Well, that's a relief. CeCe Frey finally left "The X Factor" Thursday night, and we didn't even have to hear her sing again. Perhaps this new system of unceremoniously dropping one contestant early on elimination night and then focusing on the two acts that got the next two lowest number of audience votes isn't so bad after all.
But before Frey left, she looked deep into the camera with her chilly Barbie doll eyes, and gave us a little advice that revealed a great deal about who she was – and why it was so hard to like her. "I hope that I taught everybody at home that you need to love who you are," she said, her voice trembling a bit, "because the more you love who you are, the less you're going to need anyone else to."
Frey capped her final message off with a defiant lift of the chin, and after a few encouraging words and a hug from her mentor, the sympathetically leopard-spotted Demi Lovato, who's now fresh out of singers, that unpleasant, absurdly extended chapter of this season's "X Factor" came to an end.
Frey's departure left the next two shakiest acts, teen Diamond White, a returnee to the save-me sing-off, and Simon Cowell's insta-girl group Fifth Harmony, to dangle over the void.
After last season's winner, Melanie Amaro, gave us hope that talent will ultimately prevail and Ke$ha shook her moneymaker, earning a standing ovation from the judges, the two endangered acts took the stage.
Fifth Harmony, much to Cowell's consternation, went first, singing Mariah Carey's "Anytime You Need a Friend" more or less the same way they've sung everything this season, which is to say, fine.
Then Diamond White gave everything she had to Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance." I thought she sounded pretty good – a few pitch issues but more open and emotionally connected than she sometimes has – but I was apparently alone.
The only judge who didn't opt to send White home was her own mentor, Britney Spears, and even Spears didn't have any heartening words for her.
No matter, though, the ever upbeat White was ready with her own pep talk, reminding herself that Cher Lloyd also hadn't won the season she competed in the U.K. version of "The X Factor," "and look where she is."
"I'll be sure to come back with one of my hit songs and I'll perform for you guys," White said, somehow managing to sound as sweetly modest as ever.
After a seriously uncomfortable-looking Spears issued the requisite "future is ahead of you" bromides and White disappeared, we learned the standings:
1. Tate Stevens
2. Carly Rose Sonenclar
4. Fifth Harmony
Yes, Stevens has knocked Sonenclar out of the top slot and reclaimed the lead.
Who would you rather see win this thing: Tate Stevens or Carly Rose Sonenclar?