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'The X Factor' season finale recap: Country strong

By Annie Barrett, EW
December 21, 2012 -- Updated 1802 GMT (0202 HKT)
"X Factor" season two winner Tate Stevens performs during show's finale.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Tate Stevens beat out Fifth Harmony and Carly Rose Sonenclar to win 'X Factor'
  • His prize includes a $5 million recording contract
  • Boy band One Direction dropped by to perform

(EW.com) -- Okay -- 35 million votes later and it is ovahhhhhh! After a two-hour "grand finale" packed with mostly clear cellophane (plus performances by Pitbull and One Direction), "The X Factor" has a season 2 champ! Was it Fifth Harmony, Tate Stevens, or Carly Rose Sonenclar who won the $5 million recording contract and free Pepsi injections for life?

TATE STEVENS!

The 37-year-old country man from Missouri has pulled it off! He's had a strong season of honest, consistent performances. Tate thanked the man upstairs (Santa? Is he real?) first and foremost, and then country music fans for helping him achieve his dream of quitting his day job.

"You know what? Congrats to you," Tate's mentor L.A. Reid told Tate, a man he had never seen before in his life.

This was a well-deserved win. I still don't find Tate that spectacular, but let's be honest -- it's hard to seem glamorous when you're sharing the stage with break-dancing toy soldiers and big-ass sculptures of reindeer. ("The X Factor" is so bad at most things, but in the cat-uh-gry of "going all out for Christmas," it is a true five-million-dollar winner. That is also how much they spent on sets tonight.)

'X Factor' features Newtown tribute

Indeed, the three final acts got to indulge in some severe HOLIDAY BLOWOUT performances that were tons of fun while also being entirely 1-800-TOO-MUCH. For "Please Come Home For Christmas," Tate maneuvered his way around four sparkly, human-sized breast cancer awareness ribbons wearing angel wings, not to mention those deer sculptures.

Twas a vision!

At one point during the epic season-long glare-off between the judges and the hosts, Simon coyly refused to reveal the dirty little metaphor he'd just come up with in his head, and Mario Lopez delivered what will surely be the greatest non sequitur of his life: "I wanna know what a dog laying an egg sounds like, but that's for another day."

Huh.

You guys ready for some crazy hats?!

EW: See all 'X Factor' recaps

Fifth Harmony -- excuse me, #5HSantasHelpers -- took on a classic Christmas song as well, but what's important here is their fastidiously chosen headwear. The wardrobe department (or possibly Camila, who will one day rule us all) decided to make Camilla's GIANT HAIR BOWS her "signature thing," so all the others got to wear weird things too so as not to feel left out. I'll rank them in order of my preference: 1. That bow, duh. 2) Normani's white mink hat and matching shrug, 3) Lauren's fascinator with tons of netting, 4) Ally's parasol, and 5) Dinah Janes miserable "a red bird just died in this show" top hat. All were remarkable in their own ways, though, just like the members of Fifth Harmony! Awww. I wanted them to win. They'll at least get to make a record.

Carly actually disappointed with her cover of "All I Want for Christmas Is You," suggesting maybe she can't really handle upbeat tunes, performance-wise. She looked frazzled and lost onstage, vying for attention with the breakdancing toy soldiers and BILLIONS OF FALLING PRESENTS in the giant screens behind her. I've never heard her voice waver like that. Weird!

I also spent most of this wacky performance trying to figure out if Carly was wearing footed pajamas or boots. Few things infuriate me more than matching boots and pants. The whole point of wearing boots is that they should be set apart and admired by all!

One Direction dropped by to perform their ritual duty of reminding everyone they were once associated with "The X Factor." Throughout "Mr. Worldwide" (ugh enough with that) Pitbull's performance of "Don't Stop the Party" and then, randomly, "Take On Me," I began to involuntarily un-focus my eyes. It turns out that when viewed as a Magic Eye poster, Pitbull and those 25 backup Slinkys of his looked like Howie Mandel and his Deal or No Deal human props. Once I imagined it, I could not stop seeing it! Also, I had to just Google the title of Howie Mandel's former game show and it took an embarrassing amount of time. Like, double-digit seconds. The worst.

What else? That red carpet abomination at the top of the show was laughably awful, but at least it was quick. We saw Simon as a Grinch (his face looks better in neon green), an invigorating clip show of Simon's long-running lifeless tiff with Demi Lovato, and Britney looking horrified in the corner of the screen during a montage of her other horrified faces. My favorite filler segment, of course, was the mashup of everyone's favorite sugarplum fairy L.A. Reid's incredible seated dance moves.

"I'll tell you what -- you were like a conductor!" Mario marveled after reliving some of L.A.'s sweet moves. "I am a conductor," L.A. reminded him. No sense of humor. Ever. "Literally and figuratively, right there!" continued Mario with some of his most impressive vocabulary to date. I'm glad they got all of that settled. Ate up a solid two minutes.

That's pretty much it! Are you happy with the winner? Were you surprised it wasn't Carly? Which of Khlomeister's costumes was your (least) fave: Green lace gift pouch, inexplicable black wetsuit, or pink and gold Christmas ribbon?

Discuss!

See original story at EW.com.

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