Monday, December 16, 2013

Funeral for a Friend

Final: Part 1 - 14th December 2013

"Five months ago, I was stood on the street busking," intones Luke as the sweet, sweet montage takes us into this year's final. "All I wanted was for someone to notice me." Does this sound like it's going to be the Very Special Story of his descent into prostitution to anyone else? Sam voices over that she's spent her life singing in half-empty social clubs, dreaming that one day she'd get a standing ovation that wasn't just Old Jim Scribbs getting up to empty his bladder. Wee Nick, meanwhile, simply used to sit in his classroom and daydream about being in The X Factor final. Considering that this show was created by Simon Cowell and has Gary Barlow as its head judge, I expect the occasional right wing sentiment to drift through, but are they really trying to paint Luke and Sam as strivers versus Wee Nick the skiver? Didn't we already get the story from Wee Nick about how his family have given up everything for him to run around Scotland singing for anyone who'll have him in the hope of getting his big break? [It's all part of the Scotland Can Eff Off Because They're All On Benefits Even The Kids agenda. Makes me a bit sick to be honest. Either that or they just don't want another identikit male brunette winner - Helen]

Anyway, let's not get sidetracked quite so early on: tonight we're LIVE from Wembley Arena for The X Factor 2013 final. We're reminded that a lot of hopeless people auditioned, in the hope that it will make those who got through to the Top 12 somehow look more impressive by comparison. Then the story of the three finalists flashes by with almost indecent haste, as do the respective fates of this year's finalists and future Pointless answers Lorna, Shelley, Missed Dynamix, Dalston Kingsland, Boy Sam, Joan Lewis, Hannah, Tamera and Rough Copy. Tonight, the final three will go head to head in front of a crowd of 10,000. I won't make any jokes about that being larger than the audience viewing at home, because there comes a point when kicking a show while it's down just becomes unsportsmanlike. Those still standing, in case we weren't aware, are Wee Nick, Sam Bailey and Luke Friend. It's Time! To Face! The Real World!

Giant X calls its agent and asks what the chances are of getting on the list for Strictly Come Dancing next year. It just wants to be loved again - really, is that so wrong?

At Wembley Arena, which as Dermot made a point of telling us last week is ALL THE WAY OVER THE ROAD from where the show is usually conducted, a group of dancing girls in gold tops and black PVC trousers throw themselves around to the strains of Van Halen's 'Jump' as Dermot gets lowered in from the ceiling on something that is wonky and unstable but extremely shiny. It's as good a metaphor for the series these days as any I can think of. Dermot's in a cut-too-small tuxedo this week, and commands the women surrounding him to "begone!", which suggests that the show only admires them for their decorative properties and not for their intellect or personality. Boo!

Dermot explains that the finalists will have to excel "time and time again" on this stage to earn your votes, which is a nice idea but the lines are going to be opened any second now, so the thought that they have to do anything at all to earn our votes is a bit of a pipe dream. Dermot adds that it's a big stage, but they've got big stars to fill it: One Direction, Katy Perry (OH CHRIST NOT AGAIN), Tom Odell, The Killers, Gary Barlow (OH JUST KILL ME NOW AND SAVE ME THE TORMENT) and also Sir Elton John, making his X Factor début about three years too late, but never mind eh?

The judges enter, accompanied by Europe's 'The Final Countdown' (oh how novel): Gary's in a black three-piece suit with another annoyingly skinny tie, Nicole's in a red sequinned dress, Sharon is all 80s hair and naked shoulders with a tight black dress, and Louis is in his trademark black brocade jacket with a black tie, presumably in pre-emptive mourning for his chances of winning up against the Sam Bailey train.

Dermot informs us that the theme this weekend is simple: "winning". I hope this means they have to do covers of songs by Charlie Sheen. The lines are declared officially open, so all pretence that any of tonight's performances really mean anything goes right out of the window.

