Going into the "X Factor" Top 4 results episode, there was little doubt that Alex & Sierra were going to make it into the Season 3 finale. An ouster of the duo at this point, especially after scoring two No. 1 hits on iTunes in as many weeks, would have indeed been a shocker. And there shouldn't have been any doubt about Jeff Gutt (who seemed to have hit his stride in the past few weeks) going on to the finale -- but there was. Restless Road was an early frontrunner that faltered and a sure thing at season's start was looking iffy. And Carlito Olivero, who was a bit iffy in his first few performances, had come into his own as well, albeit finishing in the bottom two and singing for his life on the Top 6 results episode. But one of the Top 4 acts had to go home to set the scene for the finale...
And this time, there would be no judges decision or save. America's vote held sway. The act with the fewest votes would be eliminated. But did America get it right?
The Top 4 results episode, a witty recap of which was posted by Michael Slezak at TV Line (via Yahoo TV) not long after the Dec. 12 broadcast, started out like all the rest, a recap of the night before, then a group performance by the remaining acts (Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)"). A good indication that Alex & Sierra have at least a slight edge: Every time Sierra sang during the group number, the audience noise rose considerably.
Then there was an appearance by Enrique Iglesias, who performed his hit, "Heart Attack," from his as yet untitled forthcoming tenth studio album.
"X Factor" host Mario Lopez then got down to business and announced the first act going through. It was... Carlito Olivero.
Possibly nobody in the arena of screaming fans was more surprised to hear that name than the young singer himself. And possibly nobody was as disappointed as Simon Cowell, who had two acts still in the competition. He turned away and stepped away from the camera, obviously annoyed.
Producers gave the finalists an extra song, sort of a bonus for making it into the finale. Carlito performed "Suavemente" by Elvis Crespo. He did it in Spanish, which might not go over well with the voters, but his move to incorporate Spanish into his act just might be what has kept him in the competition (that, and the judges voting to keep him on last week).
The next act headed into the finale: Alex & Sierra. The duo performed Passenger's "Let Her Go." Still in the laid-back, jazzy form they started the show with back during the auditions, Alex & Sierra seem to know they've got the win in hand as long as they don't veer off course.
And then it was time to name the last finalist going through to the Season 3 finale. Would it be Restless Road, the amalgam of three solo country singers Simon Cowell seems determined to make into the country music version of One Direction, or the rocker still chasing his dream, Jeff Gutt?
The dramatic pause and Mario Lopez calls out Jeff Gutt's name. When asked what she thought of her act getting through, Over 25s coach Kelly Rowland leaned into the microphone and yelled, "America rocks!"
Jeff then performed the Journey ballad "Open Arms." The strength of his vocals are engaging, and of the three performances on the night, his might have been the best. Although the song wasn't on par with his rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," it was well done.
So there you have it -- the Top 3 for the "X Factor" 2013 Finale are:
Jeff Gutt -- Over 25s (Coach Kelly Rowland)
Carlito Olivero -- Boys (Coach Paulina Rubio)
Alex & Sierra -- Groups (Coach Simon Cowell)
Some might go so far as to say the show was a shocker, especially in light of Restless Road getting eliminated, because at season's start, the trio were the odds-on favorite act to win it all. But like so many other frontrunners, like Lillie McCloud (tied with Restless Road with the best odds to win at the beginning of Season 3) and Ellona Santiago (oddsmakers had her tied for best odds to win the week she was eliminated), they fell by the wayside -- mostly due to poor song selection. Simon kept pulling them out of their comfort zone -- country music -- and having them perform pop songs or hybrid country-pop that didn't lend themselves well to three-piece harmonies.
So, yes, the show should have been a shocker -- that Restless Road was eliminated and Carlito Olivero, the guy who had to sing for his life last week, got America's votes to go through. But Carlito seemed to get stronger in his performances in the last few weeks, whereas Restless Road presented a mixed bag of on-stage uncertainty. Besides, Carlito's performances were vibrantly entertaining, while Simon Cowell missed his opportunity to at least have one or two of the guys on stage with guitars to at least give them props for their consistently unmoving performances.
And that's why what should have been a shocker really wasn't one after all.
The two-hour "X Factor" Season 3 performance finale airs on Wednesday, Dec. 18 at 8 p.m. EST on Fox Television. The results and the crowning of the season's winner will air on Thursday, Dec. 19, beginning at 8 p.m.