AGT Fifth Judge: Tribute to Lost Twin, Incredible Balancing Act, Sofia Whipped and in Tears Twice

Emotions were palpable as “America’s Got Talent” returned from a one week holiday induced hiatus, with Sofia Vergara tearing up at two different acts.

We can’t blame her, though, as there were some powerful moments on the night, with tributes to fallen family members and friends, as well as stories of inspiration and perseverance in the face of what some might see as insurmountable odds.

Sofia was also coaxed on stage to help out one act who basically started whipping everything around her. How is it that she’s become the go-to person for all of these?

Actually, with her humor and nervous reactions, it’s easy to see why she’s basically replaced Howie Mandel as human guinea pig.

Speaking of Howie, he was MIA this week, leading to a running gag on the show to determine if it was Simon Cowell who got him sick with tangerines, or if Sofia was the problem considering Howie and Heidi Klum have been sick and Simon had his accident. Maybe that’s why she keeps being sent up to risk injury?

The night also saw a pretty fun escape artist act — with two simultaneous escape artists — and two very different but equally impressive acrobatic acts. One couple brought lyrical beauty to the rings while a pair of brothers took the rolla bolla balancing act to literal new heights.

Fair warning, since I’m safe at home, I’m probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Heidi Klum, Sofia Vergara, and Simon Cowell. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe.

And just for fun, I’m gonna rank them from worst to first to see how my favorites do and then we can see how you did — i.e., if you agreed with me.

(performance artist) “How you guys doing, tonight?” Not great, man. Not great. Ill-fitting costume with ill-fitting rubber head and this is the act? Repeating this phrase? Check, please!

Results: X, X, X

(animal trainer) Roaches? The whole thing is about having these giant insects just walk with a whole lot of direct guidance. “You guys are really mean,” Shanay said after the audience turned on her and she got buzzed by Heidi and Sofia (who was really grossed out). But the act was terrible. That’s not training at all. They did no stunts at all. They walked. Simon tried to get Sofia to change her vote, but she held her ground.

Results: X, X/N, Y

(performance artist) “Dino” Don has been a legend in the dinosaur industry for decades, but this was not a great showcase of his overall greatness and impact. After saying he trains animals who’ve never been trained before, out came two people in (admittedly impressive) velociraptor costumes to dance terribly behind a woman singing terribly with more terrible dancers. The whole thing was just terrible, and that’s putting it kindly. Don just kind of stood there once the act started, so he wasn’t even part of it. Everything was so amateurish. It could have been a fun, bizarre art piece, but instead it was a mess.

Results: N, N, N

(singer) Erica wrote a Broadway-themed musical number for Simon all about how he judges and, of course, he was loving it. The girls, however, quickly gave her two buzzes, and we kind of have to agree. We loved the idea of an original Broadway number, but the singing was subpar at best and the production behind her was more a parody of actual stage productions than anything with true meaning behind it.

Results: X, X, Y (probably)

(whip artist) Adam’s act started pretty simply with him whipping on either side of her as he moved closer. But honestly, this wasn’t all that great or exciting. The best part was when he asked her if she’d ever been whipped, and she coyly smiled and finally said not on a stage like this. There was a little more challenge involved in whipping bits of toilet paper as Sofia swung them around her head. And then he upped the ante with a leaf blower blasting a roll of toilet paper that he could tear up. He’s clearly very skilled with the whip, but we still weren’t all that blown away by the act itself.

Results: Y, Y, X

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(acrobats) We’ve seen a lot of balancing acts before, including most of what we saw in the short snippet we got. Heidi mentioned them putting a twist on their act with comedy, but we didn’t really get to see that, which is unfortunate. Because what we saw (save from the drawn-on mustaches) was a fairly generic act with two guys balancing one and with one another.

Results: Y, Y, Y

(singers) K-Pop isn’t just for South Korea anymore. This seven-person group from Japan came out with a lot of energy and great harmonies. Simon wasn’t blown away by the song, which was pretty corny, but there’s no denying they have a great stage presence and a ton of personality. That last factor is a huge reason BTS blew up beyond even people who could understand what they were saying. Charm can carry you miles, and these guys have plenty of that.

