And the winner is . . .
Eager to set the record straight, Dominic Bowden would like to assure X Factor NZ fans that his dramatic, drawn-out pauses on results nights are not actually his fault. As host of the reality talent competition, Bowden has become infamous for the lengthy gaps during elimination announcements, causing frustration among viewers and inspiring the Twitter hashtag #ILoveToPause.
Last Sunday Bowden apparently broke a new record - he paused for almost a minute before giving the news that Greymouth's Jackie Thomas would be joining Christchurch's Whenua Patuwai and Palmerston North's Benny Tipene in tonight's grand final.
"If you'd cut to my face, I was smiling, looking down the camera, saying to my director ‘Seriously? Like, do you realise what kind of stick I'm going to have to take on social media?'," Bowden says, on the phone from Christchurch during last week's finalists' hometown visits. "I want everyone to know, for the record, it's not me. I do not make the pausing decisions. I am the pause pawn and I just do as my bosses say."
Bowden was as surprised as many fans by last Sunday's result, shocked at boyband Moorhouse's elimination after picking them as a dead cert for the grand finals.
"On paper, there's nothing about them that doesn't say ‘X Factor winner'. They're great looking, super personalities . . . It was a real bummer. A real, real bummer. It was a super down environment after the show, because everyone was like, that's a real big burst of energy that's been taken away from the show."
Ever the professional, he's firmly sitting on the fence when it comes to who will be named the ultimate winner on Monday night. But he does admit his pausing will reach its pinnacle.
"It will literally be ‘OK guys, go and make yourselves a cup of tea and I'm going to start pausing now'," he laughs, before giving a politician-worthy, question-avoiding answer on who he personally thinks will win. "I think Benny has got a really unique ability to engage and is very likeable; I think Jackie's got an undeniable gift, it's hard to see her not in with a really good shot; and then you've got Whenua who I think has a huge portion of the population behind him because of his underdog status.
"So it really is an open field and I think that's a good way to go into it. You don't want to be in an environment where you've got a front runner and it's almost a foregone conclusion."
He's equally diplomatic when asked about the judges. Those who have followed the series may have noticed a growing friction between Bowden and eccentric judge Daniel Bedingfield. Each week, Bedingfield looks blankly back at Bowden after yet another quip about his increasingly outlandish outfits, Bowden often cuts Bedingfield off mid-sentence and their exchanges are sometimes uncomfortable to watch. But there's no real-life animosity, Bowden promises.
"I like his unpredictability, I think it's really good for live television because he's a polarising figure . . . to me, that's the person you can have fun with, the person you can wind up . . . It's like a lion in a cage - you're prodding it with a stick and, at some point, when that cage opens, it's going to be fun to see what happens next.
"The amount of people who come up to me and go ‘what is that guy on?' and I respond to that. I want to play into that personality and play into that character, and I think we'd be doing a disservice if we didn't play to what people look forward to in this show. I think Daniel's craziness is a lot of reason why people tune in."
With only two episodes of the series left, Bowden is now looking to the future. He returned to New Zealand specifically for X Factor after moving to Los Angeles more than five years ago. He has had mixed fortunes in the United States. The good has seen him working with Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell and securing an agent at the prestigious William Morris Endeavor agency whose clients include Oprah and the Kardashians; the bad was the cancellation of The Next Great American Band - his first US presenting gig - and the breakup of his marriage to fellow Kiwi expat Claire Robbie.
But the unfalteringly upbeat presenter says he has plenty of opportunities to look forward to. His latest assignment is as Sky TV's Hollywood reporter and he'll be leaving early on Tuesday morning on a plane bound for LA.
"I'm going on to the set of Breaking Bad, which is one of my favourite TV shows, and then that weekend I'm going to San Francisco to Pixar to do some interviews there.
"With the relationship I've got covering Hollywood with Sky, and X Factor with TV3, and hopefully I'm going to be working with Fox again in September behind the scenes with the X Factor in the US . . . it's a really busy schedule but I wouldn't have it any other way."
LA life has clearly had an impact on this Auckland-raised boy - he admits a great love for America and he'll occasionally drop in life-coach-style mantras to conversation, such as "luck is where preparation meets opportunity". But he says New Zealand is still very much his home and wants to split his life between the two countries.
His role on X Factor US is purely in a behind-the-scenes capacity - in an interview with RadioLive's Marcus Lush last year, he said he does "a bit of everything", including warm-up MC and second unit producing - but he doesn't underestimate the importance of the contacts he's making in America.
"I've learnt that the most important thing is forming relationships, working your arse off and then good things will happen," he says - advice he's trying to pass on to the Kiwi contestants. For them, he says, success will be about "leveraging the opportunity", win or lose.
"If you're hungry and you see the platform and the springboard we're creating for you, you know, putting 500,000 people in front of you every week, twice a week, there's no better opportunity.
"If you think it's going to be handed to you on a silver platter, especially in a market like New Zealand, it's not the reality. You've got to work really hard. That's what I tell these kids and hopefully they listen.
"They've got their earphones in at the time though," he says with a wry laugh, "so probably not."
X Factor NZ live grand final, Sunday, 7pm and live results show, Monday, 8pm, TV3
Sunday Star Times