The X Factor – Series 11 Episode 9

Five I’m-really-going-to-have-to-get-my-arse-in-gear-to-catch-up-before-the-live-shows-start things about episode one of Boot Camp.

1. Tell Me Who’s Mentoring Who? Is It Me? Is It You?: Sure, the categories leaked all over the internet aeons ago, and the assignations were so obvious that anyone with even a passing acquaintance with this show probably could have worked them out, but this episode made it all official by sending the judges off to a different room each to meet the contestants they’ll be gradually disposing of over the next few weeks. Even this part of the show wasn’t free from pointless contrived drama, as Stevi Ritchie’s phone conveniently went off while the Over-25s were waiting for their judge to walk through the door. Oh that Stevi! He’s just so accident-prone! He’s like a male Miranda Hart! Eventually Simon walked through the door for the Over-25s, Cheryl got the Girls (again), Louis got the Groups (again) and Mel got the Boys. Is Cheryl ever going to have to mentor a contestant over the age of 28?

2. The First Cut Is The Quickest: Considering how much of a faff was made about narrowing a field of approximately 14 contestants down to six, the judges really didn’t seem to have much trouble cutting the 114 original contestants down to 57 – this took no more than five minutes of screentime and was conducted almost entirely by montage. It’s almost as if the show couldn’t wait to get to the part of the show that guaranteed the highest amount of daft manufactured drama, wasn’t it? So once the number of hopefuls had been halved, it was time for the return of the much-loved (it says here) Six Chair Challenge – the one where each judge has six spots in the next round to fill, and rather than making an informed decision after everyone has performed, they make an on-the-spot decision after each performance and once the seats have all been filled, they have to boot someone out if they want to put someone else through. Except in cases where a contestant is under 16, because the show’s producers came on to tell Cheryl in no uncertain terms that once a contestant younger than 16 has been given a seat, they must not be swapped out again. This is, presumably, because this act of emotional terrorism is deemed too cruel for someone not old enough to buy a packet of fags, although I’m not entirely sure what makes it acceptable at any age.

3. My Greatest Murstake: Cheryl made several baffling decisions over the course of her six-chair challenge, not least giving a seat to Fishy Lola after a disastrous rendition of CeCe Peniston’s ‘Finally’ and then apparently not even flirting with the idea of subsequently chucking her out (this being the second time in a row that Fishy Lola has utterly biffed her performance for the judges, so why does she have such staying power? Did she discover one night down at the docks that one of the judges has a Troy McClure-style “romantic abnormality”?), but for my money the most nonsensical of all was the unrepentant jettisoning of Monica Michael. Remember her? The youth worker who sang that song for her little sister at the Room Auditions about not making all the same daft decisions that she did? After Cheryl had already filled five of her seats with Fishy Lola (crap), Chloe Jasmine (ill-advised jazz interpretation of the Backstreet Boys), Shanay Holmes (who?), Stephanie Nala (sings everything down her nose) and Orlaith Keogh (again, who?), Monica walked onto the stage and announced that she would be singing ‘Troublemaker’ by Olly Murs. “Why?” replied a clearly confused Cheryl. Now, normally I would be on the same side as Cheryl on this, because there is already far too much Olly Murs in the universe without anyone else adding to it, but Monica’s rendition was actually pretty good – it was fun, playful, arguably the best vocal anyone had given up to that point and she actually made an effort to dance and work the stage in a way that nobody else so far had really bothered to. And then she finished and Cheryl said “I just don’t understand why you would do an Olly Murs song”, and sent her home without a second thought. Apparently Cheryl was hugely wounded by the song choice because she liked Monica’s SWAG and we must all remember how very street Cheryl is at all times, so this was her way of driving that message home. On the bright side, the audience booed the fuck out of Cheryl for it, so at least it wasn’t all bad.

4. Winning Hearts And Minds With Cheryl Fernandez-Versini: Actually, “the audience hovers on the verge of rioting and sacrificing Cheryl to their god” turned out to be a recurring theme of this episode. Simon, who’d set the tone by saying at the beginning that the audience were “badly-behaved” and smirking that he loved it, telling them that they were the fifth judge and insisting that they make their voices heard, suddenly changed his mind when they started expressing their disapproval of Cheryl’s decisions, and started telling them to calm down and remember what a difficult job Cheryl had to do. Aw, diddums. Other ways in which Cheryl endeared herself to the audience: blaming them for her sending Kayleigh Manners home without giving her a seat, getting rid of Shanay, screaming “I’VE MADE MY CHOICE AND ASS MAI CHOICE!” in a strange intonation that suggests she might have contracted Nadine Coyle Accent Syndrome. Oh, and then there was the part where the only name Cheryl could remember was “Chloe”…

5. A Tale Of Two Chloes: So Chloe Jasmine was the second person to take to the stage, and despite croaking her way through an appallingly jazzed-down rendition of ‘I Want It That Way’, Cheryl decided to give her a seat. Then later, when all the seats were full, Cheryl found herself wanting to find a place for 17-year-old Chloe Gorman, who had sung Whitney Houston’s ‘I Didn’t Know My Own Strength’ reasonably competently, if a bit squawkily in place. In order to do this, Cheryl decided to abandon “the other Chloe”. So the two Chloes switched places, and the crowd was furious, as was Simon who actually ordered Cheryl to change her mind. Then Lauren Platt auditioned with an okay-if-you-like-that-sort-of-thing take on ‘Man In The Mirror’ and Cheryl wanted to keep her too, so she chucked out Chloe O’Gorman, who had literally just sat down, and at this point everyone watching wondered whether Cheryl had sustained a blow to the head that left her unable to utter any name that wasn’t “Chloe”. Then a little bit later, once Shanay had been booted to make room for shoe-flogger Kerrianne Covell, Cheryl suddenly “realised” that she’d made a mistake and needed to call Chloe Jasmine back. I’m not sure quite what the rules are meant to be when it comes to reversing a decision like that, but I suspect the official line might be “anything goes if it makes good telly, especially if it involves Cheryl”. So Chloe Jasmine was called back and Cheryl explained that she needed versatility, and she wanted someone who would do something different every week. (Lol bokay Cheryl, because if you don’t think Chloe Jasmine is just going to shoehorn “lounge singer jazz” into every single theme week, you’re a great deal stupider than I gave you credit for.) And who did Cheryl decide to chuck out to make room for the vibrant, diverse Chloe Jasmine? Beige, boring Fishy Lola perhaps? Boring snoring Lauren? Nope: Orlaith, who’d at least had the decency to do a comedy reggae song for her turn and might actually have done something vaguely inventive on the live shows. Mel was unimpressed with this turn, and as Orlaith sat picking up the pieces of her dreams offstage, Mel marched past and announced “I think that was a big mistake, losing you. I TOLD CHERYL THAT.” Mel ❤

Next time: same shit, different people.

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