It was certainly a competitive night of incredible acts and almost everyone really stepped up their game. We had comedians facing off against one another, magicians facing off and three incredible danger/acrobat acts.
Surprisingly, there were only two singing acts and not nearly as many kids as you might expect from an "AGT" season, but we did still have a kid comedian, a kid dog trainer and a kid violinist, so the pre-teen set remains well--represented.
The big question was if the similar acts would cannibalize each other's results, but it doesn't seem like that happened at all. In fact, these were some genuinely stunning results as some of the above mentioned categories were wiped out entirely by the votes.
(performance artist) There is something so ridiculous about this character, but Hans embodies it so beautifully that he brings you into his crazy world. We loved the idea of him campaigning, roasting Simon a bit for buzzing him last round and even sharing some of the hate tweets he's gotten. Less exciting was that the singing and dancing was just more of the same and only so-so ... but there's no denying Hans knows how to bring the party.
(comedian) Incredibly disappointing, this was the weakest we've seen Ryan. His material wasn't as good and even his delivery seemed to show that he was sensing he was losing the room. There just weren't enough laughs and he was talking too long to get to them. Everything about his dad fell totally flat and then the bits with his mom and the tube socks just didn't do enough to redeem. Ryan is so funny, it was rough to watch him falter like this.
Tyler Butler Figueroa
(violinist) Tyler tried something dramatically different with "What a Wonderful World" and we're not sure it really worked for him. He's known for his uptempo and energetic performances, and it's there that he can stand out and look special. The playing here wasn't particularly better than you might see from a very good 12-year-old, which means Tyler somehow lost what made him special. He stepped it up when a vocalist joined him, but the whole experience was just lacking compared to what we've seen from him before.
(magician) Less flashy than his last time on the stage, Marc as X managed to concoct a pretty good act around Terry Crews that involved phantom tapping, imagining a watch into reality and even a trip into Terry's home. It was a very simple presentation that nevertheless was super-cool to watch. But will the lack of flash hurt him with American voters?
(contortionist) Maybe the bucket trick at the end was a bit of a letdown, but otherwise Strauss really did step it up, showing us more contortions and twists to his body that we haven't seen yet. We do think he spent a little too long showing off just how much he can take his right shoulder out of its socket, to the point it got a little repetitive, but he's still crazy and mesmerizing to watch what he'll twist into next.
(magician) Not everything worked in Dania's story, but her magic remains remarkable. Some of the tricks with the holed cards weren't completely clear for the audience (as when the tear repaired itself) so we fear the superfans may miss just how impressive it was. We still love how she incorporates story into her act, but it's just unfortunate it was that story that let her down just a little bit (for example, the three tenets of her life switching which card was which was just a sloppy detail; minor but still there.
(acrobats) While not wholly different from what we saw before, with a few repeated tricks, there was enough danger and upgraded elements to make this a genuine step up from their previous audition. This is genuinely incredible balance and strength and trust the two of them share and it makes for a sensationally exciting routine. But we keep finding ourselves wondering if it's flashy enough -- in this case dangerous -- for an American audience? Danger acts have almost always faltered here as Americans tend to stick to more traditional entertainment.
(acrobats) You want the ante upped, and Duo Transcend managed to outdo not only their own past, but the past of other danger skaters we've seen with that last twist move. It was incredibly powerful to watch, so dangerous and just awesome to behold. They needed to find a way to stand out among all the other acrobats on the night and they definitely made a bold statement with both trapeze and skate tonight.
(comedian) So it looks like JJ is an insult comic a la Don Rickles, which certainly has worked for plenty of comedians before him. And you know what? JJ actually stepped up his game roasting the judges more savagely than the first round and -- most importantly -- it was much funnier, too. Cute and tiny and ruthless makes for a fun combination. He had everyone backstage, in the audience and on the panel roaring.
(singer) It is amazing every single time that Marcelito can sing full-throated in both his upper and lower registers, and both of them are so powerful, so in tune, so commanding. It's just an incredible gift that he has and one that he's also honed to perfection. He may be the only person who could literally sing any song that's been recorded and probably nail it just about the way the original artist did, male or female.
Sandou Trio Russian Bar
(acrobats) Well if there's one guaranteed way to raise the bar (so to speak) in this kind of an act it's with fire. And round by round, that's just what this incredibly unique act did. By the end, she was literally standing in fire and doing flips back down into it. Yes, this can seem to get repetitive, but it is just outstanding every single time she flips and nails the landing, and adding those elements of fire made it all the more breathtaking to watch.
(dog trainer) It is incredible that Alexa is as young as she is because she puts on an incredible dog act. Her dogs are so disciplined and their tricks have a really diversity to them. She has so many to wrangle just by herself and handles it beautifully. And even when it doesn't go perfect, she reins them in and still gets the job done. This is hard work, but it's also something to do with her innate personality and just a real talent. And it was definitely a step up from the last time we saw her.
Here's something that seems incredibly unlikely, we have all three acrobatic acts in our Top 6 and we just can't imagine the superfans putting all three of them through. It's also hard to imagine the feel-good story of Tyler Butler Figueroa ends here, despite how low we ranked him.
We could also see Dania Diaz advancing over Marc Spellman if the voters decide they want a magician to carry on. As for predictions of what voters will do (over what they should), we stand by Alexa Lauenburger, JJ Pantano and Marcelito Pomoy from our Top 6.
Beyond that, we'll guess that Tyler advances alongside Sandou Trio Russian Bar and maybe Duo Transcend. If that's too much danger for America, than Dania Diaz moves on. But are we right?
Half of the dozen acts that competed tonight will advance into the finals, which is better odds than the last round. But coming this close has to also be just devastating for the acts that fall just short.
Already we knew we were wrong when Hans and Strauss Serpent were brought forward, and we really thought that meant this was a lock for Strauss, but America clearly was into the madness Hans brings.
It was kid v kid when JJ Pantano and Tyler Butler Figueroa were brought up together and America again stunned us by booting the hilarious JJ for the maudlin performance of Tyler Butler Figueroa.
Terry kept things mysterious by pairing Dania Diaz not with X but with Marcelito Pomoy for the next results, which had us thinking her unique take on magic didn't connect with voters. And that's exactly what happened as Marcelito Pomoy took that third slot.
Next up, was Alexa Lauenburger and Marc Spelmann. This one should be a no-brainer, and it was as Alexa Lauenburger and her dogs carry on. So no magicians carrying on this time.
With two spots and three acrobat acts left, we knew it was too much for America. Sandou Trio Russian Bar was paired off against Ryan Niemiller, who really blew it this week. But it's possible America would remember how much they love him anyway, but that's not what happened. Sandou Trio Russian Bar took their well-deserved spot.
But that left the Duo acts to face off, which was disappointing, because both Transcend and Destiny were fantastic on the night. Our edge goes to Transcend, but Terry threw these 6th and 7th place vote-getters fates in the hands of the judges.
So what did they do? They listened to our very reasonable plea (surely) and put Duo Transcend through.
That said, though, we'd have really liked to have seen both acts go through as both were incredible and deserving. Can we boot Hans? (we love you, Hans!)
It's already time for the finals, coming next Monday on "America's Got Talent: The Champions" at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.