AGT: All-Stars 5th Judge Shocker: Once Again, Strongest Act Booted -- Still Waiting for Another to Finish

Once again, the crazy format of “America’s Got Talent: All-Stars” leads to a shocking upset. Did a great act go through? Yes. Did the best act? No.

For this fourth round of auditions, some truly incredible acts returned to the “AGT” stage, while some international superstars made their “AGT” debuts. That included winners from the Philippines (acrobatic Power Duo), Romania (dancer Darius Mabda) and Belgium (dancers Mini Droids), as well as a “Britain’s Got Talent” finalist, magician Aidan McCann.

The night also saw the return of creepy magician Sacred Riana, who did win Asia’s Got Talent before competing in America, Britain and France. Other familiar faces to the “AGT” franchise returning were blind blues singer Robert Finley, the powerhouse Ndlovu Youth Choir from South Africa, cellists Emil & Dariel (all grown up), singer Cristina Rae and the weirdness that is Human Fountains.

Some of these acts have really stepped up their game from the last time we saw them, making for a very exciting night of performances — and more frustration than ever that only two acts will advance. One was Heidi’s Golden Buzzer choice, leaving the “AGT” Superfans to pick only one other act.

We don’t hate their decision as much as we hate the format, because it’s random what night these acts are going to compete on. So it seems incredibly unfair to some that if they’re on a stacked night, only one can advance. Even just one more round before the finale would ensure a better lineup makes it to the end.

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) Simon hated these guys the first time around and after “AGT,” they did return to their day jobs. But, when TikTok blew up, they jumped on the platform with their “stuipid” antics and now have millions of followers. Well, sometimes stupid human tricks are best left to that shorter form, as this really petered out about halfway through. There were some fun visuals, and the preparation of the hot dog was amusing, but more than half of their gags weren’t funny at all. They didn’t win Simon over, either, though he did make it almost to the end before hitting his X.

(magician – AGT:S13 quarter-finalist) When the act first stopped, it felt unfinished. It was also overly slow and confusing. We love the creepy characterization she brings to these performances, but this magic wasn’t all that impressive as it hardly seemed like magic at all. Instead, it was all mood and no substance. Then, she just disappeared.

We didn’t think the act was over, but at that point, we found ourselves kind of not caring if it was or wasn’t, rather than desperately hanging on to our seats in terror and anxiety. Simon said he tried to X her performance and his buzzer didn’t work, and then the show moved on (but we expected a follow-up … that we never forgot). That was it. She forgot to end her own act. If she could marry a solid act with her persona, she’d really have magic on her hands.

(dancers – Belgium’s Got Talent: S7 winner) We appreciated the old school jams and breakdancing, but there was nothing innovative or new in what they did. It actually reminded us of actual amateur street dancing from kids as they’re just starting to learn the new tricks and they haven’t started experimenting yet. This was cute and we appreciate their commitment, but no way this is enough to stack up against this level of talent.

(musicians – AGT:S9 finalist) Just 16 and 14 years old the first time they competed nine years ago, these brothers have grown up and have nearly a decade more experience on the cello, which can really elevate your game. There was a definite 2CELLOS vibe to what they do, taking over established songs with their rocking cello stylings. That said, the playing of 2CELLOS is a little stronger (it’s easier to hide the break when you shift bow direction than they were doing on sustained notes).

That said, though, it was a high energy and fun performances and they know how to make their instruments sing in a very modern and cool way you don’t see often from the classical instruments. Simon pointed out that they’re very boring and challenged them to say something interesting about who they are and why they’re doing this. They couldn’t do it. Sharing that they’re both going into dentistry didn’t really help.

(singer – AGT:S15 3rd place) Homeless when we first met her in 2020, “AGT” really did change Cristina’s life. What came through in this performance is a sense of confidence that she didn’t have. This is a woman who is fully in her power now. Yes, she still wants more out of her career, but now she believes that she’s worthy of it. She’s always had an incredible voice, and she sounded great here again, but that extra layer was this newfound grace and presence. It looked really good on her.

(singer – AGT:S14 semi-finalist) After his “AGT” run, Robert got the chance to record an album and record with major acts like The Black Keys and Greta Van Fleet. He continues to be a living testament that age and disability are only an impediment if you let them be. While we weren’t as enamored with his low falsetto, the rest of his voice went over like warm butter. He is such a natural blues singer, you believe he’s lived what he sings — and these are originals that tell his life story, so he has! Robert is a special kind of artist and it was fun to have him back, but we weren’t sure this was enough. The panel was, as they gushed over it like it was the best performance of the night (Simon wished he had a platinum buzzer). We’re not so sure.

