THE X FACTOR, Josh Krajcik, Rachel Crow

Ray Mickshaw / FOX.

If looks could kill, The X Factor would only have one judge left.

But Simon Cowell sat down with L.A. Reid, Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger tonight, as usual, and managed to be perfectly cordial, only once referring to his fellow judges as "the piranha pool."

The first part of the show was given over to barely minute-long hit songs converted into dance tracks—a recipe for disaster if given the wrong batch of singers. Then, instead of singing tunes that the fans picked out for them, they were informed just last night that, due to technical difficulties in the voting process, they had to sing the elimination-night songs they had only somewhat prepared.

So, did these singers sink or swim?

They worked it out.

Simon, of course, told Melanie Amaro that she would have a hit record with her club-mix version of Adele's "Someone Like You"—which, now that we've heard it, was primed for a dance-hall makeover! Her second song was a pitch-perfect Whitney Houston ballad, "When You Believe."

"You really thought of that last night and it was that good today? Amazing," marveled L.A.

For his part, Simon encouraged the audience to vote, because, he said, "You saw what happened to me last week." (Funny, we thought it happened to Drew, but OK...)

"If this girl ends up in the piranha pool, she's out," he warned fans.

The best part about Marcus Canty's performances may be the sight of L.A. doing a little dance in his seat. But his version of Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody," while not technically perfect (it never is) had the razzamatazz needed to make us not miss Drew too much.

And then, from out of nowhere, he busted out a brilliant vocal on Leon Russell's "A Song for You." Simon found it "a bit boring," but we thought Marcus never sounded better. Think he'll be able to avoid the bottom two?

Cute little Rachel Crow needed a few seconds to work out the vocal kinks on the B.o.B/Bruno Mars hit "Nothin' on You," but once she did...infectious. Paula called it her best performance in the competition to date and Nicole said she can't wait for the Rachel Crow doll to come out.

Rachel's second tune, Michael Jackson's "Music & Me," was a fiercely brave choice and she charmed each and every judge.

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We'd buy Josh Krajcik's soothing, teddy-bear-cuddly version of Rihanna's "We Found Love" in a heartbeat. But that's just us...L.A. and Simon agreed with each other that it wasn't at all believable that he would ever sing that song. Pfft.

Josh was back in business, though, with his beyond download-worthy version of the George Harrison-penned "Something." It was something, all right.

Except for the fact that, according to Simon, he "looked actually insane halfway through."

Chris Rene didn't really make T.I. and Rihanna's "Life Your Life" any more danceable than it already was, leaving only his likability and song-writing ability to come through. Nicole thought that it sounded as if the entire song, including the hook, was his, and Simon complimented him on his potential to be a real recording artist.

Chris closed the show with an original guitar song, the chorus going, "Where do we go from here? God only knows."

Simon dangled Chris' decision in front of him as either "a stroke of genius or stupidity"...and Simon went with "stroke of genius." It was indeed one of Chris' best moments on that stage.

"The universe works in mysterious ways," observed Paula. "Had that [Pepsi Challenge voting] glitch not happened, you wouldn't have been singing that song...Trust in the universe."

It will be tough to lose anybody after a strong night like this one. Will it be three strikes and Marcus Canty is out? Or did he do enough to survive? Sound off in the comments section!

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