Heading into Tuesday night's semifinal on America's Got Talent, we found ourselves wondering whether the countless rounds of eliminations that had preceded it served a greater purpose. Was the talent now truly top-notch? Had America – and the three judges – successfully culled the contestants so that only the cream of the crop remained?
The answer to both, surprisingly, was yes: the majority of Tuesday's acts had delivered the goods. Which was fine and well. But this meant that eliminating all but three would be a decidedly difficult task. And sure, we’d predicted which acts we thought would advance to the finals. But who were we kidding? As last night's results show began we were as unsure as anyone.
If there's anything that irks us, it's when reality competitions belabor the actual results on a results show. So it was with much annoyance that we found ourselves sitting through an opening routine from Steve Harvey. Thankfully though, after the past-his-prime comic cracked wise about being contestant Edon's "real dad" (we're still scratching our head over this one), host Nick Cannon revealed a different format for Wednesday's proceedings: Four trios of contestants would come out and one contestant from each group would "advance." That meant four contestants remained at the end. The top two automatically advanced to the finals, while the judges chose the third finalist from other two acts.
OK, time for the results. Up first was contortionist Turf, who on Tuesday attempted to showcase his dancing ability; Joe Castillo, the beret-sporting sand painter/storyteller whose act seems to have grown stale; and The Scott Brothers, the synchronized dancing duo who channeled their inner robot the night before. After some usually tense moments, Cannon announced the act that moved a step closer to the finals: Joe Castillo! We thought it would be Turf, but then again Castillo does seem to have a legion of fans. "I feel sand-sastional," Castillo said, snickering. "I know you'll be in the finals," Sharon Osbourne remarked.
Next up was gothic opera singer Andrew De Leon, whose rawness, Stern worried, would be his downfall; William Close, master of the self-made "earth harp" who's made fans of all three judges; and Academy of Villains, the dramatic hip-hop dance crew whose performance Tuesday left Howard Stern bored. Who was still in the running for the finals? William Close! No surprise there. "This feels amazing!" said the musician. "You, my friend, are doing everything America's Got Talent is looking for," Stern said.
Another trio strolled onstage: Donovan and Rebecca, the supremely talented, yet questionably entertaining husband-wife acrobatic duo; Todd Oliver, the animal ventriloquist who went with a talk-show theme on Tuesday; and Edon, the young lad who has girls up in arms with his Bieber-esque renditions of songs like One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful." Who was the potential finalist? Todd Oliver! While we were sad to see Edon go, Oliver has been coming on strong, so this one made sense. "What a blessing!" Oliver declared. "The fact that you do comedy makes me especially proud," said Howie Mandel.
After a break so Utah pop-rockers Neon Trees could perform their hit song "Everybody Talks" (frontman Tyler Glenn was resplendent in a leopard-print blazer, tight leather pants and a bedazzled bow tie), the final trio faced their fate.
Center stage was Tom Cotter, the veteran standup comic whose off-the-cuff routine on Tuesday was sensational; Bria Kelly, the YouTube show country singer who had struggled the night before through Pink's "Fu**in' Perfect"; and Dittelman, the mesmerizing mind reader who’s made a major fan in Stern. This one was clearly between Cotter and Dittelman. The winner: Tom Cotter! Osbourne was thrilled. "It's all about talent and you are overflowing with it," she said.
Joe Castillo, William Close, Todd Oliver and Tom Cotter lined up before the judges, ready to learn which two that were advancing and whose fate would be decided by the judges. The first finalist was announced. And it was William Close. "I'm so thankful. I feel amazing," said the harpist. The next finalist? Tom Cotter.
The judges now had to decide between Oliver and Castillo. Both pleaded their case, with Castillo taking a slight jab at his foe. "If you want an act that's unique," he told the judges, "would you really pick a ventriloquist?" Stern cast his vote: Todd Oliver. Osbourne? Naturally, for drama's sake, she chose Castillo. Mandel now held all the cards. Stern and Osbourne each tried and sway him in their direction. In the end he opted for Castillo. "Thank you so much!" the artist said, swelling with pride.
NEXT WEEK: The remaining twelve semifinalists duke it out to see which three will join Close, Cotter and Castillo (the alliteration is a coincidence, we swear) in the AGT finals.
Last recap: A Semifinal Soirée, Finally