Welcome to another week of "The X Factor."

Just a little warning: This live-blog will pause at 9:30 ET as I change over to live-blogging the season finale of "Big Brother." It'll resume again at 9:30 Pacific when I switch over from the "Survivor" premiere. Yup. Tonight's a triple-recap night. Check back tomorrow to see if I survived.

And now... On to Wednesday's "X Factor"...

8:02 p.m. ET. We're starting in Kansas City, home of BBQ and FOX radio affiliates.

8:02 p.m. We have another person everybody is comparing to Justin Bieber. Cece Frey is a mail clerk. She's going to audition? Cece is nothing like Justin Bieber, by the way. She just happens to have been jammed into the segment with the teenybopper.

8:03 p.m. In an ENTIRELY spontaneous moment, Britney Spears is entrusted with telling the other judges that Simon Cowell won't be attending. Yes. Because that's exactly how these things go down. In an equally spontaneous moment, Britney and Demi decide to get L.A. Reid a birthday cake. And, in a final spontaneous moment, the KC auditioners go nuts when it's revealed that Simon won't be attending. Why is this episode so painfully contrived already?

8:04 p.m. The manager of Boyzone and Westlife is replacing Simon for the day.

8:05 p.m. Meet Rizzloe Jones. He's 18 and because he's white and allegedly raps, he's introduced via "Ice Ice Baby." He wants to inspire people with his music. Just like Vanilla Ice. Because everything in this episode is spontaneous, Cece Frey goes and introduces herself to Rizzloe. Just because. Cece is mean. She's just doing this to mess with Rizzloe's head. Surely she could achieve the result just by messing with his Ritalin.

8:06 p.m. OK, Rizzloe. Play that funky music, white boy. Incidentally, Rizzloe is Rizzloe's birth name. It's his dad's fault. Rizzloe is very, very confident. When he says his genre is rap, the audience laughs. I like how Rizzy has to keep explaining to people what it means to "freestyle." I also like how he's treating freestyling like improv comedy, asking for word suggestions from the crowd. Demi suggests "marshmallow." Rizzloe is... Excruciating, but he DOES work "marshmallow" into his flow. So... kudos? "Rizzloe, like your flow," L.A. Reid says, applauding his bravery. "It was really good," L.A. Reid says. No. No it was not. Seriously. Stop. "Rizzloe Jones, remember that name," says Not-Simon. I will. "I felt like you were a young Vanilla Ice Ice Baby," Britney says. "That was so cool. I'm so impressed," Demi says. Rizzloe gets four "Yes" votes.

8:10 p.m. What the [bleep] just happened?

8:15 p.m. Cece Frey's just wandering around psyching more people out. She's playing backstage interviewer, stirring up trouble. Her boyfriend Matt is impressed with her evil streak. "I'm not in this thing to make friends," Cece says, though she also says "there's nobody like me," unaware that she's actually like EVERY bitchy reality TV contestant ever. And presumably we're about to humiliate her, just like we did with the mean girl in the premiere. 

8:17 p.m. At least we're not wasting time. Let's humiliate Cece right now. Demi's curious about Cece's leopard-print facial painting. Demi goads Cece into saying that she's going to be better than everybody back stage. And she's about to brutalize "Unchained Melody." And...

8:18 p.m. "Man, I hope she has talent," L.A. Reid says. Cece is... bad. She could be worse. She can't sing "Unchained Melody," but that's because it's not a song that a mediocre singer can do. Will she do better with Christina Aguilera? And why has it been arranged for squeezebox? Oh no. Cece's actually... good. This was all a put-on. When she's playing teen pop-tart, she's perfectly serviceable. She's not great, but she shakes her groove thing acceptably and she growls pleasingly. She's absolutely good enough to advance. Not-Simon thinks that Cece is both ambitious and talented. "I think you a very talented young lady," Britney says. "You know what I love? You have attitude," L.A. Reid says, praising several other things she has as well. Four "Yes" votes for Cece. "Your attitude is awesome and I kinda have a girl-crush on you," Demi says. 

8:22 p.m. So... "X Factor" showed has 15 minutes of Cece Frey being an AWFUL person and then validated her awfulness entirely. Well... Excellent! 

8:25 p.m. In 25 minutes, we've put through an dreadful rapper and an dreadful person. I'm not loving this...

8:27 p.m. Backstage, Britney vibratos her way through "Happy Birthday" to L.A. Reid. I'd give her a "No" vote, but L.A. Reid is quite pleased. They pose happily with their cake. And nobody shares cake with the contestants.

