Well, if 31 seasons of “American Idol,” “The Voice,” and “America’s Got Talent” have shown us, once the live voting round starts, the results can sometimes be a bit shocking. Influenced as we are by the hype of the judges, it is easy to believe that some acts are better, more talented, frontrunners. But the voting viewers may not agree. Regardless, although Wednesday night’s Quarterfinals Round 1 results eventually revealed the 7 Semifinalists l to be the seven most expected to move forward, there was at least one surprise. Samantha Johnson, the singer that closed the show with a phenomenal rendition of The Mamas & The Papas’ “California Dreamin’,” had to be saved to make it as a Semifinalist.
No — really. In fact, the three youngest acts — Samantha Johnson, Alondra Santos, and The Gentlemen — were the three America got to vote for in the “America’s Got Talent” version of the Instant Save. It’s called the “Dunkin Save,” in deference to the sponsors of the segment, Dunkin Donuts.
As Entertainment Weekly recapped on August 13, the judges were more than a bit annoyed that Samantha Johnson was in the middle of the voting (how she got on the bubble, don’t ya know). Judge Howard Stern railed that America got it wrong. Judge Heidi Klum couldn’t believe it, either, because she had “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” stuck on replay in her head all day. (And you know all four judges — Mel B and Howie Mandel as well — were feeling kind of irritable after that awful live performance given by OMI to start the show. Lifeless, disconnected — and for those who were on the fence about downloading “Cheerleader,” the summer’s biggest hit, most likely slid off the fence and downloaded something else.)
So while the the youngest acts waited to see who America liked most, host Nick Cannon started with the results of the voting. The first pair of acts to learn their fate? Piff the Magic Dragon and Triple Threat. Just from watching — and listening — to Triple Threat receive three buzzes on Tuesday night, you had to wonder why Nick even bothered with the unnecessary who-will-it-be long pause. Of course, Piff the Magic Dragon — and Mr. Piffles, his unsinged chihuahua — became the first Semifinalist, of course.
Then it was contortionist Vita Radionova against singer Benton Blount. Another seeming no-brainer… and Benton Blount was through to the Semifinals.
Magician Matt Franco, last year’s winner of the million-dollar prize and Las Vegas show, returned to the “America’s Got Talent” stage and showed an amazing trick of multiplying wine bottles that kept appearing out of two cardboard tubes. By the time it was over, you’re loving the illusion — and hoping Matt Franco never develops a drinking problem.
The third grouping of those going through and those not came next: dance group Siro-A and acrobatic dancers Craig and Micheline. Again, no surprise as Siro-A got the votes.
With three awaiting the Dunkin Save, that left three contestants, so Nick Cannon marched all three out on stage. Drew Lynch, Paul Zerdin, and ShowProject. Were they all going through? Not a chance. Nick told Drew Lynch and Paul Zerdin they had made it to the next, leaving two slots open for the three acts waiting.
Samantha Johnson won the Dunkin Save (as she should have), and most likely kept Judge Howard Stern from having an aneurysm. Although it wouldn’t have mattered if she had gotten that particular Save, since the fate of the final two acts rested in the hands of the judges. Given Johnson’s performance on Tuesday night, there’s no doubt Howard would have had at least two allies to get the young woman to the next round. Still, he didn’t have to, and in a split vote, Alondra Santos made it through. (Judge Howie Mandel, however, made an excellent point as the lone voter for The Gentlemen: As good as she was, all Alondra did was sing, while The Gentlemen — 10- and 12-year-old brothers — had choreographed and danced to an entire song.)
Somehow it didn’t seem right sending The Gentlemen home. But whose spot would they get if they had gone through? Alondra’s? Benton’s? Piff’s?
So… was Judge Howard Stern correct in his assessment to begin with — America got it wrong? Or did America make amends by saving Samantha Johnson? And did the judges get it right by choosing Alondra over The Gentlemen? Can singing mariachi-style music keep the 13-year-old in the competition for the long haul? That remains to be seen.
“America’s Got Talent” returns for Round 2 of the Quarterfinals on Tuesday, August 18, at 8:00 p.m. (EST) on NBC Television. Those 12 contestants will learn their collective fate on Wednesday night’s results show and America will learn who fills another seven slots on the Season 10 Semifinals bracket.