Welcome to a brand-new round for The X Factor season 3. Boot camp at the judges’ homes is gone, and in its place the Four-Chair Challenge. It’s kind of like musical chairs sudden death as dreamed up by Glee‘s Sue Sylvester, a needlessly cruel way of trimming 40 acts down to the Top 16 who will move on to the live shows.

Each act will perform and then the mentor for that category will decide if they get one of the four chairs on stage. Once the chairs are filled, saying “Yes” to someone means the mentor will then have to “switch out” one of the people already sitting there. “Switch out” is The X Factor‘s polite euphemism for “Destroying someone’s dream after making them think they had made it.” This is the part that’s needlessly cruel, because I don’t want to see someone’s dream get taken away on stage in front of everyone. These are people, not pawns in Simon Cowell’s sick human chess game.

In this episode, Kelly Rowland picks the four singers from the Over 25 category moving on to the live shows (one of whom totally doesn’t deserve it) and Demi Lobato begins the Girls round.

Kelly Rowland and the Over 25s

The new format is going category by category, and we’re starting with the old folks. I’m assuming going early is bad, because they will be most likely to get switched out.

Victoria Carriger

The mom with eight kids gets soulful and heartfelt, with rasp that all the judges love. She’s good, but it seems a little emotionally manipulative and it gets a little boring at times. Simon Cowell thinks it’s not good enough and she shouldn’t move on. Kelly says “Yes” and Victoria gets a chair.

Kristine Mirelle

She does a cool, smoky version of Britney Spears’ “Oops!…I Did It Again.” I like the first part of it, but once she gets to the chorus it’s a complete and utter mess. I don’t remember her from the auditions, and now I’m happy about that because she’s pretty horrible. How did she make it this far? After Demi Lovato and Paulina Rubio say it wasn’t good, Simon thinks she deserves a chair. Either he’s being a contrarian just for the sake of arguing, or he’s actively trying to sabotage Kelly’s team. Kelly says “Yes” and Kristine gets a chair. These are obviously pity chairs to start things off, and I have no doubt she’ll be switched out once we hit the fifth singer.

Jeff Gutt

He’s the single dad who got cut at the judges’ homes last season. He also has an annoying rocker scream. He sings “Amazing Grace,” which is absurd and even more manipulative than what Victoria did. How are songs like this allowed? How can anyone compare Britney Spears to “Amazing Grace”?

He does his whole growling rocker thing all over the place. Either you love this kind of stuff or you don’t. I personally don’t, but I get how others do. The judges all love it. Kelly says “Yes” and Jeff gets a chair.

Rachel Potter

She’s the 29-year-old aspiring country singer and “bartender.” I use quotation marks because The X Factor wants to pretend that Rachel wasn’t on Broadway in multiple productions. Seriously, the show is being so disingenuous when it claims she’s some nobody looking for her big break. This kind of fraud makes me dislike her.

She’s OK in parts, but it’s pretty rough, and when she screams it gets all kinds of bad. She knows it wasn’t her best because she’s sick. Since Kelly still has an open seat, Kelly says “Yes” and Rachel gets a chair. Ugh, these new judges need to grow some damn balls. Just because you have an open chair doesn’t mean you have to give it to someone.

Lorie Moore

Hooray for the football player! Since she’s the fifth singer, Kelly Rowland looks like a deer in the headlights, like she somehow didn’t understand the rules of the Four-Chair Challenge and what would happen after giving her first four chairs away.

She absolutely kills the performance, starting off slow to show the sweeter side of her voice, then letting it all out and throwing in some bad-ass runs. I love her. Demi and Paulina think she doesn’t quite fit anywhere in the music industry and she isn’t a star. Kelly also isn’t sure if she’s ready, but Lorie comes back about how she loves hard work . It’s an inspiring football pep speech about how she doesn’t need to be cute or have an image, she’s gonna work hard.

Kelly says “Yes” and Lorie gets a chair. Uh-oh, now it’s time for a switch! This is where all of the flaws in this format are revealed. One of the first four singers has to be cut. When Mario Lopez says their names, the audience cheers and boos, but I have no idea why. Are they cheering because they love that person and want them to stay or because they want that person to get switched out?

Kristine gets switched out. The audience boos, and then cheers, and I’m getting whiplash from their nonsensical reactions. They seem to be sad Kristine is gone, happy Lorie is staying and happy the other three are staying. It’s one giant mess. Sorry, X Factor, but the Four-Chair Challenge is just an absolutely awful idea.

Allison Davis

She was quite possibly the only person the judges disagreed with in the auditions, with Simon saying “No.” And now Simon is proven right. The performance is a giant steaming turd. Like, this would be one of the joke auditions on American Idol. Even the judges, audience and singers in the four chairs all look uncomfortable. There are actual boos during the performance from the audience.

Simon calls her a “wannabe,” which seems about right. Allison tries to pull a Lorie Moore and claims she’ll work hard while pleading her case. Kelly says “No” and Allison is eliminated. That was easy.

Jeff Brinkman

He’s the new dad with a dog-walking business. His voice is solid, but other than one or two big notes, it’s completely bland. He just ambles around the stage and doesn’t bring any excitement or urgency to it. Demi was bored and Simon found the song choice ridiculous, although he has an incredible voice.

