Well, 2021 is picking up right where 2020 left off, considering that a troupe of dancing bipedal animals, incredible edibles, and rando inanimate objects wasn’t the craziest thing seen on television this Wednesday. But while chaos was unfolding on CNN, over on Fox The Masked Dancer — which, like its hit sister show The Masked Singer, stars mystery celebrity cosplayers — settled nicely into its regular Wednesday time slot. And this happened to be the same night that Masked Dancer judge Paula Abdul’s old American Idol co-star, Randy Jackson, debuted on Fox’s Name That Tune reboot, thus reminding us all of simpler and happier times.
The Masked Dancer part one premiere actually aired at the end of 2020, with the dancers-in-disguise of Group A (the Hammerhead, Tulip, Cricket, Exotic Bird, and first reject the Disco Ball, who turned out to be none other than gangsta rap icon Ice-T). This week, we met Group B’s Zebra, Cotton Candy, Ice Cube, Moth, and Sloth. I didn’t have high hopes for the Sloth, for the obvious reasons, but he exhibited an unexpected amount of speed and energy, and he therefore survived — as did clear frontrunner the Cotton Candy, despite suffering a very scary and nasty fall in rehearsal while performing a Cirque du Soleil-style aerial stunt high above the stage. (I’m astounded that more contestants haven’t fallen on this show, given the costumes’ limited range of vision and motion. But I’m relieved that the Cotton Candy’s fluffy costume seemingly cushioned her landing.)
Instead it was the Ice Cube that ultimately melted under the pressure. I had hoped that, in a totally meta moment, the Ice Cube would be another old-school rapper: the actual Ice Cube, N.W.A.’s O’Shea Jackson, who costarred with Masked judge Ken Jeong in Ride Along 2. This cool character’s verbal “Word Up!” clue was even “‘90s icon”! But the Cube was in fact the equally iconic but otherwise completely different Bill Nye the Science Guy. Bill’s awkward attempt to do ballroom to the Postmodern Jukebox version of “Bad Romance” unfortunately didn’t have the judges going gaga; if only he’d danced to Oingo Boingo’s “Weird Science” (like he did on Dancing With the Stars in Season 13), or maybe to “She Blinded Me With Science” by fellow brainiac Thomas Dolby, he might not have been iced out of the competition so soon.
Surprisingly, Ken, who is almost never right on The Masked Singer, made a scientifically accurate guess this week and figured out that this was indeed Nye. (The other judges speculated that the ice-man was everyone from Axl Rose to Anderson Cooper to Al Gore). This was impressive, as the Masked Dancer panelists must rely solely on clue packages and body language when scrutinizing the contestants. But how well did Ken and the other judges do at identifying Group B’s other celebrities? And how well did I do? Let’s get into Science Guy mode and try to make some calculated guesses.
The Cotton Candy
While lesser Masked Dancer contestants have literally gone through the motions this season, this confectionary creature took things to literally new heights by recreating P!nk’s iconic “Glitter in the Air” aerial performance from the 2010 Grammys. Though her above-mentioned rehearsal mishap almost ruined her chances before his season was even fully underway, her triumphant recovery on the main stage proved that she has what it takes to be this season’s ultimate champ. Judge Ashley Tisdale praised the Cotton Candy “winner’s attitude,” and Ken called this “the most beautiful performance I’ve ever seen on a Masked show.”
The clues: She’s a “perfectionist” and “wiz kid” who moved in with a new family in order or pursue her showbiz dreams — a childhood experience that she found traumatic. We also saw a traditional English breakfast, three-pound dumbbells, and lips-patterned cupcakes.
Judges’ guesses: Jenna Dewan, Kylie Jenner, Julianne Hough, and even the actual P!nk.
My guess: Julianne fits the bill. Besides being a pro who knows how to avoid and/or quickly rebound from injury, she was sent to study dance in England as a child. The Cotton Candy’s petite frame is also a match for Julianne.
The Sloth brought the comedy during his ‘80s aerobics routine to the Romantics’ “What I Like About You,” using a backup dancer as a human weight for his bicep curls and faking a Redd Foxx-style heart attack while sprinting on a treadmill. There was a lot to like about this goofy performance.
The clues: We saw a badge with the initials “D.R.,” the number 13, fire, and a tube of GLEEM toothpaste (with the letter M blocked out). He mentioned a bad childhood accident and said, “People talked down and dirty to me and said I was just a Mickey Mouse operation.” Other verbal clues were the line “call the feds” and the word “Broadway” in a strange (and probably fake) Transylvanian accent.
Judges’ guesses: Matthew Morrison, Taye Diggs, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Derulo, Kevin Federline.
My guess: A lot of the clues do point to Playing With Fire rapper K-Fed, a former professional dancer and the ex-husband of Mickey Mouse Club star Britney Spears. But I going to go with Broadway actor, “I Wanna Be on Glee” singer, and Disney fanatic Todrick Hall. Todrick is besties with Taylor Swift (whose lucky number is 13); the “D.R.” could stand for another reality show on which Todrick regularly appears, RuPaul’s Drag Race; and the story about being looked down upon is reminiscent of his revenge song “F**.” Todrick is also a total ham who could pull off this sort of wacky routine.
This striped star really hoofed it to Sérgio Mendes’s “Magalenha” and worked that black-and-white fringe during his fun salsa number — so much so that almost of the judges guessed that he was an actual Latin music pop star.
The clues: We saw a silver medal and a hot dog, and we heard a ton of boy-band lyrical references that made it seem like this might be someone from One Direction, New Kids on the Block, or the Backstreet Boys. He said he’s been off the scene for a while, but “even the president” knows his name and he is ready for his “comeback” and “second act.” He also said he had a rough time growing up and has an “achin’ in his heart.”
Judges’ guesses: Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias, Marc Anthony, Pitbull, Kevin Richardson.
My guess: I think it’s neither a Latin singer nor a boy-bander. I think this is Clay Aiken (“achin’,” get it?), who was on The Celebrity Apprentice with President Trump (on which he got the “silver,” second place, just as he did on American Idol). Clay hasn’t released an album in nine years, but he’s definitely had a second act as a politician. I hope I am right, because I’d love to see Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson, and Clay Aiken all on television together on the same night. Maybe Clay could even make it to second place again!
It was clear that this winged creature isn’t a trained dancer, but she moved well during her line-dance to “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.” Paula called her “a natural” and described her performance as “regal.”
The clues: She stumbled upon fame accidentally, after making headlines due to a presidential scandal; the experience changed her life forever, but the self-described “survivor” used her platform to shine a light on important issues and help other. We also saw a box of shredded, discarded clothes and a maple tree, and the Moth’s “Word Up! clue was “inspired.”
Judges’ guesses: Megan Kelly, Monica Lewinsky, Marla Maples.
My guess: Monica might be too obvious, but the clues do add up. She has become an outspoken anti-bullying activist and #MeToo crusader, and the boxed secondhand clothes could be a reference to her infamous blue dress (or to her short-lived fashion-design career). Plus, Monica has masked-reality-TV experience: Let’s not forget she hosted Fox’s Mr. Personality in 2003!
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