'AGT' fans angry that contestant Thomas Day was brought back after 'lying' about reason for dropping out

Last week on America’s Got Talent, observant viewers were confused when teen-heartthrob singer Thomas Day mysteriously dropped out of the quarterfinals, with the already-eliminated country duo Broken Roots taking his place at the last minute. Thomas had originally been scheduled to perform in week three, then was bumped to week four, before he left the show entirely — all without any official explanation from the AGT powers-that-be. Last week, shortly after his abrupt departure, Thomas told a fan on Cameo that his high school football schedule had conflicted with the show. But this week, when he surprisingly returned to the semifinals as a wild-card contestant, the 17-year-old revealed the true reason for his absence.

As Thomas explained Tuesday, he and his mom were already in Hollywood for the quarterfinals rehearsals when his mother tested positive for COVID-19. Thomas was terrified for his mom’s wellbeing, while she was more concerned that her illness would derail her son’s AGT dream. The Days were quarantined from each other in separate hotel rooms for the next two weeks while Thomas underwent regular coronavirus tests … and then he eventually tested positive as well.

“I was scared for my health. My mom and I were fortunate — we got through it,” Thomas said this week when he returned to AGT. “I've watched the show. I've seen all the people go through. And I mean, I know my dream is over. I'm just waiting for the flight to go back home — and out of nowhere, on the last day of quarantine, that's when I got the call when they told me I was being brought back on the show as a wild card. I feel so blessed and thankful.”

So, on Tuesday, Thomas warbled Billie Eilish’s “When the Party’s Over” — sort of an ironic choice, because his AGT dream might be over after all. On a night of strong power-vocalists like Shaquira McGrath and Sofia Vergara’s Golden Buzzer pick Roberta Battaglia (not to mention the above-mentioned Broken Roots, who’ve become clear fan favorites), he struggled to stand out. “I'm so happy we had the chance for America to hear you again,” judge Heidi Klum said, before bluntly warning Thomas, “It's going to be tough. The competition is so tough tonight, especially with the singers.” But Sofia gushed about how “handsome” Thomas is and predicted that “the girls will go crazy” for him. Perhaps she is right, as Thomas does have a whopping 400,000 followers on TikTok — but let’s face it, the TikTok demographic isn’t exactly the core AGT voting audience.

While I sympathize with what Thomas endured and think it’s nice that he wasn’t totally robbed of his dream of competing on the live shows, I do question if bringing him back for the semifinals — after he’d already been fast-tracked straight to the quarterfinals in the first place — was the best use of one of this week’s two coveted wild-card spots. Many viewers on Twitter complained that it was downright unfair, especially when he hadn’t been honest about his real reason for withdrawing from the show. In fact, after Thomas’s Cameo video (in which he claimed that he “couldn't make it because of football” and insisted, “That's the truth. I wish there was something more to it”) surfaced on Reddit, some viewers even questioned which was his actual fib — what he said on Cameo last week, or what he said on this week’s episode.

Regardless, I would also argue that this Tuesday’s other wild card spot was wasted on Miami troupe Dance Town Family, a fodder contestant whose first audition was never even shown. There is little chance that either Thomas Day or Dance Town Family could actually win this season. One act that certainly could win this season, however, is spoken-word artist Brandon Leake.

Brandon wowed the judging panel with his first audition, a monologue about his late baby sister, earning Howie Mandel’s Golden Buzzer; last week, his quarterfinals performance of a heartbreaking Black Lives Matter poem was the standout of the evening, making him one of the top three contestants voted through by America. This week, he recited a series of increasingly enraged unanswered letters to his absentee father, and the effect was equally gut-punching. (Brandon later revealed that his dad is back in his life and was watching AGT at home, hearing these incendiary words for the first time.) Once again, Brandon was the star of the week. “Dear Brandon, I think you just earned yourself a spot into the finals. Xoxo, Heidi,” Heidi said, right after Brandon had left her in awe.

On Tuesday, 11 acts total performed, and on Wednesday’s results show, five will advance to the Season 15 finals. Like Heidi, I predict that Brandon will be among them — along with Shaquira McGrath, Roberta Battaglia, aerialist Alan Silva, and “all-American men” Broken Roots (whose performance of Blake Shelton’s “God’s Country” in a circle of fire certainly did play to AGT’s core audience). Unfortunately, it is probably the end of the road not just for Thomas, but for wrongly imprisoned Archie Williams, whose “Flying Without Wings” never really took flight and was cringe-inducingly shaky and pitchy throughout. However, if America is swayed by a singer’s sad backstory when it comes to voting, Archie will no doubt edge Thomas out.

Tune in Wednesday, when the results are revealed, and then again next Tuesday for another semifinals round — when, if there are any more wild cards left in play, they’ll hopefully go to the more worthy Bonavega and Sheldon Riley.

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