The X Factor 2012 immediately mired itself in lovely, newsworthy controversy on the first weekend of live shows as Carolynne Poole left the contest.
In dramatic scenes, over-28s mentor Gary Barlow was seen storming from the studio as one of his acts was eliminated, with flamboyant model Rylan Clark surviving the Sunday night bottom-two judges’ vote.
Rylan was seen by many as a surprise inclusion in the public vote’s bottom two, after an energetic, Egyptian-themed performance of Spandau Ballet’s Gold on Saturday night. Carolynne made little impression with her version of Starships by Nicki Minaj.
However, Rylan was the runaway winner of a RadioTimes.com poll asking readers to vote for the act that least deserved to stay. He received 38% of the vote, with Union J in second place on 14% and Carolynne only seventh on 6%.
Plus, the Sunday sing-off traditionally concentrates on vocal ability: with his backing dancers and shiny gold vest taken away, Rylan seemed lost and forgot the words to One Night Only halfway through.
Carolynne’s vocal was stronger than it had been the night before and was surely stronger than Rylan’s. Gary Barlow said so uncompromisingly, breaking with the tradition of judges being polite to the bottom two by saying it was an easy decision for the remaining three judges (Nicole Scherzinger had already voted to save her act, Rylan), and that the highlight of Rylan’s performance had been when he held the microphone a long way away from his mouth.
Tulisa Contostavlos went along with Gary, leaving the final decision up to Louis Walsh. A vote to eliminate Rylan would do just that; a vote for Carolynne would tie the scores and take the result to deadlock, ie the person with the least votes from the public would go.
Louis smashed all known records for judge-dithering, going way past the point of theatrically building up tension and appearing genuinely not to be able to choose. At times he even seemed not to understand the task in front of him: Tulisa was seen pointing at names on a notepad on the judges’ desk, while an increasingly furious Dermot O’Leary repeatedly asked Louis to make a decision. “We need a name, Louis! Now! NOW!”
Eventually Louis blurted that he wanted to save Carolynne, despite several reminders that he was being asked to name the act he wanted to send home. While Dermot O’Leary asked Louis for clarification, Carolynne celebrated – only for Louis then to shout, “I WANT TO SEND IT TO DEADLOCK!”
Pandemonium reigned as Dermot opened the envelope and announced Carolynne was out: Gary immediately stormed out of the studio and viewers shouted “Fix!”, with Twitter users sharing a screenshot of Louis in conference with an unidentified person during Carolynne’s performance. Carolynne’s exit interview was cut short, thanks to the time lost to Louis’ antics.
An X Factor spokesperson said: “Carolynne had the least public votes. Producers always chat to judges during the show.”
Did Louis derail the programme and bring about a tragic injustice, or is this all part of the show (with a Bafta-worthy performance from Louis)? Either way, The X Factor is already right where it wants to be: on front pages and all over social networks…