The Maize and Mermaid on 'The Masked Singer' Season 8. (Photos: Fox)
After being preempted last week by a weather-delayed baseball game, and postponed by an hour this week due to the MLB playoffs, The Masked Singer finally made it back to the air this Wednesday with a new bracket of three contestants, and it seemed like the series’ entire eight-season arc was leading up to this delayed moment: Andrew Lloyd Webber Night! When you think about it, AWB’s Phantom of the Opera was the original Masked Singer, and of course, Cats had stars singing in ridiculous furry outfits decades ago. Clearly, Masked Singer guest judge was the role Webber was born to play.
This week, disappointingly, no one dressed up as a cat or phantom. But we did have the Mermaid, the Maize, and the Robo Girl (once again proving that this series is totally running out of character ideas), all singing classics from the illustrious Webber songbook as they competed to join the previous bracket’s “reigning queen,” the Harp (aka Amber Riley) in the Season 8 semifinals.
By the end of the hour-long episode, two of these three contestants had already been eliminated, with only the Robo Girl advancing. (She is now the new reigning queen, so she’ll compete against two new celebrities next week.) Both the Maize and Mermaid gave solid performances that in previous seasons would have at least been enough to qualify them for the next round. So, before I recap their premature reveals, allow me to complain (again!) about how Season 8’s new format is sucking all the fun out of what used to be America’s favorite pastime.
The Masked Singer implemented a major format change this season — a season that’s had Fox bragging about a super-sized cast of 22 mystery cosplayers — presumably to lure celebrities like William Shatner, Eric Idle, or the Brady Bunch cast who might not want to commit to more than a single episode. Each week of Season 8 has featured an almost immediate double-elimination, thus robbing viewers of the chance to play along at home and pore over each contestant’s clues over the course of several weeks. As a result, none of this season’s episodes have been especially suspenseful, and — as I pointed out in the previous paragraph — several singers who might’ve gotten a shot of making the semifinals under different circumstances have gone home after just one performance. Many viewers on social media have complained about this format change, so hopefully Fox’s powers-that-be are paying attention and will correct course in Season 9, before this once-massive show’s ratings plummet even lower.
OK, rant over. And that brings us to this week’s two gone-too-soon castoffs, the Maize and the Mermaid. When the former contestant first emerged onstage, judge Nicole Scherzinger cried out, “It’s corn!” and instantly reminded me of that corn-loving YouTube kid. I expected the Maize to give a corny performance of Jesus Christ Superstar’s “Heaven on Their Minds,” but it was actually a-maize-ing. He started off with a deep, resonant, androgynous voice that reminded me of Grace Slick doing “White Rabbit,” and then he really let it rip. Webber was so impressed that he told the Maize, “Whoever you are, I have some advice for you: Turn professional!”
Webber also said of the Maize, “He’s good, but he’s young,” which totally flattered the man inside what host Nick Cannon described as a “big-ass piece of corn” suit: It turned out to be 62-year-old comedian and Sex and the City actor Mario Cantone. (Jenny McCarthy-Wahlberg guessed correctly, from the “city” and “carried away” clues — another complaint I have about this speedy new format is the showrunners are barely even trying to stump the audience anymore, filling each one-and-done reject’s clues packages with obvious references.) "You know, the best thing is you said I was young," Mario joked.
The Mermaid was the night’s other reveal, and while “Any Dream Will Do” from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat wasn’t the ideal song to showcase her range across the, um, scales, Webber was still impressed, guessing that the Mermaid was “one of the greatest singers of all time,” Gloria Estefan. The fishy diva turned out to be Gloria… Gaynor.
Robin Thicke guessed correctly due to the very easy clues about this particular Gloria being “petrified” by a freak accident (in 1978, Gaynor fell over a stage monitor and suffered a serious back injury), “surviving,” and “turning her anguish into an anthem.” (A clue about the Library of Congress was another key tipoff: In 2016, the Library selected Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” for preservation in the National Recording Registry.) "We have guessed you every single season and we have been wrong. And I had a gut feeling from the clues and that voice, and we are so honored. You look gorgeous. You sang gorgeous. Thank you for blessing us," said Robin, before Gloria blessed the audience with an unmasked performance of "I Will Survive."
Like I said, a disco diva extraordinaire like Gloria Gaynor would have, no pun intended, definitely survived her first week if she’d competed on another season. But this result left the Robo Girl as the last mask standing this week, after she totally slayed “Bad Cinderella” and, in a face-off against the Mermaid, “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina.”
Her clues were a bit tougher, since the producers clearly planned on having her stick around. I’m not totally sure what the reference to being in the shadow of Missy Elliott, Pharrell Williams, and David Blaine was all about, “Steppin’ up” was also a clue, so this could be dancer/singer/actress Alyson Stoner, who’s known for her moves in Missy and Pharrell videos and the Step Up dance franchise. Alyson has also released 12 singles, including one called “Pretty Girls.”
However, the surfboard and mentions of a “magical fandom” and “pretty little spotlight” make me think this could be Teen Choice Award winner/host, actress, and country singer Lucy Hale, who along with her breakout role in Pretty Little Liars played the title role in 2007’s short-lived Bionic Woman reboot (the ultimate robo-girl!) and appeared in A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song. Sofia Carson, star of A Cinderella Story: If the Shoe Fits and Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists, is also a strong possibility.
Come back next Wednesday, when (barring any other rain-delayed, Fox-televised sporting events) the Robo Girl will return to defend her reigning-queen crown against two new contestants — and two contestants will go home way too soon. See you then.
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