Don't be cruel: Emotional 'Masked Singer' episode says goodbye to two teen idols

It was an emotional night on Wednesday’s The Masked Singer “Super 8” semifinals, and not just because viewers had to bid farewell to two costumed contestants, the Seashell and Crab, at the end of the episode.

It was because in the most bittersweet goodbye of Season 5 so far, the Crab was revealed to be, as host Nick Cannon excitedly proclaimed, the “King of R&B,” Bobby Brown — the man that judge Jenny McCarthy-Wahlberg said “managed to bring so much heart and love to this show.”

“Oh my God, you guys don't understand how I love this man right here!” said Nick. “You are one of my favorite artists of all time,” gushed judge Ken Jeong. And Robin Thicke even told Bobby, “My first talent show I ever did, I did ‘Every Little Step.’ I did all the moves. I tried to copy everything you did.” The respect they had for Bobby was intense and immense, and the soul superstar — who’d just slayed Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight,” and could therefore leave the show with his antennae-topped head held high — was clearly moved.

But Bobby, whose first song as the Crab, “Ain’t No Sunshine” — dedicated to the many loved ones he has lost — was once described by Ken as the “rawest performance we’ve had on this show,” became even more choked up when he explained why he signed up for The Masked Singer. “As everybody knows, I lost my two children,” he said softly. “I lost my daughter, Bobbi Kristina, and I lost my son just recently, Bobby Jr. And they were a part of everything that I do this for. I do this for my kids. And I just felt it was essential that I come out here and do it for my little ones — my 5-year-old, my 4-year-old, my 11-year-old — to let them see that their dad is still kicking.”

Keeping with this season's bad luck streak for marine-themed characters, following Mark “The Orca” McGrath’s exit last week and this week’s Crab elimination, Wednesday’s other castoff was the Seashell, who turned out to be Sister, Sister actress and lifestyle guru Tamera Mowry.

“I haven't been on a stage like this, singing, in over 20 years, so to have made it just this far means a lot,” Tamera confessed. While she humbly claimed that she didn’t have the vocal chops to compete with the contestants moving on to next week’s “Spicy 6” round, Robin assured her, “I think you're just one of those kind of talents that with your personality, you glow, your effervescence, you just could do anything you want in your life.”

As for those Spicy 6, they’re getting easier to guess — but some mystery remains. So, let’s review this week’s performances and clues:

The Piglet, “The Pretender”

He still had that unmistakable boy-band voice, but this little piggy did a pretty good job pretending to be a rocker on this hard-charging Foo Fighters song. He was going hog-wild! Could “March of the Pigs” by Nine Inch Nails be next? “That’s like an inner rock star, right there,” observed guest judge Rita Wilson.

Clues: Years ago, gave up on his dream amid a “perfect storm of despair” and moved back in with parents, but an eerily close-to-home speech by his pastor gave him an epiphany, so he rebooted his life and career. Other clues this week included a broken finger, an orange foam-finger peace sign, a UFO, and cotton candy, which he said reminded him of “one of his first jobs.” Previous weeks’ clues have included barbecue grilling, dog tags, the abbreviation “1 DR,” palm trees, and multiple references to being unlucky in love life until he met Mrs. Piglet.

Judges’ guesses: Lance Bass, Chris Pine, Nick Jonas, Eli or Peyton Manning.

My guess: Some of this week’s clues threw me off, but I’m sticking to my original guess of Nick Lachey. Not only does the Piglet sound exactly like the former 98 Degrees singer (and those grilling clues could be references to that boy band’s name), but one of Lachey’s first gigs was singing at Cincinnati’s Kings Island amusement park — where cotton candy is served.

The Robopine, “Let’s Get It On”

Judge Nicole Scherzinger has been crushing hard on this sharp-dressed mystery man, and this week she did seem ready to get it on with him, positively swooning over his “deep, dark, milky chocolate” persona. “I could listen to that voice on repeat allllll night long,” she purred after watching the Robopine's sexy performance, which Ken described as “epic.”

Clues: He’s been “struggling with depression” lately, but going on The Masked Singer has boosted his confidence. Self-esteem has actually always been an issue for him, ever since family members made fun of his voice when they heard him singing in the shower. (Later, when his impromptu musical performance at a block party was a big hit with his neighbors, he realized he had a future in show business.) We also saw baby toys, a lobster, and this season’s second mention of the Robopine’s former home, Costa Rica. Past clues have included a long “quest for a certain golden relic,” police sirens, lightning bolts, superheroes, cats, a throne, spiders, sanitation workers, angels, Washington, and heavy metal. He’s also father and grandfather and says he’s 60 years old — a claim the judges have repeatedly ignored when making their age-inappropriate guesses.

Judges’ guesses: Terry Crews, Terrence Howard, Aaron Hall, Jamie Foxx.

My non-guess: Nick Cannon has apparently figured out the Robopine’s identity and is a major fan, and everyone on Twitter thinks it’s Tyrese. But this prickly pop star remains an enigma to me. Last week I thought it might be MC Hammer, who’s the right age (and whose biggest single, “U Can’t Touch This,” might’ve inspired that porcupine costume). But many of the clues don’t lead to the Hammerman. So, this one has me stumped. All I know is, I just rewatched that “A Thousand Miles” scene in White Chicks, and I feel secure in my assertion that this is not Terry Crews.

The Chameleon, “Regulate”

This lounge-suited lizard kept it old-school with a G-funk classic, in tribute to his childhood idol who has since become his “ride or die” collaborator and friend. Ken told him, “Your flow is effortless,” and an impressed Cannon even said, “I would buy that track tonight!”

