The best of the best compete, including Vegas staple, magician Piff the Magic Dragon, and "Got Talent" winners from Spain, Britain and the Netherlands.
Another week, another ten acts taking the stage on "America's Got Talent: The Champions," and what a murderers row of talent the producers assembled for this second week of competition.
Recent fan favorites like Courtney Hadwin and Piff the Magic Dragon found themselves squaring off against champions from around the world including DDF Crew (Holland), Cristina Ramos (Spain), Ashleigh & Sully (Britain) and Darci Lynne (America).
The performances were rounded out by "AGT" runner-up Taylor Williamson and finalists Viktor Kee and Deadly Games. There was a lot of variety in the acts tonight, but could anyone surpass one of the show's most-ever popular winners in ventriloquist Darci Lynne?
Plus, Heidi Klum manned the golden buzzer and she's proven she has more eclectic taste than America when it comes to talent. America absolutely loves singers, and more than anything they love them some kid singers!
Terry Crews takes over for Tyra Banks as host, but that's not the only change. Instead of getting America involved, we are represented by a group of "super fans" from all 50 states. Each week, they choose one act to carry on and the judges choose the other with their golden buzzer (it's Mel B's tonight). Ten enter, but only two move on.
Fair warning, since I'm safe at home, I'm probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Howie Mandel, Mel B, Heidi Klum and Simon Cowell. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe. Even though it's basically a crap shoot this year, I'm gonna rank them from worst to first to see who emerges as my winner each week.
(comedian) The 2013 runner-up to performance artist Kenich Ebina wanted to win this time, but honestly, he's not going to do it with that material or that delivery. The comedians on "AGT" since Season 8 have gotten so much stronger, and Preacher Lawson slayed last week -- advancing to the finals in the process. Taylor had jokes that didn't land, and you could hear the lack of enthusiasm from the audience, as Simon looked on confused. It just wasn't very strong material.
(light dance) The 2017 third place finishers want to prove that light dance acts can win on a show like this, though none has done better than third to date. This group never seems to innovate like some of the other light acts we've seen, though they did do a head rolling trick at one point. They mostly dance and turn lights on and off, but we've always wanted to see them really push this artform to the next level as other similar acts have tried.
(jump rope) After winning "Holland's Got Talent" in 2012, they managed to make a career out of jump rope, but now they're looking to go to the next level. Honestly, that was a pretty exciting routine to watch from top to bottom. These guys bring an amazing technical skill level, plus a hint of silliness. It's such a simple act, and yet they've infused it with such energy and enthusiasm you can't help but find yourself smiling along and awaiting that next crazy moment. They never messed up, or if they did they hid it beautifully, like true master craftsmen. But was it big enough?
(juggler) The 2016 "AGT" finalist really takes juggling to the next level, making it look cool and fresh every time. Once again, he turned it into performance art. We've seen more impressive overall juggling with more balls and blah blah blah, but what Viktor does is create something compelling and beautiful. That said, we do think he could have done with a few more tricks, though some of his visuals were stunning, and his intentional drop sequence worked very well. This is a great act, but it's not an act that's likely to win this caliber of competition.
Ashleigh & Sully
(dog act) In 2012, Ashleigh won "Britain's Got Talent" with her dog Pudsey, but he's since passed. So she brought back his little brother for this show and Sully picked right back up where Pudsey left off. This new little guy proved every bit as talented and adorable as his brother, committed to an adorable boxing motif and some fun tricks. He was very disciplined and we couldn't stop smiling throughout that routine.
(ventriloquist) The 2017 winner was a virtual lock to win her season the second she began to sing through her puppets. But how would she stack up with this level of competition? Well, if anything her singing through puppets -- Oscar this time -- has actually improved, as she tackled "Nutbush City Limits." Yes, Darci does essentially the same thing every time she's on the stage, but she does it so very well. We did see her mouth move more this time than ever before, but it's such a slight thing. Plus, she really has some pipes on her!
(singer) Two years ago, she won "Spain's Got Talent," and now she's representing as a champion here. And boy did she bring every weapon in her arsenal. "Bohemian Rhapsody" is operatic, but Christina brought true opera to it, as well as showing aspects of rock and pop in her vocal intonations and approach. She's a true vocal virtuoso in an incredibly impressive way, even if all of the elements didn't always mesh flawlessly together here to create a singular and cohesive performance.
Piff the Magic Dragon
(magician) After making it to the finals of "AGT" in 2015, this comic magician has seen his career soar as he holds a Las Vegas residency and is a world-renowned act. His joke reason for returning is to make his sidekick, chihuahua Mr. Piffles, happy. His trick involved Mr. Piffles eating Heidi's ring, laying an egg and the ring being inside the yolk of that egg. How on earth could he do that? No idea. But what makes him so special is how funny and deadpan he is throughout his entire routine. It's great magic wrapped up in great entertainment. Honestly, it's no wonder he's got a residency in Vegas, he's that fun to watch.
(singer) This rock teen blew America away last summer with her unique and wild performances, but she made the bold choice of going with an original piece this time called "Pretty Little Thing." Her vocal affectations and stage presence haven't always translated well to every song she's performed, so this was smart. It was also a very infectious groove right in her wheelhouse, even if the lyrics didn't always make sense. Was the original song enough to put her over the top?
(danger act) Knife throwing and crossbow action, this was exhilarating and terrifying all at once. These 2016 semifinalists probably deserved better in their season, but America doesn't always embrace these danger acts. Luckily, Heidi totally did and awarded them her golden buzzer. We thought it was enough when Anna was spinning narrow bars in front of her as he hurled knives, as that took precision control from both of them, but then he used Heidi's phone to shoot a bolt at her backwards and we were speechless in awe.
Deadly Games obviously scored the first spot in the finals, meaning there was only one act left of the remaining nine who could join them there. And this was an incredible night of competition, with no clear winner emerging over anyone else.
Terry Crews set up our Top 3 again, so we could see just how close two acts were to carrying on. Those acts included Courtney Hadwin, Cristina Ramos and Darci Lynne. So there you have it. Apparently, this batch of Americans were really just in it for the vocalists.
But how did they rank and who moves on?
3rd Place: Courtney Hadwin
2nd Place: Darci Lynne
1st Place: Cristina Ramos
No one was as shocked as Cristina when she actually beat out the "AGT" winner, even though she's a "Got Talent" champion in her own right. Her vocal prowess is certainly unmatched on this show. Even if we thought her performance tonight didn't totally come together as a cohesive unit, there's no denying her incredible gift and versatility.
They join last week's winners, comedian Preacher Lawson and Susan Boyle, which means we're currently sitting at 50 percent singers. Hey, that's pretty good for an "AGT" season.
"America's Got Talent: The Champions" airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.
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