'X Factor' Recap: The Girls Battle for Spots in the Four Chair Challenge

"I'm loving this discomfort," said Simon Cowell as Demi Lovato struggled to complete her team.
Michael Becker / FOX
Demi Lovato

Thursday night’s episode of The X Factor picked up where the competition left off -- with Demi Lovato in the hot seat as she struggled to round out her team.

As we learned in the previous episode, just because you earned a seat in the Four Chair Challenge doesn’t mean you’re keeping it. This particular new wrinkle in the competition already caused stress for Kelly Rowland and her Over-25s category, and is delighting Simon Cowell, as it plays to his sadistic tendencies.

“I’m loving this discomfort,” he hissed.

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Not loving the tension were the four girls already seated on stage -- Bree Randall, Khaya Cohen, Ashly Williams and Jamie Pineda -- who all looked nauseated as they knew they might not be long for the show, especially Randall, who declared the previous evening that she was "literally born to do this."

Lovato had a tough task ahead of her, and she faced each contestant with steely determination. She REALLY wants to win this year and avenge the loss of last season's feisty competitor CeCe Frey.

Simone Torres kicked things off singing for her life with an upbeat, reworked version of "A Change Is Gonna Come." The song was way too low for her range, and Cowell said he hated the "karaoke arrangement." Although Lovato wasn’t sure if she was seeing a "star," she inexplicably instructed the teen to take a seat and booted Randall, who was obviously not long for the program based on Wednesday night’s effort.

This brought on shy and quirky bookworm Danie Geimer, who may come across like Andrea Zuckerman on Beverly Hills, 90210, but morphs into Brandon Walsh’s edgy ex-girlfriend Emily Valentine as she sings. Simply put, her "Georgia on My Mind" was killer, prompting Rowland to mouth, "I love her," as she belted out every nuanced note.

"You just sang your face off, mama," said Rowland. "She needs a seat. Somebody’s got to get up."

Cowell hailed her as the antidote to "overconfident pop stars." Geimer was an obvious lock from the moment Lovato opened her mouth and said she was a "star." That meant another teary goodbye for Torres, who didn’t even get a chance to warm up her seat.

Pageant girl Rhiley Brown broke out the fake eyelashes and a countrified version of Robbie Williams’ "Angels" in an attempt to steal a spot, but her whole demeanor bored the heck out of the panel and the audience. As Rowland put it, she was "not ready for this competiton." Cowell wasn’t quite so nice, saying her whole look was chosen by her mother. "I didn’t buy it," he said. Lovato thought she looked beautiful but called it "pageanty," despite being a pageant girl herself. Brown didn’t have a chance.

Nor did Primrose Martin, who couldn’t win a spot despite being the spawn of a member of Kool and the Gang. Martin soldiered on with her song, "Blame it on the Boogie" by The Jacksons, as the audience proceeded to boo her before she even finished. Blame it on the song choice, or her calculated moves, but it just didn’t impress Rowland, whose expression said it all. "I didn’t want to see that," she said, obviously speaking for the crowd. Paulina Rubio was disappointed. "You didn’t deliver," she said. Cowell, king of the put-downs, didn’t even want to critique her. "It’s pointless," he said. "Because that was beyond awful…the longest minute-and-a-half of my life." She proceeded to embarrass herself some more with an a capella singing attempt,  but failed to sway Lovato, who thought she came off as "too confident." Martin pleaded with "every part of her essence," but it was a lost cause.

Rion Paige, however, was a lock before she even sang a note. Born with malformed hands, the cute Kate Hudson look-alike (I can’t be the only one who sees the resemblance) has an inspirational story and the voice to match. Her delivery of Rascall Flatts' "I Won’t Let Go" clearly won over the panel. "When you’ve got it, you’ve got it," praised Cowell, as Lovato made a painful decision to swap Paige with Williams, whose heartbreaking story of losing her mother was one of the saddest of the season.

Closing out the show was season one holdover Ellona Santiago, who may very well be the second coming of Jessica Sanchez -- save for a few pitch problems -- as she performed a stripped-down version of "Clarity" by Zedd (featuring Foxes). While Cowell was certain that Santiago has the best voice in the competiton, Lovato wasn’t so sure, prompting a roomful of boos and pleas from the teen, who said she was ready to give "900 percent."

"When I look at this panel with these four seats, I can't see myself letting go of any of them," said Lovato, who looked for support from Rowland and Rubio.

But a decision was made, and Lovato cut Pineda loose, leaving only Cohen from her original four choices.

Next week, the Boys and Groups categories will be whittled down to four acts.

What do you think of Lovato’s choices? Hit us up in the comments below. 

Demi's final picks: Khaya Cohen, Rion Paige, Ellona Santiago and Danie Geimer.

Twitter: @MicheleAmabile