Results: Y, Y, Y

(escape artists) A rather unique escape stunt with two artists handcuffed together but in separate barrels. One has a single hairpin which is all they collectively have to free themselves within 90 seconds before “minor” explosives detonate the barrels. You know, just minor explosives. We were at least told that the audience and building would be safe, so that’s good. The explanation was a great buildup of tension for the act itself. In true danger act fashion, things appeared to go terribly wrong with the guys inside the barrels too long and the explosives went off. Then, however, they showed up posing as camera crew to get close-ups on the judges’ faces. So they were never in there? Misdirection to another level!

Results: Y, Y, Y

(violinist) Alex auditioned twice in 24 hours. We got a glimpse of his first audition, where Simon said he liked the artist but hated the song. Unfortunately, Alex only prepared the one piece, so Simon gave him a day to ready another. Thus, the second audition. He started a little slow with this Dua Lipa “New Rules” cover, and we’re not into all of his physical choices as a performer, but it got better and better as he went along. He’s clearly very talented and committed to what he does, and it was filled with some great moment. He made the most of this second chance for sure and it paid off.

Results: Y, Y, Y

(singer) Ben came out to finally give himself a shot to chase his dreams. He’s put family and career and the people he helps first for years, but this was his moment. And wow did he seize it. It was a beautiful take on Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors,” with a deep, resonant voice that was filled with genuine heart and emotion. According to his website, Ben was borth with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita and is confined to a wheelchair. He’s also a vocal coach and gospel singer. You could hear that gospel quality in how he attacked this vocal. It was a great audition that left Sofia in tears.

Results: Y, Y, Y

(acrobats) The very first stunt with the rolla bolla had these brothers place the balancing contraption on one of their backs while the other did the balancing. We then saw the one on the ground rise all the way up to his feet with his brother still balancing (and even juggling at one point). It was an incredible showcase of their control and an amazing opening stunt to prove they did not come here to play. Apparently the way to top it is to repeat the stunt on the top of the head. It was incredible to watch for even a few moments and they held it quite a bit.

Results: Y, Y, Y

(dancers) There was an over-the-head flip we’ve never seen before and it was so well executed. Stefanny was Yeeremy’s teacher back in Colombia and it’s clear they’ve been dancing for quite a while. There was so much trust in one another, helping them land some genuinely intricate work. We loved the costume and style change into Latin about a third of the way through. Both changes were seamless as they created a truly memorable dance performance from start to finish with strong technique and artistry. We also kind of loved Sofia’s feud with the translator, who kept translating her words to the couple into English.

Results: Y, Y, Y

(acrobats) We’ve seen a lot of rings acts with acrobats, but this one really had great musicality, chemistry and showmanship on top of the incredible feats of strength. The couple, who are romantic in real life, have such trust in one another and such awareness of their own bodies and their partners that it was a seamless performance throughout. Acrobats struggle at times to be lyrical like dance, but this was a great combination of the musical artistry of dance and the physical acrobatics of gymnastics.

Results: Y, Y, Y

(a cappella group) This audition had an extra layer of meaning for the kids as they were performing an original song from one of their members who tragically passed away recently at just 15 years old. His song asks, “When is it my turn?” Based on that powerful, emotional performance, their turn is now. The group has been performing together for four years, despite being aged only 12-17. Nevertheless, that experience was so evident throughout as they were so polished, covering all the layers of their performance with stunning solo work, great harmonies and even the bass and percussion voices holding down the bottom.

Results: Y, X, Y, Y

(singer) Wyn is a twin and sang an original song to honor his brother, who he lost recently. The song has a very cool rhythm with a very current sounding cadence to the chorus and bridge. On top of that, Wyn’s voice just soars so effortlessly to the heavens and with perfect control throughout his range. It was both powerful and inspirational; about as good a tribute as anyone could hope for. Wyn did his brother and himself proud with this huge moment. He has one of the strongest voices to ever grace these “AGT” stages.

Results: Y, Y, Y

“America’s Got Talent” airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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