Tom Cotter, left, Nick Cannon, Joe Castillo and William Close on "America's… (Virginia Sherwood/NBC )
We knew going into "America's Got Talent's" first semifinal results show of the season Wednesday night that we would be seeing a lot of remarkable performers departing the stage. So it was. Mercifully, the best of the best managed to move on, though we had to wait longer than usual for reliable results.
After his mentor, comedian Steve Harvey, delivered a few wilted but well-meaning jokes about the semifinalists, Nick Cannon let us know the three finalists would not be revealed until the very end of the show. The 12 contestants would be called to the stage in groups of three, and as the winners stacked up, America's top four – in no particular order -- would be revealed. Then those four winners would be summoned. America's two favorites would head to the finals, and the judges would select from the two remaining – those who had come in third and fourth in the voting, though we'll never know which was which – to round out the trio of finalists moving ahead in the competition.
Somewhere in there, Neon Treeswould play their song "Everybody Talks" -- rather rousingly, as it turned out.
Contortionist dancer Turf, sand artist Joe Castillo and dance duo the Scott Brothers gathered first to learn their fates. "All three of these acts are very similar in my mind," Howard Stern said. "I can't call this one." Cannon soon called it for us all: Joe Castillo had made it to the top four, if not yet all the way to the finals. Castillo said it felt "sensational" to get one step closer, and to show his pleasure, he brought berets for all the judges. Stern looked surprisingly fetching in his.
Next up: Goth opera singer Andrew De Leon, Earth harpist William Close and dance troupe Academy of Villains. Howie Mandel was alarmed to see what he considered "the three best acts" of the previous night lined up, with two of them likely heading home. "Maybe America was wrong," he wondered. But America had made a fine choice, voting Close through. Stern was thrilled, telling Close, "You, my friend, are doing everything "America's Got Talent" is looking for … Keep it up."
Curiously strong acrobatic couple Donovan and Rebecca, doggie ventriloquist/comedian Todd Oliver and teen singer Edon were called forth next. "All so different, but equally as talented," Sharon Osbourne said. America had made its selection, though, and Cannon revealed it: Todd Oliver and his patient pooch, Irving. "Incredible … what a blessing," Oliver said.
With one comedian through, fans of superior comic Tom Cotter – I among them -- may have begun to worry he'd be knocked out of the competition. Relax. After Cotter, singer Bria Kelly and masterful mind manipulator Eric Dittelman were called to the stage, we got welcome news. Cotter made the top four, bringing him one step closer to the finals. How did it feel, Cannon asked him. "I have digestive issues I can't discuss right now because of nerves," Cotter said, making us giggle again.
"Talent, talent, talent … you are overflowing with it," Osbourne said, offering Cotter her congratulations.
Cannon quickly waved through the top two acts -- Close (yay!) and Cotter (double hooray!) – leaving the judges to predict "a fabulous, fabulous finale" … and to pick the third act to compete.
Making a case to continue, Oliver said something sweet about Irving and America's heart. Castillo, meanwhile, put his appeal bluntly. "Todd is wonderful, but if you want an act in Vegas that is truly original, would you pick a ventriloquist or a sand artist?" he asked. Oh, snap. There's a little fight under that beret.
So who would it be? Stern went with Oliver, saying Castillo's act had run its course while Oliver's was on the upswing. Osbourne countered that Castillo brought heart, emotion and color to the show, and threw her ballot his way. That left Mandel to cast the deciding vote, as Stern and Osbourne tried to persuade him.
"Go with your heart. Go with your gut," Osbourne urged.
Mandel just may have. "I'm going to go with … Joe Castillo," Mandel declared.
Close, Cotter and Castillo – the three C's. And not a singer among them.
What did you think of the results?
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