The Judge Cuts round of “America’s Got Talent” season 15 began on July 28 with another two-hour episode that saw the series doing things a little bit different in order to keep the crew and talent socially distant from one another. In this phase of “AGT,” judges Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel and Sofia Vergara convened on an outdoor set for a drive-in movie themed viewing of the acts filmed from home.
Absent from the Judge Cuts are the five acts that advanced from the auditions round straight to the live shows for receiving a Golden Buzzer from one of the judges or host Terry Crews. Those were Voices of Our City Choir (Terry’s pick), singer Roberta Battaglia (Sofia’s pick), singer Cristina Rae (Heidi’s pick), dance group WAFFLE Crew (Simon’s pick) and spoke word artist Brandon Leake (Howie’s pick).
Below, follow along as we recap all the action on “America’s Got Talent” Season 15 Episode 9 in our minute-by-minute blog.
8:05 p.m. – The first step in the Judge Cuts journey was for the judges to rewatch the auditions of the acts that they gave a “yes” to, knowing that they’d have to cut at least half of them. In the montage of clips we got a taste of where the judges’ heads were at: Simon believes that the show needs danger acts, Heidi and Howie had differing opinions on singers and Simon highlighted the YouTube views of some of the auditions while Howie questioned whether or not that makes them worthy of advancing.
8:17 p.m. – The first act to find out their fate was singer Celina, who earned a yes from all four judges after her rendition of “Mercy.” Simon broke the news to her that she’d be “sailing straight through” to the live shows. Among those also going directly to the live shows were drummer Malik DOPE, singer Kelvin Dukes, ukulelist Feng E, singer Thomas Day, dancer Noah Epps, entertainers/twins Double Dragon, aerialist Alan Silva, sword swallower Brett Loudermilk, comedians Usama Siddiquee and Michael Yo, pig act Pork Chop Revue, impressionist Vincent Marcus, and singer Archie Williams. Not so lucky were dog act Jennifer and Daiquiri, band Broken Roots, and singer Ashley Marina.
8:25 p.m. – Leftover from those decisions were 10 acts that the judges wanted to see perform again for a chance to earn one of only five spots they left open in the live shows. The 10 acts received production assistance from the show in order to prepare and record an at-home audition.
8:31 p.m. – In this second chance round the first to perform was young salsa dancers Simon and Maria. Promising more footwork and with the goal of becoming the first child dancers to win the show, they performed a high energy routine from what looked like a school auditorium. Heidi and Sofia both thought they were better this time than in their original audition. Simon was really impressed by their routine given the backdrop of isolation from the lockdown.
8:35 p.m. – Next up was Scottish hula hooper Craig Reid who submitted his audition via tape from after in person auditions had concluded. Craig had a high quality production taped from the old sign lot in Vegas to Lady Gaga’s hit “Stupid Love.” Heidi was bopping along to his fun routine and then mentioned that she’s tried hula hooping with her kids and knows how hard it is. Howie called the act amazing, but cautioned him that he needs to make sure things “pop.”
8:43 p.m. – Mentalist Max Major was able to broadcast his Judge Cuts audition from the MGM Grand in Vegas with the strip behind him! For his performance Max used Simon as his muse, guiding him through a process of matching undisclosed photos with the photos of the judges through asking him questions about himself. Simon was able to match all the cards, but more surprisingly Max had a folded card that had all ofSimon’s personal answers already predicted. Simon called the trick “one of the most astonishing things” he’s ever seen and the rest of the panel all thought it was a step up from his original audition.
8:54 p.m. – Heidi wasn’t around the first time Shaquira McGrath auditioned so tonight was her introduction to her country vocals. Tonight she sang Avicii’s “Wake Me Up,” shrouded by the branches of the forest surrounding her. Throughout the stunning performance we caught glimpses of the judges all choked up with emotion. Simon told her that she commanded the screen from their point of view and thought her song choice was “spectacular.” Heidi said that she thinks she’s a country star and lights up when she does country.
9:03 p.m. – Next up was comedian Ty Barnett, another artist that Heidi hadn’t yet seen. Smartly, Ty set up his own audience in his garage so that he wouldn’t be telling his jokes to empty air. For this set he focused on his home life, specifically his relationship to and experiences with his kids. Sofia and Simon both thought that his first audition had better material, but Simon actually liked that his nerves showed because it meant he cares.
9:13 p.m. – The Brothers Gage returned for another audition using their harmonicas, but this time doing a cover song rather than an original. For their video they went into the desert and played with their pickup truck behind them and with excellent sound production. Howie wasn’t a huge fan of their act and Simon questioned how integral singing is to their act since they only did it for a few seconds.
9:17 p.m. – Singer songwriter Nolan Neal followed from a similar setting — dusk with desert mountains behind him and a roaring fire at his side. With his guitar the setting made the perfect atmosphere for his raspy version of “You’ve Got the Love.” Howie and Heidi both called his voice special and Simon said he has great taste in song choices. Sofia vowed to fight for him to move on to the live shows.
9:27 p.m. -Broadcasting from London, Ryan Tricks unveiled his latest magic act for the judges. Being in London provided him the opportunity to link up with Alesha Dixon, judge on “Britain’s Got Talent” and “AGT: The Champions.” With Alesha he was able to show us the power of the imagination by creating two tricks with her and her cell phone. Simon loved his showmanship and mystery and Sofia loved how he can command the stage.
9:36 p.m. – Coming back, The Ninja Twins knew that they’d have to win over Simon this time since he was the one that didn’t give them a “yes” vote. From their backyard they were able to create a whole summer paradise environment using pool floats and streamers while singing a cover of Justin Bieber’s “Yummy.” Reactions from the judges were a mixed bag: Howie was howling with laughter, Terry was vibing to the song and Simon’s jaw was on the floor. Heidi thought it was fun, but qualified it as a visual experience rather than just listening to it. Surprisingly they totally won Simon over by being “hysterical” and “bonkers.”
9:46 p.m. – The last act of the night came from danger act Jonathan Goodwin, someone Simon’s seen before on another show and according to Simon performed the most dangerous thing he’s ever seen. And tonight, well, Jonathan promised to perform something even more dangerous, an act he calls “Blindfold Chicken with Crossbows.” His setup required him to stand in front of a target blindfolded and dodge crossbow arrows based on only the sound of water pouring into bottles. Naturally, he achieved it but not before we all closed our eyes scared for our own lives! Simon loved it and said he’d be fighting for him to advance.
9:54 p.m. – After deliberating, the judges revealed the five acts the would advance to the live shows: Simon and Maria, Jonathan Goodwin, Shaquira McGrath, Max Major and Nolan Neal. That means we say goodbye to The Brothers Gage, Craig Reid, Ryan Tricks, Ty Barnett and The Ninja Twins.