Seven minutes into the show, so it's probably about time to get the contestants out here, isn't it? But before we can see them on stage, we must see them in video form as they stride along backlit corridors singing 'Lifted' by Naughty Boy featuring Emily Sunday. They've all been clad in metallic tones, with the effect that Wee Nick now looks like a junior boxing promoter, Luke looks like if Blazin' Squad had a sudden lotto win, and Sam looks like that thing that Vera turns into at the end of Superman III. Of course, once we get to the chorus the trio emerge from behind the giant screens to sing together on the stage, surrounded by dancers and people hanging upside down from hoops in the air with fireworks coming out of their ankles. Also, all three of them attempt a dramatic air-punch to signal the end of the song, but Sam's is the only one that lands: Wee Nick's arm barely even mores and Luke just looks more like the Artful Dodger about to invite us all to consider ourselves at home.

Dermot refers to them as "the cream of Devon, the pride of Leicester and the bonny prince of Glasgow". Ever get the feeling that they got as far as "the cream of Devon" and realised they didn't really have suitable analogies for the other two? Personally I would've gone for "the Walkers Crisps of Leicester and the whisky of Glasgow." Dermot asks them all how it feels to be here, and Wee Nick giggles that he's had the time of his life and he can't really believe it. Sam says that she's "buzzing", and Luke says that the crowd is amazing and he can't wait to sing more songs to them. Thrilling stuff.

Right, so remember how last week was Elton John vs Beyoncé week? You might have thought that was a nonsense at the time but it turns out that the show HAD A PLAN UP ITS SLEEVE ALL ALONG (/has just negotiated a convenient asspull at the last minute). Obviously Elton John makes sense because he'll be here later, but what of Beyoncé? Well, last night the contestants were gathered in rehearsals for a special message involving an "unbelievable prize", as Beyoncé appears on screen to tell them that this year's winner gets to be her support act on the UK leg of her Mrs Carter tour next year. She's smiling, but it does have a faint whiff of "I heartily endorse this event or product" about it, to the point where I wonder if they had to use CGI to remove the person holding the gun to her head. Still, Sam, Nick and Luke are excited about this great opportunity for Sam. Er, "the winner". The winner. Back at the Arena, Sam mumbles that she's probably going to have to learn how to dance. Oh my god, she thinks she's going to win! GET BACK WITH YOUR FOUL CONFIDENCE, YOU WITCH!

Ad break. The ads at this time of year always make my abject failure to put any Christmas decorations up in my flat feel especially shaming. [I have a tree-shaped 'decoration stand' from Ikea. It will do - Helen]

When we return, Dermot mumbles something about eight million tweets and seven-and-a-half million followers on Facebook have made the show the most talked-about in the UK. The X Factor really is a bit sad when it doesn't have mammoth viewing figures to crow about, isn't it? Dermot suggests that we might want to download the app if we want to continue interacting in a social media style, even though he's just told us how many millions of people are doing it in an app-free fashion.

Then it's over to Louis, who would like to remind us that "I have two acts in the final, Gary, Nicole." Oh, Louis. Those aren't the names of your acts. Up first tonight is Wee Nick, who got helicoptered back tae Motherwell this week for his home visit. First on the itinerary was a return to St Aiden's High School, where everyone was clapping and cheering for him, apparently. I kind of wish we'd got to see the stoner kids sitting by the trees all "who's back from where now?" but I guess that doesn't really fit the story they want to tell here. Nicholas thanks everyone at school for their support, but appears not to sing for them. Then he goes back to see his parents and the assembled mob outside their house, with Louis in hot pursuit. Louis, Wee Nick and Wee Nick's parents sit together on their giant red sofa, and Wee Nick gets all emotional about how much his parents have given him over the years. His mum insists that he doesn't owe them anything, because he's the best son ever. D'awww. Finally, he went to Motherwell Concert Hall to do a big gig, where he calls his little sister up on stage and dedicates 'Someone Like You' to her, which is no less creepy than the last time he did it.

Finally, at 22 minutes into the show, we get our first competitive performance of the evening: Wee Nick singing 'Candy' by Robbie Williams. He descends onto the stage in a giant candy-striped hot air balloon, and is immediately surrounded by a gymnastic troupe all dressed in pastel-coloured outfits doing tricks all around him. Wee Nick looks slightly baffled by everything that's going on around him, to be perfectly honest, and also seems to have trouble locating the camera at various points during the song. Still, it sounded all right.

