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‘The Masked Singer’ reveals the identity of the Russian Dolls

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead if you have not watched Season 5 Episode 11 of “The Masked Singer,” which aired May 12 on Fox.

Hanson has been mmm-bop’ed off “The Masked Singer.” The pop star brothers were unmasked on Wednesday’s episode as the Russian Dolls.

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The trio became the first group to compete on the show; last season, the couple Clint Black and Lisa Hartman performed as a duo under the Snow Owls costume. But the Hanson brothers told Variety they were attracted to the idea of pulling off another “Masked Singer” first. Early on, the show’s panelists couldn’t even figure out how many performers were on stage.

“It was very clear from the beginning they loved the idea of playing the game,” Zac Hanson said. “It was, ‘Hey, let’s play with this idea of how many people are on stage.’ Whenever we could, we tried to keep playing that game. Because we know, part of the show is the spectacle of the costumes in the game of guessing. And the other part is the quality of the music and the performances. And so you want to do both as much as you can. So there were cases where there were two dolls on stage but we were all three still there, we would put two people in the big doll, which was very claustrophobic.”

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Added Isaac Hanson: “We may be brothers but we don’t really need to be brothers that know each other’s smell.”

Among panelists, Nicole Scherzinger got it right for a second week in a row with Hanson, which Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg also guessed correctly. Ken Jeong went with a different family: the Jonas Brothers. Robin Thicke chose Sugarland. Guest panelist Rob Riggle hopped on the Hanson train as well, after initially guessing Devo.

Adding to the guessing game: Sometimes four Russian Dolls would be on stage. “There are certain kind of rules they’re trying to play by,” Zac Hanson said. “You don’t really want to have extra performers that are part of the actual contestant outside of the dancers and so we try to use the dancers to move the dolls, when they were off camera. There were a couple of cases where the dolls were moved on camera, or the large doll was stationary, and you didn’t really know, is there somebody in there? That was just trying to make the game more fun. At one point, there was going to be a robotically controlled fifth doll, but it apparently broke the rules. It was too much.”

Isaac Hanson said it was difficult being in the Russian Dolls, but he was thankful he didn’t have to learn any choreography: “I would say the most difficult thing about it was just being able to see where you’re going,” he said. “Your actual range of motion with regard to your feet and stuff is actually pretty limited because of the way that costume was. So in some sense, that actually played to my lack of coordination well. I wouldn’t have wanted to be asked to do much more than we did because I kept screwing up the simple things that we were doing. But the hardest part was not getting disoriented.”

Previous episodes had the panelists guessing Boyz II Men, Vanessa Hudgens, Darren Criss, Matthew Morrison/Kevin McHale/other “Glee” stars, Gwen Stefani and No Doubt guitarist Tom Dumont, Sugarland, Jacksons, Pentatonix, the Jonas Brothers, 98 Degrees, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nickelback. But the internet figured out it was Hanson really fast.

“It’s kind of goes both ways,” Zac Hanson said. “On the one hand you’re proud of being able to trick people into thinking you’re somebody else. And the other hand if you have three people up there singing and harmonizing and at some point pretty quick, they don’t compare you to yourself, you’re like, ‘Hey, haven’t you thought of Hanson?!’ I think it was cool to have comparisons to really great artists from the Jacksons to Boyz II Men. There’s all kinds of different great singers that they threw out there, But I will say this, I was not expecting the public to as clearly just immediately proclaim in the chatter online you can see like episode one, they were like, ‘this is Hanson.’”

Hanson performed “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John for their final song; before that, they sang “Man in the Mirror,” by Michael Jackson; “Wonder,” by Shawn Mendes; “Want to Want Me,” by Jason Derulo; “24K Magic,” by Bruno Mars; and “Shallow,” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. And who knows, the group said they may add some of those tracks to their tour once they hit the road again.

“‘Man in the Mirror’ is a song we love and to get to do Michael Jackson, it was a really big deal,” Zac Hanson said. “That was great because it felt like an opportunity to start strong with something that is just kind of a timeless song that we love singing. ’24K Magic’ was one where we were really excited to do it but we definitely questioned whether we felt like we could execute it well.”

Taylor Hanson said the group also enjoyed “stretching different muscles as arrangers. We could throw to one person singing one part, and do lead switching and also bring something different to the show. They hadn’t had harmony, or harmony within a group because there had never been more than two people. So we just felt like that combination of elements, really did appeal to the opportunity that also presented itself by us not being in a regular time where oftentimes we’d be on tour, and go from city to city.”

Hanson should have been on tour in Australia right now, but the pandemic has kept them at home in Oklahoma. Instead, they’re now releasing new music -- a song every month -- that will eventually be compiled into a new album, “Against the World.” The group notes that they’re also about to celebrate their 30th anniversary performing together.

“All of these songs on ‘Against the World,’ they do talk about hard issues and there’s a hopeful quality to it, but about conflict and challenges, and overcoming yourself,” Zac Hanson said. “And I think it’s a great project to let people look at each song for a little longer to linger on each story, because they do have something to say.”

