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, “Mix and Masks.”
The Highlights (and Lowlights)
Love it or hate it, whether you’re watching it for the primal thrill of seeing C-list celebrities sing in their best Five Nights at Freddy’s cosplay or for reasons beyond comprehension, we’ll be getting more of The Masked Singer in the future. As Variety reported on Wednesday, Fox has officially renewed the competition series for a second season, which will, in the words of the network’s president of alternative entertainment and specials, Rob Wade, be “even more fun, weird, and wonderful than the first.” Not sure what “more weird” could possibly entail—have Fox executives been watching their own show?—but the thought is already giving me more nightmares than usual.
We have only ourselves to blame for this hellscape—so many people are watching The Masked Singer! Initially, I met this news with contempt: I really spent literal years of my life trying to get at least three people to watch The Americans, to no avail, and suddenly a dozen friends are texting me some variation of, “Wow, so I just started The Masked Singer, this is legitimately terrible; can’t wait for next week!” Am I mad, a little perplexed? Yes. Have I also turned one wall in my bedroom into a Masked Singer vision board adorned with photos of T-Pain, Gladys Knight, and Joey Fatone, cutouts of the various masked creatures, and lines connecting all of this to dark web theories about the impending collapse of modern civilization? I’m not at liberty to say, but I’m 50 percent sure one contestant is also one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and if they win the series, we’ll all be doomed to eternal hellfire.
Oh right, there was an episode this week. Four contestants returned: Rabbit, Unicorn, Alien, and Lion. The setup was familiar: All four masked monstrosities would sing, and the (likely narcotized) studio audience would vote and determine who’d be eliminated. The newest wrinkle this week happened at the start of the episode: Before the actual competition took place, all four singers came out and did a four-creature ballad of Imagine Dragons’ “On Top of the World.” Even by Masked Singer standards, it was a bizarre affair.
Why did this happen? Honestly, I’m pretty sure The Masked Singer needed to fill airtime—the longer the competition goes on, and the more contestants we lose, the less performances there are, meaning the show’s going to have to get creative. Don’t be surprised if next week we’re treated to the Monster performing a hypnotic ballet routine to the soothing melodies of “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima.”
By the low standards of our “celebrity” judges panel, this week was also an improvement on the contestant-guessing front. (As in, nobody suggested anything as egregious as president Barack Obama or Kellyanne Conway.) The most damning incident came from—guess who?—Jenny McCarthy, after the Rabbit’s voice-over during his weekly clue package included the phrase “chew on this,” which made her believe he might be a celebrity chef, even though the line clearly seemed to be a play on rabbits being partial to carrots. (Note: The Rabbit has already demonstrated he can sing and dance quite well, and there have been several hints he used to be a member of a band, not Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen.) McCarthy caught herself when the Rabbit performed Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison” and was flexing some serious moves.
No shit! I shouted at my television screen. All credit to the Rabbit for doing a solid job with “Poison,” though, even if Turk from Scrubs did it better.
This award is the Alien’s to win so long as he/she/it/? stays in the competition. It’s getting ridiculous. The other contestants do have weird creature montages, but the Alien’s are just constantly on another level. Watching another contestant’s montage is like taking a few gentle puffs of weed; watching the Alien’s montage is like chugging ayahuasca. The recurring theme for the Alien seems to be levitation, for some reason. This week the Alien [gives doctor urine sample] has a floating picnic with a bodyguard, and has taken up gardening as a hobby?
Thankfully, the judges have steered away from objectifying the Alien—Ken Jeong, actual doctor, repeatedly insisted she was really hot in earlier episodes—and moved toward some sensible guessing. The Alien has said she’s from a famous family, and the judges have seemed to whittle down the identity to four options: La Toya Jackson, Nicole Richie, Paula Abdul, and Paris Hilton. Given the Alien has a recurring snake motif in her clue packages, and La Toya Jackson has a propensity for holding actual snakes at events, my best guess would be her. Judges, good job, that was sensible?
But the official confirmation of Alien’s identity is going to have to wait at least one more week, as the Unicorn was eliminated this week. There’s no qualms to be had here—frankly, it should’ve happened sooner. The Unicorn routinely has been one of the worst performers, and I’m not sure how she survived this long. I did not love it, it being her rendition of Icona Pop’s “I Love It.”
And the Unicorn Was …
Not a professional singer! It was 90210’s Tori Spelling, which seems to confirm what we suspected all along: That The Masked Singer is mostly an excuse for washed celebrities to get back into the spotlight under the pretense of nightmarish costumes.
One of Spelling’s big clues this week was an old typewriter, which she said was the one her father, producer-screenwriter Aaron Spelling, used to pen screenplays. (It’s also worth mentioning that Spelling’s own autobiography is called Stori Telling, which I want to hate so badly but have to admit is stupidly clever.) Spelling said when she was a kid someone described her singing as tone-deaf and it shattered her confidence to sing and perform in front of an audience, so I am genuinely happy for her that she got to face one of her big fears and came away happy from the experience.
We should also give credit to Ken Jeong for correctly guessing it was Spelling before the unmasking; the only judge on the panel who made the pick. “Could you be making sense right now?” McCarthy said to him with a slight hint of shade, which probably cut Jeong pretty deep, since I’m sure he at least vaccinates his children.
Since The Masked Singer is officially coming back for a second season, we might as well draft a petition now to replace McCarthy with former guest judge Joel McHale, who embodies the whole “this is horrifying but I can’t stop watching it?” ethos of this series. Or, you know, if Tori Spelling wants to return in a panel capacity, we’d welcome that, too. Bring the whole 90210 cast. I’m sure Luke Perry would leave Riverdale for this.