Sharon opens for the judges saying the performance was "just like a giant Willy Wonka factory". She adds that the final is "no time to critique" (so why are you here then?) but she just wants to tell him well done. Gary thinks that the final is all about playing to one's strengths, and he thinks Wee Nick didn't do that tonight because that song (co-written by Gary Barlow, incidentally, who could've voiced his objections when the song was being cleared but probably didn't because he likes sitting on that big pile of tax-free money) didn't showcase his voice. He understands that Wee Nick wants to be versatile, but THIS IS NOT THE TIME FOR SUCH FRIPPERY! Drunkole slurs that she thinks "Nicky Blue Eyes" can sing ANYTHING, and that watching that performance was quite a trippy experience. And she should know. She loves that her "little Scottish lamb" has grown into a Scottish lion. Okay. Louis says that Gary has never given Wee Nick any credit from day one (I mean, I'm all for piling on to Borelow at any available opportunity, but this seems like revisionist history at its most spurious). He says that Wee Nick is a dream contestant and a great role model, and he hopes that Scotland votes for him.

Dermot picks up on Gary's issues with the song choice, and he and Louis remember that Gary wrote it at the exact same time. Borelow acknowledges this, but drones that Wee Nick is a ballideer at heart. Quite what use anybody has for a 17-year-old crooner in this day and age is anyone's guess. I mean, that was Ray Quinn's USP and nobody was interested in that back then either, and it's not like Wee Nick even has Dancing On Ice to fall back on any more. Wee Nick says that opening the final is an honour, and he wanted to have fun, so that's why he wanted to do that song - to show that he's not too serious. [Or, alternatively, because the show wanted to bus him hard - Rad]

Now for everyone's favourite part of the final - looking at weird shit with the contestants' faces on it! Caroline Flack is in the audience with Wee Nick's supporters. One man has a giant pyramid of "Nicky's favourite, Scottish haggis pakora", [*wipes away a tear of Nationalistic pride - Helen] while someone else has brought a cake that required its own seat on the plane apparently, and Wee Nick's friends are there to yet again suggest that the entirety of Scotland is behind Wee Nick. Caroline fluffs the obvious joke by saying "is it true about guys wearing kilts?" Yes, Caroline, it is true, there are two of them right next to you. She eventually remembers to ask what's underneath, and the friends obligingly flash their pants with "Vote Nicky" written across their arses. Dermot asks Wee Nick what a haggis pakora is, and Wee Nick says he's not sure, because he's never had. Dermot splutters that the Obviously Credible Man in the audience just said that it was Wee Nick's favourite, and Wee Nick says he's only ever had normal haggis. Well, he's young, there's still plenty of time to broaden his horizons. Dermot sends Wee Nick on his way, and only then remembers to thank the dancers, the Unity Allstar Black Cheerleaders.

Over to Sharon next, who promises that the next performance is "no gimmicks...all about the voice". Which does pose the question: would Sam Bailey have got anywhere on The Voice UK? I think at best she might have got on to Team Tom, but I imagine she would've been too in-the-club-style for anyone else to turn around. Anyway, Sam's VT sees her also heading home, to Leicester in her case, where her adoring public and adorable kids are waiting. Sam's Devoted Husband says that he has a very special message for her from someone she hasn't seen: Sam's nan Rita who appears on the TV to tell her that she's sorry she can't be there, but she loves her very much and knows that Sam's grandfather would be bursting with pride if he could see her now. This is all very moving but I'm stunned that it is happening on a medium that is not a Product Placement Tablet. How very off-message. It's not even a Samsung TV, for crying out loud. Anyway, Rita gets all teary, as does Sam. Having just taken Sam back to the bosom of her family, the show promptly whiskes her away again to Eyres Monsell Social Club, where she used to sing, and where another crowd of people are waiting to lose their shit the minute she arrives. Then Sharon Osbourne turns up, pulls a pint for Sam's husband, and Sharon and Sam do 'The Shoop Shoop Song' on the karaoke. Honestly, if this is all we're getting of Mentor Duets this year, I am going to KICK. OFF. I will settle for nothing less than Louis and Luke performing a rousing cover of Westlife's 'Bop Bop Baby'. [if Louis and Sharon had done mentor duets, I GUARANTEE the show would have had higher ratings, more YouTube hits, tweets and everything else they need to feel like their existence is valid.  Such a waste. - Rad] Sharon tells the crowd that Sam is going to put Leicester on the map. Then Sam is taken off to perform her homecoming gig at Athena Leicester, which Google informs me is a "wedding, dinner and conference venue" (showbiz!) and Sam invites the crowd "to have a bit of a sing-song". Continuing the evening's trend of bizarre and inappropriate dedications, she gets her kids up on stage and sings Emily Sunday's 'Clown' to them. Sam vows that she's ready to win this competition - for her family, of course.

