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'America's Got Talent' recap: The airing of grievances

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Like a bad hangover the day after a wild, Hunter S. Thompson-inspired party, we’re all pretty fed up with these Vegas episodes of America’s Got Talent. Yesterday — in our most commented-on recap since Kevin Skinner took the stage over a month ago — you shared your frustrations with the show and its judges, most particularly the way they dismissed a quarter of their second round crop AT THE AIRPORT then proceeded to deliver baffling decisions to the remaining contestants. Kari Callin out? Yodeling dominatrix in? One magician, but not two?

What?

All of us watching from home seem to have come to the same conclusion, and it’s one that’s been floating around since the first two episodes: there is a fundamental misunderstanding as to what this show is actually about. What are the judges looking for, exactly? What is the stated goal of the show? How do they decide who advances and who is sent home? And pertinent to these last two episodes, what methodology do they employ to arrive at that decision?

It all seems so haphazard, really — and kind of sadistic — the way some contestants are comfortably given the L.A. green light and others put through the ringer before that dreaded “I’m sorry, but…” comes out of the judges’ mouths. In one night of television we saw a trio of average violinists advancing to the next round with little difficulty… and a talented singer crumpling to the ground at the news of her dismissal (“Please, please!?” Kelli Glover begged, “This means everything to me!”). Tell me there’s not something wrong with this polarity.

What’s made these Vegas Verdicts even more infuriating is the near-complete absence of performances. Weren’t these promised to contestants in their first-round verdicts? Call me crazy, but I can easily recall more than a few times when the judges’ words indicated there’d be another chance to perform the next round of competition. “You need to work on that before you get to Vegas,” Piers would say. Or “the next time we see you, such and such needs to be tightened/streamlined/better” from The Hoff. Right? Denying contestants (and viewers!) those performances (and we’re not even talking about the runway rejects…) feels almost antithetical to the spirit of the show. (Which, again, is still unsettled. …I am so lost right now.)

So 400 words in, and we haven’t even touched the performances verdicts. Time to rectify that.

The Married Couple in Purple Outfits (names please, NBC!): Voted through to Hollywood after a now-standard “It’s been a difficult decision…but we’ve got to tell you…wait for it…okay, keep waiting…(cameras, are you getting this?)…okay…you’re in.” I’m excited to see those “additional moves” they promise for the live round.

Ishaara and FootworkKINGz: Both advanced to the next round and both — so far as I can remember — deservedly so. If I were judging, I’d ask the latter group to drop the “z” from their name before they made it to Hollywood…

Jeffrey Ou and Rasshida Jolly: This one sucked. Pitting one musician against another, Thunderdome-style, the judges announced that pianist Jeffrey would be performing in the live round…and Rashida would not. The two had apparently formed a nice friendship awaiting their turn in Vegas. “It’s a pleasure to go on,” said Jeffrey, tears in his eyes, “but it’s really hard to see her go.” Rashida was touched by his words, but not before Sharon could get in hers. “We know.” Do you, really?

Eleisha Miller: …Really? This has gone on long enough, guys. Many, many talented acts were sacrificed for this (yes, very cute) little girl to keep advancing in the competition, and I can’t help but think of her own inevitable disappointment when things don’t pan out in the next round. One of the judges’ bigger gaffs.

Marcus Terrell and the Serenades: Sorry, ladies! After being told in the first round auditions that his backup singers were “just not good enough,” Marcus’ moment of truth (again, SANS OPPORTUNITY FOR PERFORMANCE) finally came in Vegas. Ditch them or you go home, too, was the judges’ ultimatum. And the Serenades, knowing their time had come to an end, graciously gave Marcus their blessing to move on without them. Heartbreaking, but an honest look at a moment faced by many pursuing their artistic dreams. It’s not all roses and cupcakes — sometimes difficult decisions need to be made, unsavory acts committed, for dreams to be fully realized. Here’s hoping the Sereandes’ sacrifice wasn’t in vain.

BreakSk8: Beat out dance competitors Destined 2 Be and U4IA in a three-way “dance off” (and what appeared to be the only Vegas Verdicts audition granted). A good performance, and one that stands a chance to go very far.

Voices of Glory: These kids should have been let go. Gracious and endearing? Absolutely. But talented? At this point in the competition, they’re somewhere near the back of the list. MIXED MESSAGE ALERT! Piers claimed in a voice-over at the beginning of the episode that “it’s a risk if we get sucked into the drama of their story, and not the quality of their singing.” Said The Hoff after voting Voices through to Hollywood, “you’re going to spread the message of hope and love, because you deserve it!” Fair is foul, and foul is fair, and this show is unbelievable.

A bunch of people: Barbara Padilla, two dog acts, the glass eater, Carol Lugo, Matt and Anthony, Grandma Lee, Pixie Sticks, Charles Dorsey AND MORE advanced to the next round. We were given only snippets of each; feel free to elaborate in the comments below.

Mia Boostrom and Kelli Glover: The two repeat performers were addressed together, competing for what would be the final spot in the Top 40. (Or so the editors would have us believe. You can’t trust anything on this show.) Tears were flowing even before the judges launched into their verdict, both singers speaking with earnestness about their musical dreams. Slightly over-the-top, but honest stuff. Then the bombshell: Kelli would be going home. More tears, the judges (minus Piers, who’s thinking “I’d rather be in a Burger King photoshoot“) hands-on consolation, and the inevitable “you don’t even know!” from Kelli as she makes her way out the door. A fun ending!

BUT WAIT! En route to Hollywood in their sleek private jet, the judges get a mysterious call from a Mr. Simon Cowell, who tells them there’s a “very serious problem” with their Top 40 decisions. (Could it be that they were terrible?) I guess we’ll find out next Tuesday at 9/8 central just what that is!

…I need a Motrin, guys. Help me out in the comments below?