Clues: We saw two deer, many athletic clues, and a fried bird-and-cricket cake, plus we learned that he’s worked on the “big screen” and has been nominated for a Golden Globe. He’s also all about supporting the troops. Past visual clues have included martial arts, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, hot chicken wings, a black-and-yellow taxi, tailoring, and cheese.

Judges’ guesses: Machine Gun Kelly, Kyrie Irving, G-Eazy, Waka Flocka Flame, Wiz Khalifa.

My guess: The Chameleon is Khalifa — member of the Taylor Gang; Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai expert; recording artist behind “Black and Yellow,” a Ninja Turtle theme, “Chicken With the Cheese,” and the Golden Globe-nominated “See You Again”; and proud military brat. Wiz Khalifa’s hero was G-funk superstar Snoop Dogg, and the two have recorded, toured, and even starred in a movie together in recent years. Case closed.

The Yeti, “Lonely”

We’ve already had a spinoff show called The Masked Dancer, which I enjoyed, so this cooler-than-being-cool number had me hoping Fox will soon greenlight The Masked Skater. Or maybe a “Masked Singer on Ice” national tour? All kidding aside, this skating performance gave me chills. It was true blades of glory. I was surprised by how stunning it was. “You come out here looking like that and you’re supposed to make us laugh and be this entertainer, but you’re just pulling on my heartstrings,” gushed an unexpectedly weepy Nicole.

Clues: Years ago, the Yeti had a “once-in-a-lifetime role” that “created an avalanche of success,” but his “ego caused tons of chaos and it all blew up.” Now he’s getting a second chance. We saw the letters “ABCD” (with the D dropped), donuts, a brown puppy, line-dancing, and New Year’s Eve party hats and noisemakers. Past clues have includes three birthday cupcakes, berries, jam sandwiches, firewood, a paper valentine, and the words “Aphrodite” and “love, love, love.”

Judges’ guesses: SisQó, Todrick Hall, Justin Timberlake, Omarion, Mario.

My guess: I think this is “Ice Box” singer Omarion. The New Year’s clues could refer to his former boy band B2K (Boys of the New Millennium), and the donuts could be a play on his name and the title of his debut solo album, O. Also, the "ABCD" could be a reference to America's Best Dance Crew, on which he once was a judge. Plus, the Yeti sounds just like Omarion.

The Russian Dolls, “24K Magic”

Just when we thought we had these nesting all dolls all figured out (well, actually, I totally figured them out in episode one), they reveal another layer. This funky-fresh Bruno Mars cover even featured one of the dolls spitting rhymes! “I think you guys might take this competition,” predicted Jenny. Mmm… I think Jenny is right. They are going to bop till they drop.

Clues: There was “a time when everyone gave up on them,” and it was tough for them to start over. But they eventually sold out “one of the world’s most prestigious venues just around the corner” from the Russian Tea Room, and they found success again. We also saw red jellybeans, the Statue of Liberty, and a “Made in Milwaukee” sign. Past clues have included a Partridge Family-style tour bus, a softball field, the letter M, a serious health scare, and the word “pop.”

Judges’ guesses: Menudo, the Red Hot Chill Peppers, the Jonas Brothers, Boyz II Men… and, finally, Hanson.

My guess: Jenny should have recognized the Russian Dolls’ harmonies from when they performed on her MTV variety show in 1997 — and I bet she did, but she's been playing dumb. Instead, it was Nicole who finally said aloud what we’ve all been thinking for weeks: These living dolls are family pop group Hanson, whose eldest brother Isaac nearly died from a pulmonary embolism in 2007; who got their big break singing at a South by Southwest softball game; and have played at the Russian Tea Room-adjacent Carnegie Hall. Also, if the falsetto vocals in this week’s performance or last week’s Jason Derulo cover threw you off, just go listen to last year’s Hanson banger “Nothing But a Love Song,” compare and contrast, and get back to me. Case closed. (Side note: Yes, there is a fourth musical Hanson brother, Mac, who may or may not have been in that fourth doll costume.)

The Black Swan, “Use Somebody”

There was a time when Kings of Leon refused to license their music to TV talent shows, but times sure have changed. Just in the past two weeks alone, we’ve heard their biggest hit on American Idol, The Voice, and now The Masked Singer. But the Swan song was the best version. Nicole said she was “mesmerized, transfixed, in a trance over those vocals” and said she’d “never heard anyone sing it like that,” and Rita, noting that the rock anthem has been covered by dozens of artists, said, “It was like I was hearing it for the first time.”

Clues: The Black Swan dedicated this performance to her mother, who raised her alone in a one-bedroom apartment. We also saw a stuffed rabbit, an “I’m late!” sign, garden gnomes, a glass slipper, and goldfish crackers. Past clues have included three 10’s across the board, Montana, child stardom, legal problems, and a “faithful flock.”

Judges’ guesses: Kesha, Nelly Furtado, Demi Lovato, Becky G, JoJo.

My guess: Yes, the Black Swan is Nicole’s guess — JoJo. Nicole is totally going to snatch that Golden Ear trophy from Jenny this season, isn’t she? JoJo had a hit called “Too Little, Too Late”; was in a legal battle with her record label for years; competed on America’s Most Talented Kids; was originally approached to play Hannah Montana; has a food Instagram called JoJo’s Sweet Spots; and was raised by her single momager. And the rabbit is also a JoJo pun. Case closed.

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