8:28 p.m. Backstage, somebody we haven't met is looking at one particularly intense contestant and worrying about him. The intense contestant is Vino Alan, who has a 15-year-old son and has been waiting for this his whole life. His job is playing songs for the military and he has tattoos everywhere, across his face and across his head. "I'm diggin' it. That's sick," Demi says, as Britney cringes next to her. Vino's rendition of "Trouble" is simultaneously soulful-as-heck and just a little terrifying. Folks in the crowd are moved by Vino and even Britney is looking just a little bit less scared. I wish he'd sung just a bit more, but it was still good. Not-Simon praises his stage presence. Britney was inspired. Demi thinks Vino was unique. Four "Yes" votes. 

8:37 p.m. Not-Simon, in a completely spontaneous moment, asks L.A. Reid if he's missing Simon. L.A. Reid says "Yes" and "Not that much."

8:37 p.m. Contestant DeAngelo Wallace is talking trash about Britney and L.A. Reid backstage. He's convinced that he's going to get four "Yes" votes and then finds a way to insult Demi Lovato as well. "If they don't see a star, they're fools," he says. He's hideous, even if he has the names of two of my favorite characters from "The Wire." "I know I'm better than Justin Bieber," says the obnoxious twit. Let's humiliate him. Oh, perfect. He's singing Chris Brown, too. He's flat and atonal. The judges pay tribute to DeAngelo by walking off the podium. Undeterred, DeAngelo just keeps on singing. "It was all just a big joke to him," Reid complains. "I guess they were too scared to face me," DeAngelo says. "If you ask me, I think they worship the devil," he adds. DeAngelo leaves with the microphone, which is worth $3000. Keeping things completely in proportion, "X Factor" has DeAngelo arrested and tossed in the cop car. He was even, we're told, charged with a misdemeanor. Way to make a point, "X Factor."

8:45 p.m. People backstage are ready. Tate Stevens is an underdog, because he's the only guy with a hat on. He's 37 and he's in the street department back in Missouri. He's been too busy being a dad to get a break. I appreciate how Demi Lovato asks the man in the cowboy had what kind of music he likes to sing. "Usually rap," he responds. "I'm gonna have a big-ass party," Tate says of what he'd do if he won the $5 million. I like this guy. He's funny. Please be good...

8:49 p.m. Yup. Tate is good. He has a rich and controlled country voice that you could imagine coming from the radio right now. It took 50+ minutes, but I'm glad this "X Factor" episode delivered somebody I can get behind. Tate receives an enthusiastic standing ovation and one of Britney's open-mouthed smiled. Tate's daughter is backstage crying and Tate's obviously overwhelmed as well. "I love country music and I love your voice," Demi says. "You've got an amazing, authentic, effortless country voice," Not-Simon says. "You're my favorite so far. You're amazing and I love you," Britney says. "I'm only mad at you for waiting so long to do what you're doing," L.A. Reid says. Four "Yes" votes, duh.

8:53 p.m. "You guys are the greatest audience in the world," L.A. Reid tells the Kansas City audience. Really? Based on what? "To me, he's already my superhero and my star," Tate's daughter says. Awww... I hope we see more of him.

8:54 p.m. That's it for Kansas City and that's also it for Not-Simon.

9:00 p.m. And... Now we're back in San Francisco, where we've been multiple times this season. Caleb Bigler is 15 and he's really excited to be at the auditions, as is the group Citizen.

9:00 p.m. Totally spontaneously, the judges all wonder where Simon is and if he's still sick. "He's a lot sweeter than he comes off," Demi says spontaneously... And Simon Cowell is back. Whew.

9:01 p.m. Yes. Let's watch the men of Citizen do their hair. Accompanied by "Raining Men." We get it. They're a catalogue-come-to-life. "I've been deemed the heartthrob," says Patrick. Deemed? By who? Nobody has a clue who you or citizen are, dude. You haven't been "deemed" anything. These guys are comically contrived, but they'd be HUGE in the U.K. If they can sing, I mean. Can they? Well, they can each moan individually. And they can kinda dance in unison. Demi looks like she's in love with one of them. Patrick probably. I hear he's the heartthrob. Simon, however, looks bored. This is probably because there are 50 guy groups in England who would eat Citizen for lunch. L.A. Reid really liked it. "I felt like you guys totally rocked up there," Britney said. Demi was also pleased. "I didn't get it," Simon says. "It was 10 years out of date," Simon says. He votes "No," but the other three vote "Yes." "It's like you're in a time machine," Simon tells them.

9:06 p.m. Simon didn't like H4rmony or Elevate elevate. He calls somebody a singing candle. He tells somebody else that he won't remember them in 15 minutes.

