“There cannot be peace without first a great suffering. The greater the suffering, the greater the peace.” —Mustachioed Henry Cavill’s manifesto, Mission: Impossible—Fallout
I watched Joker on Tuesday night, certain that it would be the worst thing I’d experience all week. Then, in a cold sweat, I remembered that The Masked Singer exists, that it is very popular, and that it will probably continue to exist until the Earth becomes uninhabitable or the singing competition series is mercifully canceled by Fox—whichever comes first. (It is honestly unclear; I could see this thing going on for 20 years to the point that the original “celebrity” judges panel begin appearing as masked contestants—minus Ken Jeong, whose embalmed corpse will fester in the Masked Singer studio ad infinitum, making the occasional deeply unfunny crack and/or reminder that he has a medical license.)
Send in the clowns—or rather, the Leopard, Black Widow (not the Marvel character, and hopefully not Scarlett Johansson), Flamingo, and Panda, our four masked competitors this week. Also, for some reason, host Nick Cannon made a point to flex that the show has a new floor in its studio, one that’s basically a giant screen that can pop up various images underneath the contestants when they perform. At one point, it looked like Cannon was floating above a younger Robin Thicke’s hair, and I couldn’t believe we were not even five minutes into the show.
Thankfully, Black Widow kicked us off with a characterestically trippy montage, perhaps taking place in the Billions sex dungeon. And because my brain is broken, all I could think was that Black Widow would be a great romantic partner for Venom, my slimy symbiote king:
This became its own internal adventure, as I pondered the depths with which The Masked Singer might lean into sponcon—they had three actors for Almost Family, a new Fox show, in the audience and spent a minute promoting it by asking them about the damn show and who they thought was behind the masks. Anyway, Black Widow finished her rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by reaching for the floor to reveal her spider caboose. She deservedly got full marks from the judges and provided yet another reminder that I really need to see a therapist.
After the Leopard—whom the judges thought was a female contestant, prompting a group seizure when its singing voice revealed that the performer is most likely male—also had a stellar performance, it had me worried that The Masked Singer was bringing in too many musically talented celebrities this season. (Who may well be professional singers.) Ideally, this show could strike a balance between legit singers—T-Pain was great last season and deserved to win!—and those who clearly have a passion for it without the professional training. If everyone is getting top marks, not only will the elimination rounds get brutal, but the drama of guessing who’s behind the masks will get sapped out of the show. The Masked Singer’s definitely gotten better at making the clues less obvious for people who can Google a few handy keywords, but if the show is populated by a bunch of professional singers, their famous voices will be easy to spot. (The Leopard, who’s tried to hide his voice, sounds a lot like Seal—and LOL, imagine if they made him dress up as a giant, sparkly seal.)
The Flamingo and the Panda were helpful course corrections, as neither of them were over-the-top good in their performances, implying they aren’t pros. Flamingo’s clue package—a vlog-style clip on a fictional platform called, lord help me, “ZooTube”—had our lizard brain judges panel assuming she’s some type of YouTube celebrity. While that seems too on the nose, Ken Jeong posited that—because the clues hinted at some kind of adversity in this person’s life—she could be Olivia Jade, and while that’s extremely unlikely, it would be iconic if she was unmasked and gave a shout-out to Aunt Becky.
The other benefit to having contestants that don’t get top marks is the occasional shade that pops up from the judges. When Ken theorized that the Panda could be Queen Latifah, both Nicole Scherzinger and Jenny McCarthy were enraged and blurted out “but she can sing!” (She meaning Queen Latifah.) The Panda looked adorable, sang all right, and got absolutely bodied by an anti-vaxxer. It’s moments like these that make The Masked Singer (somewhat) palatable.
If that diss wasn’t enough of a hint, alas, it was the Panda who was sent packing this week. The quicker someone gets eliminated, the harder it is for the judges to guess their identity, so the final choices were, in a word, eclectic. Jenny McCarthy went with Wanda Sykes, Nicole Scherzinger opted for Venus Williams, Robin Thicke picked Loni Love, and Ken Jeong maintained his super-off-base Queen Latifah stance. They were all extremely wrong, because it was professional boxer Laila Ali.
Ali should probably have punched Jenny McCarthy for that savage Latifah burn—and more importantly, for not believing in vaccinating children. Sadly, that didn’t happen. But there’s always next week. For the life of me, I haven’t gotten anyone to check out Lodge 49 or give the amazing Mr. Robot a second chance. But you people can’t get enough of the show where a professional boxer dresses up as a Panda to sing for a doctor, Nick Cannon, and the “Blurred Lines” dude. Forget the Joker: We are the clowns.