Thank the gods -- it's the last night of the brutal Las Vegas week on 'America's Got Talent.'
In tonight's two-hour episode, judges Howard Stern, Sharon Osbourne and Howie Mandel will make their final decisions on which acts to advance to the next stage, the live shows in New York.
The "judges' favorites" performed once again and have already filled many of the 48 total slots. Tonight, the "stand-bys" will finally have the chance to perform for the remaining spots.
A few magicians are first to take the stage. The only notable act is Jarrett and Raja from San Francisco. One of them slips into a box playing a tiny piano, the box spins around a couple times and then it's opened to reveal at least 20 extra people in there with him. Not only are all those people in there, they are all dressed to the nines and playing classical instruments.
"[They] stepped up. Good for them," says Howard.
Bands are up next. Wordspit, the Illest, one of my favorite contenders since their New York audition, impresses me again tonight with their cool blending of genres.
The Distinguished Men of Brass, a marching band-type group, are pretty good. They can really move and sound good, but they play a cover, so I'm not sure if they could sustain a show on their own.
The danger category is next. Lion DanceMe group is a clear standout; the judges never show much emotion after the acts, but Howard actually applauds them. The scooter stunt team is pretty entertaining too.
Suspense builds when Stephen the reptile handler takes the stage. He begins by revealing three huge cockroaches already in his mouth. Then he kisses -- yes, kisses -- a black Pakistani cobra, "one the deadliest species of cobra on the space of this earth," according the Stephen. The whole thing both freaks me out and amazes me.
Six-year-old Lil Babywockee kicks off the kids category with some body popping. She has surprising good control for a kid, but the judges have mixed reactions to her.
Next up is 6-year-old Lilliana a.k.a Lil Starr, who rocked her Tampa audition. She's just as good tonight and I think she's definitely a shoo-in for the New York shows.
"She's so damn cute," Sharon says.
The Williams Bruthuz are up next. They move well and the routine is good, but they're not really in sync. Howard says they haven't improved since their first audition, saying "They were at the same level at they were the last time."
The gymnast and aerialist act is next. Summer Lacy, an acrobat aerialist, is up first.
"This next step makes you or breaks you," Howie says to her. No pressure, though, Summer.
Clearly she doesn't feel it, because she's amazing. At one point, she actually hangs from a suspended hoop using only the back of her neck.
According to Ben Mendoza, of the Ben Mendoza Midnight Circus, "the most intense representation of Alice in Wonderland" is next. Uh, no. More like the most confusing and hard-to-watch representation.
Donovan and Rebecca, married "acro-balancers," are the clear winners of the category, just as they were when they auditioned in New York. Rebecca climbs a rope and Donovan uses only his strength to spin her so fast, she's perfectly horizontal. The judges love it.
"They showed us another element," says Howard.
In the rap category, an artist named Svet stands out because he plays the keyboard, raps and plays the violin. Granny G got a lot of laughs when she auditioned the first, but tonight she was just shocking and difficult to like.
"I think she's fantastic," says Sharon.
Burton Crane, of "whatcha gonna do?" fame from his first audition, sounds like he sings the same song he did before, minus the now-famous lyric. The judges notice and are disappointed. This might be the end for Burton.
The next category is dance. A couple are pretty good, including The Scott Brothers and Inspire the Fire. Others, like Battle Born, are painfully underwhelming.
Novelty is next, with a few notable acts including David and the CMYK's and Michael Nejad, who creates his own instruments using everyday objects like rakes and brooms.
The evening wraps up with the solo dance category, which is full of crowd favorites: contortionists Turf and Stepz, Lindsey Norton and Elusive. Lindsey is great, of course. Was there any question about that? Elusive does well, but he doesn't really stand out.
Stepz, who claims he is the best-known contortionist/street dancer in New York, disappoints. He uses too many props, which is distracting. The dance moves he does do are not original. West coast-based Turf is another story. He's amazing in an "oh my God, I'm cringing, I can't watch this anymore" kind of way.
Finally, it's time for the judges to decide who will move on to New York. In the kids category, Lil Starr and Funk Beyond Control are advancing. Elusive and Lindsey Norton in the solo dancers category are moving on. David and the CMYK's, Michael Nejad and Mike the juggler in the novelty category are also moving on.
Among the magicians, Jarrett and Raja and the levitating couple are advancing. Wordspit the Illest, All That and the Distinguished Men of Brass in the bands category are also going to New York.
Inspire the Fire, Lion DanceMe, Scott Brothers and the Lisa Clark Dancers all are moving on. Donovan and Rebecca are the only gymnasts moving on.
Interestingly, Big Barry, the little elderly singer, advances, along with Turf, who was a no-brainer from the start.
And that wraps up the top 48 and Vegas week. If you thoughts nerves were high this week, just wait until the live New York shows start.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun