The Masked Singer is usually a lighthearted, escapist show, and Wednesday’s Hall of Fame Night episode certainly had its wacky moments — like a when a purple bridezilla Barney with a broad, possibly faux British brogue sang a Smash Mouth song, or when guest judge Joel McHale predicted that the Venus Fly Trap was returning disgraced contestant Mickey “The Gremlin” Rourke.
But the entire episode was bittersweet, because of the presence of another guest judge and a member of the “Silver Fox Hall of Fame”: Leslie Jordan.
The lovable Leslie, a longtime friend of the show, died in a car accident on Oct. 24; at that time, The Masked Singer released a heartbroken statement that read, “We are shocked and devastated by today’s tragic passing of Leslie Jordan. Leslie carried an infectious exuberance, indelible sense of humor, and gifted us with countless memories that will last forever. We extend our most profound sympathies to Leslie’s family, friends, and fans.”
But before that tragedy, Leslie taped one last Masked Singer episode, sitting in — along with McHale — for regular judge Ken Jeong, who had Covid at the time.
“I seldom get invited back anywhere, so it’s exciting!” Leslie quipped on Wednesday’s episode. And all of the cast certainly seemed excited to see Leslie back on the set. After he was paraded out, he received the hero's welcome he deserved, with judge Robin Thicke and host Nick Cannon giving him huge hugs and host Nick speaking for all of America as he exclaimed, “I love this man!”
Ken, explaining his absence from The Masked Singer this week, also tweeted, “This is our dear friend Leslie Jordan’s last appearance on the show, and we dedicate this episode in his honor. [Heart] you Leslie. We can feel your love from above.”
It was incredibly emotional to see Leslie pal around behind the judges’ table one last time and take on the default Ken role by making a bunch of wildly incorrect guesses (although no one booed Leslie, of course!). And viewers especially felt all the feels at the evening’s end, when the series paid tribute with an In Memoriam reel of the Emmy-winning actor’s greatest Masked Singer hits, including that time in Season 6 when he adorably punked the cast by disguising himself as the Soft Serve.
No mystery celebrity this season could ever compare to the sweet Soft Serve, of course, but Wednesday did introduce the last new bracket of cosplaying contestants for Season 8 — with two Bracket C singers going home before the hour was over. The first to get the boot was the Little Shop of Horrors-like Venus Fly Trap (judge Nicole Scherzinger’s favorite costume of the season so far), doing a surprisingly solid rendition of the Temptations’ “Get Ready” despite obviously not being a professional vocalist. The judges all figured out he was an athlete, probably a boxer — Leslie thought this was Mike Tyson — but after the panel grilled him for more clues (ahem), only Robin made the correct guess of George Foreman.
“I think this is the loudest audience reaction we’ve ever had on this show,” Nicole gasped, as the crowd went wild for America’s favorite grillmaster.
"It was a lot of fun. All of a sudden, now I want to go into the recording industry!" said Foreman as he reflected on his brief Masked Singer experience. "I need a hit record now!"
So, it was a TKO for this particular George, but another rhinestone cowboy by that first name, also known as the Gopher, at least lasted one more round.
The Gopher’s groovy, vibey cover of the Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing” was enough to get him in the ring with the night’s other surviving contestant, the Bride, for an “All-Star” battle royale — accompanied by his Prince-associate friend Sheila E. on live drums! Leslie amusingly thought this was Flavor Flav or Lil Nas X; Jenny McCarthy-Wahlberg came close to guessing correctly when she thought the Gopher was Bootsy Collins; and Robin even thought this was Sly Stone for a second. But Robin eventually picked up on the all-too-obvious clues about “samples” and “dogs” and realized this was Bootsy’s Parliament-Funkadelic colleague, George Clinton. (Why Clinton was dressed as the Gopher and not, say, the Mothership Alien, the Flash Light, or the Atomic Dog, I do not know.)
“Your music has inspired so many of us, and still does today,” Robin gushed. “That's the thing: When you are an original, from your stage show to the music that comes out of the speakers by itself, nothing else feels and sounds like it.”
"I'm so glad Ken's missing, because now I get to say I was in the room with you guys," Joel told both Georges.
So, it was time for the Gopher and Venus Fly Trap to give up the funk, which meant Season 8 had a new reigning queen — or king, since the Bride, who sang Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance” and said he was “bringing Tyrannosaurus Rexy back, baby,” turned out to be a man. So, now it’s time to peruse the clues…
At first I thought this self-described “action hero” was Axl Rose, for a variety of reasons: an actual rose visual clue, an “appetite for destroying things,” a life “on the road selling out arenas,” a “rugged personality,” a “notorious” reputation for “being in some of the messiest feuds,” and a picture of a snake that may or may not have been a reference to Guns N’ Roses’ “Patience” video. I also thought the wedding gown could’ve been a nod to GNR’s epic “November Rain” video. But alas, this sounded nothing like Axl, and I just can’t imagine him signing up for this show anyway.
So, upon closer listen and inspection, I think the "feuds," "destroying," and “action hero” mentions are clear tip-offs to rockin' wrestler Chris Jericho, who fronts the heavy metal band Fozzy. The Bride sounded a lot like Chris, especially on his second song battling the Gopher, Smash Mouth's “All-Star.”
But here are some other long-shot possibilities: The visual clue of a globe with a crown on it could mean that the Bride is Brian May of News of the World band Queen, or, if that English accent is indeed fake, Van Halen’s “Top of the World” belter Sammy Hagar. And finally, based on the screechy vocals, shuffling gait, affable personality, and general body language, this could be AC/DC’s Northern Englishman Brian Johnson, whom Axl Rose temporarily replaced in the AC/DC lineup.
Whoever it is, the Bride “sounds like a real rock star,” as Jenny attested. And he’ll be back next week for another go against two new contestants… while Leslie Jordan will remain in viewers’ hearts forever.
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