If you're curious, I missed last Thursday's "X Factor" results show due to a weird combination of traffic between Baton Rouge and Natchez, wifi at an antebellum hotel and Slingplayer suddenly deciding to require a new plugin that my Mac OS wasn't prepared to handle.

I wasn't able to do a recap and I chose not to watch the episode, but I did see that Restless Road was sent home, leaving a Final 3 of Alex & Sierra, Jeffrey Gutt and Carlito Olivero. I'm confused by the latter, but it's possible that Simon Cowell is pushing Carlito deeper and deeper into the show in hopes of liberating himself forever from "X Factor USA."

In any case, I'm back for this week's two episodes and then that'll hopefully be it for me and "X Factor." I've said this before, of course, and FOX sucked me back in with Alex & Sierra in the premiere. 

8:02 p.m. ET. Apologies for the late start. Slingbox problems again. Technology is a blessing and a curse. I'll catch up later on Pacific time. I think Alex & Sierra perform better when I'm not watching anyway.

UPDATE: Now, on Pacific Time, it's Carlito Time!

Singer: CARLITO OLIVERO
Song: "Impossible"
My Take: Wow. That was just about the most manipulative clip package I've ever seen on one of these shows. Carlito does a Spanish-infused take on Shontelle. The song is very low for its verses and Carlito doesn't have a voice that goes low especially well. He's much better when it gets to the chorus, which is in his range. I was probably wrong to expect more out of this performance based on the raves I saw from the judges when my Slingbox started working.
The Judges Say: The judges, as I already knew, love him.

8:18 p.m. Simon is praising Carlito as my Slingbox kicks in. Let's get to recapping!

8:22 p.m. Yay! I'm in time for Alex & Sierra. And I promise I'll go back and add blurbs for whatever I missed earlier.

Singer: ALEX & SIERRA
Song: "Give Me Love"
My Take: I'm never going to get over my bitterness that "X Factor" wasted Alex & Sierra's one chance at Swell Season on an awful duel with Carlito. But this is very nice as well. Alex even got a haircut. He's looking so neat and professional. Sierra is wearing curtains, but she looks lovely as well. And they're great. They're both very good in their solo moments and the chemistry in the harmonies are blistering. I honestly may buy an Alex & Sierra album. I'm *never* bought an album from an "Idol" or "X Factor" contestant before. Ever. But I'll buy an Alex & Sierra record.
The Judges Say: Kelly tells them that their vocals have evolved through the season. "Y'all sound even better now and that's what this whole journey is about. Any label would take y'all right now," Kelly says. "I'm so absolutely blown away," says Demi, who claims that she's genuinely a fan. Demi particularly singles Sierra out for her growth. "Just to see you every time with something different," Paulina says. Simon says it's been an honor working with them. He says he always dreamt that this show would find an American star to represent the show around the world. Ouch. Sorry, Melanie Amaro and Tate Stevens.

 

8:41 p.m. More mockery as "X Factor" plays "Falling Slowly" in the background of the "Jeff Gutt Gives Kelly Rowland A Framed Picture of Himself" clip package. Let Alex & Sierra sing it themselves!

 

Singer: JEFF GUTT
Song: "Dream On"
My Take: It's always important to remember that Steven Tyler is a remarkable rock vocalist. Listen to this pathetic defanged version of the Aerosmith classic and it's impossible to do anything other than miss all of the big notes that Jeff is just skipping entirely. Literally every time the song goes into that Steven Tyler upper register, Gutt just drops an octave. There's absolutely no point. Why not just give him a song that he's capable of singing? Or why not rearrange the song musically so that it's a different song, rather than the same song with the high notes removed? Worst of all, towards the end, Jeff tries going high and the result is shrill and unsuccessful. Dreadful. And three of the judges stand. What was even the point?
The Judges Say: "That was really really great," Demi says, insisting that Jeff took it to a different level. No. He didn't. The audience loves Jeff and Demi and Paulina figure this means that he was awesome. Paulina tells Jeff that he's big and she admires him. Simon believes that Jeff believes he can win the show, calling it "authentic." Simon says any record label would want to sign Jeff. Sadly, this isn't even close to true. What record labels are signing non-winning rockers from low-rated reality shows? Obviously if Jeff wins, he'll get his record deal. But otherwise? Dunno. Somebody may sign him, but *any* record label? No. "Uh-Maze-ing," Kelly says.

 

8:49 p.m. Up next? Duets with special guest stars.

8:53 p.m. Actually, first we're killing time with an awkward performance by Paulina Rubio. Simon is amused by the excess of the stage show and of Paulina's Black Swan get-up.

8:57 p.m. Carlito is performing with Prince!!! Oh. Prince Royce.

Singer: CARLITO OLIVERO & PRINCE ROYCE
Song: "Stand By Me"
My Take: Prince Royce is, apparently, what Carlito would be if he were better. He's not an artist I know other than in passing. He's got a very sweet, smooth voice. He's obviously much huger with the audience that Carlito is hoping desperately to tap into. And "X Factor" is doing anything humanly possible to tap into that Spanish-speaking audience, since it's an audience that even "X Factor" has failed with entirely. This Spanish-fueled cover of "Stand By Me" doesn't require big vocals and Carlito's performance is agreeably melodic, even if he's upstaged on every shared moment by his celebrity partner. Prince Royce repeats multiple times that Carlito is Latino, just in case you didn't know.
The Judges Say: Prince Royce is sent off the stage, just in case the judges have anything negative to say. Kelly says that it was "really easy" for Carlito, but adds that there are hand-claps all around. Demi says that Carlito has what it takes to become a Latino pop star. Simon calls it "a perfect collaboration" and says Carlito wasn't overshadowed. Paulina says that a million dollar recording contract would change Carlito's life. Shoot, it would change my life, too.

