Did Cotton Candy, Exotic Bird, Sloth, Tulip, or Zebra fall just short of next week's semi-finals?
In a sweet twist, this week’s unmasked star on “The Masked Dancer” actually got to share a touching reunion with one of the panelists. But did the panelist recognize them before the mask came off?
Coming into this week, there were only five celebrities left under those masks and none of them were objectively terrible. They’re not all trained dancers, to be sure, but they all know how to work it and more importantly, they know how to entertain.
It may well be that the most technically proficient dancer isn’t the one who wins this whole thing. After all, America is not filled with true dance judges -- hell, most of this panel has no dance background, including guest panelist Mayim Bialik. They just like to be entertained, and on that front, everyone is delivering each week.
But that doesn't necessarily make it easier to identify who is underneath these elaborate costumes. The panel and viewers at home (aka internet sleuths) are certainly narrowing down their choices, but they may yet be in for a surprise or two.
As it turns out that there is one person affiliated with the show who knows the identities of the masked celebrities, their dance partners. It makes sense, in a way, because that bond is built so much on trust and understanding one another.
As such, it is these dance partners who will provide this week’s most tantalizing clues.
Let’s jump right in with this week’s masks. And don’t worry, before we get to the shocking unmasking, we're going to make you power through the terrible (and occasionally good) guesses made by our illustrious panel of Brian Austin Green, Paula Abdul, Ken Jeong, and Ashley Tisdale first. We do this because we love ... to torture you.
Tulip actually didn’t deliver as compelling a routine as we’ve grown used to. It was like a mod squad, go-go style that certainly fit the style, and had a lot of fun sass and personality to it, but it didn’t seem all that challenging. And it didn’t showcase the talent we know she has with any impressive moments, which is dangerous as the competition tightens.
Guesses: Her dance partner was drinking an iced coffee in a cup with a pink star on it while telling us that being versatile and picking up new skills easily runs in the family. The package was food-packed, with a family-sized bag of potato chips and an open-face peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
She told Ken that she had been performing her whole life before dropping a single word in her regular voice, “lifetime achievements.” Okay, two words, which actually gave a lot away to the panel, confirming that she’s young and certainly not seasoned yet as a human.
Paula started thinking about TikTok influencers this week, throwing out Liza Koshy based on the phrase “Work It,” like Liza’s movie. Brian got a little closer to Twitter’s favorite guess for Tulip by considering past clues to note that she may be one of a pair of famous sisters.
But his guess was Hilary Duff’s sister Hayley, while Mayim Bialik is thinking it could be Jamie Lynn Spears. But none of them are quite as in tune as necessary with youth culture -- or “Dance Moms,” for that matter.
The top guess for weeks online has been Maddie Ziegler’s sister (there’s that sister connection) Mackenzie. They’re certainly not going to back down now that we’re in the home stretch and Tulip is still a front-runner to win this whole thing!
Zebra is actually learning as this season has progressed, getting a little stronger each week. This time, he tried some actual footwork and actually did okay with it at times. He still stomped around and relied on ihs fringe a bit too much, but there is something infectiously fun about watching him do his thing up there, unpolished as it is.
Guesses: The latest batch of clues seemed to confirm that he comes from a country outside the U.S., as we learned that he has two countries rooting him on. He was also called a “fighter,” and we were told he has zero body fat.
Visual clues included a bag with $19.92 on it, likely a reference to the year, and a $1000 donation “for good will.” If we go with last week’s solid Oscar De La Hoya guess, he was “The Golden Boy of boxing” at the ‘92 Olympics, and also won at the Goodwill Games.
His one-word clue was “author,” which didn’t help all that much. But Mayim and Brian were both thinking boxer based on his stance, quickness of feet and even the way he balled his hands up in fists a lot.
Mayim, who hasn’t been here since the first week, immediately went to De La Hoya with her guess, and as a boxing fan we put weight in her guess because she knows and really admires him.
Ashley, however, thinks the “UFC” in a previous clue package could mean this is Conor McGregor, instead. Paula then disappointed everyone by thinking the bee on the $1,000 bill could mean its Barry Bonds. Come on, Paula! We’ve moved on to fighters!
But then we decided that Paula guessing him isn’t nearly as bad as Ashley having no idea who he is at all. Good or bad, doesn’t everyone at least know who Barry Bonds is? That’s one of the biggest names ever in sports!
As for the Twittersphere, once Oscar De La Hoya was tossed out, everyone locked it in and we can’t help but agree. And each new clue seems to slot right into his life, as seen this week.
Sloth continues to almost hide his very strong technique and skill behind the overall silliness he brings to his performances. But he’s easily one of the season’s strongest dancers. His partnering in a couple of lifts was so effortless and done with so much confidence, it was quickly clear he’s done moves like that before, making it seem certain he’s a professional dancer.
Guesses: We learned this week that this guy goes on tour and is hilarious off-stage as he is on. He also apparently has a pretty healthy ego, thinking he’s “sex on a stick” according to his partner. A panda bear was one of our “big” clues, while we were told he’s usually the leading man.
His Word Up clue was “rose,” and when Ashley asked if he was known more for comedic or serious roles, he replied, “I’m all drama.” So clearly he’s having a blast on this show, where he’s been all silly every time he’s hit the stage.