(magician – BGT:S14 finalist) He made his “BGT” appearance at just 11 years old, making his way all the way to the finals. He still managed to parlay that into worldwide shows, got to perform with Shin Lim, appeared on talk shows and even hosted his own. A little long to get to the big reveal, but it was worth it. Aidan has an adorable stage presence, and his trick of predicting the makeup of a superhero costume was beautifully excited with a lot of charm to keep it moving before the fun final moments. In a totally unexpected moment (for us), Heidi’s “head” told her to slam the Golden Buzzer, sending Aidan straight to the finals.

(acrobats/aerialists – Pilipinas [Philippines] Got Talent: S5 winner) Not only did they win in 2016, they professed their love for one another on the stage and have since gotten married and now share a one-year-old son. It’s a sweet story of following your heart, which has now brought them to the United States. There was a minor mishap with one aerial stunt, but we were more impressed with their acrobatic maneuvers on the ground. The rapidity and precision of their motions, and the strength and trust was impressive. But more importantly, there was genuine emotion and heart throughout. This was a palpable performance, a statement of love that we felt through the screen. It was beautiful and easy to see how they won.

(dancer – Românii au [Romania’s Got] Talent: S12 winner) 14-year-old Darius was so overwhelmed by the experience of being in America for the first time and on this stage that he started tearing up the moment he hit his mark. He scored a Golden Buzzer on his way to winning. The dream for Darius is to become a professional dancer. After seeing his elegance and strength, not to mention emoting through a performance filled with lyrical motion and effortless power, we just can’t see a world where he won’t get that opportunity. This is one of the biggest stages ever, and any choreographer would be salivating to get their hands on someone with that much at his disposal at such a young age. He’s an incredible young dancer.

(singers – AGT:S14 finalist) Four years ago, this South African group got stronger and stronger each week before falling just short of the Top 5. In an effort to stand out and express their growing artistry, the choir chose an original song about the resiliency of the human spirit. It was breathtakingly gorgeous and you could see and hear four years of continued growth and confidence. Howie declared them his favorite-ever choir on this show before this performance, and after that, we’re ready to agree. This was a magical moment that will be remembered for years to come as the gold standard for how to make an impact on a global stage.

Ndlovu Youth Choir had a magical moment on the stage, but is that too easy? These superfans have been stepping outside the expected with their choices this season, picking a lot of acrobatic and aerial acts over traditionally successful acts like singers, dancers and magicians.

Does that hurt Darius Mabda, who blew everyone away with his dancing? Does it give an edge to Power Duo who, despite a slip-up, managed to have one of the most emotionally resonant acrobatic acts we’ve ever seen? What about Robert Finley, who had the audience on their feet?

In our estimation, it came down to those four acts. Cristina Rae and Emil & Dariel are extremely talented at what they do, but they didn’t bring as much heat to the stage as those four acts. Mini Droids was just okay, while Sacred Riana and Human Fountains were colossal disappointments.

In trying to predict a Top 3 and eventual winner, we figured Ndlovu would at least get into the Top 3, perhaps alongside Darius (America loves kids) and Robert. Yes, we know we just said they’d been loving acrobatic acts, but we think that slip-up would be enough.

Of those three, then, we thought America’s love for talented kids would be enough to send Darius into the finals where he could continue to blow us away. But that’s what traditionally would happen on an “AGT” show. These “All-Stars” have thrown tradition out the window every week. So what did the Superfans do?

The first act Terry slid into the Top 3 was Power Duo, which kept the Superfans love of acrobatic acts going. We also agree with that choice as they were definitely one of the strongest acts on the night. They were followed by Ndlovu Youth Choir, which was an absolute no-brainer.

If Darius picked up the third slot, then for the first time this season we’d be on the exact same page as the Superfans. There’s no way that could be, right? Amazingly, it was as Darius took that third and final spot. With Aidan in our number four spot, we were feeling good about our picks.

Agreeing on a Top 3 is one thing. Getting the winner right is another. Ndlovu had a moment, but Darius is a really special performer and Power Duo created magic up there. Any one of them would be worthy to move into the finals, but only one could.

Landing in third place was Darius, who really did blow us away with his talent. We think his dream of going pro as a dancer will definitely come true, and this platform will help move him in that direction. He has a lot to be proud of.

We had Darius in second, but he landed in third. Does that mean the Superfans love of acrobats propelled our third place act all the way to number one? Maybe they booked the same Superfans as the “AGT: Extreme” season, because that’s exactly what happened. In a stunning upset, Power Duo took out Ndlovu Youth Choir.

Don’t get us wrong, they are stunningly gorgeous at what they do, but it’s crazy that there are now three acrobatic acts in the finale with Bello Sisters and Aidan Bryant already making it. They’ll battle against sax player Avery Dixon, Detroit Youth Choir, dance troupe Light Balance Kids, comedian Mike E. Winfield and tonight’s Aidan McCann.

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

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