As "X Factor" eliminations rolled around again last night (Oct. 18), only 17 of the 32 contestants left the judges' homes as competitors in the live round. Nearly every contestant was in tears, whether celebrating or mourning shattered dreams, yet one contestant convinced Simon to -- gasp -- change his stubborn mind.
The first pair facing Simon was Tora Wolloshin and Simone Battle. Tora's performances have only gone downhill since her first audition, while Simone has been steadily maturing. Although Tora had the pop star charisma and personality, plus one of the best auditions, Simon saw more potential in Simone and eliminated accordingly.
Drew Ryniewicz, a 14-year-old Justin Bieber superfan, was the next to face Simon, who told her that he "saw an improvement" and she "could not have done more." Although he continued, "I'm not going to lie. You weren't the best teenager."
As the young star looked down and began to accept her fate, Simon finished: "You weren't the best teenager, you were the best contestant of the whole day." After squeals of disbelief, followed by Simon's reassurances of "Yes, I'm legit. I'm for real," Drew rushed offstage to celebrate.
Video: Drew Ryniewicz' "Judges' Houses" Audition
Nicole told burrito-making Ohio boy Josh Krajcik that he was the unassuming guy next door, but then he came in "with this great big voice and so much soul." She sent him on to the live round and sent home former child star Christa Collins and rocker James Kenney, who she believed was meant to be a frontman, not a soloist.
During his "Judges' Houses" audition, Dexter Haygood bombed. He was assigned Beyonce's  "Crazy In Love," and it was so far out of his comfort zone that he awkwardly forgot many of the words. "As we speak, I am homeless," Dexter told the cameras before facing Nicole. "I don't have no money, I don't have nothing but a car and a jacket. I don't think no one in this competition… they may want it as much as I want it, but they don't need it as much as I need it." But Nicole saw his spark and his potential, recalling his first audition, and she chose to take him forward to the next round.
Video: Dexter Haygood's First "X Factor" Audition
Paula's first decision of the day was between three groups: 2 Squar'd, the Brewer Boys and Illusion/Confusion. Only the Brewer Boys were chosen for the live round and boy band 4Shore were also sent home, despite being "technically the most beautiful-sounding."
L.A. Reid chose teen rapper Brian Bradley, whose name is apparently now Astro, to move forward. As L.A. pointed out during the last episode, this will be America's first chance to judge a rapper in a singing competition of this magnitude. Phillip Lomax was also put through to the live round, although L.A. warned him that he can't "give Sinatra  every night."
Nick Voss was eliminated because he hadn't found his own identity as an artist yet. Skyelor Anderson went home because he was too country and limited himself in the process. And L.A. also sent home Brennin Hunt, the Jared Leto look-a-like who was a big hit with the audience. L.A.'s explanation was a little vague, but the judges were always skeptical of Hunt's over-the-top cheesiness, so it wasn't much of a surprise.
Simon also sent Jazzlyn Little home, partly because she was so self-conscious and also because she had grit during auditions but had lost it and become "too polished off."
Sixty-year-old Leroy Bell easily made it through to the next round. "You have a really beautiful voice, Leroy. Not only are you amazingly talented but you're an amazing artist," Nicole told him.
Video: Leroy Bell's "Judges' Houses" Audition
Both of the groups formed by the judges at bootcamp, Lakoda Rayne and InTENsity, made it through to the live rounds, although both still need a lot of work. Paula saw their potential, and said that she hopes a little one-on-one attention will encourage progress.
When Simon had to choose between Tiah Tolliver and Caitlin Koch, both 20-somethings whom he had hand-picked at auditions, he eliminated Caitlin and sent Tiah on to the next round, because he still believes in her potential to keep improving and become a superstar.
Rihanna asked L.A. to pass along a message to Tim Cifers, "She found that your very humble nature was the most endearing quality and she loved you for that," L.A. relayed, before sending Cifers home and moving Marcus Canty forward.
Video: Marcus Canty's First "X Factor" Audition
Despite calling Elaine Gibbs "one of the most talented singers (she's) ever come by," Nicole sent the vocalist home. Elaine stayed strong and Nicole was the one to cry, telling a crew member, "It's hard because I know that she's being strong but I know that out of every one of those people, she was counting on it the most."
Forty-two-year-old single mother Stacy Francis made it through to the next round, though Nicole warned her that she needed to improve her confidence or she won't last.
The final spot in the live round came down to two contestants: Rachel Crow and Melanie Amaro, both vocal powerhouses and crowd favorites. Simon told Rachel: "I loved your first audition. What I wasn't expecting was how good the others were going to be."
Video: Rachel Crow's First Audition on "X Factor"
When it came down to it, he eliminated Melanie and the show began to wrap, despite ten minutes remaining in the scheduled time slot. As the camera flashed to Simon relaxing in his kitchen, he said, "I think I've made a mistake. I do. An hour ago it felt fine. Now, in hindsight, I can feel it in my gut, I've made a mistake on someone and I've made a big mistake."
In a turn of events that only Simon Cowell could have gotten away with, he hopped on a plane and headed to Florida, where he showed up unannounced at Melanie's house to ask her to rejoin the competition. She, of course, said yes, and the episode ended with Simon saying, "I never would have forgiven myself if I hadn't done this."
Video: Melanie Amaro's "X Factor" Audition
"The X Factor" will continue next Tuesday, when all 17 contestants perform in the live rounds.
Girls: Simone Battle, Drew Ryniewicz, Tiah Tolliver, Rachel Crow, Melanie Amaro
Guys: Brian Bradley, Phillip Lomax, Chris Rene, Marcus Canty
Over 30s: Josh Krajcik, Dexter Haygood, LeRoy Bell, Stacy Francis
Groups: The Brewer Boys, Lakoda Rayne, InTENsity, The Stereo Hogzz
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