The rumours suggest the act with the fewest public votes will be automatically eliminated this weekend, leaving four still in for the final.
The bookmakers’ favourite to fall at this point is last week’s sing-off survivor, Mary, at a shade of odds-on. The second favourite to go is the previous week’s sing-off survivor, Cher, at around 6/4. There is a big gap back to the other three, headed by Rebecca at 10/1.
But I think this is much trickier to call between these three acts than the bookmakers’ odds suggest, for a number of reasons. As always, much depends on how producers present the semi-finalists in the Saturday show, especially as this is the stage when we tend to get a lot of the back-story for each remaining contestant. And I am finding it hard to be confident about guessing which of these acts they will be trying their hardest to drum up support for, and which they will be looking to cut adrift.
In many ways, Mary deserves to be favourite for elimination. She has looked increasingly limited in her range throughout the series, was rumoured to have polled fewer votes than Wagner last weekend, and will not have any pull for producers as a recording artist.
However, taking an odds-on price about someone who should benefit from a sympathy bounce is not an attractive proposition either. Mary has a core demographic among older voters and the Irish, who will want her in the final. And there is a theory that a four-way final may be designed for a one-act-one-mentor event.
If producers are looking to do their best for Mary, they have plenty of raw material. She has arguably the most interesting back-story out of all the remaining five acts – last week, she dedicated her sing-off song to the father of her daughter, who up till now had not been mentioned. There is a tremendous opportunity for producers to play up past heartbreak and create a narrative of overcoming adversity – if they want to.
If there is any truth in the one-act-one-mentor final theory, then which of Cheryl’s acts might find herself being set up as the fall girl? Cher was certainly given every help last week, with the pimp slot and wild praise from the judges. It does seem that they see her as a future recording artist, and a slot in the final would help.
Cher was benefiting from the sympathy bounce last week, and this often endures for only one week (although Olly and JLS bounced all the way from week 7, when Cher had her sing-off, to second place). She may not find so much sympathy this time around – as Nick commented there was a tremendously negative reaction to Cher on Twitter last weekend, where she was perceived to be cocky in her reaction to judges’ comments.
On the other hand, it is perfectly possible that the show might decide to focus on over-the-top elements of this negativity (the poor lass is only 17, after all) in Cher’s VT as a way of motivating sympathy and support for her – if they want to.
As I indicated last week, I’ve not been sold on Rebecca having the X Factor, and wondered how many supporters she had been losing during a disappointing few weeks – producers seem almost to have given up on her after the Week 6 pimp slot disappointment. I don’t see her as being as relatively safe as the odds imply.
Unlike Mary and Cher, Rebecca has never been in a sing-off so she has no sympathy bounce. She does have a strong regional vote, but how effective this will be probably depends on how much the show choose to play up to it – will they send her out singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, a tearful rendition of which carried Ray Quinn into 2006’s final, and ensure that every judge tells her there won’t be a dry eye left on Merseyside? Or will they fail to remind us even once that she is from Liverpool, as happened last week?
Rebecca comes across as very likeable, and the producers could certainly choose to give her an uplifting VT focusing on her back-story as a single mother of two – if they want to.
In short, a watching brief is advised. As well as the relative interestingness of the VTs, the running order will tell us a lot this week about which act they are looking to wave goodbye to – and as we saw with Wagner, when they want rid of someone, they can dream up plenty of ways to undermine them. The someone they want rid of this week may well be Mary – but if it appears not to be, then I may end up backing Cher or Rebecca to be eliminated next during the show.
One Direction were rumoured by the source of the Twitter vote leak to be in the bottom three at one stage last weekend. Producers seemed keen to reinforce this idea by making the group the last act to be announced safe.
We at Sofabet think this was intended to give their supporters a fright, as part of a concerted push on behalf of Simon Cowell to build some momentum for a One Direction victory. That is going to take some doing in my opinion, but I believe that producers will give them every advantage in the semi-final.
As a result, I would be shocked if they were eliminated. It is churlish to believe that only young teens have been voting for them and that this may provide a ceiling in their support. JLS showed in 2008 that a boy band could broaden their appeal in the final few weeks.
Matt has become odds-on favourite for victory. We are at the stage when supporters and even neutrals are becoming more motivated to vote, and as arguably the most talented and popular contestant at this stage, he should be safely through.