Back at Wembley, Sam takes to the stage in a blue jumpsuit to sing Lady Gaga's 'The Edge Of Glory', surrounded by (I shit you not) a makeshift prison and dancers dressed as sexy leather-clad convicts. Well, I guess they haven't actually reminded us that she used to be a prison warder so far this evening, so I suppose I can give them this one. It is really bizarre to watch, though, and really does nothing to dispel my inclination that this whole series is just Sam's extended audition for the part of Mama Morton. There's a gratuitous key change that pushes the song just out of Sam's range, but no one seems to mind terribly much. [She's on the Meaty Minge trajectory alright - Helen]

Gary tells Sam that she used everything she had in her toolbox, "and you hit us all with it". He says that he can't think of any more good things to say about Sam, and that this is her weekend. Drunkole screams that Sam sung the pants off of that song, and calls her "Samazing". I can't believe Nicole actually dropped the "sha" out of her bag of catchphrases - she really must be impressed. She calls Sam "a beast and a force to be reckoned with". Louis calls her "a class act" with "a world-class recording voice", and then plays for the feminist vote by saying that she and Sharon are "two strong women together". I guess he figured there wasn't really much feminist vote-grabbing to be done for Luke or Wee Nick, so he could afford to lose that particular demographic. Sharon picks up the baton and runs with the idea of "Woman Power", and says that hard work has got Sam here, and she hopes that her fans back her for one more week to get her that victory.

Dermot arrives and asks Sam if her "light entertainment prison" is like that. If anyone's qualified to recognise light entertainment prison when he sees it, I think Dermot must be by this point. He asks Sam to cuff him because he wants in, and Sam says she'd rather cuff Gary. Poor Dermot - he'll never get to be Top Dog at this rate. Sam says that this feels like what she was born to do, and that she put every ounce of energy into that song.

From there we throw to Caroline, who's up in the nosebleed seats with some of Leicester City Football Team. I don't follow the sports so I have no idea specifically which ones they are, but to be fair, the guy who speaks seems like he has no idea who Sam Bailey is either, and has the general air of someone who is here solely due to contractual obligations. Then, in a moment that was clearly meant to be awesome and heartwarming and turns out to be anything but, Caroline reveals that Sam's nan Rita, who said she wasn't going to be able to be here tonight, HAS BEEN HERE ALL ALONG. The trouble is that Rita appears to be on the verge of a panic attack at having cameras shoved in her face, and says very tearfully "I'm sorry I look so old and I don't want to embarrass you" ("YOU LOOK BEAUTIFUL!" Caroline hoots), going on to say in an increasingly emotional voice that she loves to hear Sam sing and could listen to her "forever and a day". Nobody is quite prepared for how upset Rita sounds, least of all Caroline, who looks fairly terrified at having to wrap this segment up. Still, that's what ITV get for dragging a frail pensioner onto a live television event and a high pressured environment just to generate some cheap sentiment, because I'd imagine a lot of people weren't so much moved by Rita's admittedly lovely words as they were wondering whether Rita should be here at all rather than in the comfort and safety of her own home where Caroline Flack would not be pestering her for soundbites. Sam tells Rita that she loves her to pieces, and she knows that her grandfather would've loved to be here tonight. Dermot patronises Rita further: "You're hot! You don't look old!" Good grief.

