"The wild card show is all about redemption," said Howie Mandel at the start of Tuesday's America's Got Talent. And second chances.
Judges Howie, Sharon Osborne and Howard Stern each got to pick four eliminated acts to bring back for another shot at the semifinals.
Broadcast live from Newark, host Nick Cannon said the acts that make it through this week are "two performances away" from $1 million and a chance to headline a live show in Las Vegas.
No. 1: Spencer Horsman, brought back by Howard, is a Houdini-type escape artist and son of two Ringling Bros. circus clowns. He was padlocked into a tank that was filled with wet concrete, and as the clock ticked, he struggled to escape. Of course, he finally did, and he got a standing ovation from the judges. "He almost killed himself," said Nick. "That's what you gotta do to win," said Howard. "You gotta almost kill yourself," adding, "There was a real sense of danger this time. ... It was great. ... You were worth bringing back." Sharon and Howie agreed.
No. 2: All That!, a group of clogging guys from Myrtle Beach, S.C., didn't wow the crowd. Sharon was hoping they'd go shirtless and get "oiled up." On Monday's show, they shook their booties and, at the end, the lead dancer shed his shirt to reveal his muscular, tattooed torso. "They did not disappoint me," said Sharon. But Howie didn't think it was "exciting enough." And Howard agreed with him, saying, "People will fast-forward through that because they will get bored."
No. 3: Jarrett & Raja, a pianist/magician duo picked by Howie, put a grand piano in a giant crate, lifted it up off the stage and it vanished out of the box. It reappeared in the back of the room amid the audience. "I think you're brilliant!" said Howie. "He's acting like he did the trick!" cracked Howard, but he admitted, "I love the big illusion. You really proved that you guys are top-quality pros." Howard even told Howie, "You're a genius." Sharon said theatrically, "It was spectaculah!"
No. 4: Jake Wesley Rogers, a 15-year-old singer Sharon felt deserved a second chance, returned from Missouri to belt out a lackluster version of Lady Gaga's Edge of Glory. "Jakey, I"m really proud of you," said Sharon. Howie said, "I believe you have a future in singing, but I don't think you're going to win this competition and I don't think you're going to go on after tonight." Howard said he felt Rogers didn't connect with the audience.
No. 5: Cristin Sandu, a Las Vegas model brought back by Howie, performed a balancing-act stunt with a platform and steel cylinders surrounded by a ring of fire. He rocked and rolled a little and ended the act by falling as the fire went out and the cylinders crashed to the ground. He tumbled on the stage but popped right up. Howie thanked him for being on the show and wondered if he was hurt. Sandu assured him he was fine and he didn't appear to be injured at all. Howard liked it. "You climb up on that pile of junk. ... It was exciting as hell. People might not vote for you because you fell but I truly enjoyed it." Sharon praised him for being "Mr. Dangerous."
No. 6: Ventriloquist Todd Oliver, Howard's pick, talked to his dog Irving. And his dog Irving talked back. The sketch was political, fast-paced and filled with one-liners about Irving making a bid for the presidency. "You can vote for the black guy or you can vote for the white guy, but with me, you get both," cracked the dog. "You think America wants a dog in Washington?" Oliver asked the dog. "Why not?" he responded. "They've already had a donkey, an elephant and a bunch of clowns." Asked Oliver: "Do you have any experience in foreign affairs?" Yes, replied the dog, "I spent last night with a French poodle." Howard loved it, praising him for being topical and "spot-on." Sharon said it was "definitely a 10." Howie "dittoed" that.
No. 7: Bandbaz Brothers, two acrobats, were brought back by Sharon. They put metal knife-like sticks in their mouths. One stood while the other did a handstand up above him. Then they put the sticks in their mouths, connected them, and balanced, one man atop the other in the air -- stick-to-stick only. No hands. "It was breathtaking," said Sharon. Howard praised the stunt, saying he knew how difficult it was. "Howie and I used to do that together on the old Merv Griffin show," he cracked. Howie called it "crazy," but loved the electricity in the room.
No. 8: Sebastien "El Charro De Oro," a 10-year-old mariachi singer, performed New York, New York with his band accompanying him. The crowd went wild for it. Howie, who brought Sebastien back, told him he is "more than a singer. ... I think you are a star." Sharon said, "You took a big risk, but everything you did tonight -- you and your band -- was superb." Howard, who didn't get up for a standing ovation, noted that Sebastien is 10 going on 25. Howard said the precious performer was "charismatic and talented," but felt his voice was a "little flat" in the midrange, though he was "fantastic" on the high parts. The kid worked the crowd by getting choked up as he said he had to miss his little brothers' birthdays.
No. 9: Horse, 25-year-old Zac Gordon from Pennsylvania, showed off his Johnny Knoxville-type talent by jumping around the stage in his underpants (with three cohorts) getting whacked in the crotch by various contraptions. "Ow," said Howie. "This is a guy who went balls to the walls!" said Howard. "You are nuts," joked Howie. Howard wound up shooting tennis balls out of an air gun into Gordon's crotch as they went to commercial break.
No. 10: Sharon's final pick, dancer Lindsey Norton from Florida, performed an acrobatic dance that showed off her amazing ability to bend, but didn't do much beyond that. Sharon told her she did "really well." Howard said she was "beautiful" but said she might get "overlooked."
No. 11: Andrew De Leon, a makeup artist/opera singer with eerie blue eyes and a goth look, hit all the high notes in his aria to win over the crowd and the judges. "You were terrific," said Howard. "That performance was sensational," said Sharon, adding, "Sensational."
No. 12: Howard's final pick, Ben Blaque, shot arrows -- including blindfolding himself to shoot a target that triggered a domino-like series of shots, with the final one sending an arrow at an apple just above his head. Howard thought it was "phenomenal." Noted Howie, "This has been the most exciting episode of America's Got Talent this season!"