In honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, last night's episode of "X Factor" was themed around giving thanks. Each contestant chose an important, inspirational person to sing for, but like Simon said, "it's still a competition." And rather than giving the contestants a holiday treat, host Steve Jones threw a curveball at the start of the show: not one, but two acts will be sent home on tonight's (Wednesday, Nov. 23) episode.
The contestant with the fewest of America's votes will automatically go home, and the next two lowest acts will sing for survival. Also getting in the way of the holiday cheer was the judges' bickering, which was worse than ever between Simon and L.A. Reid.
Kicking off the show was Rachel Crow, and the "X Factor" producers wasted no time before pulling at the heartstrings. As Rachel's parents told the story of her birth, tears were starting to flow. She was born in a crack house and ended up in a children's hospital before her parents adopted her. The young star dedicated her song, Yolanda Adams' "Believe," to her mom and dad, and for once, she wasn't all giggles. Rachel began to tear up as Paula complimented her and Nicole called her an "inspiration." The singer's final words before the commercial break were as moving as her performance: "I want to tell all the kids out there that you really can. Because I did."
Video: Rachel Crow, "Believe"
Tears were quickly becoming the theme of the night, as Marcus Canty performed Boyz II Men's "A Song for Mama," clutching his mom's hand as he sang to her from the stage. "Thank you for that performance," Nicole told Marcus. "It was so honest and you didn't overdo anything -- you just sang from your heart." The judges were all compliments, with Simon saying that Marcus had just put himself back in the competition and L.A. telling the 20-year-old performer that he is "as great as any of the great singers [L.A. has] ever worked with."
Video: Marcus Canty, "A Song for Mama"
Melanie Amaro didn't sing for her family or friends, but rather dedicated her song, R. Kelly's "The World's Greatest," to God, because "everyone once in my life has let me down and he's the only one who hasn't let me down," she said. It was her strongest performance since the audition round and she connected emotionally with the song more than ever before. L.A. was stunned, musing, "Girl what am I supposed to say? I'm supposed to criticize that?" Simon pleaded with America to vote for Melanie, saying, "Two people are going home tomorrow night… Please don't let Melanie be one of them. We need her in this competition."
Video: Melanie Amaro, "The World's Greatest"
Hip-hop contestant Chris Rene dedicated his song to the man who he says saved his life, his rehab counselor Tim Fry. He performed a mash-up of the Beatles' "Let It Be" and a song which he wrote and auditioned with, "Young Homie." The first part was good, but there was nothing great about it. However, Chris's original song was powerful and breathtakingly passionate. When he finished, Nicole gestured to the enthusiastic crowd, telling Chris to "look how powerful the music is that you write."
Video: Chris Rene, "Let It Be/Young Homie"
Girl group Lakoda Rayne performed Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me" in thanks to the people who mean the most to them. Simon told the ladies, "This is by far your best performance to date. I'm not going to say the vocals were perfect … but it's the type of group you should be, the type of record you should be making." Lakoda Rayne, the only group remaining in the competition, landed in the bottom two weeks ago, but were safe last week.
Video: Lakoda Rayne, "You Belong With Me"
60-year-old LeRoy Bell's song was especially emotional, as he dedicated Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" to his mom, who passed away less than two years ago. It brought tears to his and Nicole's eyes, but L.A. wasn't quite as pleased. "To me it wasn't your very best," L.A. said -- a reaction which was met with adamant boos. "It was heartfelt for sure, but not your very best." Paula said, "I could not disagree with you more, L.A. It was the most beautiful performance you have ever given," she told LeRoy.
Video: LeRoy Bell, "Angel"
After last week's elimination drama, America was anxious for Astro's return to the stage. He began with an apology, telling the judges, "Last week I had a moment, it got over my head a little bit. I could have handled myself a little better." He rapped an original track about his "Astronauts," the fans who supported him despite his outbursts. Last week, Simon berated Astro for being disrespectful, but last night he said that Astro's actions were perfectly acceptable, because "the music business needs unpredictability. I like people who are passionate," said Simon.
Video: Astro, "Astronauts"
Drew dedicated her performance of Demi Lovato's "Skyscraper" to her best friend Shelby, and the song was perfect for the 15-year-old singer, both emotionally and vocally. It was a source of argument between Simon and L.A., however, after L.A. criticized drew for singing "songs that are so old." He told her, "You don't do age-appropriate music and I don't understand it." We'll never know how Simon managed to restrain himself as the other judges spoke, but when it was his turn, he lashed out at L.A. "I am sick to death of your pointless stupid criticisms," said Simon, as the crowd chanted his name in support. "You are talking complete and utter rubbish."
Video: Drew, "Skyscraper"
The final contestant of the night was Josh Krajcik, singing the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses" for his teenage daughter. Josh's song choices are always spot-on, and this week was no exception. "You have everything it takes to win this competition," Simon said, while Nicole told Josh, "I strongly believe that your music can change the world.
Video: Josh Krajcik, "Wild Horses"
Who do you think will be safe and who do you want to see go home? Tell us in the comments below!