Ads. I'm very excited about the Vicious Christmas special, and I don't care who knows it.

When we return, Dermot is thrusting a microphone into the face of a child of the corn in the audience, who tells us that her favourite is Sam Daley. Oops. Still, we haven't time to dwell on misspeakings as it's time to head to Teignmouth for Luke's home visit. As we know by now, there are people outside his house (not that many, it has to be said). Luke greets his brother and sister, both of whom seem to wash their hair like normal people. Luke thanks his parents for their general awesomeness, and then goes off to Lemon Jelli, which is the café where he used to do gigs. There are substantially more people here, and Louis arrives as well. Then it's off to the Great Hall at Exeter University, where Luke's fans are waiting for him to do his homecoming gig. Louis trots onto the stage and asks if Luke can win The X Factor. The crowd, surprisingly, do not scream "LOL NO". Luke plays for the crowd and declares it the best day of his life, and says that this has given him an idea of what it would be like to win the competition.

Luke arrives on stage in black and red, singing 'We Are Young' by the Fundots. For some reason he's performing on top of a giant fake Underground carriage. Is it because he's a busker? Because we don't usually let them get on the actual trains, and we definitely don't let them climb onto the roof. Safety first, and all that. We don't want buskers getting decapitated in the tunnels, it'd make the Northern Line even slower than it already is. Anyway, I like that the staging includes a couple of "commuters" who are doing their best to ignore the idiot on the roof and the dancing twits all around them. Finally I feel like there's someone on the stage who I can identify with.

Sharon tells Luke that she hopes tonight is the actual best day of his life, and he's come a long way. Gary says that he was sad to lose Rough Copy last week, but it was more bearable knowing that Luke would be taking their place. (I'd get angry about Gary trying to grab a slot in the final by association, but come on, we all know that Luke's finishing third.) Gary opines that the verses were a bit too low for Luke, but he really felt the choruses came alive, so he hopes people vote on the choruses and not the verses. Nicole likes that he has "a small nation of dancers" and thinks that he brings "a whole 'nother cool factor" to the show, adding that the people love him. Just not over the last couple of weeks. Louis says that Luke has potential to sell records worldwide, but Devon needs to vote for him otherwise he might not be here tomorrow night.

Dermot arrives and tells Louis to stop screaming for support: "You should run for an MP or something." That's an excellent idea: I'm going to go on a sprint tomorrow and dedicate it to Stella Creasy. Dermot tells Luke that he's "the least commercial in the classic sense" of everyone here, which I think is a polite way of saying "you are not getting many votes and you can kiss goodbye to any chance of post-show stardom". Luke says it's amazing to be in the final and to play to the crowd, and he wants to do this for the rest of his life.

Up in the roof again, we have Caroline who hands Luke's dad Steve some tissues, and Steve says that it's out of this world to see Luke singing in this arena. (Also, seriously, what is with sticking all the family members in the cheap seats?) Caroline draws our attention to someone who hasn't washed his hair for five months "in honour of Luke" (yeah, sure), and then someone has brought Luke's lucky lobster all the way up from Teignmouth. "It really smells," remarks Caroline. Well, this year's round of Shit With The Finalists' Faces On has been deeply disappointing. Not a single pizza with Luke's dreadlocks made of anchovies or anything. It's like nobody gives a toss any more, isn't it? Dermot has learned no lessons from the Haggis Pakora incident and asks Luke if he's a lobster guy, and Luke's all "...sure?"

Ad break. Mmm, Waitrose.

