The final 20 acts of the judge-selected Top 80 are set to hit the America’s Got Talent stage, as the last group of the brand-new Judge Cuts round performs for a spot in the Radio City Music Hall live shows. Twenty-five acts have qualified thus far, with seven more about to join the party. How they’ll round out the Top 36 remains to be seen, but let me go ahead and throw out a wild card request for Stacey Kay.
Original mean judge (and known antagonistic target of one Howie Mandel) Piers Morgan is back to help whittle down the field and ease the nerves of one act courtesy of his golden buzzer, but I will be incredibly disappointed if there isn’t at least one well-timed prank played by everyone’s favorite Little Monster under the bed.
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Shuffling the Deck
The lineup of talent includes a couple favorites and a few with known emotional backstories, but the final roster also gives us our first glimpse at the acts that shined in the audition round but didn’t survive the Top 80 guillotine. And while most were featured only as part of montages, there are a few notable absences.
The first is 96-year-old ballroom dancer Tao Porchon-Lynch, whose hometown newspaper reported that the former model and actress was never vying for a spot in the subsequent rounds. Apparently, she was just asked to appear and was not actually competing, which makes me wonder how many other acts fall into the same category.
So while you probably won’t find yourself wondering what happened to these folks, and many are the so-called extreme acts, don’t expect to see: horse-riding acrobats Wild West Express, Freefall stuntman Greg Roe, Daredevil GILF Nikki McBurnett, Pyro-Boy, base jumper Cliff Ryder, flyboarder Damone Rippy, Motocross stuntmen Metal Mulisha, watermelon smasher Trizzie D or competitive eater Pat “Deep Dish” Bertoletti.
The most surprising omission, however, has to be little Heavenly Joy Jerkins, the spunky 5-year-old who is already worthy of Broadway. I predicted that she could win the whole thing, even though I found the “undiscovered” claim disingenuous, seeing as how her father Rodney Jerkins is a four-time Grammy-winning producer, songwriter and musician responsible for more than 160 million record sales worldwide.
You have to wonder if that has anything to do with her being left out of the Top 80 because, c’mon, she was definitely better than the professional hugger, grand sucker Qi Feilongest act ever and the hula hoop guy. Something else is going on here.
Piersing the Morgan
Mel B. introduces her guest judge, who is immediately greeted with a hug from Howie and a montage of all the annoyances of their time together. Nick’s clean-shaven head is complimented by some chin dirt, and his introduction of Piers is cut short by the platform only raising halfway up, another gift from Howie.
Later, he replaces Piers’ chair with a tiny wooden stool.
It’s time to get the show started, and again, as the live blogs and separate rankings don’t being until next time, I’ll order up the acts as I see fit. And then we’ll see if the judges agree.
20. Kayvon Zand
I don’t know if you can call it a drag show, but it’s as big, bold and Lady Gaga as a sideshow act can be. He got two X’s during his audition before Mel B. relented and put him through. She wanted the voice to match the extravagance, but the creepy blue contacts and wiggling hair just aren’t enough to overcome his shortcomings.
His rendition of Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round” gets three X’s, despite Howie’s claim that Kayvon is hilarious. When he goes back to the piano to prove Howie wrong, he gets himself a fourth X. Then he fights with the judges, even challenging Mel B. about her singing ability. I just can’t believe a person is this delusional, disrespectful and obnoxious enough to finish lower on the list than the next guy.
19. Leroy Patterson
The guy who tossed himself onto thumbtacks in an audition that somehow got him here has switched the objects of his painful affections to mouse traps. He throws himself onto them three times, prompting Piers to whine that he’ll never get those two minutes back.
18. Xavier Mortimer
He’s a magician who made things appear from symbols as he clanged them together during his audition, but this time, he’s juggling. Sort of, at least until he drops a ball to earn himself buzzers. Still better than Leroy Patterson (I wrote all this assuming Leroy was going to land in 20th place, and I’m not changing it because I refuse to again acknowledge the guy at the bottom).
