The final auditions of America’s Got Talent Season 16 took place Tuesday, and it was a motley crew indeed. The rapid-paced, montage-heavy episode featured a champion pizza-dough-tosser, a competitive cake-eater, a basketball-playing bunny rabbit, a troupe of dancing teddy bears, a troupe of shirtless Terry Crews fanboys, two contortionists, a science wizard, a Janis Joplin-esque realtor/rocker chick, a guy who played grade-school instrument the recorder while beatboxing at the same time, and a teen-idol singer named Zac Taylor who unfortunately was no relation to Hanson.
But the most unexpected and creative act of the night (and one that would only be welcome or appropriate on a hodgepodge talent show like AGT) had to be Russian dance illusionist Pasha, who — after his wife Ailona supposedly missed her flight and couldn’t make it to their planned duo audition — had to improvise and go it alone.
“I’m in a real jam and I’m trying to figure out what to do. … We’re supposed to dance a new number,” Pasha told the judges warily, claiming that he’d never performed as a solo act before. “I am very worried. … If you could give me an opportunity, hopefully I could make it work.”
“This is the ultimate ‘the show must go on!’” judge Howie Mandel noted, as he wished Pasha luck but, along with the other judges, seemed skeptical.
What followed is… well, pretty hard to describe. But suffice to say, it will haunt AGT viewers’ minds for some time. After Pasha momentarily left the stage, host Terry wheeled out a pair of uncanny-valley robot dolls — a dancing duo that appeared to be half-human/half-marionette, like a pair of Disneyland animatrons who’d broken loose from their tethers at the “It’s Small World” ride or Haunted Mansion and were now running amok on the AGT stage. And at the end of their bizarre spinning-music-box routine, the female doll flipped her crinoline… to reveal the solo Pasha underneath!
After a delayed reaction, judge Sofia Vergara jumped to her feet screaming, looking more shocked than that time she thought she’d accidentally shot Simon Cowell with a crossbow. “I love it! That was so surprising! I’ve never seen anything like that in my life!” she exclaimed.
The equally amazed Howie then told the post-reveal Pasha, who was standing there with two conjoined-twin mannequins growing out of his back: “If people just tuned in, you’re gonna freak a lot of little children out!”
“It was… weird,” Heidi Klum stated, to which the grinning Pasha simply answered, “I know.” (I think that was the point.)
Even Simon, who’s practically seen it all from his many years sitting on the panels for Idol, X Factor, and Got Talent on both sides of the pond, was utterly stunned. “You got us, didn’t you? We were all thinking, ‘This is going to be terrible,’ but actually, it was great! It was a great surprise,” he raved. “We love to be surprised, and that’s what you just did. And that’s why you’ve got four yeses.”
So now, with that nightmare fuel to sustain intrepid viewers over the next three weeks, America’s Got Talent will be taking a break while NBC airs the Tokyo Olympics. And when Season 16 resumes Aug. 10 with the live shows at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, the more than 150 acts who’ve auditioned this season will already be whittled down to just 36. (Sadly, producers nixed the Judges’ Cuts episodes this season, presumably to get back on schedule after the Summer Games hiatus.) We already know the six Golden Buzzer acts that will be automatically moving on to the live rounds: indie-pop singer/cancer survivor Nightbirde (Simon’s pick), quick-change artist Léa Kyle (Heidi’s), the Northwell Health Nurse Choir (Howie’s), Broadway showman Jimmie Herrod (Sofia’s), the World Taekwondo Demonstration Team (Terry’s), and child opera prodigy Victory Brinker (AGT’s first-ever unanimous group Golden Buzzer).
But will Pasha join those contestants — and if so, will his real-life wife Ailona finally show up? Maybe he doesn’t need her after all, as he managed just fine on his own… but I can only imagine how freaky-deaky this act could get if with two puppeteers and multiple disco-dollies in the mix.
Tuesday’s auditions episode ended with a cliffhanger, as the judges supposedly furiously debated their live-shows semifinalists decision over a stack of scattered contestant Polaroids with the aid of a whiteboard, looking like Charlie in that It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia meme. But we will have to wait until after the Olympics to find out who’s getting the chance to go for the AGT gold. See you then.
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