All aboard the Panda Express! The third auditions episode is surprisingly awesome

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September 20, 2012 at 08:17 AM EDT

Wait a minute. So Simon Cowell got sick in Kansas City. Then the show switched to San Francisco — but they’d already been in San Francisco last week. So basically, according to the bizarre way tonight’s episode was set up, this crazy/amazing Single Lady named Panda Ross might have been accidentally responsible for Simon’s illness, because she’d hugged Demi Lovato in San Francisco and some of her icky pneumonia might have rubbed off onto Simon’s cruddy tee of the day and that’s why he was sick down the line in Kansas City. Is this all making sense? I know! It’s definitely not!

I’m not suggesting this actually happened. Of course not. But I felt like at the end of the episode, we’d get a trick question: “Who was responsible for Simon getting sick?” — to which keen viewers would need to backtrack, realize heyyyyy, Britney already wore that sparkly beige sheath, so the Panda Ross segment actually could have precluded Simon’s devastating illness in real time. All of these is utterly meaningless so I don’t know why I’m leading with it.

Too late.

It’s ALL about Panda, by the way. You can just ignore Leopard Face up there to your right. I requested that image long before I’d been introduced to the greatest woman on the planet, a woman named after a black and white bear because her mom’s cell mate was white and she was black. Panda Ross says things like “Oh, God, father in the name of cheese sauce, YES.” and declared to Simon Cowell up front that not only was he her boo, he was also her baby daddy. None of this general human excellence would even matter, though, if Panda hadn’t belted out “Bring It On Home” with such deep, guttural conviction and an underlying sense of class. Simon called it: “You have the voice of a legend,” he marveled, dreaming of all the jewelry she could bestow onto him, her boo.

I’d buy Panda’s record right this second — and I’d probably assume it was a decades-old classic cut. She is wonderful.

Plenty of other total winners in this relatively awesome X Factor episode. Here’s who else made it through to bootcamp….

Meet Rizzloe Jones, an 18-year-old blond cherub with a plaid-collared denim shirt and diamond studs in his ears. “My rap’s always positive,” he claimed right away, and right away I’d had it with him. “When I learned the ABCs, I learned the word ‘X’,” he continued as the judges stared daggers back at him. I love how the judges get to make terrible, canned jokes all the time but when contestants do it they are DEAD TO THEM. I did admire Rizzloe’s ability to weave the concept of marshmallows into his improvised rap about The X Factor. Is that talent? Depends. Is that marketable? In 2012, absolutely. This “young Vanilla Ice, Ice, Baby” (according to Britney) could go far. I wonder if Rizzloe will bring that dude pile of bros with him wherever he goes.

NEXT: Season 2’s very first arrest

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