At long last, the “America’s Got Talent” quarterfinals have arrived — and with it came a hefty prediction from judge Simon Cowell about a very special contestant.
To recap: Last episode, judges Sofía Vergara, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel and Cowell, as well as host Terry Crews, whittled down the contestants to 55 acts. Now, each week, 11 of the acts will perform live and receive feedback from the judges.
But it’s up to America’s vote to determine which two acts from each group will go on to compete in the finale.
Tuesday’s show was packed with the shocking, awe-inspiring and occasionally cringe-worthy performances “AGT” fans have come to know and love. The result was several X’s from judges, sparring between Cowell and Vergara over a fiery dance duo and a prediction that one contestant will be as big as Carrie Underwood, whom Cowell helped discover when he was a judge on “American Idol.”
Here’s what went down.
Heidi Klum says Amoukanama went to ‘another level’
First up was dance crew Amoukonoma. The dancers brought energy and stunts, performing several high-flying flips and effortlessly leaping across the stage.
At one point, the members stood on each other’s shoulders in a striking visual. They earned a standing ovation and rave reviews.
“I gotta say, when they first performed in the auditions, I was not here, because I was sick,” Mandel confessed. “I am here. I saw you. You guys are sick, in the best way possible.”
Klum applauded the group for coming up with their own moves without a choreographer, and Vergara said they took their act to “another level.”
“Your audition, I remember like it was yesterday,” added Cowell. “You always hope on the live shows, ‘Are they gonna get better?’ Well, you weren’t an 8 tonight. That was a 10.”
The Amazing Veranica & Her Incredible Friends wow Heidi Klum with ‘overload of cuteness’
Next up, The Amazing Veranica & Her Incredible Friends delivered possibly the cutest act in “AGT” history, as Veranica led her poofy pups through several impressive tricks.
Before taking the stage, the girl opened up about her upbringing on a farm in Florida, where she was raised alongside 150 animals including chickens, horses, goats, cats and, of course, her dogs: Mishka, Borya, Roma and Rita.
The audience became enamored as Veranica’s dogs walked each other in strollers, ran in between each other’s hind legs and even performed a conga line.
Once the act finished, the dogs adorably played on stage. One of the dogs in a pink dress, described by Veranica as the “diva” of the group, turned her back on the judges as they gave feedback.
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“You never know what’s gonna happen with animals on the stage, and you’re so in control,” Vergara said. “I love it.”
Cowell couldn’t stop laughing at the playing pups.
“It’s a live show, and normally an act like this would get nervous, but it kind of did everything, and it was magic as well,” he said. “So this was better than your first audition once again.”
Mandel said the act wasn’t perfect, which made it even more adorable.
“If you’re an adorable little poodle in a skirt, it doesn’t matter what you do,” he said.
Klum called the act “an overload of cuteness.”
“What is not to love?” she added.
School shooting survivor Ava Swiss: ‘Love is so much stronger than hate’
Ava Swiss, who has been open on the show about surviving the 2021 school shooting in Oxford, Michigan, dedicated her performance to her community.
“It’s been hard for me to get comfortable with going back out in public, but I’ve learned you just have to live your life to the fullest,” she said. “I want to show everyone that love is so much stronger than hate.”
She sang P!nk’s “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken,” which showed off her wide vocal range, including a soaring high note.
“Congratulations for nailing that song. It’s such a hard song to sing,” Klum said. “You just did it so well. I’m in awe of you and your talent.”
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Vergara said Swiss is “so connected” to the message of the song.
“It’s always moving to see you here, and this was spectacular like the last time,” she added.
“You’re gutsy, and that song, it was a statement,” said Cowell. “I can say that now as a parent, the fact that you had the strength to come out here on the live shows after that audition, I think you’re remarkable.”
Mandel called Swiss “the epitome of inspiring the entire world.”
“One word comes to mind: resilience,” he added. “That’s what you are.”
Ben Lapidus decries ‘big parma,’ gets three X’s from judges
During his initial audition, Ben Lapidus received four X’s from the judges while singing a cringe-worthy ode to cheese.
But even though the judges didn’t see his vision, the crowd rallied behind him, cheering for the judges to rescind their X’s and send Lapidus through to the next round.
The judges eventually relented, giving Lapidus another chance to prove them wrong.
Instead of sticking to his dairy roots, for his first live show performance, Lapidus wanted to perform something different. Something meaningful. Something moving.
Just kidding — he sang his banger about cheese.
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This time around was still an improvement — he only got X’s from Cowell, Mandel and Vergara. Klum happily bobbed along, allowing him to finish.
“He makes me lactose intolerant,” Mandel quipped.
“I love it,” she said. “You wrote the greatest earworm of all time.”
Vergara wondered how Lapidus made it so far into the competition: “I don’t understand how you made it in here. How? How are you back here?”
After getting his feedback, Lapidus stirred up the crowd with a rousing tirade.
“The American people aren’t stupid,” he said. “We know the Big Parma people have infiltrated the media, the highest forms of government.”
Cowell, meanwhile, was speechless.
