AGT 5th Judge: Kodi Lee Returns with Teddy Swims for Epic Journey Cover -- Plus, 2 Acts Advance

Once again, it’s time to clutch our favorite blanket and try not to rend it to shreds as we watch the brutal takedown of nine acts on “America’s Got Talent” — oh, and two will advance to this season’s finals.

This week saw a wide array of impressive performers, with a solid five of them having done enough to advance, by our reckoning. But our reckoning isn’t enough. As Simon Cowell said during last week’s results show — clearly in response to criticism of this new format — “Tough.”

The decision was his, cribbed from his spinoff “Champions” format that allowed even more familiar faces to hit the stage. The problem is that these aren’t all champions, meaning there were also some half-baked acts that didn’t appear ready for this opportunity at all.

This results show also features a reminder of what it was like to root for a favorite across several rounds of competition before the finals (instead of just two) by bringing back “AGT” winner and favorite Kodi Lee. Still inspirational and just incredible every time he performs, this is a former contestant we never get tired of seeing.

Kodi’s already won “America’s Got Talent.” Could any of this week’s eleven acts repeat that feat? They have to survive a brutal 2-out-of-11 elimination first to even get that shot in just a few weeks’ time. Who did enough?

Will Simon’s Golden Buzzer, Sara James, sing her way into the finals? She was our favorite act of the night, so we’ve got a good feeling about her. We’re also bullish on ventriloquist Celia Munoz, who took the artform to a new level. Ventriloquists have also done very well on this show.

But so have magicians, and Nicolas Ribs certainly wowed with his digital-to-life creations. And then there’s the more dark horse types of acts, with so few advancing, like inspirational singer Amanda Mammana, comedian Hayden Kristal and maybe if enough tweens vote, JoJo Siwa’s XOMG POP! could surprise us all.

Did they have to make finalists stand on the stage while we cut to this video? The night is hard enough already, they could have done the results before or after this video, instead of dropping it into the middle of the Top 5 reveal (we’ll get to that in a bit). Howie Mandel put on a wig and mask to disguise himself and then while he was mingling with the people in the VIP area, SImon fed him what to say via an earpiece.

Yes, it’s a tired bit we’ve seen countless times before, but it’s all about those unsuspecting fan reactions. At one point, Howie was on the ground doing a “soles of the shoes” security check, while with another couple he asked them to prove that they’re “very important people.”

“My job is to get him punched,” Simon said as one woman got offended at Howie over this line of questioning. It was a cute bit with everyone smiling and laughing by the end — plus, Simon got to destroy that hideous prank statue from last season when he had Howie use a fan to knock it over!

For his latest return to the stage that made him, Kodi was paired with YouTube sensation Teddy Swims, with both of their voices soaring effortlessly through Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Making the moment even more special, they were joined by founding member of Journey, Neal Schon. Not only were they incredible individually, but their harmonies were gorgeous. Add Kodi’s command on the piano and it was yet another reason America fell in love with him. They did give Teddy more of the lead, but he stepped up and handled it effortlessly.

What’s a little disappointing is that Kodi Lee could have been performing his first-ever original song, which was released Wednesday. Fans have seen him perform incredible covers for years, but this is the first time hearing him bring to life something all his own, and it’s a real “Miracle.” So why didn’t “AGT” let him perform it on their stage? Tragic! At least they announced that it existed.

Our Top 5 acts in order were Sara James, Celia Munoz, Amanda Mammana, Nicolas Ribs, and Funkanometry — but we didn’t think that’s at all how America was going to vote. We did believe our Top 2 would make it into this arbitrary division that seems to only exist to ratchet up anxiety and drag out the torture for three acts who were still going to get cut.

Sara and Celia should definitely be in this group, but we thought they’d be joined by Amanda, Nicolas, and comedian Hayden Kristal. As always, though, America can be extremely unpredictable when it comes to voting on shows like this.

Hayden came up first with The Kline Twins, which didn’t bode well for the boys. We did rank them higher than her because their set felt more unique and was extremely polished, but she was charming and her act is the kind of thing America understands and can get behind more. And they did, putting Hayden Kristal in the Top 5.

Celia squared off against Mia Morris, which was another no-brainer. Mia just did not come with a polished enough performance. Her voice was a mess and she was all over the place — and that was with opening her mouth. Of course Celia Munoz took the second spot.

Then, it was time for XOMG POP!, Funkanometry and Amanda to find out their fates. Of the three, our pick would be Amanda (and she was our prediction). So is that what America did? Or did JoJo’s Siwanatorz take over? Nope, as we went three for three so far with Amanda Mammana advancing.

Nicolas Ribs pitted magic against technology in his act, and then squared off against it with MPLUSPLUS. We had the dance troupe last in our rankings with Nicolas in our Top 4, so it had to be him, right? We didn’t want to look that out of touch — and thankfully we didn’t, as Nicolas Ribs moved into this week’s Top 5.

That left singer against singers, and our top act of the night versus one we put in ninth place. Could JoJo and Bri pull of a huge upset and dethrone Sara James after her astounding performance? There was no way, as Sara James advanced and made us five for five in predictions … so far, so good.

For this round, we predicted Celia and Sara would face off against Nicolas. Amanda was great, but she unfortunately had to go up on a week with Sara and only two acts advancing — and we just didn’t think two singers would move forward. Thus, we bumped Amanda, letting Nicolas slide into our third position. Hayden, we suspected, would follow all the other comedians this season so far and fall short.

This remains the most pointless waste of time on the show. Unless the judges’ Wild Card picks are going to be pulled from third place finishers only, what is the point of giving one person maybe five more minutes of hope before shattering their hearts? We’d have rather a second performance from Kodi Lee (maybe singing his original song!) than a needless round of eliminations.

Rather than eliminating anyone, Terry instead just built the Top 3, starting with Nicolas Ribs, who was almost breathless in shock. He was quickly joined by Celia Munoz. That meant for us to go three for three in this round, it had to be Sara advancing. And it was, so we took a Round 2 victory lap as well as Sara James celebrated and the audience chanted her name.

This was the part of the show where we lost a little bit of confidence when making our predictions. We ultimately stuck by our guns in thinking that Celia and Sara would step into the finals in a few weeks, but we had this worry about just how well-received Nicolas was, and how impressive his magic was. “AGT” audiences love ventriloquists and magic.

As you can see, we felt super confident that Sara was a lock, but less so with the act that would join her. The first act that guaranteed their spot in the finals was Sara James, which makes sense. There really wouldn’t be any tension with her against any of the other two for the final spot.

As it was, there was plenty as we really had no idea how America would go between these two. That should bode well for the other maybe being one of the judges’ Wild Card picks that America will vote into the finals. But that’s for two weeks down the road. Right now, we needed one more finalist, and this is where our prediction streak came to an end.

Magician Nicolas Ribs rose to the occasion and took that final spot. He said his dream is to be the best magician in the world, and this is one of the best stages to fight for such a dream. His continues for at least one more round — where he’ll square off against another magician, Yu Hojin.

Next week, eleven new acts take to the stage ahead of yet another drawn out elimination that will only see two of them advancing to the live finale, but they didn’t reveal who’s in that show yet.

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

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