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America's Got Talent Watch - Quarterfinal #6 - Wild Card

Last week, after a fortnight of Olympic pre-emption, the show got back underway with a cavalcade of suck, as the top twelve YouTube auditions that got the most hits took to the big stage. Most of them were terrible, a couple were good, and a couple more even skimmed the surface of great. Whether any of them advance beyond the next round remains to be seen.

So the good news is, there is nowhere to go but up. And with the Wild Card show airing this week, my hopes were high as could be. Like the YouTube show, this is the third season they’ve had a WC episode. How it works is: each of the three judges gets to invite back four acts apiece that were previously cut, either in a previous quarterfinal show or perhaps back in Vegas. The judges’ motivations are their own… perhaps an act with loads of potential simply choked, or perhaps that act just had the misfortune to perform on an evening where everyone excelled.

At the end of last week’s results show, they announced which twelve acts would be returning, and I’m happy with about two-thirds of the choices. There were two acts, however, that I would have bet actual money would be returning but for whatever reason were not chosen. One is Mary Joyner (the daughter of FloJo), who was mentioned by Howard on at least one occasion as having way more talent than the likes of Big Barry, and the other is Wordspit and the Illest, easily the best band of the season and who lost out in the judges’ decision in QF #2. Given how badly Howard has claimed to want a band in the competition, I’m amazed he chose Horse (the shot-to-the-nuts guy) over them.

The WC show is typically my favorite show of the season, apart from the finals. It’s worth noting that no act from the WC show has made it to the Final Four in the past two seasons, through three have made the Top Ten. The one that came closest was Michael Grasso two seasons ago, who for my money is still the best magician that this show has ever seen, and who missed the Finals by a hair. Will any of this second-chancers take it all the way? We shall see.

If there was one act cut in Vegas that you just KNEW would be brought back, it would be Andrew de Leon, and I was praying that it would happen. This 19-year-old kid, with the goth look, the vampiric contacts and the shy demeanor, walked straight out of his bedroom, onto the AGT audition stage, and into the hearts of America. He had never sung in public before, EVER, even in front of his parents, and he proceeded to sing the most amazing male soprano aria you’ve ever heard. It was a jaw-dropping performance, the type of moment you just love to watch. (Check it out) Sadly, he choked horribly in Vegas and was sent home, and I was ecstatic to see him back. I prayed that he took Howie’s advice and practiced like hell to overcome his nerves, and thankful that he got the benefit of performing very near the end of the show.

On the whole, one of the most entertaining shows of the season, and for the first time, not a single act got buzzed. I daresay America has a tough time choosing who to vote for. Here are the twelve acts that performed on Monday night, in the order that they performed in (the judge that invited them back is in parentheses).

#1. Spencer Horsman (Stern) - Last time out, the young escapologist made the mistake of performing an escape from behind a curtain. This time, however, he was able to open eight padlocks to free himself from a transparent container that was being filled with wet cement… just barely. It was an awesome trick. Sadly, going first out of the gate hurt him in the voting.(Result: eliminated)

#2. All That! (Osbourne) - Unlike past performances, there was really nothing in the clogging guys’ routine that really stuck out. One guy had his shirt ripped off by his fellows in accordance with Sharon’s wishes, but that in itself was not enough to rise to the top on this night. They’re really good, and I was sure they would be going home, but they ended up squeaking into the semis. Side note: they performed their routine to the music of Season Three finalists Nuttin But Stringz, which was a cool touch. (Result: through on judges’ decision)

#3. Jarrett & Raja (Mandel) - Given how they screwed the pooch last time up, I was disappointed Howie brought them back instead of the showier Hawley Magic. To their immense credit, however, they pulled off a spectacular illusion and did so without any schmaltz. Magician Jarrett encased his pianist buddy Raja in a wooden box, along with his grand piano, only to have them both materialize on the far side of the theater. Great trick. And again, not enough. (Result: eliminated)

