*Paula Abdul’s groups are dropping like flies on “The X Factor,” and the poor judge was forced to make a “Sophie’s Choice” decision last night – having to vote which one her  groups she wanted to keep, and which one she wanted to send home.

Abdul clearly couldn’t handle the pressure of having to crush one of her group’s dreams, and the whole thing played out on live television as she brought the show to a standstill, refusing to eliminate either of her groups – until it became clear that if she did not vote, her girl group Lakoda Rayne would stay and her Atlanta-based R&B group Stereo Hogzz would leave, since the latter was already voted off by both Nicole Scherzinger and L.A. Reid.

After nearly a minute of sheer agony for Paula, she finally voted for the Stereo Hogzz to stay, leaving the deciding vote to fellow judge Simon Cowell. After waffling a bit himself, he ultimately voted in line with L.A. and Nicole.  The Stereo Hogzz were sent packing by a vote of 3 to 1.

MTV News caught up with the judges at an afterparty last night at the Pepsi House in the West Hollywood Hills, where they recalled how tense and uncomfortable the elimination was for all parties involved.

“Part of me didn’t like it, part of me was loving every minute because if it was the other way around, she would have really gone for me,” Simon Cowell snarked before getting serious and defending his old friend: “She loved [Stereo Hogzz,] and it was her big hope,” he said, explaining why Abdul was extra emotional.

Host Steve Jones, who’s caught flack in the press for being so gruff with the judges, was beside himself over how it played out on television. “I feel terrible I was complicit in that meltdown,” Jones told MTV News. “I was upset. I don’t want to see Paula like that. I know she’s a professional but I am too and my job is to get an answer from her. And if I can’t get an answer, then she abstains, and I move on. That’s the way that the show works.

“But I got like five producers screaming in my ear, ‘Steve, we need an answer. OK, she’s not gonna answer, move on. No, wait, she is gonna answer. Move back!’ And chuck Simon Cowell into the mix going, ‘Back off! Leave her alone.’ Whoa, everybody’s giving me major major abuse here from both inside my head and outside my head,” Jones recalled through the haze of a head cold.

Despite having words with Jones on the air, Cowell praised the way the host handled the situation. “Steve was in a difficult position. He had to explain the rules, and I think once the rules were explained to us, I didn’t even know [them], then she had to make the decision. I think [Paula] was very brave.”

Judge Nicole Scherzinger added, “I was crying as well. I’m an artist first, not a judge. And I know what it feels like [to be rejected,] and I know how much it means to them, and it broke my heart. It broke my heart to send someone home.”

Paula Abdul's bottom 2 groups: Stereo Hoggz (l) and Lakoda Rayne with "X Factor" host Steve Jones

Meanwhile, Abdul chalked up her category’s rough start to producers not introducing groups in a way that endears them to viewers. “Our job is to really help America connect with [group members] individually as well as who they are as a group. It’s a learning curve, first season.”

Abdul was still upset at the after party, visibly wiping away tears after huddling with her remaining group, Lakoda Rayne, on the red carpet. But the Rayne girls insist they have no hard feelings towards their mentor, even though she had just cast a vote against them. “I could only imagine what Paula’s going through emotionally,” Lakoda’s Hayley Orrantia said. “We can’t blame her for what she said and had to do. We know that she does love us and support us, and we’re here to win this for her.”

Fellow judge L.A. Reid was also sympathetic to Abdul’s sticky situation. “What was going through my mind is: ‘I’m glad it wasn’t me,’ because Paula’s put in so much time with these contestants. She really mentored them. She did not delegate responsibilities to others.

She did the work, so it’s tough for the second week for her talent to be at the bottom of the voting. I didn’t want it to be me.” When asked if he’ll shed a tear if he lands two contestants in the bottom two, the music mogul responded with an eye roll: “Yeah, right.”

The Top 10 will battle it out Wednesday night when “The X Factor” takes on rock music, a theme Cowell spilled to MTV News. Good news for Abdul: She has only one group left, meaning another judge will definitely have a contestant up for elimination next week.

Paula’s agony begins at 8:45 below.