x factor premiere fox 'The X Factor' recap: Simon's ScowlSteve welcomes us to the show from the balcony, because in the background, the stage appears to be occupied by seven druids standing creepily silhouetted in a misty circle. Steve tells us that over 16 million people voted last night, and then directs our attention to the finalists on the stage. For it is they I mistook for druids, and now they’re singing “Man in the Mirror” with images of Michael Jackson on the screens. Melanie gets the chorus, of course, because she’s sung this before. Movie night, remember? Man, this show. Steve comes out to join them afterward, telling Chris and Melanie to scootch apart to make room. It’s not every day you hear the word “scootch” live TV. He sends us to the recap of last night’s episode, which extensively covers the presence of the Jackson family before moving on to the capsule versions of the performances and backstage moments too brief to mention, except for the possible exception of L.A. telling Chris he’s the most original person in the competition, and someone waylaying the Jackson kids backstage to ask what they thought of the show. Paris: “It was neat.” Okay then.

After that bit, Steve gives each judge a chance to talk about how great last night was — even L.A., who acts surprised that Steve remembered he was there. Then there’s a plug for the new MJ/Cirque album, because we didn’t get enough of that last night, and then we go to the real ads.

Steve reminds us of last week’s Pepsi Choice performance, and how it was the result of what happens when they let the audience pick stuff. “It was phenomenal! Out there, but phenomenal.” Well, he’s one-third right. Apparently they’re doing it again, letting Pepsi/X Factor fans pick one of the two songs each of the final five will be singing next week. Let’s hope that gets equally sabotaged, shall we?

Steve brings out the final seven and their mentors: Nicole with her one remaining singer, Josh Krajcik; L.A. with Astro, Chris Rene, and Marcus Canty; and Simon with Drew, Rachel Crow, and Melanie Amaro. Steve reminds us that four of those acts will go straight through, one will be summarily booted tonight for getting the lowest number of votes last night, and the second- and third-lowest vote-getters will compete with each other to stay in the competition. In no particular order, as always, the first safe performer is…Chris Rene. He looks openly stunned (like everyone else) as he leaves the stage. Also safe is Melanie. The smiles of the remaining five onstage are starting to look a little stiff. The next person named is Rachel Crow, leaving Marcus, Astro, Drew, and Josh still waiting to find out which of the four of them is safe. And they’ll be waiting a while.

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