It’s been an arduous month of auditions, but at last we have the pay-off: Las Vegas. But unlike the X Factor Boot Camp or the American Idol Hollywood Week, however, that only means a second chance for a few of these acts.

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Divide and Conquer

As explained by the judges, the Vegas performers are divided into three groups: those going straight through, a number of unlucky people going straight home and a third group that must perform again. It’s tough to parse the show’s opening montage: broad statements of enthusiasm and disapproval are cut against clips of the various performers, but there’s no way of knowing which is pertinent and which is TV drama. It’s no surprise, then, when most of the showcased acts are brought before the stage and asked to perform again.

Before we get to the encore performances, we have our first lightning round of results revealed in pairs — I have no idea why they flew all these people out to Las Vegas for the news if there’s no performance component for most of these guys. Shadow dance troop Catapult is the first one through, kicking off a barrage of familiar faces who are given about five seconds each here. My favorite pairing is party rapper Tone the Chiefrocka and mega-chill engineer Sprice, who share a celebratory embrace. Unfortunately, my man Sully Dunn doesn’t make it.

Danger Zone

With 30 acts through, the remaining acts are called up to prove their merit. First is David Ferman, juggling three 50,000 volt stun guns while riding a unicycle in yet another ring of stun guns. The next act puts out a blowtorch with his tongue and then hooks himself through the nose and out the mouth before pulling a wagon. Interesting, but mostly pretty gross.

For the act we’ve seen most in commercials already, we have Alexandr Magala. Alexandr combines sword-swallowing with gymnastics, placing a sword in his throat, climbing a pole and sliding down face first, and that’s when we cut to commercial. It’s a viscerally intense moment, but because this is NBC and not Faces of Death, it’s no surprise when he sticks the landing.

Sam Johnson continues to amp up the stress level, dousing himself in gasoline, setting his top hat on fire and juggling flaming torches while riding a unicycle on a tight rope. His fellow stunt performer Red Panda hails it as the most dangerous act she’s ever seen. She reprises her bowl-kicking balance routine here, flubbing part of the routine before landing five bowls at once. She’s crushed by her mistake and leaves with low expectations.

Band Together

Tenor trio Forte leads off the musicians, down one member from last time. They apparently found a new guy on YouTube, which seems like bad news but winds up being their greatest asset: they’re able to repeat the new friends novelty of their initial audition, and their newest singer is fantastic.

Most of the other music group are more traditional bands: Brandon and Savannah harmonize sweetly on a poppy cover of “Little Talks” and the American Hitmen do a rocking  cover of “House of the Rising Sun.”

Variety Show

2Unique leads the variety category, performing a cute rap cover of “Party in the USA.” They lead a child-heavy series of variety acts, including break dancers, gymnasts and kid dancers. The brother and sister child dancer competition is played up again, as D’Angelo and his partner compete with his little sister Ruby and hers. Both pre-teen couples are precocious and professional, though Ruby suffers a tough drop. She completes the routine without further incident, but breaks down at the end.

Jimmy Failla kicks off the comedy category, and it’s pretty brutal: doing stand-up for four silent people is not a great way to get going. He rushes through all of his jokes at once, and is followed by another somewhat lackluster comedian named Eric Schwartz, a gentleman who makes much of the fact that he is Jewish but also likes hip-hop.

Taylor Williamson handles the situation perfectly, diffusing the tough setup by doing a solid little casual segment of material on it. Once he’s got the judges laughing, he launches into his prepared material admirably. He’s followed by John Wing, who’s a far more stern and old school raconteur of a comedian, but rises to the situation admirably as well.

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Smooth Moves

Though the variety category had its share of dance-like performers, there’s still another more overt dance category. The Archbishop Molly Step team starts it off, but since they hadn’t been showcased until now and don’t merit much positive feedback, this is probably the last of them. More is made between the rival electronica troops Hype and Art Spark, though they both wind up with a mixed reception is well. The category closes with the two solo performers: Kid the Wiz does hat tricks but flubs a bit, and Indiana boy Dylan Wilson performs capably but never mind-blowingly. You never know with these types of acts, but I’m pretty skeptical that there’s a champion here.

The acrobats are up next, and they seem to be the craftsmen of the group — where the other groups are all about talking up how great all the other artists are, the acrobats have no problem critiquing each other. One highlight is the Russian pair Duo Resonance, performing an artful spinning strength routine. They’re followed by Timber Brown, a country boy who pulls off some truly impressive forms on two vertical bars. The KriStef brothers round out the category, once again stripping off their shirts and making everyone a little uncomfortable before showing off some truly amazing feats of strength.

Sing a Song

We have a few singers to close out the evening, starting with a misstep from Deanna DellaCioppa: she can’t hear her backing track, and is brought backstage to consult with tech support. She’s supplanted by Skilyr Hicks, a 14-year-old who looks like she’s on the verge of tears the whole time. The standout singers of the segment are Selena Mykenzie Gordon, a far more confident 15-year-old with an awesome voice, and Cami Bradley, a singer who wowed the crowed a cappella last time and plays “Summertime” on piano this time around.

Deanna is given the cherished final spot of the evening to redeem herself, and rises to the challenge reasonably well. The judges seem divided, and I can’t help but wonder if her story is more compelling than her performances thus far. Vegas is proving to be a solemn, stressful process for these acts — we’ll see how the remaining performers fare on Wednesday night.

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(Image courtesy of NBC)

Ted Kindig

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV