I came into this episode three minutes late, but it doesn’t appear that mattered, because four minutes in, we were still applauding for the great and powerful judges, who appeared in a shower of flames. But you know, the 12 acts appearing tonight will have to leave it all on stage, Nick is wearing a blue jacket, so on and so forth.

The Miami All-Stars are up first. They’re a big group of ballroom dancers. But can they re-work their routine to new music that has been cleared? Are the Kings of Leon to blame? I’ve never been a huge fan of ballroom, so I can’t say that an even larger group than normal doing it is appealing to me, personally, but it was fine. Piers loved it, naturally. Howie and Sharon thought it was hot. There’s just … so many of them.

Dezmond Meeks is someone I don’t really remember from the auditions. Despite his humble-beginnings clip package, Desmond stands at a piano wearing a gilded captain’s hat, under a gold chandelier. This performance reminds me why I like the quarter-finals: they’re trying to step each act up with dancers and lighting, but it still looks so low-budget. Confetti fell on Dezmond, after a satisfactory performance of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” Sharon thought it was a little too over-the-top, and Howie found it cruise-ship-y. To counteract the honesty, Piers told Dezmond not to listen to a word Howie said.

Wait, the elves made it through? Those Funny Little People bother me, like they bother Piers. I could see kids liking it, though. This is still really about Howie, isn’t it? “Singin’ in the Rain'” was interrupted by the lady Little Person (the diva one!), who brought out male dancers with inflatable floaty rings to “It’s Raining Men.” The rubber ducky backdrop put it over the top as one of my least favorite things ever. Why is this still happening? Howie liked it because it was another opportunity for him to get attention, Piers found it annoying, and Sharon thought it was “fantastic,” and “groundbreaking.”

The Fearless Flores Family is back in their motorcycle ball-cage of death. But this time, Mom’s joining them! How many Flores Family members can they fit in there? How will they step it up once they run out? At least it’s exciting, though. This family of Ghost Riders is a clear favorite to move forward from tonight’s group of 12. I appreciate that they didn’t add dancers on the side of the ball. The judges loved it, of course, but Sharon wants to know where it goes from here. The young girl answers, “put Dad on a motorcycle.” Right, but where does it go from THERE? I don’t know. More hair?

Squonk Opera might be the group of people I’d like to hang out with tonight, and at least they’ll put on a good show. Piers gave them an X, but I thought what they were doing was cool. Well, it was a cool light/projection show. I’m not sure how far the actual talent level goes, and how much of the show they put together themselves. I don’t know, I liked it, even after Sharon gave it an X. I get that Sharon didn’t like the song they wrote. Howie thought it was like a drug (or like doing drugs). Piers thought it was comparable to hell. Oh, I don’t know about THAT!

J Chris Newberg could be the next Weird Al! He’s a songwriter/comedian sort of thing. He’s funny as far as America’s Got Talent comedians go, but that’s not saying much. It was funny that he dressed a children’s choir as a bunch of little J Chris Newbergs, but the jokes themselves were not so great. It’s hard for comedians to keep stepping up their act at each level, because dancers and big lighting effects just don’t make sense. Howie loved him, Piers thought it was startlingly inappropriate (which makes me wonder if Piers even knew what he was trying to do comedically).

And now we’re halfway through! Does it feel like looking into a talent mirror, America? Street dancer, Snap Boogie carries us into the next hour. He injured his leg, the clip package tells us, but he’s going to do what he’s gotta do! It’s weird that he has backup dancers, because they don’t really do what he does, right? He worked it out, though. I like him better than last season’s Haspop. Is it a Vegas act? Is it too soon to be asking that? I liked it, because it made me feel like we were back on track. As irritating as he can be, Piers was right that the show is not called “America’s Got Ways to Annoy Piers.” Piers thought Snap Boogie was superb, Sharon thought it was so current and so now (and she keeps doing that Justin Bieber heart thing), Howie thought it was slick and professional.

Echo of Animal Gardens is the parrot act that made it through. Echo froze up in Las Vegas, so they’re bringing in Echo’s girlfriend, Binky. OK, I just want to forget that a parrot has a girlfriend that he tongue-kisses. Parrots freak me out. As many things as the parrot knows how to say, the most amusing thing he did was try to eat his owner’s microphone. Echo wants a G.D. cracker! It was worthy of the quarter-finals. It gave Sharon a chance to give the “isn’t this show great!?” speech. Nick Cannon had a redeeming moment, when he cleaned up Echo’s poop.

I like bluegrass music, so I’m glad to see The Fiddleheads. They worked with a choreographer? Why does this show AGT-ify everything that was once good? Bluegrass plus “Billie Jean”? I’m sold. It was even better than I thought it would be. Again, I’m grateful for the lack of dancers. Howie thought they made a mistake choosing “Billie Jean,” but I completely disagree. I’m with Sharon that they didn’t need a choreographer, or the Sing-Off style wardrobe.

Duo Aero used to be the Daring Jones Duo. Duo Aero makes more sense, though, right? Acts like this make me nervous because you know, someone might get dropped. If they dream of being national circus performers, why aren’t they doing it already? They’re certainly good enough. But like I know how the circus works … Anyway, the theme of the trapeze act was “swing” or something to that effect. Piers is feeling grumpy tonight, giving it an X. OK so it wasn’t the most exciting thing. It wasn’t the worst! The judges wanted it to be more modern. I wanted more almost-drops.

Anna Graceman is an early favorite from the auditions. She’s a cute little girl with a big old lady voice! She made a mistake in Vegas, reminding us that she is, in fact, not a robot sent to destroy us all with her charm. I genuinely liked her rendition of “What a Wonderful World.” It wasn’t just “good for a kid,” which is important at this level. Howie and Sharon gave her a standing ovation, and Piers loves a kid with talent (and he loves an opportunity to talk about “just how great this show is.” Anna Graceman is so cute, though.

Last but not least, it’s one of my favorite acts from the audition rounds: Sandou Trio Russian Bar. They throw her 30 feet in the air, and then she has to land on the bar again! To up their game, they’re adding a bed of nails underneath the bar. Oh my god, you guys! They managed to make it weirdly sexy, too. She did some jumps and tricks over the nails, then she lit the nails on fire and got back on the bar! They saved the best for last.

Which acts were your favorites? Which were the most annoying to you? Who in the Top 48 can you not wait to see?

(images courtesy of NBC)

Carla Patton

Writer, BuddyTV

Originally from Seattle, Carla recently took a husband and moved to Austin, Texas, where she is finally using her television “problem” to her advantage. It’s sort of like Dexter, but boring and less murdering. Carla’s favorite shows include 30 RockThe Amazing RaceProject RunwayModern Family, anything with murder, and pretty much anything gross and weird (CSIThe BachelorToddlers & Tiaras, etc.). Favorite canceled shows include: Arrested DevelopmentVeronica Mars and Average Joe. In her spare time, Carla leads tours of downtown Austin on a Segway (don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!), blogs about Netflix Instant, and visits elementary schools telling children they don’t need math to succeed (just kidding, stay in school, kids).