When we're back in the arena, Dermot teases the upcoming celebrity duets, but before of any of that, he wants us all to think about what a series it has been, what with the return of the room auditions (tick, v.g.), the return of "Mrs O" (feh) and "the most dramatic boot camp ever" (oh give me strength). Despite the fact that few people were interested in any of this the first time around, apparently it's necessary for us to watch a black-and-white compilation of highlights from this year while Tom Odell bleats 'Another Love' on the stage. Tom Odell, good god. If they were to wheel out Rebecca Ferguson to duet with him, we'd have half the barnyard right there on the stage--hold on a minute, the phone's ringing. Hello? Oh, Mr Odell, hi. Yes, I did say that your son sounded like a sheep. Yes, I realise that that could be considered hurtful. Yes, I do know that he's got a Brit award. Oh, I'm quite aware that no one really cares what some blogger thinks. No, I won't print a retraction. What do you mean, why not? Because he does sound like a bloody sheep, that's why. Look, I've got a recap to finish, can I call you back later? You can shout at me as much as you want when I've published this. Okay, great, speak to you then.--Sorry about that, everyone. Remind me to go ex-directory in future.

Once that's all over, it's time for the Celebrity Duets round. Since we're not bothering to have any sort of pretense of suspense surrounding this part of the show like we used to, Dermot announces straight-up that the first duet will be Luke and Ellie Goulding. All right then. In his VT, Luke says that Louis has been a brilliant mentor (he leaves out the part about how he would've preferred Sharon) who has supported him and believed in him the whole way through. Louis tells Luke that he's lined up someone who's sold "20 million records all around the world" - Ellie Goulding. "I remember watching Ellie Goulding performing on the live shows a couple of weeks ago," says Luke. Well, yes. I'd be worried if you couldn't. Luke asks Ellie what she wants to do with the song, and Ellie thinks it'd be cool if they both played guitar. WHOA, STEADY ON THERE MS ROCK 'N' ROLL!

They're singing 'Anything Could Happen' [Appen - Rad], which is right up in the uncomfortable end of Luke's range but you can't really hear him that much once Ellie arrives, so that's fine. Anyway, I'm more disturbed by the fact that the camera keeps cutting to a group of women all dressed in black, standing in lines in the aisles and clapping. They look like they belong to a cult.

Dermot asks Ellie what advice she has for Luke, and Ellie says that he doesn't need advice because he's so amazing and cool, and she's really rooting for him. She thinks she needs to take a leaf out of his book, if anything, she declares.

Up next, Wee Nick and Shane Filan. God, we couldn't even stretch to the whole of Westlife? Poor Wee Nick. I'm almost starting to think they're bussing him with all the creative decisions they've made for him tonight. In his VT, Wee Nick thanks Louis for everything he's done for him, and then does a shockingly poor Louis impression that sounds more like Groucho Marx. Louis tells Wee Nick that his duet partner is someone who's believed in him from the start, and Wee Nick is all "'s Shane, isn't it?" Shane remembers that Wee Nick was the one who made him cry at Judges' Houses, and makes him swear that he won't do that again on the night.

They're singing 'Flying Without Wings', of course. (Seriously, though? Why is there never any love for 'Bop Bop Baby'?) For some strange reason, they're nowhere near each other for the vast majority of the duet, which makes it all look rather inelegant. And it's not like we've got a particularly exciting song to listen to in the meantime, is it? Still, eventually they're on stage together and there's a gospel choir in the background and all is right in the X Factor universe.

Dermot appears, and Shane recalls that very special moment when he advised Louis to take Wee Nick through to the live shows, which proved to be a fruitful decision. Especially for Shane, because he needed this gig tonight, what with the bankruptcy and all. Dermot tells Shane "you've sung that song so many times" (HA!) and asks how Wee Nick did with it, and Shane confidently declares that Wee Nick nailed it.

Adverts. Snow, snow, snow, festive things, tralala.

Rounding out the duets round, it's Sam and Nicole Scherzinger. Wow, Sharon must have walked all the way down the corridor to arrange this one! Also, if I were Sam, I would be consulting the tech crew constantly to ensure that Nicole has a working mic, after what happened to poor Jahméne last year. Sharon tells Sam that this has been her best X Factor experience ever (possibly because it's the only one where she stood even the slightest chance of winning), and Sam says that she wanted Sharon as her mentor from the second she got out of the car at Boot Camp. Sharon and Sam do the whole "BFFs for life" thing, and then Nicole can't even wait long enough for Sharon to do the big reveal before walking in. Nicole tells Sam that they'll be singing 'And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going' from Dreamgirls.

