I recently spent 12 hours watching mindless content on Disney+, a tortuous binge that, at the time, felt like one of the worst things that could’ve happened to me. But alas, my short-sightedness—or perhaps my brain’s trying to prevent me from remembering traumatic incidents of the past—made me briefly forget that there is still more of The Masked Singer’s second season to watch.
But still, the show, and these, uh, recaps, must go on. Thankfully, to spice things up this week, there was yet another guest judge, Joel McHale, to join our regular panel of four—Robin Thicke, Ken Jeong, Nicole Scherzinger, and notorious anti-vaxxer Jenny McCarthy. McHale showed up in the show’s first season and, mercifully, spent the whole time commenting on how strange and stupid the show was while barely hiding his contempt for its concept. (Imagine getting invited to some glitzy party and telling the hosts their decorations suck: same principle.)
I can only assume the other judges and host Nick Cannon have some level of self-awareness about the series they’re on, but I suppose for [clears throat] paycheck reasons, they keep these thoughts to themselves. I like McHale, and the best thing The Masked Singer could do is have him replace either Jeong or McCarthy, who are annoying and hate life-saving vaccinations, respectively. And while McHale didn’t roast his fellow judges as badly as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog did last week, he did properly ether his former Community costar by saying, “Ken, I think you’re great, and I think we’re all shocked you brought up your movie career.” (For context: Ken was making a horrible case for the Flamingo being Bella Thorne, who’s too cool and too busy directing award-winning porn—yes, really—to be bothered with this show.)
Flamingo, for what it’s worth, did a great job opening the episode with her rendition of Patti LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade.” The crowd got super into it. Greta Gerwig was out here losing her damn mind.
The use of a Patti LaBelle song was particularly intriguing because it seemed clear to everyone on the judges’ panel for weeks that the Flower—who also performed this week, along with the Leopard and Rottweiler—was actually Patti LaBelle. Like with Gladys Knight showing up as an LSD-trip Bee last season, no amount of nightmarish outfitting could hide an iconic, soulful voice. It also felt somewhat disrespectful to make the “godmother of soul” wear something that made her look like a botanical mutation from Annihilation. But assuming the Flower was LaBelle, it seemed that she would be a shoo-in for a deep run in the competition.
And yet. The way this episode was set up, the characters were put in one-on-one matchups. The Flamingo and Leopard were paired, and so were the Rottweiler and Flower. The contestants who received the fewest votes from the studio audience would then have to compete in another “smackdown”—reminder: It’s called that only because Fox is clearly trying to promote WWE’s SmackDown—which would then be voted on by the panel, rather than the audience. (I promise this distinction is important.)
Rottweiler bested the Flower, and Flamingo topped the Leopard, leaving the two of them in the climactic showdown. (Which was, if my suspicions were correct, actually Patti LaBelle versus goddamn Seal.) There is nothing particularly novel about the “smackdown” framework: The masked contestants just take turns singing and playfully act like they’ve got some beef. McHale joked that he hoped this is the part of the show where the contestants literally fight, and good god I’d have paid to see that.
Anyway, Leopard opened the showdown by covering the Pussycat Dolls’ “Don’t Cha” before Flower did Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger”—and this is where I think we have to discuss the apparent lack of Masked Singer ethics. Nicole Scherzinger is a former member of the Pussycat Dolls, and she has one of only five deciding votes in this part of the contest. A contestant shouldn’t be able to curry favor with a judge by performing one of their songs. I’m not even putting the blame on Scherzinger—if a coworker tells me they think Venom is the best film ever made and that the Fast & Furious franchise is great cinema, I will ride or die for them. Someone behind the scenes—the show’s executive producer, Satan himself?—should’ve prevented the Leopard from choosing that song. It could also set a bad precedent; all another contestant needs to do to win over Jeong is tell him they thought he was hilarious in The Hangover and that his Netflix stand-up special didn’t suck. (It did.)
Still, props to probably-Seal for the savvy gamesmanship, of which I’m certain got him at least one easy vote from the panel. And so the Flower was eliminated, and unsurprisingly revealed to be Patti LaBelle.
There are seven contestants remaining this season—including the Thingamajig, who I believe to be Victor Oladipo—so Patti LaBelle just finished the competition in eighth place. That’s absolutely criminal. But at least she took it in stride: “It feels awesome. It feels like I did win.” Well, even if LaBelle did win Season 2 of The Masked Singer, it wouldn’t have made her highlight reel. As if we needed any more excuses, please, just let Oladipo’s Thingamajig win this thing and then burn the Masked Singer studio to the ground.