By Brandon Soderberg
6:38 AM EDT, August 22, 2012
Baltimore escape artist Spencer Horsman returned to "America's Got Talent" last night to try and convince voters he's worth a wildcard spot.
Horsman, one of Howard Stern's picks, was first up. Horsman, in a steampunk-like metal vest with eight padlocks, dropped himself into a booth that filled with 150 gallons of wet cement. "If I fail, I'll be buried alive," he announced in the pre-performance video.
A big part of an escape artist's act is selling the drama and making the audience freak out over the fact that hey, they might die up there. As he feverishly removed the locks, Horsman also seemed to let the tension build and build, even teasing a lengthy beat before he climbed out, completely gunked-up with cement, victorious.
Next was Sharon's much-loved South Carolina cloggers, All That! Their sloppy performance, backed by projections of themselves dancing, was too ambitious, and even a bit cloying: They shuffled to a song by past AGT finalists Nuttin' But Stringz, and in a nod to Sharon's Chippendale's jokes, one dude, doughy, with a lip piercing, removed his shirt.
Sharon loved it, but Howard and Howie were less impressed, to which the shirtless All That! clogger responded with a little too much anger in his voice, "We would like to say we love y'all for watching and we love the support and it's a good thing America's voting and not them, huh?" Fall back doughy dude, fall back.
Howie's choice of magician/pianist duo Jarrett and Raja performed a stunt in which Raja performed in a giant wooden box, which was closed and raised to the ceiling, where it exploded, only to reveal the box to be empty. Raja and his piano had somehow ended up all the way across the auditorium.
Howard, who as always, is creepily invested in the show -- like a dad playing wiffle ball and obsessively sticking to the rules of the MLB -- talked about how people are "anti-big illusion," these days like that's actually something happening in the world of magic, and praised the act's lofty ambitions.
15 year-old singer Jake Wesley Rogers, chosen by Sharon, unimpressively belted outLady Gaga's"Edge of Glory." Gaga's whole deal is cramming genuinely impressive vocals into what are ostensibly loud, simple party songs, and Rogers was unwise to even attempt the "Born This Way" highlight with his totally whatever voice.
Howie let Cristin Sandu return, and though Sandu once again failed to balance on top of a staggeringly tall stack of metal junk, he was more compelling and exciting than quite a few of the successful acts. You can't really advance a dude who totally beefs it, but maybe they should anyway?
Todd Oliver and his dog Irving, favorites of Howard, did some lame presidential humor based around the concept that the dog-turned-ventriloquist-puppet's running for president. "You can vote for the black guy or you can vote for the white guy," the black and white-furred dog said, "but if you vote for me, you get both!" Ugh.
The Bandbaz Brothers, Sharon's selection, performed a stunt they hyped as, "so dangerous [their] grandpa's cousin got killed doing this trick." The trick? They balance on one another and the Bandbaz Bro on the top performs a handstand, and then, with knives in their mouths, they balance on only the knives. My appreciation for Sandu's noble, failed effort quickly went away.
Sebastien, "El Charro De Oro," the miniature Mariachi singer resurrected by Howie, made a triumphant and adorable return, twisting the "Theme From 'New York, New York,'" immortalized by Frank Sinatra into a cutesy commentary on his own arrival back to the "AGT" stage. If only he had twisted the song into "Newark, Newark," where "AGT" is actually filmed.
At this point, the joke isn't only that Howard's "son" Horse, is still around, but that he's putting so much thought into figuring out ways to get hit in the crotch. Tonight, it was an obstacle course of testicle torture, with Horse taking a golf club, tire, balance beam, chain, and big blocks of wood to his nether-region.
After the judges weighed in, Horse asked father Howard to fire a tennis ball bazooka at his sack. Horse is a base, lowest common denominator crowd pleaser and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Lindsey Norton, who got Sharon's sympathies, danced well, but in the wake of Horse's crotch-shot extravaganza, seemed like something to endure.
Andrew De Leon, celebrated by Howie, lover of all the underdog spectacles, performed a Spanish version of "Unbreak My Heart." As long as De Leon can get through the song, his schtick -- looks like the manager of a Hot Topic, sings like an opera singer -- will never get old.
Ben Blaque, Howard's pick, performed an ornate series of crossbow tricks that culminated in him being blindfolded, locating a target by way of a bell ringing and then hitting that target, which set off another bow to fire at Blaque and pierce an apple resting on his head.
The episode in a nutshell: "America's Got Talent" turned into "The Voice" last night, with each judge blindly backing their four wild cards, no matter what.
It was frustrating to hear Howard, Sharon, and Howie, praise their picks so predictably, but after last week's dreadful YouTube talent pool, which drained enthusiasm after just a few acts, the judges' bias at least proved they were back to being concerned about the show's results.
Tomorrow: Another results show, which means seven minutes of content stretched into an hour!
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