Masked Dancer finale crowns a winner, reveals celebrities under Tulip, Sloth, and Cotton Candy masks
Warning: This article contains spoilers about Wednesday's The Masked Dancer season 1 finale.
Happy first Masked Dancer finale! It's been an interesting experiment, with some lows through this season, but it always kept me laughing — and those are just my thoughts on panelist Brian Austin Green's "white dad at a barbecue" dancing.
The reality competition began a bit rocky in the early episodes, and plenty of viewers missed the great vocals from The Masked Singer. That being said, it gradually found its footing, especially as the clunkier contestants were weeded out and the true movers and shakers got to shine. Case in point: Tulip, Sloth, and Cotton Candy have been worthy competitors who made the show fun and kept their grace under fire (or under heavy costumes).
They each wowed us with something different in the finale, which was preceded by a one-hour Road to the Finals special. Tulip gave us power and confidence, Sloth had the comedy chops, and Cotton Candy's pure emotion made her performance feel raw and moving.
The finale kicked off with a group number set to "(I've Had) The Time of My Life," performed by host Craig Robinson, who's been a fun presence on the show. I want to see more of him on The Masked Singer! Or he and Sloth can do a joint Vegas show after this, it doesn't matter. Just give Robinson more projects! He's always a highlight in everything he's in.
Tulip went first, with a fiery dance choreographed to Ava Max's "Kings and Queens." Because it's just the three of them left, each dancer got to do a longer showcase, and Tulip absolutely shined. Her amazing flip and the way she commandingly took the throne at the end, plus, can we talk about that gorgeous stage design? Everything came together for the pretty petal on Wednesday.
Then it was time for Sloth's last dance. The bowling-themed performance, set to the Struts' "Ballroom Blitz," was a great way to once again display the furry contestant's envious comedic timing. Sloth knocked those pins OUT (and my socks off).
Panelist Ken Jeong was super hung up on Channing Tatum being Sloth, because of the Jump Street clue and the body rolls. This led to him demonstrating his own body rolls (thanks Paula Abdul, that suggestion will now haunt me).
Last was Cotton Candy for my favorite performance yet on the show. She did about 100 flips, and if that routine didn't make it clear she's a gymnast, I don't know what will. The ending where she floated up in the air with a string of balloons was genuinely spectacular. It was beautiful and brave, especially given that Cotton Candy fell from high up during an early rehearsal. As Abdul said, it really felt like a redemption moment.
With all the performances concluded, it was time for voting.
Robinson announced that third place went to Tulip. She was revealed to be... dancer and social media star Mackenzie Ziegler!
Only Ashley Tisdale guessed right, having been hot on Ziegler's trail for a while now. Tulip's previous clues have repeatedly mentioned TikTok and being in the shadow of her best bud, whom Tisdale clocked as Mackenzie's sister, Maddie. There were also mad-looking letter Ds and Es that hinted to "Maddie." Then we had the nods to the sisters' claim to fame on Dance Moms, through the "AL to DC" ticket (for Abby Lee Dance Company) and the mother-daughter dance. And tonight, the barrel labeled "X Ale" led to Mackenzie's song "Exhale" with Sia.
Then, the winner was announced.
Cotton Candy won the diamond mask trophy!
Abdul was the only one who predicted the pro-dancer (Green technically did too, but he was hopping on the bandwagon). Last episode, she deduced that Sloth's clue showing the letter U above a bird was a wink to Chmerkovskiy's home country of Ukraine (U-crane), plus the pita bread was about his wife, fellow dancer Peta Murgatroyd. The show also made it abundantly obvious with Sloth's last package tonight: "Maximize the dancing" and the quote about his first time being the student and not the teacher when it came to a partner dance.
Sloth's past clues have also pointed to his DWTS celeb partners: D.R. for Denise Richards, a bug trapped in amber for Amber Rose, a red Solo cup for Hope Solo, and a toothpaste tube reading GLEE and DWTS for Heather Morris.
Finally, Cotton Candy was unmasked to be... Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas!
The panelists have been split for a while about whether she's a gymnast or figure skater so it was a sweet, sweet victory for Abdul. Tisdale was closer with her Simone Biles guess, but the last clue package really made it clear Cotton Candy was Douglas.
First, the Olympic gymnast clues: the balancing scales and rings, Cotton Candy saying she had lots of tights at home, and the five gold balloons for the Final Five/Fierce Five at the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics.
Then, there were Douglas-specific clues, including the mention about falling previously on national TV and the lip or lipstick-related imagery. Douglas fell on the balance beam during the London Olympics, and she had a collaboration with the makeup company Beautie Bakery. And tonight, Abdul noticed that Cotton Candy's prayer hands and fire/flames references could only be about Douglas. The athlete is a devout Christian and performed with Alicia Keys to "Girl on Fire" at the VMAs in 2012.
Of the panelists, Abdul had the highest number of correct guesses, with four: Brian McKnight as Cricket, Jordin Sparks as Exotic Bird, and now Chmerkovskiy and Douglas. Green was behind her with three, Tisdale had two, and Jeong had one.
The Masked universe will only be on break for three weeks, returning on March 10 with season 5 of The Masked Singer.