Comedian Lace Larrabee claps back at Simon Cowell for hitting X
Comedian Lace Larrabee, who got her start performing comedy in beauty pageants, performed a set in which she cracked jokes about her husband and partying with her friends.
Though the crowd was laughing along, Cowell clearly wasn’t impressed and hit his X. Larrabee seemed shaken as the loud buzzer sounded but quickly recovered, finishing out her act.
Klum complimented Larrabee for carrying on through the startling sound.
“I don’t know how you continued doing this with this X,” she said. “You kept going, and I commend you for that.”
When asked by Crews to explain his X, Cowell said he did it to help Larrabee improve.
“It was going downhill, and there was something missing for me,” he said. “It felt really almost rehearsed rather than spontaneous, and you were much funnier, in my opinion, on your first audition.”
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Mandel suggested that Cowell couldn’t relate to the jokes as other people could.
“I think that particularly ladies would have related more,” he said. “That’s what happened with Simon.”
Larrabee said it’s nothing she’s not used to.
“There’s usually a man in the audience who yells out and interrupts me, so I’m not surprised,” she fired back, to laughter from the audience.
“I still think you’re in the race,” Vergara told her. “People love you.”
Simon Cowell applauds Drake Milligan for ‘best performance of the night’
After country singer Drake Milligan’s audition aired, his songs began climbing the charts. Still, Milligan said he wants to take his musical act to the “next level,” singing another original song called “Kiss Goodbye All Night.”
Milligan certainly has style, giving a shoulder shimmy on stage in between playing the guitar.
“You are amazing,” Vergara said. “You’re the whole package. I think you are a star.”
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Mandel predicted Milligan has another hit on his hands.
“That song will be number one on the country chart again, I promise you,” he said. “You have a good chance of winning this whole thing.”
Cowell commended Milligan for not walking away from the competition after his career got a boost from his initial audition.
“The fact that happened, and you’ve still come back to compete in this competition… I think you are the real deal,” he said. “You’re a great songwriter. You have charisma. … The best performance of the night.”
Oleksandr Yenivatov wins over Simon Cowell
Oleksandr Yenivatov, a contortionist from Ukraine, said he’s trained his body “to move in impossible ways.”
And that’s exactly what he showed during the live show, twisting his legs all the way behind his body and then bending them.
The act earned a standing ovation from Cowell, who gave Yenivatov an X during his initial audition.
“What I love about tonight was that you really pushed yourself and did things we’ve never seen before,” Cowell said. “To me, that’s what a live show performance is all about.”
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Klum called him “the human nutcracker.”
“It’s so bizarre,” she added. “It’s so strange, and I want to see more.”
The Players Choir scores touchdown with Justin Timberlake song
The Players Choir — a choir made up of former pro-football players — gave a rousing, acapella performance of Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”
“I’m not a fan of choirs,” Mandel confessed. “But you make us feel good. You make us smile.”
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Klum marveled at the novelty of their act.
“Only on ‘America’s Got Talent’ you get to see football players singing and dancing,” she said. “Good vibes only.”
Cowell picked up similar vibes.
“I love being surprised,” he said. “Please, please, America: Pick up the phone, and vote them through to the final. We need you.”
Sofía Vergara calls Simon Cowell ‘loco’ for dissing Colombian dance duo
Stefanny and Yeremy, a dance duo from Colombia, delivered a riveting routine to Bishop Briggs’ “River,” complete with flips and pyrotechnics.
Cowell, however, wasn’t impressed. He hit his X just before the act ended, provoking ire from Vergara.
“I thought it was spectacular,” she said, before calling Cowell “loco.” “I thought it was perfection. You guys came to the right place.”
Faced with boos from the crowd, Cowell explained his X.
“I felt the act needed a transition midway through,” he said. “I think you’re amazingly talented, and I was frustrated because to get through to the final, you’ve got to do something spectacular.”
Simon Cowell admits he was ‘wrong’ about comedian Don McMillan
Don McMillan, an engineer turned stand-up comic, didn’t win over Cowell during his initial audition.
But after his latest set, in which he cracked clever observational jokes about freeway lanes and printer ink, Cowell admitted he’s now a fan.
“I thought they were crazy putting you through to the live shows. You know what? I was wrong,” he said. “That’s what I call a final performance.”
“Your comedy is very weird, unique, and it’s amazing,” Vergara said.
Mandel pleaded for America to vote for McMillan.
“I hope that you are one of the only two who can get voted through,” he said. “Please, America. We need comedy like this.”
Simon Cowell compares Avery Dixon to ‘superstar’ Carrie Underwood
Last up was Avery Dixon, a saxophone player who scored a Golden Buzzer from Crews during his audition.
Dixon’s rocking set Tuesday night showed the judges he’s a bona fide star — and earned an exciting prediction from Cowell.
“I’m gone predict something,” said the former “American Idol” judge. “I said this about Carrie Underwood years and years and years ago on another show. … You’re gonna be a superstar. Everything you dreamed of is actually going to happen. You were great the first time. This was incredible.”
Fans can vote from now until 7 a.m. EST tomorrow via the “AGT” app or at nbc.com/agtvote.