Masked Singer Premiere Bombshell Unmasks Biggest, Most Iconic Legend in Show History

“The Masked Singer” came back bigger and bolder than ever for its ninth season premiere — and in more ways than one!

First off, the show debuted a new set which features the largest live audience they’ve ever had, and brings the panel closer to the action and level with the stage. It also allows for more dynamic performances from the new masks, which brings us to the other “bigger and bolder.”

Tonight’s episode features two unmaskings (we’ll get to how and why in a moment), with one of those reveals being by far the most incredible, mind-blowing and legendary iconic reveal in the history of the show. It’s also a feat that would be hard for them to ever match again. What we’re saying is think big … and then maybe think bigger!

Once again (ugh!), the show is going with last season’s format that brings in more people but for shorter spans of time. Three masks premiered tonight, but only one advanced. That mask will go on to compete against two new masks next week and so on for three weeks. Then, they retire and prep for the endgame and we do it all again two more times.

This creates three finalists — if they completely follow last season’s annoying format. It offers the chance to see more stars, yes, but takes away the journey and story arc that some of these masks went on in earlier seasons, gaining confidence or proving themselves in a whole new way. They’ve traded heart and connection for star spectacle.

There is one new feature this season that even Nick Cannon couldn’t say with a straight face. The “Ding-Dong Keep It On” is a giant bell the panel can ring to save a contestant from elimination. The limitation, though, is that it can only be rung three times across the first three rounds.

After those rounds are finished, there will be a special episode that features the three saved masks facing off to see which of them gets the chance to rejoin the competition with the winners from each round. How that will play out to the finale, we’ll have to stay tuned to find out.

Let’s jump right in with this week’s masks. And don’t worry, before we get to the shocking unmasking, we’re going to make you power through the terrible (and occasionally good) guesses made by our illustrious panel of Robin Thicke, Jenny McCarthy, Ken Jeong and Nicole Scherzinger first. We do this because we love … to torture you.

Along with the panel’s guesses, we’ll be sharing some internet speculation, too, so if you don’t want to be potentially spoiled (because they are very good at this), you may want to skip past the guesses sections.

(“Here I Go Again,” Whitesnake) Mustang knew how to start off a season, giving a rip-roaring rock-and-roll performance with a killer vocal. She definitely has the sound of someone who’s been singing professionally for a long time, with a pure, rich tone with a hint of — is that a country twang? It was smart to go hair band rock, though, because it does throw you off the scent as we think she was trying to mask her sound a bit.

Guesses: Her first clue package started at a country carnival before devolving into a hellish landscape of mountains and fire. Along the way she talked about how she’d nearly died “more times than I can count,” sharing highs and lows of her career.

She did date herself a bit (we think) by saying she’d collaborated with Elvis, though it could have been with a recording. She also said she’d sold out arenas. While she’s been counted out before, she always comes back stronger than ever with her “herd” by her side.

Visual clues included the carnival itself, with a focus on the Ring Toss game. She won a bucket with clearly labeled soap. At another point, she was hoisting old-timey barbells like a circus strongman, while there was another focus on a bird’s nest with three eggs (children?).

This week’s clue theme was premiere Hollywood party swag bags, with Mustang’s featuring a Most Beautiful People magazine saying she was “Taking the Reign.” In response, Mustang said, “I truly believe that beauty comes from the inside, but this time, it’s on the cover.”

Ken’s theory was that this is P!nk, who was once on People’s “Most Beautiful” cover. Ken thought the barbell was because she’s jacked, but Robin took barbells to her workout videos and the eggs to “Three’s Company” to find perhaps Suzanne Somers.

Jenny was digging Robin’s answer, but Nicole was wondering if the “herd” comment hinted at a group, like maybe Ann or Nancy Wilson from Heart or Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders. The heart on the middle of her chest had Robin wondering if maybe she was onto something there.

The internet wasn’t super confident in their guesses on this one, though we did see some guesses for disparate artists like Vanessa Williams, Ann-Margaret, Nancy Sinatra and Martina McBride. They definitely were not feeling guesses like P!nk or the Wilson sisters. While it’s not a big consensus, the most common guess was “Suds in the Bucket” singer (tying in with that clue) Sara Evans.

