Who woulda thunk it? "The X Factor" is down to its Top 10 contestants and Britney Spears is the only judge still fielding a full, four-person team in the competition (Take that, Simon Cowell!).
But, oh lord, it's a mine field out there. This week will bring another double elimination and three of Brit's artists were in the bottom half of last week's rankings. So she can't get too cocky.
Tonight brings a Thanksgiving-themed show that has our pop-star wannabes dedicating their performances to people they're grateful for.
So do you feel emotionally manipulated already? Here we go:
Tate Stevens (Over-25s) "I'm Already There" By Lonestar
The country crooner, ranked No. 1 through the first two weeks of live performances, dedicates this song to his dad and life role model. Still rocking the dark cowboy hat and jeans, he's on point again, but you have to wonder if viewers/voters are going to want to see something different out of him as the contest progresses. Tonight he's solid, if not spectacular. But maybe that's all he needs to be. Simon does point out that his voice was breaking in parts of the song.
Diamond White (Teens) "Because You Loved Me" by Celine Dion
This one is for Diamond's single mom, who "gave up her life to make mine awesome." Backed by a choir, she brings plenty of emotion and power to the song and nails it. Hard to believe this 13-year-old dynamo was sent home by Britney a few weeks ago. (Mom, incidentally, is bawling in the audience). "You are the truth," L.A. Reid proclaims. Demi is crying too, saying she totally related to the song. Says Simon, "You are both fearless and incredible. ... I believed every single word of that lyric."
Emblem3 (Groups) "Secrets" by One Republic
The SoCal surfer dudes dedicate their song to their "spiritual" youth leaders who provided guidance along the way. For one night, they've dropped the jumpy stage antics to deliver some nice slow-jam harmonies from three stools in the middle of the stage. L.A. "Grinch" Reid says it lacked emotion, but Britney thought it was a nice change of pace from past weeks, and Demi agrees, adding that she thought it had even more emotion. As usual, the teen girls in the audience love 'em.
Arin Ray (Teens) "Hero" by Enrique Iglesias
Arin dedicates the song to his older brother and "best friend" for whom he has "mad love." It's a sweet sentiment, but it comes off a little shaky and lacks in oh-wow moments. L.A. says it was "too big" for him and Demi calls it "boring." Simon says it's a matter of song choice and mentoring. "It's almost like you're being trapped in a cage with these songs," he points out. "And I'm not hearing who you should be in the real world."
Cece Frey (Young adults) "Wind Beneath My Wings" by Bette Midler
CeCe devotes the song to her late sister Kelsey who died from Cerebral Palsy at the age of 7. The contestant, who once wore leopard spots all over her face, has toned it down tonight. She's wearing a beautiful gown and is looking like 1930s screen icon Jean Harlow. It's a bit warbly and she barely gets through it before breaking down. But no one's going to slam her tonight after hearing her sob story. Says Britney, "It's really, really hard to critique someone when they're pouring their heart out like that." Exactly.
Fifth Harmony (Groups) "I'll Stand By You" by The Pretenders
The girl group gives their thanks to God for bringing them together and giving them this amazing opportunity. They again trade off lead vocals throughout the performance, and, again, the harmonies just flow like sweet syrup. These gals are really clicking. L.A. thinks it's "great," Britney says "Bravo," and Demi calls it "beautiful." Coach Simon is beaming.
Beatrice Miller (Teens) "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol
This one's for B's adopted twin sisters, who were born premature in Vietnam. She throws all of her raspy-voiced power into it and blows a kiss to her sisters while blowing us away. For our money, this is her best performance so far. L.A. calls her an inspiration and compliments Coach Britney on her good taste. Demi calls her "adorable," but cautions that it's sounding like the same song every week. She wants something different and "fun." Simon, however, disagrees and says he liked it.
Vino Alan (Over 25s) "God Bless The USA" by Lee Greenwood
Vino dedicates this patriotic anthem to members of the U.S. miliatary for their daily sacrifices. It's a good fit for his gritty, deep-throated power vocals and we have a feeling that, during this all-American holiday, he's played to the emotions of millions. "I personally think that this was the first performance for you that was spot-on. That was amazing," Britney says. Demi admits she has been hard on him so far this season and says she's been wrong. Simon loved the song choice and thinks we may be seeing Vino at the top of the leaderboard on Thursday.
Paige Thomas (Young Adults) "Everytime" by Britney Spears
Paige is thanking her adopted mother (and "guardian angel"), who took her in after her birth mother died in a car crash. It's lovely and, of course, emotional, but also ptichy in parts. It's Britney's song and she thinks it was "performed beautifully." But L.A. believes it may not be good enough to get her out of the No. 10 ranking. Demi is concerned, too, saying that it sounded better in rehearsals.
Carly Rose Sonenclar (Teens) "Somewhere Over The Rainbow"
Carly dedicates the song to her very supportive older brother. Carly slows the classic tune down. It's classsy, it's breathy, it's powerful. And she ties it all together with a killer note at the end. It completes a crazy-good night for the 13-year-olds in the competition. Wow. A true powerhouse. "You're an absolute force of nature," L.A. decrees. Demi can't believe she's only 13 ("You're an alien."). Simon heaps on even more props, calling it one of the best versions of "Rainbow" he's ever heard. And then he changes his mind about Vino being No. 1 this week, saying, "I think you've just blown this competition wide open."