Elsewhere on the night, Simon Cowell insulted one act and then chose to put himself into the line of fire and face real danger by that very same act. He then put a different act on the spot by making them leave the stage and come back with something completely new or call it a day.
Man, there was a lot going on in these two hours, and Simon was somehow in the middle of so much of it. There were inspirational stories of overcoming poverty, adversity and even aging. Oh and did we mention the living embodiment of Death was there? Yeah, that happened.
Who do I think I am? you ask. Well, I spent nearly a decade of my life sweating and bleeding to the music as a dancer. From a young boy learning a shuffle-ball-change to performing with the St. Louis Ballet Company, I experienced the ups and downs of one of the most difficult physically demanding sports on the planet. During this time, I was also a member of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, as well as a gymnast, writer and cartoonist. I had a lot more energy in my younger years. And I've spent the last seventeen years analyzing and critiquing reality competition shows for various media publications. I've got this.
Fair warning, since I'm safe at home, I'm probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Howie Mandel, Gabrielle Union, Julianne Hough and Simon Cowell. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe. And just for fun, I'm gonna rank them from worst to first to see who emerges as my winner each week.
(comedian) It took four jokes to get four exes, with Howie the last holdout. The problem is that the schtick of being death could make for good comedy, but instead it was the laziest cliche joke-writing. We kept hoping he'd surprise us all, but Terry had the best joke of all. "He died on stage."
Nick & Lindsay
(danger act/musicians) There was a playfulness to this couple that was fun, kicking things off with violin and opera. Then, the fact that Nick kept singing while Lindsay was throwing knives at him was very cool. We loved his little "uh-oh" and that it kept getting more and more dangerous (blindfold? Fire?!). Honestly, I didn't think the singing was bad at all, either, Simon!_ Plus, right after insulting her husband, why would Simon want Lindsay to throw a knife at him ... though it did convince him to change his vote. She does need to sharpen up her foot throwing, that is.
(dancer) Ben hilariuosly hit his own golden buzzer during a bizarrely hypnotic and awkward strip dance routine. He certainly had energy, and you could tell that he's had some dance background, but there was nothing particularly dynamic or great about what he put on the stage as a dancer. As an act, it was certainly unexpected and a lot of fun, but we don't really see longevity or diversity in it as something that could carry on and win viewers over enough to win.
(dancers) At 11 and 14, respectively, Izzy and Easton were definitely facing the fire with Julianne on that panel. Theirs was a contemporary piece about Easton going to war. There was a beauty to their performance and a genuine passion that did a lot to overcome Izzy's technical deficiencies. She's still growing and learning, but Easton definitely was the stronger of the two, commanding the moves and owning each flourish where she was smaller and tepid. Still, they have a dynamic chemistry and they nevertheless elicited emotion, which is what it's all about.
Judges: Y, Y, Y, Y
IDEGO Virtual Reality
(technology act) This was an interesting act, a VR realm invented by two psychologists from Rome that immerses you into a world of your phobias. Of course, Howie was subjected to this one, encouraged to cross a rope and save someone. He said he couldn't a lot, but he ultimately did and while it may look silly on television, this is the kind of thing that could actually help people to overcome some of the obstacles they've put in front of themselves. It's weird for a talent show, but it's very cool.
Verba Shadow Group
(shadow dancers) We've seen a lot of shadow acts on this show, and we've seen variations on this story, but Verba visualized it more beautifully than any of the others. They need to work on the tightness of their formations, as some of the visuals got a little muddied, and the dancers need to be in synch when the moment calls for it, but there's no denying the overall artistic vision was realized beautifully.
(singer) Simon stopped his audition and said the problem is he doesn't take risks. His song choices are just too safe, so Simon challenged him to learn a new song in 30 minutes and wow them. It hit him in the pride pretty hard, so he even tried to overrule Simon with the crowd, but this is Simon's house and they weren't having it. Finally, he swallowed that down. He came back with Calum Scott's "Dancing on My Own." Credit where it's due, Simon saw what Lamont was capable of and then Lamont absolutely delivered, absolutely earning all that screen time for that powerful arc to get to this stellar performance. It was heartfelt and beautiful and his voice soared.
Lukas & Falco
(dog act) While Falco didn't do any spectacularly jaw-dropping stunts, he was so incredibly in tune with Lukas it was amazing to watch. This is a trained dog who loves what he's doing, who loves his best friend and who is just astoundingly disciplined. He brought that routine to life, as simple as it was, with the smallest of moments, not missing a beat. Easily one of the sharpest dogs we've seen on this stage.
Judges: Y, Y, Y, Y
Ndlovu Youth Choir
(singers) This is how you command a performance. Their story is incredible, but what they put on that stage was magical. They perform with such confidence and give off such a cool vibe that it transcends language -- when they were singing in their native tongue -- and nevertheless invites us all into their world. The song was about hopes and dreams and it actually conveyed the emotion of that through the performance, which is no small feat.
(singer) What a tiny little girl to hold that much power and control in the operatic style. Emanne blew everyone away, and certainly surprised a lot of people, with her control and vocal grace, range and strength. It's a rare gift to have the ability to sing with such a commanding voice at any age, and even more remarkable that she has such maturity in her voice and control at only ten years old.
"America's Got Talent" continues next Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.