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'The X-Factor' recap: Can the second episode outdo the premiere?

By Wesley Case

2:48 PM EDT, September 22, 2011

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THE SKINNY: Have we been had? "The X-Factor" followed up a seriously stellar debut with a two-hour mess of talentless singers and worse. The supporters of the first episode should be worried. Was Thursday night the real "X-Factor" or just a momentary bump in the road? A weak second episode paired with disappointing opening ratings is a situation Simon Cowell must not have anticipated. And yet, here we are.

8:06 — Our first contestant of "X-Factor's" second episode is a 29-year-old unemployed "free spirit" I didn't catch the name of. It doesn't matter, either: L.A. Reid tells her he wanted to slit his wrists while she sang. It was a no. This will likely be an omen.

8:11 — "Today is dreadful," says L.A. about the Miami talent. Simon agrees. Me too!

8:17 — Only one person could save the Miami auditions ... Gloria Estefan, of course. (Note: She doesn't.)

8:18 — Caitlynne Curtis, 16, performs Katy Perry's smash "Firework." Her shaky, unsure voice barely finishes the song. As Caitlynne bursts into tears, we watch a teenager's dreams get crushed. Paula Abdul is moved enough to console her on stage, but it was a deserved no.

8:29 — Nick Voss, please save this wretched start. He does his best Elvis impression for "Trouble," and it sounds like your slightly buzzed friend doing decent karaoke. But nothing about it says "2011 Pop Star." I'd say no, but the judges think there's enough potential (especially Simon) so Nick gets the green light.

8:34 — After all of the soaring highs of last night, this episode is flat 34 minutes in.

8:39 — "Ghost-hunter" teen Ashley Deckard finds a cosmic partner in Paula because they both see ghosts. ("They look like people," Paula says in agreement.) Ashley can't actually sing, though, so this was another pointless audition. In terms of talent, Miami sucks this day.

8:54 — Melanie Amaro finally delivers the first knockout vocal of the night during her rendition of Beyonce's "Listen." She has pipes and brings Nicole Scherzinger to tears. "This is why I do this. People like you inspire me," Nicole says. "Do" what exactly?

9:05 — Please, Dallas, be better than Miami. Jonny Rogers, a 17-year-old student, sings an original song and it's a trainwreck with stiff choreography to boot. Simon compares him to a Justin Bieber doll gone wrong. Jonny takes the rejection surprisingly well.

9:16 — Country boy (read: very country boy) Dylan Lawson, 18, sold his truck to get to Dallas. But in the goofiest surprise of the night, he performs a tortured, a capella version of Lil Wayne's "Swag Surf." It sounds like he dropped the real N-bombs, too. Good luck getting home, Dylan. Yikes.

9:39 — "Funky cat" Dexter, 49, does an ugly James Brown impression (is there any other kind?) and the judges initially deny him. They give him another shot to do something a capella and he screams through Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World." He's another down-on-his-luck dude, so the swelling strings tell the viewers it's time to root for the guy, even if his voice sucks. They inexplicably let him through and L.A.'s credibility takes a hit.

9:42 — Caitlyn Koch is a 21-year-old blond rugby coach. She does an understated version of the Supremes' "Stop! In the Name of Love." It's too much of a snoozefest for me, but the judges were moved. She's in.

9:51 — Xander Alexander gives the worst audition of the night and it wasn't because of his mediocre voice. "You turned into a bitchy, nasty diva," Simon tells Xander (don't you dare call him Alexander ... wait, huh?) after he lost the audience's early support with obnoxious, catty comments. It was weirdly satisfying watching this guy get the boot. And ... that's the night? See you next week.