'America's Got Talent' Recap: The Final Throwdown

Six finalists paint, prance and perform for the grand prize

William Close performs on 'America's Got Talent.'
Virginia Sherwood/NBC
William Close performs on 'America's Got Talent.'
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It's been a long season of America's Got Talent, for the contestants, the judges and, yes, even your beloved recapper. But it's nearing an end: last night came six final performances from this season's six top acts. Each had fought off those ever-so-pesky illusionists, singing midgets and top hat-wearing two-steppers to reach this pinnacle, yet only one gets the grand prize of $1 million and a headlining show in Las Vegas. And it would all depend on their final performance. The pressure was on.

David Garibaldi and his CMYKs: Garibaldi, along with his backing dancers/painting assistants, whips up a 90-seconds-or-less piece of art each outing. They arrived in the finals after having been selected by the judges over fan favorite Light Wire Theater to advance to the finals. For his curtain call, Garibaldi cooked up another avant-garde piece – this time a portrait of Albert Einstein complete with accompanying rectangular-shaped canvases spelling out "CMYK."  The act wasn't short on spectacle either: the dancers were going full force. While proficient, the performance lacked the "wow" factor necessary to take top billing. The judges though, couldn’t get enough. "This is fabulous!" exclaimed Howard. "Einstein and I have the same hair." Sharon Osbourne praised the group for their fabulous timing and stage presence while Howie Mandel said, "Each and every time you present what you do in such a different way,” he said.

Tom Cotter: We've heard numerous times that this middle-aged comedian, having displayed professional-grade chops the entire season, is the first comic to make the finals. Which is well and good. But would Cotter deliver now that he's so close to the championship? Yes, and no. After host Nick Cannon rolled a die to determine Cotter's comedic topic ("Poor Examples"), the comedian went with a riff on the hilarity of fairy-tales and bizarre expressions (i.e. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which Cotter says reminds him of some warped porno: "Rub a dub dub/three men in a tub" he said, conjuring an awkward image). It was not his best performance. But even a mediocre showing from Cotter is still effective. "You always leave me wanting more," explained Stern. Osbourne had other thoughts: "I'd love to see you when you have a drink in you," she said. "I bet you get filthy!"

The Untouchables: This pro-quality group of young Latin dancers gave AGT a much-needed shot of adrenaline over the past few weeks. So while we were confident the well-polished crew wouldn't combust in the finals, their routine to Ike and Tina's version of "Proud Mary," with a Hollywood Squares-esque backdrop, felt bland compared to their earlier efforts. Mandel concurred. "I don't know if I loved this routine as much as the last one," he said. Stern and Osbourne however, were all smiles. "I'm thinking about eight-year-olds running around with a million dollars," Stern confessed. "It's hard to believe your age and this level of perfection."

Joe Castillo: It's hard to decide whether it's more amazing that a dude who manipulates sand into art made it to the finals or that he’s continued to wear his signature beret despite Stern's repeated pleas to stop. Either way, Castillo opted for an AGT-themed performance last night, swirling sand into portraits of Cannon and each of the judges. Although his Cannon and Osbourne portraits were iffy, his takes on Mandel and Stern, respectively, were spot-on. Stern said Castillo's "Osbourne" looked Asian and his "Cannon" looked like Obama. But Mandel didn't mind. "I'm so moved," he said. "You touched my heart."

William Close: All season the judges have told Close he's a candidate to go all the way, thanks to his signature makeshift instrument: a theater-sized string concoction he calls the "earth harp." How would he respond so close to the end? With a grand display of all he has to offer. Close unleashed a stirring rendition of "America the Beautiful," complete with backup musicians playing dumbbell-style chimes, an adept singer and ladies swaying to the music aboard a trapeze. "You are a visionary," Osbourne proclaimed. "You will have shows all over the world." Stern, on Team Close from the get-go, was equally impressed. "Everything was so unique," he said. "You're a contender!"

Olate Dogs: We've had trouble deciding whether we love this dog-trick act because there's real talent, or simply because the dogs are so damn cute. For their final performance, Olate Dogs featured more of the same: hopping dogs, dogs doing wheelbarrows with each other and so on. A few new tricks emerged: a dog was dressed as a conductor as he drove on stage in a toy car; later one dog ran atop a hamster wheel while another pushed him along. Cute? Absolutely. Million-dollar worthy act? Mandel thought so. "That dog you're holding might be a millionaire," he told Osbourne, who cradled one of the pooches. "This is just pure love on this stage," she said.

PREDICTION:  If we had a vote, we'd cast it for Tom Cotter. But our better instinct is telling us that William Close will take the crown and be playing his earth harp in Sin City by month’s end.

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