So Sam and Nicole...ah, you know what? This stands no chance of being the best reality-show-contestant-duets-with-famous-person-in-the-final version of this song, so let's just ignore Sam and Nicole's version and watch the definitive one:

I mean, come on. Once you've seen Jennifer Holliday attempt to unhook her jaw and swallow Jessica Sanchez whole, any other interpretation can only disappoint.

Dermot asks Nicole how it was to sing with Sam, and Nicole completely ignores the question and instead launches into a monologue about how brilliant Sharon Osbourne is and how this series wouldn't have been the same without her. Honestly, I think you could've substituted Sharon Osbourne for a Leyland cypress and it would have made not a jot of difference to the outcome of this series. I can't imagine that Sam's inevitable victory has much to do with Sharon's mentoring. Anyway, Dermot's all "YES, BUT WHAT ABOUT SAM" and Nicole says that it was an honour to share the stage with her. Sam compliments Nicole on her amazing range and says that this was the highlight of the night for her.

Dermot covers his face with his hand despairingly (dude, I'm right there with you) says that all the finalists can do now is sit and wait (FOR THIRTY EFFING MINUTES) to find out if they'll be continuing through to tomorrow. We get a recap of this evening's six competitive performances. The selected clip of Sam's rendition of 'The Edge Of Glory' makes it sound like she's singing "I'm haring on a Mormon with you". 

So, remember how they used to do those group performances of failed auditionees in the final? Well, it looks like they got fed up of all the comments saying that they were exploiting the mentally ill, and instead they're going to do a group performance from a load of the eccentric acts who actually made the live shows instead. We begin with a VT that hints at some of the people we might get to see: Same Difference, Katie Weasel, Wagner, Jedward, Kitty Brucknell, Diva Fever, 2 Shoes, Johnny Robinson and Rylan. Naturally, Gary tries to rewrite history to pretend their relationship was all matey-matey-jokey-jokey rather than acknowledge the part where he went into a massive sulk for about six weeks and held Rylan personally responsible for the fact that not a single person in the entire country could be persuaded to give the tiniest of shits about Carolynne Poole and her disingenuous quest to be the UK's answer to Carrie Underwood. Also, Nicole calls Rylan "my Sha-Ry". I will be singing that to the tune of 'My Sharona' for the rest of the week.

And here they all are! Well, most of them. Apparently Same Difference were already booked to do something else, and God only knows where Katie Weasel was. But we begin with Kitty Brucknell sailing in from the ceiling on a glitterball singing 'Live And Let Die'. The crane drops her on the ground so that her back is to the camera, which seems fairly inkeeping with the faintly amateurish nature of tonight's proceedings, and apparently Kitty has forgotten the first rule of famewhoring, which is LOOK AT THE CAMERA SO WE CAN SEE WHO YOU ARE. I swear, I thought she was Amelia Lily for a good 10 seconds, until I remembered that while I might class her as a joke act, this show probably doesn't. Then Jedward are lowered onto the stage to sing their mash-up of 'Ice Ice Baby' and 'Under Pressure', and they're starting to look like actual adults now, which makes the whole thing slightly less fun than it used to be. ("I'll take 'sentences that accidentally make you sound like a paedophile' for $100, Alex.") Then, in what feels like some glorious fever dream, Wagner is driven on playing the bongos and singing 'Lob Shack', while Johnny Robinson sits on the judges' desk and Diva Fever leer into the camera. 2 Shoes are there as well, but don't really get much camera time. Then Rylan comes out with his midriff exposed to sing 'Spice Up Your Life' and remind us that he's far more successful than anyone else from his series. (It's baffling to me that Rylan was only on this show a year ago. It feels like decades at this point.) By far the best bit is when it all ends and Lucy from 2 Shoes has this exquisite "right, now just give me the money and let me go" look on her face. I feel you, Lucy. Truly, I feel you. [This was, in all honesty, the best thing to happen on television this year for me. I squee'd through the whole thing and cheered at the end. I am unashamed - Helen]

Dermot releases them by referring to them as "The X Factor's most memorable contestants", which is such a wonderful (if unintended) slam on all those bores who actually won. He gives us a five minute warning before nuclear attack the lines close, and then Olly Murs tells us that if we audition, we can be a famous bellend too, and we go to an ad break, where we learn that Take Me Out is back in the new year. I am all over the Splash!/Take Me Out scheduling double-whammy, baby.

