Raw deal: Multiplatinum, Grammy-winning California Roll narrowly misses making 'Masked Singer' finale

The California Roll on 'The Masked Singer' Season 9. (Photo: Fox)
The California Roll on 'The Masked Singer' Season 9. (Photo: Fox)
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This week on The Masked Singer, the California Roll, whom host Nick Cannon called “one of the greatest groups ever” and “the most unique act we've ever had,” got a raw deal, getting the chop(stick) and going home in third place — thus missing out on the Season 9 finale by just one week. And this was despite dazzling the judges with a creative and sophisticated vocal arrangement of Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway” that had Nicole Scherzinger raving, “It is truly an honor to have you on our stage, because you are masters at your craft.”

However, it’s not like the sushi sensations really needed the exposure, or any career boost they might get from a Masked Singer win. They’ve already won another singing competition, and in the 12 years since, they have become YouTube superstars with more than 5 million in record sales and more than 5 billion video views; won three Grammys (including Best Country Duo/Group Performance for their “Jolene” collaboration with none other than Dolly Parton); performed everywhere from the White House to the Hollywood Bowl; and released 11 studio albums, including a 2015 self-titled LP that historically established them as the first a cappella group to go to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Yes, in case you hadn’t hopped onto Google or Wikipedia while skimming the previous paragraph, the California Roll was The Sing-Off champions Pentatonix. But most viewers had already figured that out from the iconic voices alone. The judges might have played dumb by guessing that this sushi sensation was the cast of The Lion King, Hamilton, High School Musical, Dear Evan Hansen, In the Heights, Spring Awakening or Pitch Perfect, but there really was no way that the a cappella quintet could disguise their signature, pitch-perfect harmonies.

“You all defy what the human voice can do. It's just so innovative and next-level. We have champions, we have grade-A artists, on our stage right now,” said Nicole.

Wednesday’s upset result was a redemptive and vindicating development for the Medusa, who was almost eliminated on this season’s New York Night after losing her “Uptown Girl” Battle Royale to the quintuple-threat California Roll, but was saved by the judges’ first-ever Ding Song Keep It On Bell. Now, after delivering a majestic semifinals performance of Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” that was raw in its own way, and beating the California Roll in this week’s three-way Battle Royale of Bruno Mars’s “Runaway Baby,” she’s just one episode away from running away with the series’ ninth Golden Mask trophy. However, she’ll have to survive next Wednesday’s royal-est battle of all, against fellow fierce finalist the Macaw.

The fact that these two edged out the California Roll proves what sensational singers they both are, and what a competitive season this has been. So, let’s assess the clues, one last time… who are the Medusa and Macaw?

First, the Medusa. It’s Bishop Briggs. That was obvious weeks ago (although I initially guessed that this stone-cold diva was Fergie), but on Wednesday, when the Medusa mentioned that she gave birth to her son shortly after suddenly losing her “other half” and “biggest supporter” at a young age, that sealed the deal. Bishop became a mother in 2022, not long after she’d announced that her sister and best friend, Kate, had died from ovarian cancer.

All the other Medusa clues from this season add up, too. First, this platinum-selling singer with an “alias” is a “dancer in the dark” who grew up “far from the spotlight” — and “Dark Side” singer Bishop, whose real name is Sarah Grace McLaughlin, is the daughter of Scottish parents from the East Dunbartonshire, Scotland town of Bishopbriggs. (Two others Medusa clues have been a Scotty dog and a photo of the similarly named Sarah McLachlan, who inspired McLaughlin/Briggs to adopt a stage moniker.) The Medusa also mentioned that “New York, New York” is her dad’s favorite karaoke song and she grew up singing it with him, which aligns with two other clues: an international plane ticket and the year 1996, because Bishop moved to Japan with her family at ‘96 and sang in public for the first time at a Tokyo karaoke bar. Other clues have included the Super Bowl (Bishop’s track “Wild Horses” was in an Acura Super Bowl commercial); a “True Love” chest tattoo (Bishop has a song called “Tattooed on My Heart”); Buckingham Palace (Briggs was born in London); a framed portrait of Chris Martin (she has toured with Coldplay); rainbow-backlit palm trees (she’s played Coachella twice – one time while in her third trimester of pregnancy!); and a DVD cover that boasted “$340 million sold,” which the Medusa held up while saying, “Sometimes success comes in the greyest of places.” (Bishop’s cover of INXS’s “Never Tear Us Apart” was in Fifty Shades Freed, which grossed a reported $340 million.) She also said she’s “technically been here before,” and Season 6’s champion, Jewel (aka the Queen of Hearts), memorably covered Bishop’s hit “River.” And, of course, there was a bishop chess-piece clue.

And then, there’s the Macaw. His identity was obvious from the moment he first opened his beak to sing. Based on this feathered friend’s pure, pristine vocals alone, he’s clearly someone who has competed on a Fox network finale before: American Idol Season 7 runner-up David Archuleta. But all season long, this rainbow-winged singer has also made proud declarations like, “After going through a lot of life transitions, I feel I’m able to spread my wings and show my true colors,” “Being onstage in this costume makes me feel like I’m being myself,” and “This is the year I decided to be brave not just onstage, but in my life.” This week, before dedicating One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” to others who are “going through what I went through,” he opened up even more, stating: “I was young [when I started out], so I wasn’t quite sure who I was and who I was supposed to be. But as I was getting to know myself, I was also afraid of who was. I thought if I told the truth, I’d lose everyone. But when I did, it changed my life in such a beautiful way. It helped me feel like I don’t have hide anything anymore.” All of this points to the now 32-year-old David, who was just 16 when he competed on Idol, coming out as being on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum in 2021.

The Macaw has also revealed that “the pressure to always be ‘the good son’ has brought me so much anxiety,” and said he’s been performing since a young age but music “definitely didn’t start out as a passion,” with his dad bribing him with quesadillas as a child to get him to sing at a local Mexican restaurant. All this aligns with David well-publicized mental health struggles and his father Jeff Archuleta’s Idol-era reputation for being a pushy, domineering dadager. We’ve also seen a jar of salsa (a nod to David’s Honduran mother, who was a salsa dancer and singer — and a mention of a “love for the Philippines” (David’s fourth album, Forevermore, was released exclusively in the Philippines and featured of covers of Filipino hits). And finally, there have been several tip-offs that the Macaw is a second-place singing-show veteran, including a silver medal, a “VOTE” election sign, and a confession that he “didn’t think I’d be to handle the pressure of being on a stage like this again.”

So, can Archie win the entire competition this time around — and not only do what past American Idol/Masked Singer alumni Chris Daughtry, Todrick Hall, Tori Kelly, and Katharine McPhee could not, but also finally bring justice, peace, and closure to those poor viral crying fangirls, 15 years after he controversially lost on that “David vs. David” showdown to David Cook on Idol? Or will it be comeback queen the Medusa who slithers all the way to the winner’s circle? In their own ways, there’s both seeking second chances, and they’re both deserving. Find out who prevails when they figuratively and literally face off next Wednesday, May 17, on what might be the most competitive finale in Masked Singer history.

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