This is when you ask, “what the hell just happened?”

In a span of just four hours, three major players off Fox’s The X Factor have departed: host Steve Jones, and judges Nicole Scherzinger and Paula Abdul.

Jones was the first to announce his departure on the show, through his Twitter page. “I won’t be hosting next season’s X Factor which is a shame, but I can’t complain as I’ve had a great time,” he said. “Good luck to everyone on the show.”

An hour later, an E! Online report claimed that Scherzinger is also leaving X Factor. A source said that the former Pussycat Doll chose to focus on her music career, and that the show “took a lot more of her time than she ever expected.” She has talked to Simon Cowell about it, and he has reportedly given her blessing.

Fox has since confirmed both departures to The Hollywood Reporter.

And then, a third departure: Deadline reports that Paula Abdul has also left the show. The former American Idol judge was, according to an insider, pushed out of the show — and the same was the case for Jones and Scherzinger. Fox hasn’t confirmed the third departure yet.

UPDATE: Paula has released a statement, confirming her departure from the show: “I’ve learned through my longevity in this industry that business decisions often times override personal considerations … I have absolute understanding of the situation. Simon is, and will remain a dear friend of mine and I’ve treasured my experience working this past season with my extended family at Fox and Fremantle.”

UPDATE: THR, quoting a source from within the show, reports that Cowell has instigated the changes through meetings with his team in the United Kingdom. The source said Abdul was seen as “irrelevant to the mix,” whatever that means — I’m guessing it’s because the groups, which she mentors, were eliminated early in the first season. The report also says that Cowell is looking for “a bigger celebrity” on the judging panel next season.

So, what do we glean from all this? One, Cowell is bent on giving The X Factor a massive overhaul after a lukewarm reception on its first season, marred by criticism of an over-reliance on the drama (dare I mention the Rachel Crow incident again?) and lower-than-expected ratings. (He did mention after the first season ended that there are changes in store.)

And two, nobody is safe — not even Paula, who Simon had fond words for even during their Idol days. I’ll go on a limb and say that Paula got Cheryl Cole’d — expect a massive backlash, either from fans, or from Paula herself. We’ll see what happens.

Then again, X Factor loves its drama, and this whole brouhaha is perhaps what Simon wanted to see.

What do you think of the three X Factor departures? Happy to see them go? Or is the show killing off the wrong things? Me, I’ll say this: stay tuned. There will be more to come.

(Image courtesy of Fox)

Henrik Batallones

Staff Writer, BuddyTV