Contestant ordered to keep mask on, in historic ‘Masked Singer first

The Medusa is saved by the judges from elimination for the first time in 'The Masked Singer'  history.  (Photo: Fox)

The Medusa is saved by the judges from elimination for the first time in ‘The Masked Singer’ history. (Photo: Fox)

Wednesday was New York Night on The Masked Singer, and as the classic Sinatra song goes, if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere. However, one contestant, the Medusa, almost didn’t make it, and she was about to be unmasked… when, in a Masked Singer first, the judges chose to rescue a contestant from the brink of elimination.

“For the first time ever on this show, we got to save someone! We love you!” shouted judge Nicole Scherzinger, as the needle scratched on that Who song. Host Nick Cannon instructed the studio audience to stop chanting, “Take it off, take it off,” and he instructed the shocked, sobbing Medusa to stop unscrewing her scaly headdress.

The Medusa confessed that she was “not wearing waterproof mascara” behind her mask, and joked that the snakes nesting on her head were crying too, as she said, “After I heard the California Roll [more on that contestant in a moment]I knew they won — and I felt so embarrassed! Thank you so much. This means more to me than you’ll ever know.”

The Medusa is told not to remove her mask, just as 'The Masked Singer'  host Nick Cannon was about to reveal her identity.  (Photo: Fox)

The Medusa is told not to remove her mask, just as ‘The Masked Singer’ host Nick Cannon was about to reveal her identity. (Photo: Fox)

The Medusa cries after the judges save her at the last minute on 'The Masked Singer.'  (Photo: Fox)

The Medusa cries after the judges save her at the last minute on ‘The Masked Singer.’ (Photo: Fox)

As explained on the Season 9 premiere two weeks ago, there’s a new twist this year called the Ding Dong Keep It On Bell, which allows the judging panel to unanimously save one celebrity cosplayer per bracket from elimination. The judges didn’t use it on Dick Van Dyke, Sara Evans, or Howie Mandel, and not even on Debbie Gibson, which was a controversial call. But finally, this week — the last week for the Group A bracket — the Bell tolled. Let’s face it, there was noway the judges could let the Medusa go home after she warbled a magical, ethereal indie version of “New York, New York,” which had Jenny McCarthy-Wahlberg raving, “We are all so speechless right now! If you don’t have shelves of Grammys on your wall, I will be very surprised. That was one of the best, most unique performances to date.”

However, all this doesn’t mean that the Medusa, who was the reigning queen going into this week, successfully defended her crown and moved on to the quarterfinals. No, that honor went to Group A’s new champ, the above-mentioned California Roll (an act that probably actually doesn’t have shelves of Grammys) — after that fishy quintet’s harmonic, Broadway-style performance of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” (which Ken Jeong said would make Mother Monster herself proud) and their equally epic a cappella deconstruction of Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” during their Battle Royale against the Medusa (which Ken said was the most competitive battle in the series’ history). Instead, the Medusa will have to fight her way back into the competition against the other saved-by-the Ding-Dong-Bell contestants, later on this season. But before all that happens, and before we get to a new batch of mystery celebrities with next week’s Group B bracket… who is the Medusa?

This week, Nicole thought the Medusa might be Lorde, Florence Welch, or Shirley Manson (one of this week’s new clues was a Scottish terrier pup, and Shirley is from Edinburgh), while Ken guessed another Scottish singer… um, Susan Boyle. Robin Thicke guessed Kesha, and Jenny guessed Halsey. As for me, for weeks I’ve been convinced that this serpentine diva is Fergie, and so has the rest of the internet; in fact, even has the MVPea in the top spot on its leaderboard, at a 33% chance. But now, based on this week’s clues, including the Scotty dog, I believe the Medusa is that betting site’s 11.1% longshot option: alt-rock artist Bishop Briggs.

Let’s assess all the clues. This “dancer in the dark” grew up “far from the spotlight” — and “Dark Side” singer Bishop, whose real name is Sarah Grace McLaughlin, is the daughter of Scottish parents from the East Dunbartonshire, Scottish town of Bishopbriggs. She also mentioned this week that “New York, New York” is her father’s favorite karaoke song, and she grew up singing it with him; this all ties in to last week’s clue, an international plane ticket and the year 1996, because Bishop, who was born in ’92, moved to Japan with her family at age 4 and sang in public for the first time at a Tokyo karaoke bar .

Other clues have included the Super Bowl (Bishop’s track “Wild Horses” was in an Acura Super Bowl commercial); a “True Love” chest tattoo (Bishop has a song called “Tattooed on My Heart”); Buckingham Palace (Bishop was born in London); a framed portrait of Chris Martin (she has opened for Coldplay on tour); rainbow-backlit palm trees (she’s played Coachella twice); and a DVD cover that boasted “$340 million sold,” which the Medusa held up while saying, “Sometimes success comes in the greyest of places” (Bishop’s cover of INXS’s “Never Tear Us Apart” was in Fifty Shades Freed, which grossed a reported $340 million). She also said she’s “technically been here before,” and Season 6’s champion, Jewel (aka the Queen of Hearts), memorably covered Bishop’s “River.” And, oh yeah — and there was also that bishop chess-piece clue. Duh.

As for this week’s actual eliminatee, the cool-as-ice Polar Bear, he was revealed to be legendary Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Grandmaster Flash, repping his home turf of the Bronx — which he put on the hip-hop map decades ago — fittingly on The Masked Singer‘s New York Night. (“Where I come from, it’s nothing but swag,” he drawled proudly.) The Polar Bear was iced out of the competition after giving a not-exactly-Bell-worthy performance of Blondie’s super-soprano “Rapture,” but I appreciated how he tipped his sideways cap to another iconic New York music act that “changed the game.”

After all, Flash was the partial inspiration for “Rapture,” which became the first US No. 1 single to feature rap vocals and the first rap video played on MTV. And Blondie’s Chris Stein also worked on the soundtrack/score of 1983’s Wild Style, the first major hip-hop motion picture, which featured Flash. And I imagine Chris Stein and Debbie Harry could think of no better tribute than seeing their old friend in a bear suit layered with an old-skool tracksuit, trilling a funky-fresh version of their crossover classic while a freaky Statue of Liberty busted out some pop-locking moves. Flash is fast, Flash is cool, indeed.

As for the surviving/reigning California Roll, the judges thought they might be the cast of The Lion King musical, High School Musicalor Pitch Perfectbut it’s hard to imagine them being anyone other than a three-time Grammy-winning group that was launched by another talent competition: Pentatonix. One clue was a tiger, and Pentatonix covered “Eye of the Tiger” when they won The Sing-Off Season 3 finale. The Roll has “rubbed shoulders” with Dolly Parton, and PTX won a Grammy for their “Jolene” duet with Dolly. One member has done Broadway (Kirstin Maldonado was in Kinky Boots); another recently got married (Matt Sallee); one is a “DJ all night long” (Mitch Grassi, who moonlights as darkwave act Messer); and one of them, the Roll’s main singer, sure sounded a lot like Scott Hoying. But probably the biggest clue was a mention of “5 billion and growing” — roughly the number of YouTube views that Pentatonix have racked up during their stellar and unorthodox career.

We’ll have to wait a bit to find out who both the California Roll and Medusa are, and to hear them sing again. But tune in next week for DC Superhero Night, when we’ll find out that not all heroes wear capes, but some of them do wear Gargoyle, Jackalope, Dandelion, or Squirrel costumes. See you then.

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