We’re nearing the finish line of the 10th anniversary season of America’s Got Talent, and with half the field set for the finals, 11 more acts are hitting the stage hoping to join the Top 10.

The first set of semifinal results was not without controversy, as America not once but twice voted for teddy bear country crooner Benton Blount despite a less-than stellar performance. Of everyone in the group, there were seven acts deemed worthy of grabbing one of the five spots, with Oz Pearlman, Drew Lynch, The CraigLewis Band and Siro-A considered locks, and Samantha Johnson and Derek Hughes expected to compete for the final spot.

But then something crazy happened that plopped both Derek Stauffer’s and my projections into the crapper, as it was announced that CraigLewis, Samantha and Benton would be competing for the Dunkin’ Save. 

And that set the stage, after both magicians advanced, for a stunning showdown between the stuttering comedian and the interactive projection dancers who many believed were a favorite to win the whole thing. 

Siro-A was unceremoniously sent home, and with Benton somehow snagging the save, the judges offered a split decision before the original vote put through best-of-the-night CraigLewis. So Benton is in the finals, facing a seemingly insurmountable climb to relevance.

Is there another surprise coming from the second group? Time will tell.

America’s Got Talent Recap: 5 Acts Head to the Finals >>>

Lineup and Projections

Set to perform for your votes are 3 Shades of Blue, Alondra Santos, Alicia Michilli, Daniella Mass, Freelusion Dance Company, Gary Vider, Paul Zerdin, Piff the Magic Dragon, Stevie Starr, Sharon Irving and Uzeyer Novruzov.

And that means the non-musical acts will stand out yet again, with the early leg up going to Piff, Freelusion, Paul Zerdin and Stevie Starr. The rock band, comedian and Mariachi singer have their work cut out for them, while singers Alicia Michilli, Daniella Mass and Sharon Irving are likely to compete for the final spot.

The circus act is the wildcard, since no one knows what Uzeyer is going to do. I don’t know if he can take the ladder trick up a notch without dying, so he could be trying something completely new.

Who do you see stepping up and which acts probably shouldn’t have made it this far? Keep the comments coming, and let’s find out who will be the Stevie Starr of the night.

The Live Blog Begins Now

After a montage of this group of performers watching their competition advance last time, Nick Cannon greets us from the upper deck and launches right into the show. Up first is 3 Shades of Blue.

The Rockers are Ready to Open the Show

It’s a good idea to have them kick things off because it immediately injects some high energy into the audience. It also doesn’t bode well for their chances, and going first is historically not a great slot to be in. But for these guys, it’s all about the song choice, especially after they went with Nick Jonas last time. 

Awolnation’s “Sail” is an interesting selection, but ultimately not a great one. It’s not super well-known, even if it’s more their style. With so many classic rock songs out there, though, I think it would’ve been more impactful had they chosen something people really love. It’s a great performance, but certainly not memorable enough.

Mel B. believes they picked the absolutely perfect song and have found their niche, while Howie dubs it their best performance yet. Heidi tells them to rock on right to the finals, but Howard calls it karaoke even though he loves “Sail.” Am I wrong? Is it more well-known than I’m giving it credit for?

Gary Vider Gets His Set Out of the Way

We all know how much I didn’t like his last set, so he has a ton of ground to make up for me. I found one of his jokes sort of funny, and the rest didn’t get me close to a chuckle. Thankfully, he has his roommate Greg whipping him into shape and speeding up his routine.

His jokes are cute this time, and a couple of them are worth a grin, but there’s no laughter like when I’m watching Last Comic Standing. I’m still not a fan of his slow walking-you-through-the-joke delivery because I don’t need it explained to me, brah. Then he talks about staring at Mel B.’s breasts and counting “Boobasippi” out loud to time himself, and that one elicits an eye roll. 

Howie continues to show way too much love for every comedian and gives him a standing ovation, while Heidi avoids criticism by speaking in German (likely the “if you have nothing nice to say” adage). Mel B. says he deserves to go through, which is lofty considering there are nine other people left to perform. Howard praises Boobasippi, and he begs people to put Gary through. Meh. But, hey, I was wrong before. 

Alondra Santos Takes Us to the World Cup

This spunky 13-year-old has moved further away from traditional Mariachi with each performance, so it will be interesting to see her styling this time out. She was eliminated during the Judge Cuts but brought back as a wildcard in the quarterfinals, where she managed to weather the storm and the rest of the competition.

