones would be polling the judges in a different order than in previous weeks, and she wasn’t prepared to suddenly be the “deciding” vote.

It’s the little things that count Despite his pen-throwing temper tantrum and refusal to say much of anything after Paula, Nicole, and L.A. sent Drew home, Simon still managed to keep ahold of his faculties enough to keep ahold of Drew’s hand well after the show was over, even as Drew spoke with and hugged all manner of well-wisher. He finally let go only so he could take the face of Drew’s equally weepy mother in his hands to console her. After Drew had finished saying goodbye to everyone on stage, Simon then walked her off, but not before letting her take Bill the WUG’s mic to encourage everyone in the audience to continue to follow their dreams. “I came from such a small town,” said a still-emotional Drew, “and yet I made it this far. And I encourage all of you guys to do the same.”

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The X Factor

Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland, and Paulina Rubio judge Season 3.
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