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'America's Got Talent' recap: Wild Card night offers redemption

I'll admit, I thought the "America's Got Talent" Wild Card round was going to be a drag, what with those not-so-funny Funny Little People, the musical moppets Avery and the Calico Cats, and grating magician Seth Grabel set to return. (I know, Grabel has his fans; at this point, I am not one of them.) But as it turns out, those acts' entertainment deficiencies were dwarfed by the candidates who truly deserve a second shot.

It may have been the best show of the season so far.

For the Kinetic King, there was redemption: His tin-can chain reaction apparently went down as planned. And we got to see him do "the fetal position of victory" (whatever that was) right there on the stage. Here's sending him an extra woo-hoo for making us root for him so heartily.



Those Funny Little People, whom Howie Mandel summoned back apparently just to irritate Piers Morgan, managed to pull off a little funny business with some bathroom B-roll before they performed (the old-toilet-paper-on-the-shoe gag gets 'em every time), though their onstage moves went pretty much as expected. Also expected: all that infantile interaction at the judging table in which Mandel and Morgan use these oversized Cabbage Patch dolls to needle each other. Enough already.

Then again, Mandel was spot-on when he said that Avery and the Calico Cats belonged on Saturday morning TV, rather than in Vegas. (Are you listening, Disney Channel?) He was also completely correct when he said it was "wrong" and "mean" of Morgan to buzz these children, who were called back from their comfy homes to perform for us all one more time. Can't there be a "no buzzing anyone under 18" rule? Or couldn't Morgan just keep his buzzing finger in check when elementary schoolers are involved?

Seth Grabel irritated me, as anticipated, wasting time rolling around in a giant ring in a gimmicky act that included no real magic (the car was rolled in behind the pyrotechnic display –- that's just stagecraft) but did include three cute kids dressed as the judges. The kids –- especially that adorable little girl dressed as Sharon Osbourne -- might have a fair shot at making it through, but let's hope this is the last we see of Grabel.

Shevonne, a singer who was eliminated way back in Las Vegas, turned in an imperfect performance of the song "Nobody's Perfect," but she seemed to enjoy her moment in the spotlight -– and the judges were apparently more impressed with her than I. Morgan, who, oddly, heaped praise on Shevonne's shoes, didn't even buzz her.

West Springfield Dance Team retook the stage in their creepy zombie contact lenses (offset nicely this time with green hair and red blood-like makeup) with another horror-themed dance. I liked it better than their last go. Not so the judges.

Comedian J Chris Newberg was one of the night's big surprises: Roasting Morgan, rather than doing his typical routine, was an inspired choice. He was smarter and funnier and sharper than we've seen him be before. Even Morgan reluctantly admitted he was amusing. ("We always roast the ones that we love," Newberg told the mean judge gratefully after he'd earned his praise. "Obviously, it came from a place of love and respect." Hmmm …. maybe.)



Yellow Designs Stunt Team reminded me why I loved these amped-up BMX bikers so much the last time around, when they did their incredible Alice in Wonderland-themed routine. This time, it was pirates (and mermaids and, I dunno, other stuff), and seriously, whoever does the production design for these guys deserves to be voted through -– whether the bikers wipe out mid-stunt or not.



But something happened to juggler Charles Peachock, who'd promised to bring danger to the proceedings, and at least brought some fire and a few swords. Apparently unable to recover from the setback of having been eliminated, despite having been given a second chance by hard-to-please judge Morgan, he bobbled his act, spending too long on a strange set-up only to flub one of the two tricks he attempted. (He dropped two of the swords he was set to juggle.) "I think you blew it," Morgan said. And Osbourne piled on, "You did blow it." Poor Peachock was so distraught, he forgot to mug for the camera when his voting-line number was read. Awww.

The Fiddleheads, happily, returned to the bluegrass-backed contemporary-hit formula that made them such an early favorite. They were great, no matter what Morgan said.

Summerwind Skippers cranked up their rope-jumping, introducing flaming ropes right about when I was wondering if they needed the ropes (which at one point tripped them up) at all. Osbourne compared them to "Stomp," the long-running show that turned garbage-can lids and boots into pure theatrical joy. I can see that.



And last but not least was magician Landon Swank, who turned escape artist for the occasion, immersing himself – handcuffed and chained -- in a padlocked tank of water and giving himself one minute to emerge, which he did. It was dramatic and satisfying and it's hard not to agree with Osbourne, who called Swank "sexy" and "touchable."



So who should make it through to the semifinals? I'd be happy with Landon Swank, Yellow Designs Stunt Team and Summerwind Skippers, and then either the Fiddleheads and (I can't believe I'm really saying this) J Chris Newberg for the last slot -- or maybe even the Kinetic King, though I'm not sure I see how his whimsical constructions could make for a Vegas show. I'm also not sure the voters will agree with me.

Who would you like to see make it through?

RELATED:

'America's Got Talent': YouTube-spawned semifinalists revealed

'America's Got Talent' recap: YouTube stars go from screen to stage

'America's Got Talent' results: Did the judges make the wrong call?

'America's Got Talent' recap: 'If you're gonna blunder,' go big

-- Amy Reiter

 
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