The X Factor – Series 12: Six Chair Challenge (Part 3)

Our national nightmare comes to an end.

Before I begin my five-point roundup, I would just like to say that I’m not entirely sure why this round was left for last. The Overs aren’t a particularly engaging category (so much so that even their own mentor didn’t want them), the performances weren’t much to write home about, and the ridiculous back-and-forth drama was incredibly phoney even by this show’s standards. As an end-note for this part of the process, it just felt like a total anticlimax. Anyway:

Group Effort: So, do you remember how Cheryl hadn’t finished with her category? Because I almost didn’t. In my previous write-up I mentioned how the show tends to stick the ringers at the back end of the running order in the Six Chair Challenge in order to drum up suspense, and I was quite surprised when this didn’t seem to happen to Cheryl’s groups. This episode provided something of an explanation: after filling all of her chairs last week, Cheryl only had another two groups to see, so there really was only so much seat-wrangling she could do in the first place. (Another banner year for the groups category, then.) Still, at least the drama fairy had co-ordinated things so the last two groups to perform were Silver Tone and BEKLN, ie the two that know each other from church and involve a brother and sister who are technically competing against each other due to being in different acts. This was mentioned several times. Silver Tone were up first and, despite being dressed like a group of cater-waiters, finally silenced Simon with a stirring rendition of ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’. It’s so weird to hear it being sung on this show by someone other than a 16-year-old white girl. Cheryl switched them out for Mon Amie in seat #5, which is fair enough because “Mon Amie” is bad French anyway. BEKLN gave a less persuasive performance with their rendition of Charlie Puth’s ‘See You Again’, which was rather scratchy in places, and Rita showed her knickers by telling them she wasn’t sure if there was room for them and Silver Tone since they were the same genre, and Cheryl was unsure about whether to seat them or not but decided to do so anyway after Simon gave her the entirely useless advice to “protect the singers”. Cheryl sat them down in seat #3, booting out Rumour Has It, which Olly claimed was an “unpopular decision”, which seemed a bit odd because we’d just seen numerous shots of the audience holding up three fingers to tell Cheryl to kick them out. Ah well. And then we were done, making this easily the least eventful category of the series.

In The Mood: Clearly the era of “the judges are having such absolute bants” this year from the auditions was short-lived, because Simon’s stint at the Six Chair Challenge was characterised entirely by how much of a stinking mood he was in. This episode reminded me very much of Tyra Banks yelling at Tiffany on cycle four America’s Next Top Model, or rather the words of Tracie Potochnik when she recapped that episode for Television Without Pity: “It’s your show. You’re allowed to edit out the parts where you look like an idiot.” I’m not really sure what Simon intended to show in this episode, but to me, it gave the impression that he’d already stopped caring about this series, which made me wonder why on earth I was supposed to care about it. I know Simon’s built his reputation on being “the mean judge”, but I think there’s a fine line between giving people the non-sugarcoated version of your opinion, which is what he used to do, and just treating them like actual garbage because you can. Holly Johnson was the first victim of this, not just being sent home without getting a seat but also being told what an easy decision it had been. Then Vicki-Ann Nash was told “I really don’t like losing, and having heard the Girls category, I’m not in a good mood”, which was entirely irrelevant to whether or not she deserved a seat. And that’s before we even got to the most serious fuckery of the evening.

Stand Up Sit Down: I know that the Six Chair Challenge is designed to be something akin to bear-baiting in its abject cruelty, but it wasn’t when Simon was being catty or mean that he was cruellest in this episode, it was when he was being indecisive. Of course, there were some people who were dismissed only to be called back out, but my heart really went out to the aforementioned Vicki-Ann, who first lost her seat to Zen Blythe, then was called back a few minutes later and given Joseph McCaul’s chair. Now, in much the same way that they’re apparently not allowed to kick out any of the younger contestants once they’ve been given seats because it’s deemed too psychologically-scarring, I think once you’ve kicked someone off a chair once and brought them back, you don’t kick them out again for much the same reason. Yet, when Simon needed to seat Jennifer Phillips, he kicked Tonatha Raihan out of her chair, only to decide seconds later that he wanted to keep Tonatha after all, and dismissed Vicki-Ann for the second time. The crowd chanted “bring her back!” yet again, like she hadn’t suffered enough, and then to add insult to injury, Tonatha herself got booted for a second time to make room for Bupsi. Simon, you’re meant to be the experienced industry player here. Try not to act more indecisive than someone confronted with a Subway salad bar for the first time.

The Ones To Watch: While the show was generally fairly dismissive of the Overs’ efforts, it was clear who the ones worth taking notice of: mostly Anton Stephans, who was shown effortlessly winning over the judges and the audience with a self-effacing joke about his overactive facial muscles, but also Ebru Ellis who gave a lengthy speech about music is her life but she’s lost her self-belief, and yes, even Bupsi, who nobody would go as far as to admit was one of the better vocalists in the competition, but was still praised for her ability to command a stage and for knowing who she is as a performer. Not that any of this would come to matter a jot once we got to the live shows, of course, but we weren’t supposed to know that at the time.

Unconvincing Turnarounds Of Our Time: Once it was all over, Simon turned to his top six (Max Stone, Ebru Ellis, Bupsi, Jennifer Phillips, Kerrie-Anne Phillips and Anton Stephans) and told them that he knows he had been negative about this group but he REALLY LIKES YOU GUYS with all the conviction of Krusty the Klown endorsing the Little Miss Springfield pageant. If he could remember the names of half of them the following day without anyone there to prompt him, I’d be very surprised.

NEXT: the not-so-live-after-all Judges’ Houses!

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