 

9:04 p.m. Oh. I only missed one performance earlier, it looks like. Given that I didn't start until 8:18, that's a bit hilarious, but I'm sure Paulina and Carlito had lots of nice things to say about working together.

 

Singer: ALEX & SIERRA & LEONA LEWIS
Song: "Bleeding"
My Take: Leona Lewis is great, but she's here tonight because she's an "X Factor" veteran and "X Factor" seems to have struggled to get finale talent. And, even worse, she's an awful pairing with Alex & Sierra on one of her own songs. Because so much of Alex & Sierra's appeal is their ability to sing directly to each other, throwing in another gorgeous woman throws off the emotional/chemistry dynamic entirely. And the three-part harmonies aren't natural or effective at all. Just in case you think I'm too much of a homer for Alex & Sierra to know when they aren't good... This isn't good. At all. It's a bad miscalculation and it's the reason "Idol" contenders perform with stars in the finale *after* the votes, because it'll be a sham if this ill-conceived trio costs Alex & Sierra votes.
The Judges Say: "Y'all are great. God-doggit," Kelly says, calling it "a nice vocal." Demi, however, felt that it wasn't their best performance and that they were outshined by Leona. Paulina loved it, or something. Simon says Leona Lewis changed the show forever and they can as well.

 

9:18 p.m. Jeff Gutt's duet is with "one of his heroes." It's "one of the greatest artists ever" according to Kelly. And it is... That guy from Goo Goo Dolls. Welcome, John Rzeznik.

Singer: JEFF GUTT AND JOHN RZEZNICK
Song: "Iris"
My Take: This is a great song choice for Jeff Gutt, because it puts him right in the middle of his '90s wheelhouse. Interestingly, when John and Jeff sing together, it's pretty nice. It's when Jeff is solo that there's some odd affectation. I think Jeff has given much, much better performances in this competition.
The Judges Say: Demi Lovato is star-struck and giddy to be around John Rzeznick. Paulina says Jeff has the "X Factor." Simon calls it the perfect collaboration and song. Simon also notes how "rare" it is to see the "generosity" that the guests showed in giving up their time. That was pretty much an explicit admission that they struggled to find guests, isn't it?

 

9:28 p.m. When our performers first auditioned, they were AWFUL. Ugly, insecure and plan. Then? Covergirl gave them makeup and soon, they have beauty and confidence and comfort. I may throw up.

9:29 p.m. My favorite part of that commercial was the subtle appearances by the men, who are pretending they're not slathered in makeup.

9:30 p.m. Our last performances are songs that the contestants have sung before. "Falling Slowly"? PLEASE?

 

Singer: CARLITO OLIVERO
Song: "Maria"
My Take: Oh. Really? This was one of my least favorite "Carlito" performances. And I don't understand why it begins with a fairly long Carlito dance solo. Will Alex & Sierra get a similar dance breakdown? So many dancers bringing the heat around what is a very bland vocal from Carlito, just as it was the first time. I know that having a dancer in a skimpy costume distracting Simon is a good strategy, but Carlito's bleating on the higher notes mostly shows he can't really sing them.
The Judges Say: Kelly's happy. Demi thinks America should vote for him. "You have earned my respect, America's respect," Simon says. "You deserve this recording deal," Paulina says.

Singer: ALEX & SIERRA
Song: "Say Something"
My Take: Boo. I loved this performance as much as the next guy. It had piano and guitar and harmony and many things I love. But come on. "Falling Slowly." Redemption! They do this very well. I'd move Alex five feet closer to Sierra. I'm uncomfortable with the distance between them. I don't care if he has to sit on the piano. It would be worth it. Anyway. Yay, Alex & Sierra. Sorry "X Factor" hosed you with that duet with Leona Lewis. Sierra's added emotion makes this even sweeter.
The Judges Say: "That was even better than the first time," Kelly says. "You never cease to not blow me away," Demi says, Yoda-style. Paulina says that Alex & Sierra speak the universal language. Simon says they're exactly what the show needs and that they deserve to win. Wow. Alex & Sierra got a whole week dedicated to them in Daytona, putting them in the same league with SPRING BREAK!

 

9:46 p.m. Incidentally: If Alex proposes to Sierra tonight, they win. Otherwise, I'm not sure if they can win. As we learned from Peeta and Katniss, audiences are suckers for a love story. Pull the berries, Alex! Pull the berries!

 

Singer: JEFF GUTT
Song: "Creepy"
My Take: Jeff is OWNING his '90s side tonight. And the director is OWNING the cut-aways to Jeff's cute son in the audience. For me, this performance is a mumbly mess, but I'm pretty much ready to surrender on "X Factor" for life. If you love Jeff Gutt and his cute son, you'll probably love that performance. The crowd sure does.
The Judges Say: Demi thinks that was amazing. She also thinks America should vote for Jeff. "I enjoyed this performance," Paulina says, calling him "perfect" and "unique." Really? "Perfect"? "Unique"? Simon was happy that millions of people got to see him. Kelly plays the "Jeff Gutt has a cute son" card. Sigh. Well, at least Jeff Gutt is helping Detroit recover from the pain of the cancellation of "Low Winter Sun."

 

9:56 p.m. So apparently everybody tonight was perfect and flawless and unique and brilliant. I can't believe that we're going to have to watch for a full two hours to get the results.

9:58 p.m.  I'll be back in an hour to write about Carlito's first performance.

You know what I think. What did you think?