AGT All-Stars 5th Judge: America Keeps Rewarding Worst Acts, Wrongly Incarcerated Singer Shines

An incredible redemption arc played out on “America’s Got Talent,” but we’re still baffled by the results — who are these Superfans and how can we tell them how wrong they’ve been?

Once again, they rewarded some of the weakest acts of the night while completely ignoring some jaw-dropping, heart-stopping and heartbreaking moments. The night featured a showdown between two finalists from “Britain’s Got Talent.” Comedian Axel Blake won it all, while singer Tom Ball’s dream came just short.

The inspirational Archie Williams, who was wrongly incarcerated for 36 years, once again inspired with a powerful song, while deaf singer Mandy Harvey wowed us again with her ability to hit every note flawlessly and with her incredible songwriting.

They faced off against a pair of kid singers, including “AGT” favorite Peter Rosalita and Romanian winner Ana-Maria Mărgean, who also happens to be a self-taught ventriloquist. Speaking of favorites, the World Taekwondo Demonstration Team went big with another high-flying act, while magician Jasper Cherry got up close and personal with Heid for a time travel trick.

Mervant Vera, who combined rap with his own magic, once again owned the stage while Yumbo Dump — well, they make sounds with their bodies. It’s a novelty act that’s at times fascinating and bizarrely funny, but at other times just bizarre. Which version showed up tonight?

Fair warning, since I’m safe at home, I’m probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, 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 artists – AGT:S13 quarter-finalist) There is a certain appeal to this act, and we were charmed by them when they first made a run on “AGT” — but this didn’t feel like they upped their game or brought anything particularly magical to the stage. There may be a reason they’ve yet to win a “Got Talent” show despite appearing in “Asia’s,” France, Germany, Israel and Greece. Even incorporating Heidi into the act didn’t bring any fresh sounds or comedy. We appreciate what they do for what it is, which is an entertaining opening act perhaps, but it’s not worthy of winning a show like this.

(singer – AGT:S16 semi-finalist) An incredibly talented kid when we first saw im, Peter has only grown in confidence and vocal ability. He seems even more connected with his own capabilities, really belting some of this song’s bigger notes. We’re not quite sure he had a moment there, and there were a few moments where it felt a little overperformed. The problem is that he didn’t really do anything to make this performance special, and if you’re going first, you need to make sure you’re going to be remembered.

(ventriloquist – Românii au [Romania’s Got] Talent: S11 winner) At this point, the young singing ventriloquist has been done many times here on the “AGT” stage. Ana-Maria is good at it, but she’s definitely a stronger singer as herself, and she still sounds a bit muffled when she’s doing her ventriloquism. With this format being so played out, we were hoping we’d get more of the fun banter between human and puppet that used to be the centerpiece of these acts — though we do get why the singing is impressive.

(singer – AGT:S15 finalist) Still a heartbreaking story as Archie spent 36 years behind bars for crimes he didn’t commit until he pushed for DNA testing to exonerate him. On top of that, there is so much lived pain and experience in his voice, he brought the house down every time he performed. And yet, with this return, it felt and sounded like he didn’t have quite as much in the tank to really deliver his best. Either that or the performance was just a little subdued for our tastes and for this stage. The audience and panel, however, loved it. Paired with his story and being in that room probably did create a more magical experience.

(comedian – BGT:S15 winner) A charming personality is so much of success in stand-up comedy, and Axel has it oozing out of his pores. Add to that incredibly relatable material with some fun physicality and this was definitely a winning routine. The best compliment we can pay a stand-up comic on the “AGT” stage is that the time flew by and before we knew it, they were done — and we wanted more! We’re ready for a full stand-up special and aren’t surprised he was able to pull off a victory in Britain.

(magician/rapper – AGT:S17 semi-finalist) His showmanship is much stronger, as is his freestyle rapping. With seven random words, he incorporated them into his rhymes three different ways for each sequence, and all the while holding together a pretty coherent message of positivity and drive. The final twist with the woman holding a word and the letters on the backs of his seven words was that magical hook he needed. We still wish he’d do a little more magic, but it is a compelling and unique act featuring two impressive talents.

