Plinkiplonk: “Surprised how harsh they were to 5AM… Maybe punishment for bad behaviour behind the scenes?” Fudd: “To me it felt like a shot across the bows from the show”.
How frustrating it must be for X Factor producers when an act they’re actually trying to help is uncooperative behind the scenes. The ingrates!
What do you do? Our guess: give them a warning shot and one last chance, with negative treatment that is nonetheless careful not to do any damage that can’t be undone the following week if they take the hint and fall in line. That’s how we interpreted Emily’s treatment in week 1, following her “not practising enough” VT. And we agree with our commenters that this is how 5AM’s treatment this week looked to us.
In a singoff between two acts whose Saturday treatment indicated were both seen as disposable, Sofabet commenters and Betfair punters alike were divided on what the judges would do. You can see why they sent Relley home, though: equalling up the non-girls categories at two apiece, keeping a group around in case 5 After Midnight continue to apparently prove troublesome behind the scenes, and perhaps clearing Gifty’s demographic for her.
Producers will surely now be thinking about retiring the Sunday evening lifeline vote, which has saved a cute young boy for the third week in a row – this time, the act whom Sofabet commenters felt was producers’ unambiguous target in the Saturday show. It has to be a bittersweet reprieve for Ryan, though; after the assault he suffered this week, he must be worried about what producers will cook up for him.
That said, next week is Hallowe’en, when producers have more often preferred to sacrifice a young maiden (or four). The last Hallowe’en show was two years ago. Here’s the analysis of Hallowe’en staging we wrote before that show, looking for themes in the kills of previous years. And here’s our forensic analysis of how producers sank their fangs into Jack Walton in that 2014 fright night. We’ll be back in midweek with more thoughts, as usual. In the meantime, do keep the conversation going below.
Ryan was the clear target tonight – the only act under the Strictly bus, as a bit of padding at the start of the show ensured BBC viewers will have been turning over just as Gifty was singing. It was a full-on hatchet job for the Coatbridge lad, and it would be a surprise if he clears the bottom three. But if there, will the flash vote save him again?
Interestingly, the vote was open from the start of the show. If memory serves – and we stand to be corrected – when they did this in 2012, we had a couple of early exits from late running order slots (Carolynne Poole, Melanie Masson), but it ultimately didn’t seem to change much. However, we think this is the first time they’ve done it since the app vote. Perhaps that will change things: if people who are used to free voting splurge their free votes early, will they pay to vote for later acts? We’re guessing this is the kind of thing producers are interested in experimenting with, too.
Ryan Lawrie’s VT this week sent us down memory lane to one of our favourite ever things we’ve seen on this show, Craig Colton’s Incredible Shrinking Hometown. If you weren’t with Sofabet in 2011, start by watching Craig’s week 4 VT, when he was still in favour with producers. Note the establishing shot of the iconic Mersey riverbank, and the “we all support him in Liverpool”, “come on Craig, do it for Liverpool!” vox pops.
Now here’s Craig’s week 7 VT, when producers want him out. After some hints that we should now consider his X Factor journey completed, producers show him returning home… not to Liverpool (population: 465,000), but to Kirkby (population: 40,000). We especially enjoyed the shot of poor old Craig waiting alone at a deserted bus stop.
The market called the singoff situation correctly, with the top three in the elimination betting occupying the bottom three positions in the vote – and the longest-odds of those three duly being saved by the lifeline vote (go Coatbridge!).
As we’ve now had two lifeline votes and two cute boys being the beneficiaries, it seemed likely to me that the show would take the opportunity to ditch Freddy while they could. Saara offers more performance-wise and her bounce is likely to be easier to control. Punters agreed, though during the singoff it was still possible to get on Freddy at around 1.6, with Saara trading around 2.7. I must admit that when Simon took it to deadlock, I was expecting to lose – but I’ve ended the night with a modest profit.
Where now for the Snow Fairy, who is bearing her undignified treatment with commendable good grace? There are precedents for repeated singoff appearances to belatedly engender sympathy, with Rachel Adedeji topping week 3’s vote after saves in the first two weeks, and Katie Waissel almost topping the vote the week after her third save in a row. It will be interesting to see if producers give Saara a break; leaving Relley hanging over the ad break perhaps wasn’t the best of signs for her.
More reflection to come in our midweek post, as always. In the meantime, do keep the conversation going below.
Matt Terry and 5 After Midnight were the big winners from the second live show – it’s 16.0 bar two on Betfair at the time of writing, and producers’ intentions to have both in the final seem clear enough. Who they’re thinking of as the likely third finalist is a more intriguing question.
Of more immediate concern, to our eyes there weren’t any all-out hatchet jobs – you didn’t have to look too hard to find some degree of positivity in everyone’s treatment. But three of the eleven acts are going to be standing next to Dermot looking crestfallen on Sunday evening.
Freddy Parker is a shade of odds-on for next elimination and justifiably so. He was sent out first, one of only two acts to perform in the Strictly overlap, and didn’t get as much positivity as most.
There’s a simple way of looking at a next elimination market for the second live show. Are the acts that fell into the first-week danger zone and survived, surplus to the show’s requirements? For the last three years – Kiera Weathers, Steph Nala and Shelley Smith – they have been, and were the next to go. For the two years before that – Rylan and Frankie Cocozza – producers had a longer-term narrative in mind, and worked with the sympathy bounce to good effect.
The difference this year is that we know the two lowest polling acts left in the competition. It wasn’t surprising to see Saara Aalto and Freddy Parker in danger after their treatment on the first live show. There was a distracting song arrangement and distracting judges conversations surrounding Saara, whilst Freddy was made to spend the last third of his song warbling and jiggling around on stage to a red illuminati backdrop. Simon said it was the first performance that hadn’t worked; Freddy had been eighth of eleven in the running order.
On that evidence, both appear surplus to requirements. Producers can always change their minds from one week to the next, but these are two acts who have been given scant investment, and seem highly unlikely to win the competition. The running order of the second live show has been indicative in the past: Kiera, Steph and Shelley all got first-half draws, Rylan and Frankie received a more favourable second-half position. There’s a Strictly overlap of 25 minutes tonight.