(“When You’re Smiling,” Billie Holiday) Gnome is a bona fide legend of the entertainment industry, but someone who’s maybe past his prime as a performer. His vocal was in tune and had a charm to it, but it was also a little guttural and talk-ish at times, suggesting that it’s maybe been awhile. It’s remarkable that so much sweetness could come through, even as it seemed he was maybe masking his voice by going low (which could suggest it’s instantly recognizable).

Guesses: Boy was Gnome not going to make it easy on anyone, coming out in a costume that was more of a shell than an actual costume. He could have been seated in there, standing, laying down. There were no hints on height, body type, anything. All we could see were his hands sticking out the front.

His clues spoke candidly, but not arrogantly, about his “storied career,” saying quite plainly that he’s “done it all.” This adds weight to our theory that this is a legendary performer able to reflect on a long and illustrious career in entertainment.

He dropped some famous names he’d worked with like Robin Williams, Madonna, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ben Stiller, and said he had presidents in his rolodex like Obama and Biden. Visual clues included Tony Danza on a trophy, a stethoscope, picnic, three bundt cakes, a yellow umbrella and a bundt cake.

He closed by saying that he works for the fun of it, because it’s not about the awards or the accolades or even the money, it’s about putting a smile on someone’s face. This only solidifies we’re looking at someone who’s gained some real perspective about what matters in this world through having lived a good, long life.

His swag bag was a Kennedy Center Honor medal, where Gnome said he met Biden and joked that he used to be as tall as the president, with Biden quipping back that he used to have hair like him. There was definitely a familiar cadence to the way he spoke, even through the distortion.

Jenny quickly echoed our thought, saying she thinks “this is the biggest celebrity legend we’ve ever had on ‘The Masked Singer.'” Robin agreed with that sentiment, but thinks he and Jenny may be going in different directions with their guesses, with him confident he knows the tone.

Nicole went big with her guess, thinking that maybe it was Dustin Hoffman inside that contraption of a suit. She tied Williams and Stiller to “Hook” and “Meet the Fockers,” while the umbrella could tie to “Rain Man.”

Robin was wondering if perhaps it was Mel Brooks, but the voice for him gave it away and he echoed Nicole’s certainty that this is Dustin Hoffman. Ken was instead leaning toward Robert DeNiro, which was a terrible, terrible guess. Honestly, we weren’t really feeling any of those guesses — the cadence of his speaking voice had us thinking more of Dick Van Dyke — and neither was the internet.

In fact, they were picking up what we were putting down thinking that the voice was definitely Dick Van Dyke … unless it was Tony Bennett or someone else entirely they couldn’t quite place (regardless of who it is, we’re confident he’s a generation or two removed from many viewers). But honestly, Dick was the biggest consensus of the night as far as wild speculation goes.

(“happier than ever,” Billie Eilish) Medusa almost brought us to tears with one of the most show-stopping performances of the entire series so far. From the breathier opening lines to the screeching gravel in the chorus, she gave us everything and more. What she couldn’t emote with her face under a mask she gave us in body language, filled with frantic energy and stalking about. We felt every line of this performance. She’s an incredible artist and our first front-runner.

Guesses: The moment she came out, aside from Nicole commenting on her great figure, the girls quickly noticed how tall she was compared to Nick, making them wonder if she was maybe a supermodel. She certainly stalked the stage with the kind of swagger that could nail a runway.

She described herself in her clue package as a “dancer in the dark” who grew up far away from the spotlight. Her imagery was of a giant chess board that wound up floating in space. We also saw a heart tattoo with the words “True Love,” as well as a picture of Buckingham Palace being put on balancing scales.

She said she learned to embrace her oddities, and the weirdness of this stage is what drew her to the show. But the most tantalizing clue was when she said she’d “technically” been here before, only now she was here to compete. A random guest star or possibly even a dancer with an absolutely incredible hidden talent?