She’s singing the Spanish version of Ricky Martin’s “The Cup of Life,” and it’s fun and upbeat, but not spectacular. It’s not a song that shows off a crazy vocal range because so much of it is screamy, but it’s like the best act in your high school talent show and has everyone singing along. 

Howard loves how she “gets the gringos singing Ole Ole,” and he praises her stage presence. Heidi is a fan of the long, lasting notes, while Mel B. cautions against song selections that mask her powerhouse voice. Howie thanks her for bringing her culture to America. 

Freelusion Dance Company Tells a Story

Freelusion is the last dance group in the competition, and they’ve been the best of the bunch to boot. I’ve said all along that the perfect way to do projection effects is to match the dance with the visuals to tell a story, and their quarterfinal routine came the closest to pulling that off. They nailed the story aspect, but the dancing took a step back as a result. 

They start off by interacting with the shooting star background, which we’ve seen before, but then they get sucked into a tunnel where some sort of robot gun shoots lights at them. They climb into an orb that turns into the earth as they gaze blissfully, but the earth glows red and traps them, and then a giant robot emerges from the robot gun and storms out to the edge of the stage. 

So … technology is taking over our lives. It was strange, but clearly on a different level from the other stuff we’ve seen. Abrasive and jarring, but … good?

Heidi thinks the technology trumped the dancing, while Mel B. praises them for stepping up their game. Howie calls the act “everything,” and he points out that the giant robot wasn’t a projection. Howard compares it to The Terminator in dance, which he found kind of cool, but he thinks there was a lot of flopping around until the robots stomped out on stage. And he agrees that the dance got lost. 

Alicia Michilli Looks to Break from the Pack

We’re four acts in and only one singer has performed so far, so it’s key to have a spot-on performance when they’ll be directly compared. Alicia has always been a bluesy but raw talent, so keeping things in control will be key.

She’s singing a loungy version of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” while surrounded by crisscrossing laser beams, and while I greatly appreciate the original stamp she is putting on a song that has been done so many times, it’s sleepy to start. 

It improves immeasurably once she starts staring at the ceiling camera and really belting it out, but it’s still a bit pitchy in spots and definitely doesn’t hit on the desperation in the lyrics. I mean, think about what she’s saying. There is no sunshine when she’s gone. That’s heavy. She has a chance, but she’ll need the other singers to avoid home runs.

Mel B. loves the sass in her voice, but the trimmings and decorations were a distraction. Howie calls her the consummate professional who hits all her marks, and he dubs her a superstar. Howard is a fan, but he doesn’t think she’s going through because it was too safe. Heidi disagrees, and she urges America to vote for Alicia.

America’s Got Talent Renewed for Season 11 >>>

Piff Looks to Reclaim the Magic

He went too big with his Radio City Music Hall debut, losing the Piffyness and sarcasm that makes him one of the most enjoyable acts of the season. He wants to change his name to Piff the Boring Dragon or Piff the Tragic Dragon, but then he remembered what brought him here … the desire for princesses. 

His performance starts off with a big production, which he immediately cuts because for this one it’s just him and his little case. He even left Mr. Piffles back home in Las Vegas, who we see via a TV monitor. He hands Howie some bread, pulls out a toaster and puts the bread in. 

While it’s toasting, he pulls some things out of Howie’s ear and has everyone pick a card. Mel B.’s card comes out imprinted on the toast, then he bites into it and pulls out Howard’s card. To find Heidi’s, he runs out of the theatre, rushes to Mr. Piffles in “Vegas” and shows the seven of diamonds on the TV screen. 

It started off very slowly for me, focused on the humor, but at the end of the day, it was a phenomenal trick. Piff is back, folks, and along with Gary, he’s the second act Howard wants in the finals. But it’s a shame to put those two in the same class. 

Daniella Mass Heats Up the Singing Competition

Someone has to rise to the top of the singing group, and the girl chasing the American dream is next to give it her shot. 

The set is crazy elaborate, as if she’s singing inside a giant snow globe, and it’s an operatic version of Roy Orbison’s “Crying.” She sounds amazing, and it’s exquisite and beautiful. She has distanced herself from Alondra and Alicia vocally, but what matters is if people are willing to vote for opera.

