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 go through the biggest moments—including our latest unmasking—from Wednesday night’s episode, “All Together Now.”
The Highlights (and Lowlights)
It happened again. The dream. I’m walking—floating?—through an abyss, unable to orient myself to the dark, seemingly empty void. No matter how far I push myself in one direction, I don’t make any progress. Or is it even worse than that: am I not moving anywhere at all?
Finally, hope. A beacon of light emerges; I walk toward it. I see the silhouette of a man—it’s a vague outline, but I can make out something sparkling on his outfit. I start moving closer. The man slowly moves his hands toward his head to—what, remove something? He’s holding a microphone, and by the time I’m just a few feet away from him, it hits me: This is Nick Cannon, in a bedazzled suit. “Now Miles, after seeing that performance, did you pick up on any CLUES?” he says, an impish grin spreading across his face like wildfire. He gestures for me to turn around, and not two feet from me, the Monster, the Alien, and the Bee all stare at me vacantly. Were they here the whole time? “Good luck,” Cannon whispers, disappearing as we fade into darkness. The final, fleeting image etched into my brain is the Monster—with its perpetual, buck-toothed smile and giant, singular eye emanating its own faint glow—slowly moving toward me. Then I wake, sweating.
Anyway, back to The Masked Singer, a reality competition series that is definitely not having a permanent effect on my life. (Please help me.)
Oh boy, we are one week away from the Masked Singer semifinals. But before that, we needed to eliminate one more of the six remaining contestants—Monster, Lion, Alien, Bee, Rabbit, and Peacock—all of whom performed in this episode. The other big change to the proceedings this week was a celebrity guest judge joining the panel in J.B. Smoove. Smoove was the shake-up The Masked Singer sorely needed. Despite the fact all its contestants are wearing costumes that look like they were borrowed from the couture rack of Satan’s personal wardrobe, the series has been getting a little derivative—there’s only so many times you can listen to Jenny McCarthy take the contestant clues a little too literally, or Ken Jeong make a flat attempt at self-deprecating humor. (It’s not helping matters that sharp viewers at home have all but figured out all the identities of the remaining contestants, destroying a bit of the intrigue.)
With each contestant performed, the non-Smoove judges could barely get a word in edgewise this week—and it was great. Smoove noted “those are the feet of a black man,” after the Monster’s agile performance of Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock N’ Roll.” (Considering I’d be willing to bet my firstborn that the Monster is really T-Pain, well, agreed.) He was also impressed by the Lion’s vocals, but more importantly, by the contestant’s glitzy aesthetic: “If I was a rapper, I’d wear you around my damn neck.” And while the Alien probably wishes the judges would stop commenting on her overall attractiveness—reminder: Ken Jeong has all but stated he’d like to copulate with this anonymous celebrity dressed as an alien—Smoove couldn’t resist suggestively saying, “Take me to your leader.” (Which was somehow only the second-most-provocative thing said to the Alien, since Jenny McCarthy bluntly said the Alien is “the hottest thing I’ve ever seen,” which I guess, who am I to kink-shame a panel of apparent furries?)
Smoove capped off the episode by saying, “I know this whole thing is a cult,” which everyone laughed at. Except I think the collective laughing was masking (get it?) a disturbing kernel of truth: Maybe the whole Masked Singer enterprise is a cult. Host Nick Cannon and some members of the live studio audience had a somewhat nervous expression on their faces after Smoove dropped his Masked Singer cult theory.
Not convinced? [Blade Runner voice] Enhance.
Maybe my brain’s been rewired from covering The Masked Singer and True Detective every week—they’ve got more in common than you might think—but this is something to keep an eye on. If you watch The Masked Singer, are you unintentionally part of the cult, or at least complicit in spreading its message? How far does this thing go? Is there a symbol or some type of identifier to know someone is a Masked Singer cult member, like how Hydra members in The Winter Soldier whispered to one another? I’ll get you more on this story as it develops. This is my Spotlight.
