Michael Grimm, V.Unbeatable, Freckled Sky and Tyler Butler-Figueroa represent "AGT," but it's incredible acts from Norway, Poland and Germany that leave us breathless.
This third round of "America's Got Talent: The Champions" got a lot more international and featured lots of past winners from around the world, making for a more unpredictable and wild ride.
Unfortunately, not everything worked for every act as we saw one of the worst magic acts ever to hit the stage and a winning act from Italy that just left us scratching our heads waiting for it to start ... long after it ended.
That's not to say it was all bad, as there was plenty to cheer about and lots of amazing performances on the night.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the return of Season 5 winner Michael Grimm, who'd faded from the spotlight since taking the title. He was joined by more recent "AGT" alums Freckled Sky, Tyler Butler-Figuero and V. Unbeatable.
Germany was well-represented with an adorable dog act and a sinister danger act, so quite a range there. Poland blew us away with one of their past winners, while we learned that BTS' choreographers are former Norway champs, and back again.
Let's just say it was a night of excitement, powerful emotions and a very grump Simon, getting way more buzzer happy than you would expect from the "Champions" edition. At least he didn't steal Howie's Golden Buzzer again. But who got it?
And just for fun, I'm gonna rank them from worst to first to see who emerges as my Top 4 and ultimate winner.
(magician) Ben came in third last year on "Britain's Got Talent" and we hope he brought more to the stage to do it. He basically had one trick (arguably two) and it wasn't all that impressive or exciting. Maybe it's the difference between American and British audiences, but this was an incredible disappointment. There was no sense of magic or wonder or excitement and absolutely no wow factor. It was magic that was an absolute snoozefest.
(harmonica player) Moses won "Italy's Got Talent" in 2017 with a harmonica, which is a testament to what he can do with the instrument. And yet, this performance lacked pizzazz. We loved the inclusion of beatboxing into the harmonica playing, but he didn't go next level with it. And then the girls on the rocking poles back and forth was an odd distraction, as was his overall stage presentation. But the bottom line was the music was just ... lacking..
(tech dance) They kind of blew it in the quarterfinals of "AGT" Season 10, but still found success with Paula Abdul, P!nk and other acts. There was an interesting idea behind this dance, but the technology looked like just background images too much and didn't interact cleanly with the dancers. It was underwhelming, a little long and didn't do a good job of selling its story of two marionette dancers trying to break free.
(violinist) Coming just short of the Top 5 on "AGT" last year, Tyler added actual dance choreography to his playing for the first time, but he fell short musically when you consider this is a first impression kind of scenario. He played it a bit safe with his song choice and it left him little to nowhere to go on his instrument to really blow audiences away with how talented he is as a violinist. That's not the kind of performance that will stand out.
(dancers/acrobats) Despite coming in fourth over the summer, this troupe is India's pride and has begun performing everywhere, and is even getting a movie back home. This was not the most exciting we've seen them, as the front dancing really needs a few moments to shine so the back flips and throws don't completely dominate the performance, as they can get repetitive over time. We've seen them be more wow-inducing, but Howie (and everyone else who saw it live) was sold on them enough to give them the second golden buzzer of their "Got Talent" run.
(danger act) This danger act wowed audiences in Germany last year on his way to becoming a finalist. He brought all of his sinister charm(?) to the stage, along with Heidi and Terry. Honestly, it was cool and weird and a pretty good trick with danger and elements of magic. But it was his sinister smile that won us over, as Heidi screamed and he hurled a knife at her. This was a pretty fun act, even if it was a little slow as he had to make sure everyone could follow without words. But it was certainly memorable.
(dancers) It's been a decade since Quick Style won "Norway's Got Talent," and they've had quite a career, notably choreographing for BTS (along with many others over the years) most recently. There was a lot of hype and set-up, and they even warned this was a slow-jam performance, but it was technically just beautiful. On a dance competition show, they'd probably do very well in an earlier round, but this is a show about bombast and bigger and bolder and this was just cool swag and vibe to Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine." You could see the boy band vibe, but those are about dance accompanying the music, and this was about the dance, and in that regard, it didn't stand out enough.
(dog trainer) The 2017 winner of "Germany's Got Talent" is a huge fan of Heidi, but Heidi's never seen her native edition of "Got Talent." Now 11 years old, she really has amazing control over her dogs -- and there are a lot of them. Alexa may not have done any particularly fancy tricks with the dogs, but they are so disciplined and worked so well together, you couldn't help but root for her and them.
(singer) It's been a decade since Michael won "AGT" and had a brief flash of success, but it did not last. He says he stepped back from it, overwhelmed, but no matter what happened, he faded from America's consciousness. But his voice is just as butter as it ever was, with a bluesy soulfulness that just screams authenticity. It's so hard to stand out on this stage as a singer, but he did it. Honestly, he deserves a career in music as he's proven himself a decade ago and he's still got it. Hopefully, this appearance will be the shot in the arm he needs to get it back.
(dancers) Two years out from a win on "Poland's Got Talent," DD has had incredible success in Europe, but this was their American debut. This has to be one of the best aerial acrobatic dance duos to ever perform this type of routine. There was incredible strength, with death-defying stunts that require insane levels of trust, but there was an intimacy and musicality to it as well that made it both terrifying and mesmerizingly beautiful. That's how you demand attention and hold it through a performance.
Simon was right about one thing, this was an odd night of "Champions," down to Simon and Howie using their buzzers. But some of these acts just really dropped the ball.
The way we see it, there is a clear divide, with three acts absolutely blowing this opportunity.
Our above rankings have Duo Destiny, Michael Grimm and Alexa Lauenburger advancing, with our next two comprised of acts we're not as sure America will support.
Quick Style was technically brilliant and very cool, but were they flashy enough? And Miki Dark was sinister and very cool, but these types of acts always seem to falter with American audiences.
Tyler Bulter-Figueroa is a fan-favorite, even though we didn't think he did enough. But on a night with no kid singers, maybe they'll want a kid violinist, if they reject the kid dog trainer.
Oh and then there's--
Is this going to be another season where we get bored with how repetitive V.Unbeatable is and yet they go on and on? With Howie's Golden Buzzer tonight, they're straight through to the finals, so that saves us having to go against the masses in the next round.
First up, Terry brought forward Ben Hart, Duo Destiny and Freckled Sky. This was a no-brainer for us, as the other two absolutely faltered on the night, and we were thrilled America got it right and carried Duo Destiny through.
Miki Dark was spotlighted next to Moses Concas and Tyler Butler-Figueroa, which meant that America decided a kid violinist could stand in for a kid singer ... just this once. Bad news for us and one of our top finalists as Tyler Butler-Figueroa moved on.
That left Alexa Lauenburger, Quick Style and Michael Grimm to face the judges, which was definitely bad news for Quick Style. The judges love dog acts, though, which was bad news for Michael Grimm, who absolutely deserved a chance to carry on.
Alexa Lauenburger was one of our picks to advance, but so was Michael, so this is a bitter pill to swallow as we think he was better than her and almost everyone else on the night. Maybe there's wild card hope?
The surprises continue on "America's Got Talent: The Champions" every Monday night at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.
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