Howard praises her voice and commends the performance, but he’s not sure if the musical styling has mass appeal. It’s Heidi’s cup of tea, though, and she loves it. Mel B. applauds the crew and the production, and Daniella sounded like an angel. Howie is a huge fan of the song but not necessarily the operatic rendition.

Uzeyer Novruzov Hopes to Avoid a Coma

The lifelong circus performer pushed his act to the limit last time, but in his mind, it’s go big or go dead. He’s going to attempt a trick he’s only done one time in the last 15 years, and it left him in a coma for three days. 

He starts off by twirling around inside a ring, and it’s boring until he goes back to the ladder. I’m assuming it’s even taller than last time, but it looks the same, so I expect he’ll have to do a handstand at the top or something of that nature. He makes his way up, and while he balances, an assistant tosses him some rings. He tries to stand on them, but he plummets to the stage below in the season’s most terrifying moment. And at this point, we’re all just happy he’s okay. 

Poor Uzeyer looks devastated, and the judges offer their sympathies. He asks for another 90 seconds because he can do it, but that’s not how it works.

Stevie Starr Coughs Up a Win

I have grown to love The Professional Regurgitator after initially being disgusted by him. But the swallowing and coughing up has gotten less gross and more amazing each time I’ve seen it, and who knows what he’s got up his gullet for this trick. We’ll find out after an incredibly strange intro regarding his terrible diet. 

He starts off by sucking all the smoke from two cups into his stomach, then he drinks a container of dish soap and a bottle of water, essentially turning himself into a human bubble machine. He spits out some small ones, then a giant one, and then another that he fills with the smoke and sends up into the sky. To get the rest of the smoke, he has to swallow an egg, which releases the smoke, followed by the egg, which he cracks to show it’s raw and not hard-boiled. Not quite sure what to make of that one. 

Heidi dubs him her favorite act of the entire season, while Mel B. half loves it and is half disgusted. But she wants to see it again and again. Howie calls him wonderfully gross, and Howard says he’s the most original act in the show’s history. 

Sharon Irving Rounds Out the Singers

She’s a singer who loves to cross musical boundaries, and she’s been given the most favorable slot when it comes to her genre. She brings the emotion, and she has the opportunity to stand out in the minds of voters with a stellar performance.

She’s following up her rendition of “Glory” with a hauntingly original take on John Lennon’s “Imagine.” I don’t love the arrangement, to be honest, but I get goosebumps in spite of myself. At the end, it awkwardly opens up into a full-scale gospel choir, and the transition is simultaneously jarring and electrifying. I think she has the combination of mainstream appeal and ability to separate herself from the rest, and she likely left the competition in her dust.

Mel B. praises her ability to make a song her own, Heidi calls it perfection, Howard says she stands alone among the singers and did John Lennon proud, and Howie asks her to imagine she’s in the finals.

Paul Zerdin and Puppet Howie Close Out the Show

The talented ventriloquist has locked down the pimp spot, and he’s been a fan favorite from the beginning. I can’t deny his ability, but my only criticism is that his material has been a bit too family-friendly for my liking. I’m not saying I need him raunchy, but I’m not quite as entertained by bits I think would kill at children’s parties. 

His intro is hilarious, as he throws his voice to convince people to help him find an animal trapped under a car. But he’s taking a calculated risk by making Howie his human puppet, strapping a moving mouth on him, though I agree it’s better than that creepy baby. He starts out trying to find the perfect Howie voice, and he settles on the same one he’s been using all along.

He takes Howie’s spot on the judges’ panel and then introduces him as an act who wants to do his dancing. He makes Howie stretch, and luckily the good sport goes along with the routine. Then puppet Howie twerks before attempting the Riverdance. It’s absolutely hilarious and by far the best of the night. Not lying that I am literally laughing out loud. 

The judges have nothing but praise, and Paul calls Howie the perfect dummy. Howard concludes that Paul will probably win.

Now What?

Only five acts will be moving on, and for me, it’s the most obvious vote of the season. Sharon Irving, Piff the Magic Dragon, Freelusion Dance Company, The Professional Regurgitator and Paul Zerdin should be rounding out the finals, and I can only hope Howard’s prediction of Gary Vider over Freelusion doesn’t come to pass. 

Who was the best of the night for you and which performers do you predict/hope will be moving on? After 27 shows and hundreds of acts, we’re about to be down to our Top 10. The only question is, will America get it right this time? Tune in Wednesday night to find out.

America’s Got Talent airs Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8pm 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