Meanwhile, the performances this week were all very solid—the product of the remaining contestants (most likely) all being professional singers. I give them a lot of flak, so credit to the judges, who are also really improving on the guessing front, having nailed down the identities of masked singers that I’m also in agreement with. Gladys Knight as the Bee? Definitely. LaToya Jackson as the Alien? With all the snake motifs, it seems likely. Donny Osmond as the Peacock? Sure, why not? Joey Fatone as the Rabbit? I was on the Fatone scent—real term, sorry—from day one, thanks for catching up.
The only exception this week, once again, is the Monster. Nobody has seemed to pick up on the non-AutoTune’d T-Pain vibes he is emanating—in fact, none of the guesses are even close. Jenny McCarthy again insisted that the Monster could be Lil Jon. Does this sound like Lil Jon to you?
If you just said “YEAH,” please get your ears checked for tinnitus.
Eventually someone must pick up on the T-Pain vibes, right? (The Monster also implied he’s from the Sunshine State, and T-Pain was born in Tallahassee, Florida—c’mon, guys!) Robin Thicke seems to have the best grasp on who the masked singers are, so he’ll probably get there eventually and feel really stupid about it, since he—no joke—has repeatedly insisted it could be former boxer Sugar Ray Leonard. No offense, Sugar Ray, but I don’t think you’ve got pipes to go with the jaw-crushing uppercuts.
We’ve got a repeat winner in the “does my orange juice get spiked with LSD” department this week with the Monster, despite the fact the Alien was competing again and has generally given off the most psychedelic looks. Granted, the Alien’s montage certainly was weird—I just didn’t feel like I was under the most intense hallucinogenic properties watching an … alien law commercial with latitude and longitude coordinates?
(I tried to input the coordinates on a map but ended up in either bumblefuck, Russia, or the middle of the sea, so I’m pretty sure I’m doing this wrong and would be an awful Tomb Raider. If Nicolas Cage wouldn’t mind giving us a hand when he’s done stealing the Declaration of Independence, we’d really appreciate the assistance.)
Watching a law commercial is synonymous with sobriety and having nothing to watch on television. So as undeniably bizarre as Cellino & Barnes & Alien was, it does not compare to the Monster, who is most likely an adult T-Pain in a fluffy costume, being read a bedtime story by a bodyguard wearing sunglasses indoors.
Unfortunately, that faux-lawyer commercial was the last montage we’d ever get from Alien, who the studio audience and the panel voted as this week’s weakest contestant. While her rendition of Elle King’s “Ex’s and Oh’s” was solid, it just didn’t resonate as much as the performances of the other masked singers, who all brought their A-game. Still, making it this far into the competition, there’s no reason she shouldn’t hold her trippy alien head high.
And the Alien Was …
Given that the Alien’s first clues said that she was part of a famous family, the initial guesses from the panel were all over the place: Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Bella Hadid—even Kendall Jenner, as if she’d waste her time on The Masked Singer over watching Ben Simmons not take 3-pointers at Sixers games. Eventually, though, the repeated snake motifs in the clue packages pushed Nicole Scherzinger and Robin Thicke to go with LaToya Jackson. And, well, congrats: That’s exactly who the Alien was.
As a member of the Jackson family, LaToya certainly checked all the boxes. (A physical clue she offered was a Muncie, Indiana, police badge, referring to her appearance on the reality series Armed & Famous.) She said she wanted to come on The Masked Singer because people tend to “prejudge” her based on the fact she’s part of one of the most famous singing families on the planet. She was there for the anonymity the competition provided, and some of her performances as the Alien were certainly out of this world (I’ll see myself out).
It’s hard to believe, but we’ve got only two more episodes of The Masked Singer remaining: The semifinals next week will feature a double elimination, followed by a two-hour finale the week after. I’m definitely excited to see who’ll make it out on top and be unmasked last, especially with a bunch of talented powerhouses remaining. More than anything, though, I hope The Masked Singer’s conclusion will finally expunge these recurring nightmares from my brain. Please, I don’t want to go to the abyss again.