It’s almost over. We’re down to the finals on “America’s Got Talent: The Champions.”
After years of training and weeks of competition, it all comes down to this: Ten winners from different “Talent” editions around the world have one performance to prove they are “the best in the world,” as judge Simon Cowell said.
“The real story of the night is that there is 10 acts and only one act is going all the way,” Howie Mandell added. “There is more pressure tonight than there ever has been.”
If you couldn’t tune in, don’t fret. Here’s our report on the good, the bad and just plain ugly acts, based on feedback from judges Cowell, Mandell, Heidi Klum and Alesha Dixon:
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V. Unbeatable, Mandel’s Golden Buzzer winner, took the competition to new heights with countless high-flying stunts and flips that you have to see to believe. Mandel bowed down to the group and the crowd erupted in the loudest applause of the night.
“Oh my God! This is by far the best act that has ever graced any of the stages in any talent show,” Mandel declared. Klum added: “I really don’t know how you can top this.”
Sandou Trio Russian Bar upped their game to a shockingly dangerous level. Not only did the acrobats opt out of a safety net, they performed over a bed of 160 spikes. As if their act weren’t risky enough, the bar was lit on fire and the flyer was blindfolded.
“That was raising the game. You literally lit a fire in this audience. You nailed it,” said a pun-happy Mandel. Cowell called the acrobats “certifiably insane,” adding, “You have my absolute respect.”
Duo Transcend also raised the bar by performing their entire trapeze act blindfolded. After nailing their dangerous performance, the couple shared a sweet kiss, visibly overcome with emotion after rising to the occasion.
“I think this was the best performance we’ve ever seen from these two, because they took such a ginormous risk. It was so difficult what you just did,” Cowell said. “I see how much this means to you and I think you’ve given yourselves a real shot after that.”
The judges agreed that violinist Tyler Butler-Figueroa also has a real chance at winning following his rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
“You decided to do one of the most iconic songs of all time, stripped back, no gimmicks,” Cowell said. “It made you so vulnerable and endearing.”
Singer Angelina Jordan, Klum’s Golden Buzzer winner, performed a stripped-down version of Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” as the crowd waved their lit phones in the air.
“You make your Golden Buzzer mama so proud,” Klum exclaimed. “I can feel it all the way down to my bones that you are a superstar in the making.”
Cowell added: “You made this final way, way better because you’ve set a real standard here.”
Silhouettes, Dixon’s Golden Buzzer-winning dance group, shared a powerful message about homelessness with just the shadows of their bodies. It brought Klum and Dixon to tears, but didn’t move Cowell.
“I think on a night like this, where it’s the best of the best, it’s about pulling out a performance of a lifetime. I don’t think that was as good as your previous performance,” Cowell said. Dixon objected, yelling, “Absolutely rubbish!”
Singer Marcelito Pomoy tackled Howard Ashman’s classic “Beauty and the Beast,” showcasing his ability to effortlessly sing in both falsetto and baritone.
Dixon said his voice “never gets old,” but Cowell said he played it safe: “If it was my choice on a night like this, I would have done something less predictable.”
The not so good
Alexa Lauenburger kicked off the competition with an act featuring her “best friends in the entire world,” her eight dogs. The German teen proved you can teach an old dog new tricks with clever stunts that featured her pups jumping rope, doing backflips and even a Congo line at the end.
But, Cowell wasn’t impressed.
“This is not going to make me very popular,” he said to many boos. “This is nowhere near as good as the (other) two performances. The show is called ‘Champions.’ This is the finals. Based on that, I think you have just blown your chance of winning the show.”
Boogie Storm, Mandel’s Golden Buzzer that was stolen and pushed by Cowell, failed to impress Mandel again. He buzzed out the group halfway through their dance routine that began with a special “Star Wars”-themed message from Cowell’s son, Eric.
“It was supposed to be my Golden Buzzer and it wouldn’t have been that,” Mandel said. “I’ll be honest with you. I don’t get it. The dancing is not fantastic and there’s no message.”
Cowell was willing to concede their act was not enough to win, although he enjoyed their effort: “If Boogie Storm wins tonight, I will get a tattoo.”
The criticism from Cowell didn’t stop there. He buzzed out accordionist Hans during an explosive song-and-dance routine the featured glitter, sass, tap dancing and his signature splits.
“Without being rude … Honestly this was torture,” Cowell said. Hans fired back: “The good thing is it doesn’t matter what he’s thinking. It’s for the fans.”
And Hans is right. The competition is now up to the panel of pre-selected superfans from 50 states, who will vote to crown the “Champion.” The winner will be revealed during the results finale on Feb. 17 (NBC, 8 EST/PST).