Her “swag bag” clue was a DVD of a fake movie, “Medusa: Snakes on the Astral Plane.” It also touted $340 million sold! “Sometimes success comes in the grayest of places,” Medusa responded to this clue. Jenny wondered if she was alluding to “50 Shades of Grey” movie soundtrack and this was Brit pop star Ellie Goulding.

Ken’s logic was impeccably detailed and stupid as he guessed Meghan Markle, of all people. Nicole, though, went through English singers like Charli XCX, Dua Lipa, and Jessie J before thinking that early tone was far more Lorde. Is it any of them, though?

The internet was having some fun with this one, throwing out names like Bishop Briggs, Lady Gaga, Florence Welch, Fergie, Madonna (with her 340 million albums sold) and even Skylar Gray, with backing evidence. In other words, they’re on a few trails, but which one is right? Fergie has the most support based on voice and style.

One person laid out their argument (with too many f-bombs to embed here), saying, “im sure medusa is fergie. royal family member name superbowl with the black eyed peas buncha albums sold for the dutchess her song big girls dont cry is popular as f—.” It’s a pretty compelling one.

This one felt a little obvious to kick things off. Obviously, Medusa was in a class of her own on the night, bringing an almost unprecedented level of passion to the stage. Mustang was also strong, leaving the living legend (we’re sure) that’s inside the Gnome as the odd man out. He had a sweetness and a charm to his performance, but not enough to survive the night’s competition.

But did the audience and panel agree with us? Of course they did. As sad as it is to see Gnome have to go home, it’s quite a boon for the show to be able to tout whoever that is (is it you, Mr. Van Dyke?) as being a part of this season’s star-studded cast right from the season premiere.

Robin Thicke: Dustin HoffmanJenny McCarthy: Tony BennettKen Jeong: Robert DeNiroNicole Scherzinger: Dustin Hoffman

As much as we know how much fun this show is and that the new format that could mean only one week of competition can bring in bigger and more unexpected celebrities, we still just aren’t feeling that a Hoffman or DeNiro would ever do this. Bennett, though, we could see coming out and having some fun, but that didn’t sound like him at all.

Amazingly, we were right with our very first guess as the legendary entertainment icon Dick Van Dyke stepped spryly right out of that suit at 97 years old with all the charm and humor he’s always possessed. How do you ever top a reveal like this?! And we can’t even fault Nicole for being reduced to tears just by him being there. It is that big of a deal!

(“Diamonds,” Rihanna) Mustang has such a rich tone, there were layers upon layers in her voice, and a beautiful vibrato on top of that. She soared through the range of the piece effortlessly, delivering a really beautiful moment. Medusa has more of a Sia energy in her interpretation, filled with a little more angst and frustration. The difference, once again, is the injection of pure emotion in Medusa’s performance. Mustang’s was pretty, Medusa’s was passion.

This could be a contender for the bell as both women really poured their hearts into this performance. At the same time, you don’t know what’s coming. While it seemed pretty obvious to us that Medusa should win the Battle Royale, there’s no denying the purity and beauty of Mustang’s performance (even if it did have a few pitch flaws here and there).

In the end, Medusa picked up the votes. Had Mustang won, you’d almost have to ring the bell for Medusa. With this scenario, though, we might be inclined to let her go in anticipation of someone mind-blowing to come. Mustang was good, but she just didn’t move us or leave us breathless like Medusa did. The panel apparently agreed, with no discussion of the bell at all.

Robin Thicke: Suzanne SomersJenny McCarthy: Joan JettKen Jeong: P!nkNicole Scherzinger: Wynonna Judd

Nicole mixed it up after the Battle Royale performance. She said she heard a hint of country in the voice and came up with a very solid Wynonna Judd guess. We heard the country, as well, in both performances on the night, but weren’t quite feeling a Wynonna guess based on the vocals.

What we didn’t anticipate was that it would be country star Sara Evans under there. She said she wanted to do the show because she loves it and because there just aren’t enough country artists coming on.

The three eggs represented her three children, which felt a little more likely than Robin’s theory about them considering mama bird was right there. But what’s even more fun is that she told absolutely nobody she was doing the show, so they all watched it together tonight with a huge surprise in store for the kids!

“The Masked Singer” airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.

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