'X Factor' Recap: Top 12 Revealed in Shocking Format

Jason Brock X factor Top 12 party
Frank Micelotta / FOX

One of the most excruciating parts of results nights for fans is you never quite know what the final order is with voting tallies. For instance, on American Idol, Ryan Seacrest may tell you how many votes are in, or what percentage separated the top two favorites. However, if your favorite is forever in the bottom, you have no idea how dire the situation is until the final ax comes down.

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On a night that featured X Factor’s biggest success story, One Direction, performing two songs (the hit, “Live While We’re Young,” with a hokey nod to their Pepsi ads and a skit involving quarterback Drew Brees as the dissed sixth member and the beautiful, Ed Sheeran penned ballad, “Little Things”) Simon Cowell and company introduced yet another twist.

X Factor is taking a shot at re-inventing the current reality show model, informing voters that after the final top 12 were finally chosen, viewers would learn exactly where their favorites ranked. This concept is so simple. Just last week, The Hollywood Reporter tallied the contestant’s Twitter followers, and the published results mobilized fans to spread the word and increase their favorites' social media profiles (props to specific fans of Vino Alan on a mission to double the soul singer’s following).

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It will be interesting to see how this kind of transparency changes the game each week. However, we learned something tonight: Twitter followers do not secure victory in a singing competition, as America said goodbye to “Mr. Entertainment,” Jason Brock, who as of tonight lead with an army of 155,507 people cheering him to victory on the micro-blogging site. You had to love Brock’s exit speech, though: “I did it for the gays…and Japan,” he said.

So what did we learn tonight with the revelation of the true top 12? Holy hell! In all my years watching these shows, there have been shockers (the elimination of Chris Daughtry on Idol, for one). However, I have never been more surprised than what went down on X Factor Thursday night.

No, it wasn’t the fact that the final two singers standing performing for their lives were Brock delivering an impassioned version of Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (forever immortalized in Diary of a Wimpy Kid) and CeCe Frey, who stood center stage yet again, this time doing a Cher power ballad, “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me.” And it wasn’t the revelation after the judges' deadlock that the lowest vote getter in the competition was, indeed, Brock.

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No, what happened was way more interesting than anything I’ve seen yet. One by one, hosts Mario Lopez and Khloe Kardashian revealed, in order, the top 12, starting at the bottom, first with Frey, then with Arin Ray, who earlier in the show was so happy to be safe, only to learn he is one heartbeat away from heartbreak yet again if the voting results remain the same next week. To Kardashian’s credit, she reverently read the names in the bottom, while Lopez screamed each name (Beatrice Miller!) as if they'd won the lottery.

Demi Lovato seemed to get a bit of a wake-up call upon learning Paige Thomas didn’t take the audience’s breath away quite the way she had hoped, finishing eighth. “I expected Paige to do better than that,” she said before getting the news she didn’t expect: Jennel Garcia, with her makeover and rocker personae, finished just one spot ahead Thomas. No, it was way more surprising than that. The results even blew away cocky Cowell, who was so sure his boys, Emblem 3, were on a path to victory.

Cowell was practically speechless, but tried to put a positive spin on the situation. “I think it’s for me,” he said of his act’s middle of the pack finish. “Now I’ve got information and have to change styles.”

To add insult to injury, Lyric 145’s Mary Poppins send-up didn’t resonate with voters either, who placed the rappers in the bottom in ninth place. Really?

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At least he has 1432, er, Fifth Harmony, who placed in—you guessed it--fifth place! The name change may have been a good omen for the girls, who just last week had a major identity crisis. Oh, no. It got better from there, when Britney Spears (who looked every bit the pop star in a mid-riff showing blouse--it was about time she rocked an outfit like that) learned that her initial instinct to eliminate Diamond White was ill-conceived, as she finished fourth.

Or L.A. Reid, who for weeks moaned about getting the over 25s category, learned that he may have a winner in the deep throated Alan, who trails on Twitter but rocked actual votes to a top three finish. But the true blow was dealt at the end, with the announcement that Spears, whose best shot at victory is with the truly spectacular Carly Rose Sonenclar, has stiff competition from the one that nobody seemed to have pegged to win the whole thing--the cowboy on a steel horse, Tate Stevens.

Never discount the appeal and power of a well-performed Bon Jovi song (hey, it worked for Tom Cruise!). Yes, America, we have a Scotty McCreery situation here on X Factor, as the heartland voters are voting in full force, putting the family man in the top spot this week, and nobody looked more shocked than the asphalt-laying crooner himself.

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So what does this mean for next week? Now that we know the order of the voting bloc, will this mobilize fans to up their games on the phone and online? Will thousands of Americans download the X Factor app plugged by Lopez tonight as a tool to make voting simpler and quicker? Will Cowell and Lovato drastically change what they are doing with their contestants?

In Lovato’s case, we hope she heeds this as a warning and rethinks how she is staging her team (say no to spikes! Say no to Rocky songs! Say no to hokey stage props! Come on, Demi! You can do it!).

Reid and Spears must be feeling pretty good right now, particularly Reid, who now must realize what he has in his two remaining men. Spears needs to work on Miller a little bit. She sometimes struggles with the low end of her voice, and a few tweaks could raise her in the rankings. We can’t wait to see how this shapes the show next Wednesday! Well played, X Factor. What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!

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Here is how the top 12 ranked:

12. CeCe Frey

11. Arin Ray 

10. Beatrice Miller 

9. Lyric 145

8. Paige Thomas

7. Jennel Garcia

6. Emblem 3

5. Fifth Harmony

4. Diamond White

3. Vino Alan

2. Carly Rose Sonenclar

1. Tate Stevens