Season 1 winner Bianca Ryan returns alongside last season's standouts contortionist Sofie Dossi and violinist Brian King Joseph -- plus, two-time "AGT" winner and magician Shin Lim!
For the first time this season, "America's Got Talent" expanded into a live results show and immediately there was a technical problem.
There was also at least one shocking result as a genuine underdog throughout the competition managed to best some of the strongest acts of the night last night and move on to the semifinals, while a long-time judge favorite got sent home.
Of the dozen acts that took the stage, just over half of them would survive the night, sending five of them home. Would both of the judges' Golden Buzzer acts (Luke Islam and Kodi Lee) survive? Would Brad Paisley's (Sophie Pecora)?
Would America put through any of the non-singers? There were seven singers, so they had the opportunity to be super boring with their choices.
Thankfully, it didn't go that way, and for the most part we think you got it just right ... by which we mean you agreed with our predictions. That said, you did send two acts through we thought had zero chance while sending two of our favorites home. The audacity!
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 sixteen years analyzing and critiquing reality competition shows for various media publications. I've got this.
Two standouts from last season joined forces with the Season 1 winner -- who came back for the "Champions" edition last season -- Bianca Ryan for the kind of unique collaboration you can only see on this stage. Bianca was 11 years old when she won the show. At 24, she's really come into herself a commanding performer and Sofie's ring work above her beautifully punctuated her vocals, just as Brian's violin playing offered a brilliant musical counterpart. The Grammys likes to tout on-stage pairings you can't find anywhere else, but only "AGT" marries completely different artists into the same show.
Probably our favorite part of Shin's interactive act this time around was the fact that Simon didn't appear to really participate and we saw one guy in the audience who clearly did something wrong. The whole thing is about math, numbers and accuracy. At least Jay Leno didn't blow it on the main stage. It's one of those feel good routines that's fun to deal with but not on the caliber of what he did to win "AGT" last season and the first-ever "Champions" season. Maybe that's why the show didn't even put him on their YouTube page, opting instead for a cute scene where he tries to teach Gabrielle and Julianne how to spin cards.
According to Terry, a technical glitch altered the way this stunt works. Usually, the Top 5 carry on and the acts in the next three slots face off for a live vote from America. They put one act through and then the judges put through another to round out the Top 7.
This time, though, due to whatever went wrong, the Top 6 are moving on and only America's vote will matter for the next three acts in the rankings. In other words, the judges have been completely stripped of their power for this week.
And so, it was a whole new level of danger and anxiety for the acts in seventh, eighth and ninth: Ansley Burns, Emerald Belles and Sophie Percora. By our predictions from last night, the Belles would be in, but they're going up against two kid singers in the kid-singer-iest show of all time!
As Terry brought them forward, we were actually feeling pretty good about Sophie as she got a favorable edit in the night's recap and she is more memorable and unique than the other two as an artist.
First out of the gate, Terry called forward singer Carmen Carter and light artist Alex Dowis, and we got our first pick right as Alex Dowis became the first act heading into the semifinals. His is a truly unique style and he really does create special living art.
Next up, it was time to pull the sweat from some kids' brows as Luke Islam had to face off against the girl power of GFORCE. We didn't feel that GFORCE was quite ready, though they could be on the verge of girl group greatness if they stick with it.
America agreed, putting Luke Islam into the next round. That's one Golden Buzzer advancing, too, as Julianne Hough couldn't have been more excited to root on her champion.
We were totally anticipating a fakeout when Terry brought up Kodi Lee and Voices of Service side by side. Of course both acts moved on, right? Of course they did! The semifinals needs both Kodi Lee and Voices of Service to be complete, and they've got them.
That left Messoudi Brothers, Bir Khalsa and Greg Morton and two spots left. Could we go six for six? It was promising off the bat when the Messoudi Brothers took that first spot. But how much danger could America handle?
In the end, America rounded out its Top 6 with Greg Morton, which broke our predictive streak. Apparently, audiences want to go to the movies more than they want to watch people nearly die.
Finally, it came down to the Dunkin' Save to determine the seventh and last act moving on. And that proved to be the most shocking result of the night as Ansley Burns pulled off a huge upset victory. Kid singers are so hard to predict as Sophie Percora really had the judges in her corner and seemed to have something really special to offer with her songwriting and unique vocal approach.
We'd argue that wild card Ansley really needs to step up her game with song choice and pick something that will better showcase her voice for the next round, but maybe it doesn't matter. She got through as much on personality than talent, we'd wager, as she's a firecracker.
"America's Got Talent" airs Tuesdays and Wedesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.