After the break, Dermot informs us that the vote has now officially been frozen, so we shouldn't call for the time being. Well, that's a relief. While the producers count the votes, it's time for another musical guest. OVER 25 MILLION RECORDS SOLD WORLDWIDE! 2 BRITS, 2 MTV AWARDS, 7 NME AWARDS, 2 Q AWARDS! (LOL at the idea of anyone at all caring about Q Awards. I didn't even know they still existed.) 4 UK NUMBER ONE ALBUMS! RUINED FOREVER WHEN DAVID CAMERON SAID HOW MUCH HE LIKED THEM! THE KILLERS! I was pleased to see that most people took this performance as an opportunity to express on Twitter how very much they still "would" Brandon Flowers in a variety of explicit ways. [He looks... odd these days.  Like Ricky Martin gone wrong - Rad] Honestly, my poor, pure, delicate mind is still recovering from the filth I read on Saturday night. I'm fairly certain some of it was physically impossible, and a good chunk of the rest would've left him unable to walk for several weeks afterwards. Poor Brandon. Anyway, they do 'Human' and 'Mr Brightside', and afterwards Dermot slinks up oleaginously to ask Brandon how it feels to have a Greatest Hits album out. "It's great," says Brandon. Dermot asks him how it was to play the final, and Brandon says that he felt good about it. Hmm. Maybe Brandon read what everyone wanted to do to him on Twitter and that's why he's not super-chatty right now. He probably just wants to rush off stage and file several thousand restraining orders. The Killers, everyone!

Ad break. I don't really want to go to McDonald's at Christmas, but thanks for thinking of me.

As we slump exhaustedly into the final leg of tonight's show, Dermot welcomes the finalists back to the stage. In no particular order, the first act through to Sunday's show is...Sam. Well, duh. Thankfully the show resists the urge to have yet another sing-off, though I'm sure they at least considered it at some point, and instead goes straight to telling us who's got the other spot - it's Wee Nick.

So Luke finishes third, Louis wanders offstage because apparently he's done now, and we look at Luke's best bits. They mostly revolve around dirty hair and Barlow-appeal, neither of which do a lot for me if I'm honest. When we return to the arena, Louis has somehow made his way back onto the stage. Dermot reminds Luke that he was the first auditionee we saw (so he was). Luke says that he knows he was the underdog, but he made it here and he's going to keep writing music for all of us. Don't rush on my account, dude. Louis says that Luke's going to have an amazing career. Luke says that Louis has been a great mentor. Dermot asks Luke what he's looking forward to now, and he replies "getting out there and gigging" like the archetypal young muso we all knew he was. Louis sticks his head in to say that the tour is going to be amazing, and everybody's on it. (Apart from Lorna. And Shelley. And Missed Dynamics. And Dalston Kingsland. But everybody apart from them.) Dermot tells Luke that he's a gentleman, a scholar and an acrobat, and that's it for Luke.

Dermot summons Sam and Wee Nick back out and informs us that the phone lines are now open again for us to continue voting for Sam, and also that other guy who's there next to her, although we shouldn't feel too compelled to do that. Dermot asks Wee Nick how it feels to be in the final two, and Wee Nick laughs in his face. Sam says she's overwhelmed, because it's all been the last chance saloon for her (I'm not sure why - there's no upper age limit on this show and it's going to be on for at least another three years).

Dermot encourages us to tune in tomorrow for the final final, featuring Katy Perry, One Direction, Gary Barlow and Sir Elton John, with occasional glimpses of Wee Nick and Sam. Thankfully I don't have to sit through that a second time because Rad will be recapping all of that. I wish her the very best of British luck.

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