Welcome to The Ringer’s weekly coverage of The Masked Singer, Fox’s new singing competition series that makes a disconcertingly compelling argument that we live in the darkest timeline. Based on a popular Korean program, the show is Black Mirror’s “Fifteen Million Merits” by way of Stanley Tucci’s wardrobe in The Hunger Games. The basic idea is that behind 12 masked singers—including but not limited to: a deer, hippo, alien, unicorn, and poodle, all adorned with costumes that look like they were designed by Sam Neill’s character in Event Horizon—is a celebrity, and it’s up to the audience at home and a panel of fellow “celebrities” (Robin Thicke, noted anti-vaxxer Jenny McCarthy, Ken Jeong, and Nicole Scherzinger) to guess who’s behind the mask as a contestant is eliminated each week. Let’s break down the biggest moments—including our latest unmasking—from Wednesday night’s episode, “Another Mask Bites the Dust.”
The Highlights (and Lowlights)
After Terry Bradshaw was eliminated in the last episode as Deer—a moniker that doesn’t nearly do the nightmare-inducing costume justice, since it featured a gas mask and seemed to have been designed by the inhabitants of the Black Lodge—we’re down to nine contestants in the first competition series executive produced by Lucifer himself. This week followed a familiar structure, with performances by the five contestants who didn’t compete in the previous episode—Rabbit, Alien, Raven, Poodle, and Bee—followed by an audience vote to determine who’s eliminated. Once again, the regular panel of “celebrity” judges was joined by Joel McHale, who we get to witness undergo an existential crisis on national television as he vacillates between condescension and legitimate excitement. (Joel, buddy, same.)
McHale has also been a valuable addition to the judges panel, which, as I’ve been liable to repeat every week, has been the worst part of the show. Robin Thicke—Robin Thicke!—is the only person who occasionally evaluates the contestants on the merits of their vocals and the “clue” packages that come with each masked performance. We’ve had some low points—Jenny McCarthy guessed president Barack Obama in the second episode—but this week was bad, even considering the low bar viewers have had to set for this panel. When the Rabbit’s clue package included a quote about “feeling boxed in” after being part of a group (it’s been implied he was, or is, a member of some kind of band) and some images of carrots—because you know, he’s a giant rabbit—Thicke said without a shred of irony: “Maybe it’s a boxer who is also a good chef.” “Maybe you were a celebrity chef on MasterChef,” McCarthy quickly added. The audience reaction—there were some really audible groans—spoke volumes.
But we’re just getting started. Alien performed again this week. Quick reminder: She’s hinted that she’s part of a famous family, and also seems to give off some model vibes. (Or maybe she isn’t, and I’m just projecting the symbolic boner all the judges seem to have for this masked contestant. Ken Jeong all but said he wants to copulate with the Alien, and this week, Nicole Scherzinger said that Alien was “looking so fine.” It’s gotten to the point that this poor person under the mask said, post-performance: “I think I finally proved to the panel that I’m a real deal and not just a cute body. It’s not my figure that will get me through to the next show.”) Scherzinger, to her credit, posited that Alien could be someone from the Jackson family—but somehow, Jenny McCarthy got fixated on Taylor Swift. You know, Taylor Swift, born of Hollywood royalty, who has nothing better to do with her time. If you heard the audience’s exasperation after that guess without context, you’d have assumed someone on Fox just enacted a public execution.
Sorry, one last thing: the Poodle, previously hinted to be from the Bay Area and an advocate for the LGBTQ community, is definitely not Kellyanne Conway or Omarosa, guys. Jesus Christ. (McHale was kidding about Omarosa, but Conway came up organically!)
By all means, I want The Masked Singer to continue for 15 more seasons and get popular enough that a former president or an incumbent senator will actually perform in some hallucinogenic getup. (In this perfectly chaotic scenario five years from now, Beto O’Rourke will reveal himself as the Plague Giraffe after performing Warren G’s “Regulate” and say, “You know what dope thing we really should be regulating, kids?”) But if The Masked Singer is going to become its best self, it might need to do a full purge of its judges panel, and keep guest judge Joel McHale on a permanent basis along with some new faces.
Oh, right, there were supposed to be some highlights here. Rabbit did a fine job with Avicii’s “Wake Me Up,” I guess. And the Bee’s soulful rendition of Bruno Mars’s “Locked Out of Heaven” leads me to believe we’re dealing with a famous singer from a much earlier generation. (Bee said her career began in the ’50s.)
In both weeks the contestant has performed, this award has gone to Alien. I genuinely want to give these superlatives some variety—but when a psychedelic Alien is floating in a child’s bedroom while also levitating some creepy-looking dolls from the set of the Annabelle franchise, it’s hard to make a compelling case for anyone else.
If these mind-bending Alien montages are James Harden, the other contestant montages are James Harden’s G league-ass teammates. Thankfully, we’ll get to see at least one more Alien montage on The Masked Singer, as it was Poodle who was eliminated this week; the audience was apparently not enthused by her (not terrible!) rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.”
And the Poodle Was …
Counselor to the President of the United States Kellyanne Conway! Kidding, it was comedian Margaret Cho.
Ken Jeong was particularly embarrassed he didn’t get anywhere close to guessing Cho, who played his on-screen sister on the sitcom Dr. Ken. “You are the reason I am a comedian,” he told her, hailing Cho as a pioneer in the Asian American community—a sweet moment for the episode to end on.
With every elimination, The Masked Singer is weeding out the contestants who aren’t professional singers, which has bittersweet ramifications. While it’s nice to hear some actually good performances each week—speaking of, the Bee slayed this episode and I’d be shocked, based off the clues, if she wasn’t Gladys Knight—having celebrities and athletes spice things up is fun, and widens the pool of potential contestants. Though perhaps it’s a good thing that The Masked Singer will be whittling down the options, before Jenny McCarthy lays out her theory that Joseph Kony is the Peacock and we, the collective audience, commit seppuku. Until next week, dystopia enthusiasts.