The winner of this year's "America's Got Talent" has pretty much been decided already -- it will be William Close and his earth harp -- and so, we're really watching to see who can continue to hack it, at least.
You'll also notice that with the stakes this high, judges Howard Stern, Sharon Osbourne, and Howie Mandel tended to stay neutral or positive, as to not sway voters too much.
The first act up was David Garibaldi and his CMYK's. In the pre-performance film, the energetic geek managed to follow up a "Star Wars" reference with a "Star Trek" one when he explained that, "This is the time where creativity goes in hyper-speed," then added, "this is the moment to bring it, creatively we just want to go to a place where no one's gone before." Impressive!
The performance was set to the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again," or as all the little babies out there watching know it as, "the theme song from 'CSI'." Garibaldi's whole act hinges on the build-up to the big reveal: What will all those abstract blobs or colors and slashes of paint look like when he flips it around? This time it was Albert Einsten and the letters C-M-Y-K. Not too impressive and even a little confusing.
Garibaldi also used a all-chorus edit of that Who classic, which seems a bit like cheating, since he didn't have to worry about timing his painterly theatrics. After Garibaldi, the first act of the night, Howard, who seems fully checked out already, preemptively declared, "What a finale we're having."
Tom Cotter once again wrapped a completely unnecessary frame around his straight-forward stand-up comedy, asking Nick Cannon -- who he called, Nicholas, which turned out to be the funniest part of his whole performance -- to roll a dice with different topics on it. The topic rolled: "Poor examples."
That launched Cotter into a series of played-out observations about how the fairy tales and songs we sing to our kids are pretty screwed up: "Georgie Porgie" is a sexual harasser; Donald Duck, a dude who wears a shirt but no pants; and the seven dwarfs, some weirdos who walk around calling Snow White a prostitute. Because they sing "hi-ho." Yep. Usually funny, Cotter's dad-jokes felt stale.
Next up was the Untouchables, who are sort of an indirect legacy act on "AGT," which just seems weird. It's been mentioned before on the show, but this group of teenaged dancers are coached by dancers from the Miami All Stars, who were finalists last year. That detail, coupled with Ruby, the cute crying girl of the crew, clearly being fed precocious lines to deliver makes the group tough to root for.
But their dancing was a fairly epic, exceedingly competent routine set to "Proud Mary" and it worked. That's the story of the Untouchables: They do what they do pretty well, and as a result, tend to skate by. They were certainly one of the best acts of the evening, even if it seemed a bit underwhelming.
Joe Castillo, backed by a live band instead of a simple backing track, dropped the socially conscious sand art and instead did portraits of host Nick Cannon (who looked like an Asian guy), and judges Howie Mandel (who looked like an Asian guy with different facial hair), Sharon Osbourne (who looked like a drag queen), and Howard Stern, who looked pretty good because Howard is super-easy to draw.
Sharon was disappointed by the lack of "something spiritual" in the performance and that seems about right. Castillo dropped his whole persona to pander to the hosts of the show and as a result, revealed the limits of his act.
William Close and the Earth Harp Collective, as it's now called because he's stepped up the elaborate-ness of his performance and the number of people, including a acrobat who spun up from the ceiling, performed "Pachelbel's Canon" and then "America, the Beautiful."
It was genuinely impressive and certainly felt like the act that will win it all. The pieces are already in place for the Vegas show, and Close hasn't screwed up, yet. Tonight proved that he can add a lot of moving parts to his performance without getting overshadowed because well, the center of the act is a giant harp.
Olate Dogs can only teach their pooches so many new things, and the thrill hinges on how they mix and match tricks. But they kicked tonight's performance off with a dog in a tuxedo riding in a tiny little S.U.V., which is enough to just give those guys a million dollars, in my book. For real, don't even count the votes, end the show early, and give them the dough. I'm mostly joking.
It seems inevitable that William Close will be the winner, though tune in tomorrow night for the season finale, and see if I'm wrong. Just between you and I? I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that some sort of voting computer glitch allows Horse and his impervious crotch to somehow win.