Kelly says “Yes” and Jeff gets a chair. I guess, despite the show’s claims that tonight’s performances are the most important ever, the judges care more about the auditions, because this performance did NOT deserve a chair. I hope they’re starting with the worst category.

Victoria gets switched out. This is a joke. Rachel was the worst of those four in the chairs, by a mile.

Denny Smith

Santa Claus! This guy is pure joy, and his gravelly voice is so cool and unexpected. He’s cool and awesome, but I’m not sure he’s right for this competition. He could probably win America’s Got Talent, but he’s just not able to compete with all the 20-somethings and teens on the show.

Kelly says “No” and Denny is eliminated. The War on Christmas has officially begun! Simon is positively giddy that the audience is booing Kelly while she doesn’t like having to do this. Yeah, that’s because this Four-Chair Challenge format is terrible.

James Kenney

This apartment manager compares the Four-Chair Challenge to The Hunger Games. I agree: It’s painful, I can’t wait for it to end and I want to shoot down a hive of wasps on top of Kelly’s head. Also, there’s a decent chance I’ll be eating some of those berries before this season is over.

He sings “Lean on Me,” so he’s yet another singer relying on emotional manipulation. He has a great voice, he’s upbeat and he’s current. He’s the best of the night by about a million miles. All of the judges love it.

He does the same “I’ll work hard” speech everyone has given since Lorie started the trend, but there’s no reason for it. Kelly says “Yes” and James gets a chair. Of course, that was a no-brainer.

The entire audience is cheering for Rachel to get eliminated. They hate her and know she was absolutely the worst person sitting in a chair. So naturally, Jeff Brinkman gets switched out. Oh Kelly, you are the worst.

Lillie McCloud

Lillie and her afro were easily my favorite Over 25 from the auditions, so it’s clear she’s getting a chair before she even opens her mouth.

She does “A House Is Not a Home,” and it’s the kind of old-school grace and giant diva voice I expected. It’s one of those voices that makes you forget about current pop music and where she might fit into the industry. You just sit back and enjoy the greatness. The judges all declare her the greatest singer ever.

Kelly says “Yes” and Lillie gets a chair. Heck, she should get all four chairs and all of the other Over 25s should just go home now.

Once again, every single person in the audience wants Rachel to be eliminated. Lorie is switched out. Even Rachel is like “WTF?” Seriously, Kelly needs to get tackled right now, because that was the worst.

The Four Chairs for the Over 25s: Lillie McCloud, James Kenney, Jeff Gutt and Rachel Potter

Well, I agree with three out of four, but Rachel just doesn’t deserve this based on what we saw and heard. I respect that Kelly didn’t cave to the pressure of the audience and stuck to her own opinion (something not all of the mentors will be able to claim by the end of the Four-Chair Challenge), but in this case, the audience was right. Rachel was terrible and I suspect the only reason she’s moving on is because of her Broadway background.

It’s also ominous that Kelly said “Yes” to eight of her 10 singers. I feel like the audience pressures the mentors to say “Yes” more often than they should.

Demi Lovato and the Girls

With Kelly’s category over, it’s time for Demi and the Girls. Unfortunately, since I know how to read a clock, it’s clear we’re only gonna see four or five singers and the category will finish up on tomorrow’s episode.

Bree Randall

It’s hard to go from older, more mature voices to a bunch of teenage girls. This performance is fine, serviceable, but completely forgettable and useless.

Demi says “Yes” and Bree gets a chair. Boo! I was hoping Demi had the guts to eliminate someone even with open chairs left, because it’s very obvious she’ll be switched out. She’s the Under 25 version of Kristine Mirelle.

Khaya Cohen

She’s an independent NYC teen who loves to sing big, soulful diva songs. Her voice is ridiculous and she sings the bejesus out of “Locked Out of Heaven.” The audience gives her a standing ovation before she’s even finished and when the camera cuts to Bree, the expression on her face says “Can I please go home now?”

Demi says “Yes” and Khaya gets a chair
. Even though there are three open seats, I would’ve switched out Bree anyway.

Jamie Pineda

She has eight siblings and they’re always making Mexican food. She sings “Don’t Speak” and then goes into Spanish halfway through for a few lines. She’s good, and the Spanish language trick is an excellent card to play. She’s on the cusp and just needs to hope there aren’t better singers. Simon thinks she should stick to Spanish, because that’s where she’s marketable.

Demi says “Yes” and Jamie gets a chair. Why do they even bother asking the mentors for the first four singers? Clearly they’re all going to get a chair.

Ashly Williams

She’s the sweet woman whose mother was murdered (luckily her killer is serving life in prison). But she sang Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” during her audition and now she does Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” I really hate her showboating, sappy, sentimental song choices.

But her voice is amazing (though I still prefer Khaya). Simon says it wasn’t great, possibly because he already sees that her tragic backstory poses a serious threat to win the competition, so he has to knock her down a peg or two. Demi says “Yes” and Ashly gets a chair.

That’s it for tonight. The final six Girls perform tonight to finalize Demi’s Four Chairs. It’s safe to assume Bree won’t be sitting there much longer, and I suspect Jamie could be in trouble too. But it’s gonna be very difficult to switch out Khaya or Ashly.

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(Image courtesy of FOX)

John Kubicek

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

John watches nearly every show on TV, but he specializes in sci-fi/fantasy like The Vampire DiariesSupernatural and True Blood. However, he can also be found writing about everything from Survivor and Glee to One Tree Hill and Smallville.