It's hard enough for The X Factor judges to say goodbye to one of their contestants during an elimination show, but on Thursday night Demi Lovato was devastated when her two remaining team members – Ellona Santiago and Rion Paige – were eliminated.
"I'm actually pretty speechless and disappointed," said an upset Lovato after learning that Santiago, 17, would be the first contestant going home. "She could've won this competition."
Lovato wasn't the only one who was shaken by Santiago's elimination. Fellow judge Kelly Rowland looked surprised, with her eyes and mouth opening wide and her hand placed on her heart as she stared at Santiago in disbelief.
Host Mario Lopez's voice also softened as he said it was "a real shock here on the stage and in the audience."
The tears were flowing from the contestants and judges on Wednesday night's emotional The X Factor as the final six singers fought to make it into next week's semifinals.
For the first time this season, contestants performed two songs, one from a diva and one "unplugged," which is when the raw emotions began to surface.
The waterworks started after Simon Cowell's group Restless Road performed "Wake Me Up!" by Avicii. The trio began crying when Kelly Rowland told them "each one of you left your hearts" on the stage.
Being a child star means growing up fast, but for Demi Lovato, being her family's breadwinner came with a hefty price, the former Disney star tells Nylon.
Lovato, 21, who ended up in rehab in 2010, admits that since she had grown-up responsibilities, she thought she could act like a grown-up, too.
"My parents tried to control me, but I'd be like, 'Oh really, I'm grounded? Well, I pay the bills,' " she says. "They did the best they could. And I think that's why a lot of young stars struggle when they're making money or providing for their family."
On Wednesday's episode of The X Factor, judges Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland and Paulina Rubio all agreed that contestant Lillie McCloud's crowd-pleasing performance of "Summertime" was the best she'd ever done and gave the 54-year-old singer a standing ovation.
But the lone holdout – Simon Cowell – remained seated. "For me, it was just all a little bit too contained … too thought out," he complained. "It wasn't raw enough for me."
It seemed that viewers agreed with Cowell, as McCloud received the lowest number of votes and was the first act to leave the competition during Thursday's double elimination. And while host Mario Lopez noted there was "shock here in the audience," McCloud took the news well, expressing gratitude for the opportunity.
In The X Factor's pre-Thanksgiving episode Wednesday night, it was clear the female judges would have preferred that Simon Cowell sit at the children's table.
The most heated exchange took place following Lillie McCloud's soaring performance of "Summertime," which earned a standing ovation from all the judges except Cowell, who said it "wasn't raw enough."
"I just wish I had been mentoring you," he said. "I would have done so much better."
It was a British invasion on Wednesday's The X Factor, as the Top 10 took on songs from across the pond.
Jeff Gutt, 37, "rocked" this week, literally and critically, singing "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen.
Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato were unanimous in their praise of the Over 25s singer, saying, "This is by far your best performance."
It was an emotional week on the set of The X Factor with three acts being sent home.
"We've grown so close to a lot of people in the competition and I didn't want to cry or have them be sad on stage," eliminated Sweet Suspense member Millie Thrasher, 14, told PEOPLE with tears rolling down her face after Thursday's elimination show. "We would have loved to have gone further but I'm proud of us for how far we went."
But Thrasher and her bandmates Celine Polenghi, 16, and Summer Reign, 17, were not alone in their sorrow Thursday night. Before the episode ended, country singer Rachel Potter, 29, was also sent packing after the mentors chose to send her home over the jazzy Khaya Cohen, 16.
Demi Lovato isn't ready to jump back into an acting career.
The X Factor judge says it's difficult being on camera since her treatment for anorexia and bulimia. In fact, while millions watch her on TV each week, she doesn't watch herself.
"It is still hard being in front of the camera when you have suffered from eating disorders, and I still don't watch my episodes. It is hard," Lovato, 21, told reporters at Thursday's show.
"I think ultimately my main thing is singing," she said. "Maybe movies once in a while, if the right role comes along."
On Wednesday's episode of The X Factor, judge Simon Cowell predicted that contestant Carlito Olivero would "go home" this week following his lackluster performance of "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You."
But on Thursday night, an annoyed Cowell rolled his eyes when it was revealed that not only was Olivero, 24, staying put this week, but that he was the first contestant to make it through to the top 10.
Adding insult to injury, the girl group Sweet Suspense – whose performance of the Tony Basil song "Mickey" left Cowell raving that they were "the best of the night" on Wednesday – was sent home in a shocking elimination that host Mario Lopez repeatedly described as "an unpopular decision."
The X Factor was all about big hair and even bigger results Wednesday night.
Carlos Guevara was the first Top 13 contestant to be eliminated as the show kicked off by announcing results after last week's technical glitch nullified the voting.
Then it was back to the '80s, as the contestants took on songs from the era of Madonna's fingerless-gloved heyday.