'X Factor' Recap: Top 40 and Team Mentors Revealed

X Factor season 3 table Lovato Cowell Rubio Rowland L
Ray Mickshaw / FOX

Thursday's episode of The X Factor was action-packed despite its shortened slot. Judges whittled their wish lists down to the top 40 contestants and finally learned which categories they would be mentoring this season.   

Before all the action got started, there were still some horrific hopefuls waiting for their chance at victory. Judges Simon Cowell, Paulina Rubio, Kelly Rowland and Demi Lovato were a little more lenient than usual and seemed to favor charm over chops for most of the night. 

That didn't stop them from rejecting the night's first awful attempt from Neal Macomber, whose ridiculous rendition of Neon Trees' "Everybody Talks" was harmless enough until he stroked Lovato's hair, making her squirm in her seat.

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"It was like something out of a lunatic asylum," quipped Cowell. "It's your eyes and that smile. If this was a movie, this would be like Nightmare on Elm Street or something, and you're the slasher that sings while they slash." 

They had better luck with some standout groups like Glamour. Their version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" brought Rowland to her feet as she exclaimed, "I feel like I'm looking at a baby Destiny's Child right now."

Girls United impressed the panel with Jessie J's "Price Tag" and Wild Thingz won them over with their unconventional flair. 

Cowell was especially (and inexplicably) impressed by Victoria Carriger, a 41-year-old mother of eight who is struggling with a separation from her husband. Her raspy take on Kelly Clarkson's "Because of You" earned the "easiest yes of the day," according to Cowell. 

The panel was enchanted by Denny Smith, a 69-year-old Santa Claus clone who sang "Stormy Monday Blues" and made the cut. They also sent through a singer-turned-rapper who was dismissed from American Idol by Cowell 10 years ago as "the worst singer in the world." His silly take on Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back" was enough to squelch the decade-old grudge.

The real work began when judges were forced to cut their "yes" list of more than 200 down to the top 40, choosing 10 contestants from each category. Cowell revealed there would be no boot camp this season, and instead, the judges would slash the list without any more chances. 

All four judges took turns delivering their life-changing decisions to the desperately devoted group.

Girls: Khaya Cohen, Bree Randall, Jamie Pineda, Simone Torres, Rion Paige, Danielle Geimer, Rylie Brown, Primrose Martin, Ellona Santiago, Ashly Williams.

Boys: Carlito Olivero, Chase Goehring, TImmy Thames, Isaiah Alston, Tim Olstad, Al Calderon, Josh Levi, Isaac Tauefa, Carlos Guevara, Stone Martin.

Over 25s: Lillie McCloud, Jeff Brinkman, Rachel Potter, Kristine Mirelle, Victoria Carriger, James Kenney, Allison Davis, Denny Smith, Lorie Moore, Jeff Gutt.

Groups: Glamour, Good News, Yellow House Canyon, Alex & Sierra, Roxxy Montana, Wild Thingz, Girls United.

As usual, the judges filled the final three group slots with hand-picked formations from nine castoffs and they eagerly accepted the second chance. 

Later, the judges and contestants finally learned the mentoring assignments, and everyone seemed pretty pleased with the producers' picks. Rowland will oversee the Over 25s and Lovato was selected to guide the girls to victory. Rubio will mentor the boys, while Cowell continues his reign over the groups category.