Cue the dramatic music and switch on the red lights! Pepsi advertisements and startling cuts to commercial breaks! The "X Factor" returned this week with better-than-average contestants holding down the stage in Chicago and Seattle, and judges Simon Cowell, LA Reid, Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger trying their best not to look bored.
We had again the momentary, unexplained appearance and disappearance of booted judge Cheryl Cole, some try-hard teen heart throbs in Bieber wannabe Drew and son-of-two-dwarves (cringe) Pete, and some staged judge bickering between the boys and girls to give the impossibly cute, impossibly off-key a cappella-loving Tiah Tolliver a chance. "You were dead on arrival," Simon told the 19-year-old deli clerk, who eventually won Paula and Nicole over with a second showing of her vocals and killer gap-toothed smile.
But the real winner of the night was 30-year-old burrito-slinger Josh Krajcik, who rolled up to Chicago after a seven-hour drive from Ohio (thanks, Mom!) and whose disheveled, greasy-haired mop made him look something awful close to a Kevin Smith and Jack Black hybrid. Was this general unpreparedness or actually an ingenious ruse, meant to harden our opinions one way only to be blown away, Susan Boyle-style, when Josh eventually belts out an awesomely soulful rendition of Etta James' "At Last"?
LA Reid thought it the latter, telling the singer, "I get why you're dressed like that. You aren't fooling me for a second. This is your before, because the after's gonna be... You are too good. You are way too good." You be the judge.