The much-speculated-about lovers’ singoff seems less likely after another pimp slot for Emily, but it would be a major surprise if boyfriend Ryan gets out of jail. He went into the show odds-on in the elimination betting, and the market now rates him about a 70% chance to be next out. Honey G has shortened to second favourite, and we felt a vibe that the show may be reluctantly accepting the game is nearly up with her – but then, it was hardly the best of treatments for perennial singoff assassin Saara, either.
In the outright, Matt is almost as short a price to win as Ryan is to leave next, despite Dermot’s show-opening insistence that “it’s the most open race we’ve ever had” because “three different acts have been top”. Emily is back into second-favourite, although mostly because her odds held steady while 5 After Midnight drifted out.
As ever, a Sunday rewatch will tell us more, but here’s how we saw movie night on first viewing.
Poor old Ryan – what are you supposed to answer when a producer, offscreen, asks “who would you rather win the X Factor, you or Emily?”. He must have worried that if he’d said Emily, that would have looked like he was mentally checking out of the competition already – but reluctantly admitting that he’d rather win it himself made him look a touch unchivalrous.
Then there was a calorie-burning competition with Matt, for Fitbit product placement purposes. This turned out to be another cruel touch on the show’s part – using Ryan’s VT to set him up as trying to compete with Matt; then having Louis tell him, in comments, that Matt would always be better than him; then, later, in Matt’s VT, having a journalist ask Matt who his main competition is. “5 After Midnight”, Matt replied without hesitation. Ryan who?
Performance-wise, it was fun and in Ryan’s comfort zone, which suggests that producers are happy they can keep his vote under control by keeping him in his lane. The judges were mostly in nonmotivational praise mode, excepting Louis’s comment (which will surely have struck most viewers as harsh but not unfair) and Simon saying “it was a little corny” (ditto). That somewhat undercut his praise for it being Ryan’s best effort in seven weeks.
Simon also claimed it was the first time in the live shows that Ryan had looked like he was enjoying himself, perhaps intended to imply that he has a dour personality or hasn’t been sufficiently grateful. There was plenty of distracting chatter about the judges being shown in close-up on the big screens, and Dermot twice asked Ryan about being at the bottom. It will be a major shock if he escapes the singoff.
Next up were 5AM, and after we’d met Nathan’s hardworking dad last week, they got a highly positive bonding VT having dinner with Jordan’s family and meeting his little brother (“I just want to see you in that final – that’s gonna make me so proud”). There was plenty of gold in the staging, and another big reaction from the studio audience. Sharon and Louis namechecked them as finalists, and Louis identified a “massive gap in the market” for them.
Nonetheless, they drifted somewhat in the outright and shortened slightly in the elimination betting, due to the doubts expressed about their vocal capabilities. Both Nicole and Sharon praised the performing more than the singing, then Simon specifically criticised the vocals. Livening up the final is one thing, but doubts have to remain about whether they have the vocal chops for the show to want to push them for the win.
Saara wasn’t sent to the Finnish Embassy, but it was the next worst thing – in stark contrast to the previous week’s VT about how happy she is to be in Britain, we heard her confessing to feeling lonely as “it’s been months since I’ve seen my family”. There followed a Skype conversation in Finnish with assorted family members, set to sad music. The clear intention was to demotivate votes.
Saara smashed the vocal, of course, but her styling put ten years on her, and both staging and arrangement felt very musical theatre; despite a pyro curtain at the end, we felt the overall effect was rather dull. Judges’ comments were generally non-motivationally positive, with Simon saying he didn’t like the dress as it wasn’t wacky enough – perhaps a proxy for reminding viewers that the high-energy, bonkers vibe that’s endeared us to Saara was missing here.
The interesting question is whether this was intended to drag her into the singoff with Ryan, keeping Honey G clear for another week, or to pull her off the top of the vote if she topped it last week with ‘Enough is Enough’. If the vote was very close last week, it could even be both.
Matt’s VT started with a reminder of the “karaoke” comment about his previous week’s performance, and we saw him taking responsibility for choosing a Sam Smith number. For the second time this series we saw him denying complacency to a showbiz reporter.
Having not joined the standing ovation for the first three acts of the night, Simon did so for the last three, starting with Matt. That, the beautiful golden lighting, the effusiveness of the comments, the continued whipping up of the audience during them, and Nicole squeezing out a few tears, all added to the sense that the show intended this to be Matt’s moment. We’re not entirely sure it achieved momenthood, as the song itself is an acquired taste, but it remains increasingly hard to see who’s going to beat Matt to the prize.
Honey G’s VT started with another Fitbit plug, before we saw her reassuring a taxi driver that she’s the real deal, spliced with a montage of media debate about her. Sharon called her the “hardest working contestant”, a theme picked up in comments, and “determined to be at the final”, which Honey herself said was “within touching distance”.
Producers had again gone to plenty of effort, filming her getting on a tube for the song’s opening – well, it makes a change from the car park. During the performance we felt it was far from her strongest week, but a four-judge ovation immediately indicated that producers are still hopeful of getting her through at least another week. It rang alarm bells for us that both Louis and Sharon openly pleaded for votes, though – that strongly suggests that Honey hasn’t been escaping the singoff by much.
Simon promised a “reality check” before gushing “I love you”, calling her “infectious”, and saying “is it the best thing I’ve ever heard, no, do I look forward to you coming back, yes… it’s time to rip up the rule book”. But the alarm bells rang loudest when Nicole said “towards the end I wondered if I’m starting to see the same thing week after week”. We’re slightly surprised that comment was allowed through, given the other evidence that they’re still trying to be helpful – it’s damaging because it’s true.
Simon explictly referenced the headmasterly vibe in Emily’s VT, as she met him at his office at Sony to be told off for having an opinion. The rest of the VT established that Emily had seen the light and chosen for herself another of the slow songs Simon likes for her. Simon held out the prospect of her winning, and we saw her walking around Sony and hoping to be signed up.
The performance was basically Creep II, with plenty of helpful reverb on the mic again and a lingering close-up at the end, but without the same impact the second time around without the added visuals. A four-judge standing ovation had the “beautiful” and “haunting” epithets wheeled out again, and Sharon praising Simon for “creating this image for you… You’re like a young, hip Sarah McLachlan” (poor Sarah). With due modesty, Simon deflected the praise onto Emily.
There were alarm bells here, too, notably Sharon’s phrasing of “I’m sure everyone is voting for you” – that isn’t an exhortation to pick up the phone. But producers will surely know what to expect vote-wise by keeping Emily firmly in her lane, and it seems unlikely that they would have made such a big thing of this performance being down to Simon’s good judgement if they were expecting it to result in a bottom two appearance.
Can Ryan somehow stage a breakout? Will singoff assassin Saara claim another victim? Will the show be happy to court the controversy of saving Honey G, if needed? As ever, do keep your thoughts coming below.