#4. Jake Wesley Rogers (Osbourne) - Is it me, or does it seem like every single male singer and male band has been choosing pop songs by female artists? Jake chose to do a cover of Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory”, and it wasn’t bad, and he clearly has a future in music, but right now, he needs a lot more seasoning and stage presence. (Result: eliminated)

#5. Cristin Sandu (Mandel) - It takes a lot to make a balancing act exciting, but Cristin pulls it off, standing on a plank balanced on a stack of cylindrical pieces of metal, some of which are placed on the rounded edges. He fell last time out, and added the element of fire this time around, but once again, the structure collapsed under him, though it happened at lot closer to the end this time. Kudos to the kid for trying. (Result: eliminated)

#6. Todd Oliver (Stern) - The main criticism for Todd, whose act consists of throwing his voice into his dog Irving, was that his material wasn’t funny. Urged to employ more topical humor, Todd did just that, combining canine humor with a political theme. It was funnier than previous outings, and the judges all gushed over it, and that was enough to get the voting bloc on his side. (Result: through on viewer votes)

#7. The Bandbaz Brothers (Osbourne) - If you don’t remember this act, don’t beat yourself up. They are a duo of acrobats of eastern European descent, who unbelievably were cut in Vegas without even getting to perform again. I am so grateful that Sharon gave them another chance. The older one (59 years old!) held up his younger counterpart by a fitted two-piece pipe that was held in each other’s mouths… and with NO hands. The strength required for that is beyond belief. But it wasn’t flashy, and that probably cost them.(Result: eliminated)

#8. Sebastien “El Charro de Oro” (Mandel) - Can mariachi music appeal to the masses? With ten-year-old Sebastien at the helm, it just might happen. This time, he made the incredibly smart and ballsy move of putting a mariachi spin on the classic Sinatra signature song, “New York, New York”. Howard commended him for choosing a song in English, but rightfully pointed out that he’s still weak in his lower registers. Still, he’s adorable as hell, and that was enough.(Result: through on viewer votes)

#9. Horse (Stern) - Again, I reiterate: was another ninety seconds of nut-shots really necessary? This time, his four pals, who normally administer the whacks, got into the act of hurting themselves as well, and the main prop was a tennis-ball-shooting machine. And again, I worry like hell for the guy’s son, who God forbid might want to emulate dear old dad someday. (Result: eliminated)

#10. Lindsey Norton (Osbourne) - If a solo dancer was going to be brought back, I figured it would be either Lindsey or Vegas oustee Stepz. Lindsey is a brilliant dancer, as cheerful as the day is long and just as adorable, and I just know she is going to have a tremendous career in dance. I wonder if So You Think You Can Dance will let her on in two years when she turns eighteen, if she chooses to go that way. (Result: eliminated on judges’ decision)

#11. Andrew De Leon (Mandel) - And finally, the moment I’d waited for for the last two months. It seems he did indeed work on his nerves, which were not even apparent as he took to the stage in a very un-Goth outfit (all white) to sing Il Divo’s song “Regresa a mi” (which is basically a Spanish version of Toni Braxton’s “Un-Break My Heart”). He was brilliant, he got a standing ovation, and I have to believe that a singer may win this season yet. (Result: through on viewer votes)

#12. Ben Blaque (Stern) - Though Ben is a crack shot with his crossbow, I wasn’t sure whether he could perform a trick dangerous enough for him to contend. I was wrong; he rigged five crossbows to fire in a chain reaction, starting with one in his hand (which he fired blindfolded) and ended with the final arrow piercing an apple two inches above his head. What a great trick, and a great way to end the night. Sadly, not enough.(Result: eliminated)

It’s interesting… Spencer Horsman, Jarrett & Raja, The Bandbaz Brothers and Ben Blaque ALL performed amazingly tricks, and they all pulled it off without a hitch. And therein lied the problem… the voters couldn’t decide which act was the best, so they ended up ignoring all of them. As a result, two singing acts, a comedian and two dancing acts ended up being the five acts with the most votes.

Next week: the semifinals begin. It is truly game on for the title now.