17. Jamie Costa
The comic does an impression of Robin Williams before completely losing his train of thought and getting four X’s. But god help me, I can’t put anyone behind Leroy (see above).
This singing group performs a rendition of Clean Bandit’s “No Place I’d Rather Be,” though I can think of several places I’d prefer. Piers doesn’t know how they got this far.
These robot dancers remind me a bit of the Blue Man Group, and they’re the best of the “Piers hates everything” montage.
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14. Kacey Jones
She’s a country singer doing a fun little song about falling in love with a married man who eventually leaves her for his wife. Piers is grinning in spite of himself, but there’s no way she’s in contention.
13. The Gentlemen
Howard dubbed these 9- and 12-year-old brother dancers contenders during their audition, and they score the less-than-coveted first slot. They’re dressed like cater waiters, and they want to win the million bucks for college, their families and a dog. Their dance moves are only slightly less fierce than their facial expressions, and they set the bar just above the middle. Piers thinks the stage was too big for them, but Mel B. couldn’t stop smiling.
12. The Move
This large group of Latin dancers has good choreography, but outside of a few cool flips, there’s not much that makes my jaw drop. Still, they’re contemporary and energetic enough to get the crowd going.
11. Alex Boye
His “Shake It Off” audition, with the giant band, huge energy and choreographed moves, won over the audience and the judges. This time, it’s Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk,” and it’s every bit as entertaining despite being more of the same. While I predict they’ll be going through simply because they’re different enough, I don’t see it as a million-dollar act. But they’re certainly fun. Howard says they shifted into the wedding band shtick, and Piers doesn’t think people would pay to see them.
They were the double-paired Latin dance group whose fourth member popped his knee completely out during the audition. Two of them got another chance, regrouped and killed it, so now they’re back as a threesome. The dude does the work of two men by himself, lifting and dipping both female partners simultaneously. He ends by drumming on one of their butts, and it’s impressive how they successfully turned four into three without losing any swagger.
9. Derek Hughes
Derek is a family-man magician who pulled a card out of his butt crack during his audition, and this time, he starts off by looking up “telepathy” in the dictionary. He has Howie think of a city and Mel B. and Heidi each think of a man’s name, intentionally getting both of them wrong before inviting Howard onto the stage. He hands him the dictionary to make sure it’s legitimate, writes “morbid” on a board, has Howard put a card in the middle of the book, and the top word on the page is “morbid.”
He then picks up his crumpled pieces of paper off the ground to reveal one with Howie’s city and another with Mel B. and Heidi’s guy names. He has a nice delivery and some humor, but I’m with Piers that it lacks a wow factor. It comes full circle, but it takes too long to develop and get there. Bonus points, though, for referring to his audition card trick as “the ace in the hole” trick.
8. Duo Vladimir
Vladimir and Vladimir make up the aptly-named acrobatic hand and knife balancing duo known as Duo Vladimir. This time, one Vladimir sits, spins and stands up while the other Vladimir balances on his head. Then they go back to the tip-to-tip, knife-in-the-mouth routine, but this time, they have a bit of a heart-stopping stumble before recovering. It was the same trick, but equally impressive. Still the same trick, though.
7. Alicia Michilli
She makes her living as a hostess but always wanted to be a singer, so she packed up and moved to Nashville at the age of 20. She’s been waiting for her break ever since, and I dubbed her a contender after her audition. Her rendition of The Jackson 5’s “Who’s Lovin’ You” does nothing to put that in jeopardy, even though she may partake in a bit of over-scream singing. But I still get goosebumps. Piers compliments her raw talent, but Howard is afraid she overcompensated and that we’ll be saying goodbye.
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The opera quartet singers blow it out of the water and could possibly push Forte if they advance. Their voices are spectacular, but they don’t seem to put too much effort into the presentation. They’re rough around the edges, and they look like four dudes who just showed up in regular clothes and started singing. Piers says he doesn’t buy the appearance, and Howard predicts that at the end of the day, they will not be remembered.