9:11 p.m. Simon's still unhappy and giving out "No" votes like toothbrushes at Halloween. People are getting scared backstage. Will some young contestants save the day?  Adrianna Lemus is tackling "Rumor Has It," a song that Simon hates. She's not going to make him hate it any less.  "I can't have any more Adele songs," Simon says as Adrianna leaves the stage crying. What of 13-year-old Diamond White? She lives in "a shoebox apartment" with her mother. They share a bed. Come on, "X Factor." Let's get this girl's family a second bed. All she wants is her own bed. Diamond has a big smile and a peppy attitude. Diamond wants to sing "This Is a Man's World" and Simon is doubtful, especially when Diamond giggles. I hate to use this pun but Diamond is both very impressive and also rather unpolished. She's got pipes and she has some idea of how to use them. She could also use coaching, but I suspect she's gonna get at least a little of that coaching courtesy of "X Factor." The crowd approves and Diamond does a happy dance. "Your mother got it right. You are a diamond," L.A. Reid says. "You have a sparkle in your eye that we look for," Demi says. "I feel like you're amazing and you really brought it," Britney says. "13-years-old, you just blew the roof off here," Simon raves. Four "Yes" votes.

9:19 p.m. "Now I'm happy," Simon says. Diamond is speechless.

9:24 p.m. Back to business, in Austin, Texas. Ally Brooke is backstage. She's 19. She's cute. And she's wearing a funny hat. She wants to do it all. She wants a perfume line. She wants to act. She wants to sing. She wants to be as big as Beyonce. "Hello, Austin Texas," Ally yells. Ally looks like Kelly Clarkson meets Nicole Scherzinger and she's like Cece Frey, only not an awful person. That is to say that she has a fine pop radio voice, she looks good in formal shorts and she's full of confident. Somehow she manages those things without torturing people backstage. She's got a lot of emotion and she doesn't know when to stop, continuing past the end of the music and closing with self-indulgent a cappella. This counts as upstaging Simon. Don't upstage Simon. "Your voice blew me away," Demi says. "I was actually really surprised," Britney says, though she says Ally may belong on Broadway. Simon tells Ally that she's a future star. Four "Yes" votes.

9:29 p.m. PACIFIC! OK. Back to "The X Factor." Good "Big Brother" finale. Good "Survivor" premiere (recap coming after I finish with this). But I've still got 30 minutes of "X Factor" to go...

9:30 p.m. The ladies of Sister C are fairly good, though I can't figure out... are they all sisters to somebody or are they sister to each other? Apparently they're sisters to each other. The middle one has very shiny legs.

9:31 p.m. The ladies like Jeremiah & Josh. They're brothers and they do an original duet. "Your voices are magical," Britney says. "I wish you would wake you up in the morning," she adds. "Singing!" says a shocked and modest Britney. "You think they're like an alarm clock?" Simon asks the increasingly red Britney. 

9:38 p.m. Panda Ross is a 42-year-old barista from Dallas. She's here for Simon and she's even wearing a necklace that says she's Single. She was in the hospital for a week with pneumonia just a day earlier, but she's determined to use her personality to "let America have a little piece of Panda." Hmmm... All aboard the Panda Express? "You my boo," Panda tells Simon. Panda's mom was in jail when she had her and her cellmate was white and so they came up with the name. This is Demi's favorite story in the history of all stories. Panda's singing "Bring It On Home." And she's fantastic. If you consider she was just in the hospital with a respiratory illness... Damn. Britney's got her open-mouthed smile going in full effect. I'd vote for Panda if I voted for reality show contestants. "I can't deny how good that was," L.A. Reid says. "You're such a character and your voice is so soulful," Demi says. Britney calls her "witty and hilarious." "You sound like a legend," Simon says. "I've always wanted a Panda," Simon adds. Four "Yes" votes for Panda. ALL ABOARD THE PANDA EXPRESS.

9:45 p.m. And then things get phlegmy. The EMTs have to come help Panda out with an oxygen mask. Gracious. Panda vows to be ready for boot camp. I hope she does.

9:50 p.m. In the Judges' Room, Demi learns that Panda had to go to the hospital. "You could be a carrier," Simon tells Demi. "Demi's infectious!" Simon yells. "Simon's just gross!" Demi says. 

9:51 p.m. Who's going to close the show? Will it be 22-year-old Jessica Espinoza? She knows what it's like to be hungry and she thinks she brings her experiences with her to the stage. Yup. Based on the time, she's going to be last, which means she's gonna be good. I like Jessica. I've liked a lot of people in the second half of this episode. I wish it hadn't started so poorly. Yeah. She's good. Raw, but good. She gets a lot of time for her performance. Standing ovation from the audience. Head-tilted, open-mouthed smile from Britney. "I feel like you have such a strong voice and it's really deep and I love it," Britney says. "You have a sparkle in your eye that you only see in people who have the X Factor," Demi says. People like Diamond White, Demi? "I didn't like it... I loved it," Simon says.  Jessica cries. And she gets four "Yes" votes.

 

Who'd you like tonight? Who'd you dislike?