(singer – AGT:S12 finalist) Mandy blew us away the first time she came out as a deaf singer, trusting in her pitch and memory of her own voice before she lost her hearing. This time, she came out so much stronger and more confident as a singer and performer. We loved the incorporation of ASL into the performance, and once again were blown away by her pitch. She has a bit of a Lisa Loeb sound (and look when we first saw her), with that gentle indie pop vibe. This was a very well written original song performed beautifully; a perfect showcase for all of her talent.

(magician – BGT:S14 finalist) After coming just short on “Britain’s Got Talent,” Jasper said that he feels he’s a better showman than before. While the time travel trick on the phones seemed as simple as Jasper bumping the time on his phone a few minutes before rolling it back to real time to synch with everyone else (who paid attention before he called attention to it?), we were impressed with his deft card maneuvering and the quick change of Heidi’s photograph and all the clues about her card from his video making his way from the UK to America. He really is a solid magician and a very entertaining showman — and at only 16 years old, he’s got a bright future ahead of him.

(martial artists – AGT:S16 finalist) A cleaner performance than when they scored Terry’s Golden Buzzer their first time on the show, this is one of the most physically impressive acts ever seen on this show (and in Italy and France, where they were also finalists but fell short). We love seeing the ladies get in on the action as much as the guys, and are blown away by their aerial skills and the accuracy of those kicks and punches while airborne. It’s the kind of act you find yourself holding your breath through. As always, this group delivers!

(singer – BGT:S15 finalist) Tom lost to Axel Blake this year, so this was the young school teacher’s redemption opportunity to change the outcome of his “Got Talent” journey. If you’re going to come out as a singer on a show oversaturated with them and with so much variety, you really need to find a way to punch people in the ears and really get their attention. Tom nailed that with just enough tweaks to “The Sounds of Silence” to keep you paying attention and perk you up to realize how special he is and how incredible his instrument is. He may be the strongest pure singer we’ve seen this season. For his efforts, he scored the Group Golden Buzzer, and it was well-earned and well-deserved.

These “AGT” Superfans have been loving the physical acts this season, which is very good news for World Taekwondo Demonstration Team … and Yumbo Dump? In all seriousness, World Taekwondo was a fan-favorite their first time around and they brought it again with a very strong performance. We fully expected them to be in America’s Top 3.

We thought they might be joined by Archie Williams, who is so endearing as a person — with a tragically unfair life story — and magician Jasper Cherry, who was a lot of fun to watch. From there, though, it would have probably come down to Taekwondo and Archie, with the martial artists getting the edge.

At least, that’s how we thought it would go. Obviously, in our own rankings, we had Mandy Harvey in our Top 3 along with the aforementioned Top 2, but we just didn’t see America celebrating two singers. Especially in this season when the Superfans have been pushing for more unexpected and variety-driven acts.

So what did they do this week after Tom Ball scored the free ride to the finale thanks to the Group Golden Buzzer?

After the usual agonizingly long wait so the camera can pan over a bunch of faces, we were gobsmacked that Peter Rosalita picked up one of those slots. Did they find old-school “AGT” fans that are suckers for kid singers? He’s talented, but he wasn’t even in the Top 3 singers on the night!

Keeping the surprises going — and the love for kid singers — Ana-Maria Mărgean scored the next spot in the Superfan’s Top 3. So that’s our 8th and 9th place finishers out of 10 total acts. Did that mean Yumbo Dump rounded out America’s Top 3, flipping our rankings completely? Are we living in Bizarro World?

Well, in a way we are, but in this case it was more about the Superfans agreeing with us that Mandy Harvey had one of the strongest nights. What is remarkable is that after four weeks of celebrating variety, this week’s Superfans picked three singers, albeit one that sings with a puppet.

Considering Mandy Harvey came in 4th in our overall rankings, it seemed obvious to us that she would be the one to advance to the finals. But after getting the other two so wrong, we weren’t nearly as confident in that.

Coming in third place out of tonight’s unlikely trio was a continuation of everything being backwards and upside down in our world as we said goodbye to Mandy Harvey and hello to two kid singers. In the end, the kid advancing to the finals was Ana-Maria, coming from a victory in Romania to a step closer to a win here.

Clearly, we still love singing ventriloquists. Maybe there is room for her on the Las Vegas strip, after all. Maybe she could partner with Terry Fator and Darci Lynne and

“America’s Got Talent: All-Stars” continues Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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