5. Aaron Smyth
He’s an ice skater without the skates, gliding and spinning around the stage like an Olympian. He was into sports as a kid and went on to be a high jumper and hurdler on the national level, but ever since he tagged along to his sister’s dance lesson, he was hooked. The speed and balance of his spins are insane, and I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten goosebumps from a dancer before. It’s impressive and captivating, though the judges are split on whether or not he stepped up his game. But I find him mesmerizing, and I loved it.
4. Gary Vider
He’s one of those awkward stand-up comics whose best audition joke was describing himself as the female version of himself. He’s a dog walker, and his set is about how he makes no money and can’t ask his parents for any more except with a ransom note. It’s quality material, though I’m yet to be completely won over. But hey, even Piers liked it.
3. Duo Volta
The formerly-dating trapeze artists are still not a couple, much to the judges’ dismay, but they’ve remained professional partners despite the difficulties. They consider themselves in direct competition with Duo Vladimir because they both have Duo in their names, but I am immeasurably more astounded by their routine.
They’re another group from Japan hoping to capitalize on Kenichi Ebina’s success by combining dance with technology and projection screens. Their infrared routine is visually stunning and garners a standing ovation, but for me, it’s too much projection and not enough live dancing. That stuff is pre-recorded, so all they have to do is properly time sticking their heads out to make it look like they’re flying across the stage. Maybe it’s one of those acts that jettisons to the forefront when it’s live in front of you, but I can’t deny it’s a spectacle that stands out from a bunch of acts that more or less blend together.
Piers slams down on his golden buzzer and sends Siro-A straight through to Radio City.
1. Stevie Starr — The Professional Regurgitator
The man who swallows things and then spits them up again is the show’s closer, and Heidi couldn’t be happier to see him again. He starts out by ingesting a small plum tomato and then a sharp razor blade, splitting the tomato in half in his stomach before bringing all three pieces up.
He then swallows five coins with letters on them, asks Piers to spell a word using those letters and then hocks them up in that order. He caps things off by swallowing a clip that he wraps around the final coin, bringing both up together.
Look, I find his talent both nauseating and terrifying, but his showmanship is outstanding. I have no idea how he does it (is he really swallowing everything? It has to be part of a trick, right?), and I’m a fan in spite of myself. Yes, I too am surprised this is my top act of the evening.
Rankings don’t matter as much when you know two similar acts aren’t both going through. So only one group of dancers and one acrobatic act is advancing, which is good news for the comedian, the magician and possibly even Alex Boye.
Siro-A is already in, and three other acts were X’d out of the competition. It leaves 16 acts, five of which aren’t in contention, for six spots. Stevie Starr and Gary Vider are the only locks, so this could go in a number of different ways.
Duwende, Semeneya and Technicianz are the first to learn their fates, and all three are headed home.
The Gentlemen are out by themselves, and they’re going through. Wait, what? Really? Did I miss something?
Stevie Starr advances to Radio City.
Duo Volta and Duo Vladimir are up next, and as expected, only one is moving on. It’s the ex-lovers for the win.
Kacey Jones, Leroy Patterson and Aaron Smyth take the stage, and it’s the end of the line for all of them. Personally, I’d much rather see Aaron again than The Gentlemen. Wildcard, anyone?
Gary Vider is through.
The Move and Alex Boye and Vox are all going home.
Alicia Michilli learns she’s headed to New York City.
Derek Hughes is the last one out with one spot to go, so we know his fate well before he does.
And that’s it for the Judge Cuts round on what I consider a rather blah night of talent. Nothing really had me on the edge of my seat, but hopefully that just means the next few episodes will be a bit easier to predict.
Who were your favorites? Who let you down? And are you a fan of the new format? The live shows begin next time, and that means it’s also time for the live blogs. So be sure to check in, watch along with me and interact as we inch closer to crowning our 10th AGT champion.
Long live Kenichi!
You can watch America’s Got Talent every Tuesday at 8pm on NBC.
(Image and videos courtesy of NBC)