The X Factor USA 2011 bade a fond farewell to bubbly upstart Rachel Crow at the close of the December 8 results show, leaving just four hopefuls to duke it out for a $5 million recording contract. How exactly did the optimistic teen wind up getting the boot over a sprinkling of arguably inferior vocalists? Here's a full show recap.
The night's action opened with special guest Lenny Kravitz, who performed his tune Rock Star City Life. Show host Steve Jones then recapped the Final 5 performance show via a clip montage and turned to the judges to ask for personal highlight opinions. L.A. Reid, Nicole Scherzinger and Simon Cowell all cited Chris Rene's rendition of his own tune, Where Do We Go From Here, while Paula Abdul took the safe route by praising all of the acts.
Up next, a pre-taped segment featured a look at the backstage action involved with the production of The X Factor USA, and shortly thereafter, Steve welcomed the final 5 to the stage with their mentors to hear the week's voting results. First to pass to the semifinals was Over 30s survivor Josh Krajcik, followed by Boys group member Chris. Left awaiting news of their fates until later in the show were two-time bottom two survivor Marcus Canty, as well as both remaining Girls group members Melanie Amaro and Rachel Crow.
Backstage, Rachel admitted to being "really scared" and said that the competition "means the world" to her. Marcus declared that God has been good to him, and said he'd deal with whatever hand he's dealt. Melanie professed a love for her fans and thanked them for their support.
As the nervous trio awaited the big reveal and the final showdown, Mary J. Blige performed the soulful Need Someone to Love You. Steve then took a few moments to chat up the two semifinalists. Chris said he loves his life and is "thankful to be here," and Josh thanked his supporters and family for being there for him. With no other ado, the three endangered hopefuls returned to the stage for further results, and Melanie Amaro was proclaimed a semifinalist.
Marcus lamented his fate, moaning "bottom two again?" while Rachel said she was ready to go, and then sweetly told Marcus she loved him. Marcus was first to sing for his life, and chose I'm Going Down for the honor. Rachel followed with I'd Rather Go Blind.
L.A. called it "the toughest part of the show" and praised both acts, but for the third week running, sided with his own contestant. Simon also backed his own contestant and opted to send Marcus home. Paula went with her heart and sent Marcus packing, leaving Nicole to cast her vote. Nicole looked horrified about making a decision, and decided to send Rachel home in order to send the vote to deadlock.
Following a dramatic pause, Steve revealed that Rachel Crow had received the fewest votes, and with that, she was eliminated from the competition. Rachel looked stunned before falling to her knees, enveloped in hearty sobs, and at the judges' desk, Nicole looked equally stunned and horrified. By the end of her farewell montage, Rachel managed to collect herself enough to thank her fans and her family for their support, and Nicole's refusal to honor Steve's request for a comment drew boos from the audience.
Regardless of whether or not Nicole made a mistake by allowing the vote to go to deadlock—based on her own reaction, it seems that even she thinks it was an error—the show must go on. Watch next week's X Factor USA 2011 semifinals to see which of the four finalists will rise to the top of the heap.