Ken latched onto one of Twitter’s favorite guesses, considering all of the earlier “Glee” clues, and tossed out the name Harry Shum Jr. Ashley, though, was thinking of Broadway leading man, Hugh Jackman, who is all drama professionally but gets very silly on his ongoing feud with Ryan Reynolds.
Mayim really did go out on a limb with her guess of Jack Black, based on seeing the (“Kung Fu”) panda clue, but we’ve seen recent footage of Jack and he’s not currently quite as fit as Sloth, costume notwithstanding.
While some online don’t mind the Jack Black guess, the more popular suspicion is that this is “Dancing with the Stars” pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy goofing around and having some fun.
Alright, I think the Sloth is Jack Black. The panda, 3 languages, rose (he sang Kiss From a Rose on American Idol), it's him. #MaskedDancer
Exotic Bird is another one who keeps getting stronger as the weeks go by, and she’s definitely in a stronger overall position as a dancer than Zebra at this point. There was a confidence throughout this piece, though she was also a little eager (or anxious), which had her just ahead of the beat a lot. It’s clear this isn’t what she does, but she’s enjoying the experience and learning what she’s capable of.
Guesses: Exotic Bird was revealed to be a mother to a baby bird this week, with numerical clues 23 and a 6 on the “Nowhere Diner” behind her and her partner during the dance. We saw a calendar of all Mondays, a model airplane and even a Santa Claus as big clues.
Oh, and Paula is one of her idols -- but isn’t she for most people? Her Word Up clue was “circus,” said in a rather sultry tone. While we appreciate Ashley’s enthusiasm, her Khloe Kardashian guess (because her family is a circus) seems a bit of a stretch.
Mayim had to stretch a little bit to make new mom and former “The Talk” host Eve work, because Santa means … Christmas Eve? Yeah, we’re not loving this guess, either, Mayim.
But Paula is sticking with her previous guess of Jordin Sparks, connecting the 23 to Michael Jordan (based on the name), and the Nowhere Diner is a reference to her hit, “No Air.”
The internet has been torn on this one, though they’re not hating on Paula’s guess. The kid threw a kink in their Venus Williams guess, as they’ve been speculating it was a Williams sister for a while now, too. This one has them more stumped than any of the others.
jordin sparks = exotic bird, i'm pretty sure
the mondays across the top of the calendar are definitely a hint to her song "Permanent Mondays" !!#maskeddancer
Cotton Candy put a little street dancing into this ballet pastiche. Look, the ballet dancing was certainly lacking in many areas, but there’s no denying her athleticism or strength. This wasn’t performed like a true dancer, but definitely like someone who knows how to move and tell a story with their body.
Guesses: Her movements definitely feel more like a gymnast familiar with floor routines than a traditional dancer, which fits with many of the clues and guesses so far. This week, we saw a red, white and blue Miss Perfection sash, as well as a gold watch at 3:00 p.m.
Her partner told us she runs three miles in her mask, just to get used to it, but also used the phrase “vaulted back to her feet,” to talk about her post-fall. But all we could hear was “vault” and think Olympic gymnast.
Cotton Candy’s Word Up was “prayer,” which immediately had Ashley thinking Tara Lipinski (Catholic) and Ken wondering if Julianne Hough was born Mormon. But this is not a trained dancer. She may be an ice skater, but we’re with Paula and Mayim in leaning more gymnast with the jumps and the way she moves.
Brian is still thinking Kristi Yamaguchi, but we’re not buying this as an ice skater. Paula, though, is still feeling confident that it’s Simone Biles. Mayim verified she’s been seen performing for years, with hopes to continue for years to go.
She took the superhero vibe to consider “Heroes” star Hayden Panettiere. But the internet is definitely feeling more and more confident that this is a gymnast, too. The question for them is which one, with Gabby Douglas the most popular among several others like Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Kerri Strug (who had one of the most famous vault moments ever at the ‘96 Olympics).
While Tulip surprised us by under-performing her potential this week, we still thought it would probably come down to Zebra and Exotic Bird as the least technically proficient of the five remaining dancers.
We think only Tulip and Sloth have trained as dancers, while Cotton Candy is most likely a gymnast with some crossover potential due to that training. So, of the other two, we’d personally give the edge to Exotic Bird, as she was just a bit sharper than Zebra.
But we could also see the audience and panel voting to keep a better gender balance in the semi-finals, rather than have Sloth the only male represented there. If so, it could be bad news for the Bird.
While we may never know exactly why these decisions were made -- maybe it was all the fringe and shimmying mesmerizing voters -- but it was Exotic Bird who got the boot. At least it was time for one more round of clues with the panel’s last-minute questions.
And so we learned that she’s “definitely” taller than Ken, used to performing in front of crowds of all sizes, has maybe won a major award and has been on the cover of a magazine. When Paula asked if they’d met before, EB told her, “Girl, yes!” And with all the sass we are here for.
For one thing, Paula Abdul is very good at this game. For another, the clues have really supported this being Jordin Sparks for quite some time. The fact she responded that wya to knowing Paula all but cemented it, so we’re going with Jordin, too.
And that’s absolutely who it was. Jordin Sparks certainly knows Paul Abdul from her time on Season 6 (from the diner) of “American Idol,” where she went on to become the show’s youngest winner at 17 years old.
It makes it even sweeter that she chose to perform to one of Paula’s classic tracks this week, sending that message of love to one of her “idols” from their time together on “Idol” all those years ago.
“The Masked Dancer” continues Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.