Hanson as the Russian Dolls joined previously unmasked celebrities Tyrese Gibson (Robopine), Bobby Brown (Crab), Tamera Mowry (Seashell), Mark McGrath (Orca), Nick Cannon (Bulldog), Logan Paul (Grandpa Monster), Danny Trejo (as Raccoon), Caitlyn Jenner (as Phoenix) and Kermit the Frog (as Snail).

The Season 5 contestants boast a combined 26 Grammy nominations, nine multi-platinum singles, four Academy Award nominations, three Super Bowl appearances, six gold medals and two world records.

New this season is the masked celebrity “Cluedle-Doo,” who has been offering additional hints about each contestant. Scherzinger guessed it might be frequent guest panelist Joel McHale.

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The show’s panelists are also once competing for a “Golden Ear” trophy based on their first impressions of each masked performer (which McCarthy won last time). Jeong and McCarthy Wahlberg each had two points heading into this episode.

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Scherzinger’s initial guess was the entire cast of “Glee.” Thicke went with the Black Eyed Peas (specifically, Will.i.am and Fergie). McCarthy Wahlberg named Boyz II Men. Jeong’s first impression was Donny and Marie Osmond. No one picked up another point.

Here are the remaining contestants and what they performed on Wednesday’s episode, “The Quarter Finals -- Five Fan Favorites”:

Black Swan

Song: “Thinking Out Loud,” by Ed Sheeran Super Fan Super Clue: “Cher. We’ve both been a part of iconic fantasy films. And she was a part of my world the very first time I shared my voice.” Swan’s Mailbox: “You’re mega-talented. I’ll never forget when you were on Oprah, and so excited you recently got the major recognition you deserved.” Panel guesses: Dua Lipa, NormaniPrevious songs: “Barracuda,” by Heart; “In My Blood,” by Shawn Mendes; “How Will I Know,” by Whitney Houston, “Use Somebody,” by Kings of Leon; “Do I Do,” by Stevie Wonder Previous panel guesses: Anya Taylor-Joy, Camilla Cabello, Leona Lewis, Demi Lovato, Lindsay Lohan, Ashlee Simpson, Emily Osment, Victoria Justice, Brenda Song, Kesha, Demi Lovato, Becky G, JoJo, Christina Milian, Mandy Moore

Piglet

Song: “Supersition,” by Stevie Wonder, with operatic open Super Fan Super Clue: “Bruce Willis. I was speechless when we met. Always cool to meet a fellow action star.” Piglet’s Mailbox: “Whether on my TV or in my headphones, I’m so lucky I discovered you in the ’90s. But I’ve never been jealous of your public relationships.” Panel guesses: Justin Timberlake, Jeremy Renner, Nick Lachey Previous songs: “Speechless,” by Dan + Shay; “Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah),” by Andy Grammer, “7 Years,” by Lukas Graham, “The Pretender,” by Foo Fighters; “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now),” by Phil Collins Previous panel guesses: Adam Lambert, Charlie Puth, JC Chavez, Austin Mahone, Jonathan Knight, Zayn Malik, AJ McLean, Kevin Richardson, Lance Bass, Chris Pine, Adam Levine, Eli or Peyton Manning, Ian Somerhalder, Taylor Lautner, Brian Littrell, Nick Lachey

Yeti

Song: “Bless the Broken Road,” by Rascal Flatts Super Fan Super Clue: “Diddy, who I’ve been lucky to work with. He helped me reach the top of the mountain.” Yeti’s Mailbox: “You are a true triple -- nah, quadruple threat. I’m excited to step up with a Masked Singer legend, and I’m proud to be your biggest fan.” Clueledoo Clue: “He makes a much better panelist than you do.” Panel guesses: Channing Tatum, Twista, Ne-Yo Previous songs: “If It Isn’t Love,” by New Edition; “Lonely,” by Justin Bieber and Benny Blanco; “It Takes Two,” by Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock Previous panel guesses: Ray J, Justin Bieber, Taran Killam, Todrick Hall, Justin Timberlake, Omarion, Mario, Jason Derulo, Vin Diesel, Trey Songz, Miguel

Chameleon

Song: “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” by Snoop Dogg feat. Pharrell Williams Super Fan Super Clue: “Jackie Chan. He’ll always bring that rumble to the stage, just like me.” Chameleon’s Mailbox: “Any friend of Martha Stewart’s is a friend of mine. I even saw you play at Madison Square Garden. I wish you only success.” Panel guesses: Blake Griffin, Young Thug, Snoop Dogg Previous songs: “Ride Wit Me,” by Nelly; “21 Questions,” 50 Cent feat. Nate Dogg; “Hip Hop,” by Dead Prez; “Regulate,” by Warren G feat. Nate Dogg; “Put Your Hand Where My Eyes Could See,” by Busta Rhymes Previous panel guesses: Dwight Howard, Redfoo, Nick Cannon, Iman Shumpert, Dwyane Wade, 2 Chains, Waka Flocka Flame, Wiz Khalifa, Machine Gun Kelly, Kyrie Irving, G-Eazy, Young Thug, Snoop Dogg

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