Half of our Season 11 America’s Got Talent semifinal performances are in the books, and we’re just 60 short filler-filled minutes away from learning who’s in the finals. And unlike last year, we can be sure there’s at least a few females in the Top 10.

AGT caught flack last year with its boys’ club finale en route to the last man standing, but Simon Cowell ensuring he ushered back the year of the singer means lady luck isn’t just a lyric in yet another Sal Valentinetti Sinatra cover.

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And even though it was a solid night of performances, there are some clear divisions between the contenders and the pretenders.

A Mirage of Hope

There is slightly less discord this time around among us BuddyTV AGT experts, with general consensus on at least four of the acts that should be advancing. 

Catherine’s Top 5: Laura Bretan, Musicality, Grace VanderWaal, Tape Face, Jon Dorenbos

Derek’s Top 5: Jon Dorenbos, Tape Face, Laura Bretan, Grace VanderWaal, Blake Vogt

My Top 5: Jon Dorenbos, Laura Bretan, Grace VanderWaal, Tape Face and Deadly Games

But while we’re all on board with the long-snapping magician and young female singers being locks and Tape Face deserving, our paths diverge rather drastically after that. 

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Why I’m Right and You’re Wrong

Catherine loves Musicality for their inspirational qualities, but with so many musicians in the mix, I believe they need a quality performance to go along with it. Likewise, Blake Vogt’s seemingly pedestrian quick-change trick paled in comparison to Dorenbos’ grand gesture, and I can’t see him getting the necessary votes to stick around. 

Edgar went back to being Edgar, and one spectacular joke will not be enough to get Lori Mae Hernandez into contention. That leaves Malevo and Sal Valentinetti, both of whom needed to be Dunkin’ Saved in the quarterfinals. Still, if either or both end up in the 4-5-6 spots, the judges will be hard pressed to send one home in favor of Deadly Games (And really, Catherine? You wanted the targets to be smaller? She held the damn balloon in her mouth). 

Outside of the top three, it wouldn’t be completely shocking to see anyone go home, even if it’s undesirable who benefits from an unexpected elimination. Because like I said, Sal’s voice is great. It’s the shtick that gets old, and the judges don’t seem to care about that at all. 

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I’m hoping Deadly Games gets a small boost from being the first act that stood out, and that Malevo has worn out its welcome. But you never know. Grace and Tape Face weren’t at their respective bests, and honestly, who believes opera can win in America in 2016? We’re not Romania, folks. 

In the end though, this section heading should be “Why Derek is right and I’m wrong.” He really is much better at this than I am. At least we’re both Eagles fans. 

The Live Blog Begins Now

The majority of the filler this evening will be provided by The Illusionists Live on Broadway, who kick off the show with pigeon magic. 

Then it’s the 10-minute recap that follows the hour-long recap. “Highlights” include: 

Simon’s late arrival, Henry Winkler divulging he’s a fan of the show, Heidi’s everlasting flawlessness, Grace VanderWaal unable to watch Deadly Games, Tape Face in the green room, the judges taking pics with the audience member Mel soaked, Jon raving over Heidi’s hiking skills, Grace’s youthful exuberance after her performance, Mel’s lady boner for Malevo, and Laura Bretan getting hugged by each member of the Malamba group. 

Nick Cannon announces the fourth-, fifth- and sixth- ranked acts that will be competing for the Dunkin’ Save, and they are Edgar, Laura Bretan and Tape Face. Wow, there you have it. Opera’s in trouble on AGT, even if it’s obvious what’s going to happen.

The Illusion of Substance

The most interesting part of these three competing for the Dunkin’ Save is what it means for the totals of Malevo and Sal, who either garnered far more or far fewer votes than expected. 

After a quick stop in the Dunkin’ Lounge for a bit of age-appropriate craziness, Nick introduces “The Daredevil” Jonathan Goodwin. Suspended by his jaw from a flaming rope over a bed of spikes, he frees himself from his handcuffs with just moments to spare. Or they didn’t drop the other rope until they were sure he was safe. Either/or.

Then it’s a prerecorded segment of “The Futurist” Adam Trent getting people to scream in an effort to break a light bulb in a plastic bag. It explodes every time he pinches the corner, so it doesn’t appear random, but he does succeed in scaring my sleeping cats. 

Results Revealed

The first to learn their fates are Musicality, Lori Mae Hernandez and Grace VanderWaal, and I was nervous at first. 

Grace VanderWaal is in the finals

Sorry, Catherine! Even though you were crazy to put them at No. 2. But I’m glad they make you feel stuff. Good kids all around, and Grace keeps it adorable in her humility. I’d like a touch more enunciation, though. 

Next, Nick summons Sal Valentinetti and Malevo, and nuttiness is about to ensue.

Sal Valentinetti is in the finals


No Blake. No Deadly Games. No five-for-five predictions from any of us. Some other stuff from The Illusionists comes next, but I can’t focus enough to describe it.

After a break, it’s Jon Dorenbos, Blake Vogt and Deadly Games. I’d take all three over Sal, even if we do share an alma mater.

Jon Dorenbos is in the finals

I guess four out of five isn’t bad, but man, I’d love to see the gal from Deadly Games again.

Fill Up Your Coffee Mug

Before we find out that Tape Face and Laura Bretan are safe, it’s time for one final bit of magic from The Illusionists. Yu Ho Jin is “The Manipulator,” and he does cool stuff with a deck of cards. It makes me want to practice sleight of hand, but really, who has time?

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Laura Bretan, Tape Face and Edgar trudge out onto the stage, and the family band doesn’t look especially hopeful. There were less than 200 votes between the top two, the closest it’s ever been, and…

Tape Face is in the finals

The judges must now ponder which singing act they prefer, and is there any doubt?

Wildcards and Judge Saves

Before the results, Howie announces that the wildcard is going to The Passing Zone, simply because the Season 1 finalists promised to incorporate Simon into their routine. It’s so anti-climactic, as I expect these final results to be. 

Heidi chooses Laura Bretan

Mel chooses Laura Bretan

Howie chooses Edgar (solely for dramatic purposes, I assume)

Simon chooses Laura Bretan

I’m sure they discussed it during the break, and half of our Top 10 is officially decided. Do you agree with the choices? What did America get wrong, and which eliminated act should have stuck around? 

Finally, with our Semifinal Part 2 lineup set, do you see anyone other than The Clairvoyants, Brian Justin Crum, Calysta Bevier, Steven Brundage and Viktor Kee joining them? Can Soffi Dossi bend herself into contention? 

The results seem overly obvious, even before the performances. But then again, I’ve been burned by kid magicians in the past…

America’s Got Talent airs Tuesdays at 8pm and Wednesdays at 9pm on NBC.

(Image and videos courtesy of NBC)

Bill King

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Emmy-winning news producer & former BuddyTV blogger. Lover of Philly sports, Ned, Zoe, Liam and Delaine…not in that order