The X Factor Season Finale Recap: And the Winner Is... [Updated]

The word “FINALE” — spelled out in all caps using pure molten lava — bubbled and exploded across a giant electronic screen. A lithe young woman in a red-and-white striped, fur-trimmed bathing suit writhed seductively inside an oversized snow globe. And Melanie Amaro, Chris Rene, and Josh Krajcik were reduced to blubbering, carol-singing wrecks.

The message may not have been subtle, but let’s be honest, that’s never really been Simon Cowell’s forte: IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER, The X Factor reminded us in incredibly loud and extremely close-up fashion, that Christmastime is here; that Nicole HarbingerOfDoom is a master of nonsense; that Rachel Crow is alive and well and perkily scripted as ever; and — most importantly — that somebody was about to win a $5 million recording contract and the chance to star in his or her own ICONIC PEPSI AD.

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Here’s how the results played out. Finishing in third place — and prompting our tuxedo-clad swirl of jet-black hair and diamond-cutting cheekbones to declare “this feels…weird” — was Chris Rene. “I got to touch a lot of people’s hearts out there,” said a gracious and smiling Chris. If L.A. Reid has a functioning cell left in his brain — and after declaring “I Believe I Can Fly” as “one of the most important songs written in the last 50 years,” I’m not sure he does — he’ll release “Young Homie” to radio before 2011 is over.

And then it was on to the final results. But first, well, we had almost an hour to kill. So why not have 50 Cent take the stage with a bunch of sexed-up background dancers, some totally random L.A. Lakers players, a white bathtub prop (!), Astro (!), and a song that needed 30 percent of its lyrics censored to get it on primetime network TV without an FCC violation? And then how about a little bit of time-travel back to 1953 with a Paula-Nicole crying montage to reinforce that female reality-competition judges need not be taken seriously?

If your inner feminist survived that foolery, then it was time for Steve Jones’ final announcement (of the season, and perhaps ever): The winner of Season 1 of The X Factor is…Melanie Amaro! “She deserves it,” said runner-up Josh, noting he was thrilled to have made it to second place being himself and singing what he wanted to sing.

In a hilarious turn of events, Melanie was subsequently crushed in a group hug by her friends and family (and a member of Stereo Hogzz), then subsumed by the InTENsity collective, before Steve could ask her a single interview question. “I’m looking for Melanie Amaro: She just won The X Factor,” said Steve. To which her mentor Simon Cowell responded, “You’re not gonna get a word out of her.”

And then there was a crippling tsunami of confetti flooding the stage, Melanie attempting to deliver an encore performance of Beyoncé’s “Listen” through her gasps and sobs of joy, and finally, a few words from the new star of an ICONIC PEPSI COMMERCIAL. “God is good!” shouted Melanie. “I’m so happy, I don’t know what to say.”

As for me, well, since I’m not nearly as verklempt as Melanie, I’ve got a few more observations.

* I cannot believe they opened the episode with one last shot of that ridiculous X Factor 18-wheeler. Let’s hope it was on its way to California to pack up Nicole, Steve, the aggressively awful voiceover dude, and anyone responsible for the lighting and sound-editing this year, and send them to storage before Season 2.

* I also can’t believe they played “The Final Countdown” as the judges took the stage. Have these people never watched Arrested Development? It did air on Fox, after all.

* When Steve announced that “all your favorite finalists are back together again,” I was sure Elaine Gibbs, Jazzlyn Little, Caitlyn Koch, Tora Woloshin, 2SQUAR’D, The Brewer Boys, and even Simone Battle might storm the stage. Oh how that man lives to disappoint me.

* There were just way too many people on stage for the Top 12 performance of Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” — 28 of ’em, if I counted correctly (and that’s not including the dancers) — and the backdrop was like a combination of Jodie Foster’s space-travel scene in Contact and the middle of a modern war zone. All my brain could process was Stacy Francis hollerating, the Stereo Hogzz delivering some alarming crotch-ography, and Drew Ryniewicz sporting a fetching new hair color.

* Melanie looked like a sparkly, violet Christmas ornament and sounded lovely on Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” but Nicole’s nonsense critique — “you are a princess-goddess-warrior tonight” — was the equivalent of the Grinch foisting the tree up the chimney. Girlfriend is truly insufferable.

* Paula’s comment that Melanie was gorgeous “with your hair off your face” was a subtle but very necessary way of saying “no me gusta” to the tragic Cleopatra bangs our eventual winner was rocking at the start of the show.

* It struck me while Chris Rene sang “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” that he’s like beef carpaccio to Melanie’s porterhouse steak: His voice is thin and raw and quite lovely in the right setting, hers is massive and rare and dominates the plate. Those judges’ comments he got really came off like a consolation prize, though, didn’t they? “No matter what,” Screwzywocky said, “you are a star from the inside out.” Um, next time, how about a spoiler alert!

* Josh seemed right at home rocking out on “Please Come Home for Christmas,” but what the heck was with the Snowglobe Lady behind him? It was as if the object of his affection had been kidnapped by some kind of evil holiday gnome and was being held captive till Boxing Day.

* I don’t have too much use for Steve, but I kind of fell in love with him when he interrupted Nicole’s tirade to Josh — “My flippin’ love, I appreciate you so much” — with a flummoxed “What is flimmin’?”

* Poll question: Is there a jacket in the history of jackets more heinous than Justin Bieber’s crushed black leather number with shiny green sleeves?  Answer A for “No,” and B for “Hell, No!” The kid sounded decent, though, especially with Stevie Wonder providing backing vocals. (I kid ! I kid!)

* I’m flippin’/flimmin’ mad that Drew — who remains the X Factor contestant I’m most likely to download in the post-season — got relegated to a single line of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” and had to deliver it in a sombre, slowed-down fashion. And no, an awkward embrace with the Bieb is not an acceptable consolation prize.

* Surely, Leona Lewis should’ve been recruited to duet with Melanie on Wednesday on the Whitney Houston-Faith Evans-Kelly Price R&B classic “Heartbreak Hotel,” rather than being relegated to singing over a Season 1 clip show during the Thursday results telecast, right? (Yet another example of Simon’s limited musical imagination.)

* Maybe I should blame it on the alcohol, but I’m pretty sure 50 Cent’s performance was part of a Funny or Die short. Paula’s hands in the air. All the radio silence to block out the profanity. The lady dancers thrusting their netherregions with the aggression of department-store perfume hawkers. Random basketball-player types line-dancing and grabbing their manhoods. I was howling with laughter and waiting for Sharon Osbourne and Howie Mandel to hit their red ‘X’ buttons.

* Would you judge me harshly if I said I took a vino break when Pitbull and Ne-Yo came out to play? (Hey now, I didn’t say I actually took said break to pour a chilly glass of Indaba sauvignon blanc, I was just wondering how you’d respond if I admitted to such shirking of my recapperly duties. And hey, if I am guilty of such a crime, it’s not like I didn’t rewind and watch the eight seconds of screentime they gave to poor Marcus Canty and His Fine-Ass Leather Pants.)

* I’m not sure Melanie and Josh’s voices were built for dueting, but it was pretty adorable witnessing their genuine affection for one another on David Bowies’ “Heroes.” How come we so few glimpses of the contestants’ basic humanity over the last four months?

How about you, X Factor fans? Any parting words? Are you happy with how the season played out? And if you could change one thing about the show for Season 2, what would it be and why? Hit the comments and sound off on the results of The X Factor‘s inaugural season. And for all my interviews with The X Factor‘s Top 3 contestants, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!