Totally twisted: 'Masked Singer' Doll is gender-bending metal rebel

The Doll performs on 'The Masked Singer.' (Photo: Michael Becker/Fox)
The Doll performs on 'The Masked Singer.' (Photo: Michael Becker/Fox) (Pete Dadds)
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When the Doll appeared on The Masked Singer last week, feeling “right at home” on ‘80s Night, the judges were in the right ballpark/decade/genre when they guessed that this misfit toy was Gene Simmons, Axl Rose, Sebastian Bach, or David Lee Roth. (They also guessed "5 Foot 1" singer Iggy Pop, totally ignoring the Doll's not-exactly-petite frame.) But it was incredibly obvious to me that this twisted sister was none other than corkscrew-curled rocker Dee Snider... who was unmasked this Wednesday on Movie Night.

As Dee himself noted in a recent Yahoo Entertainment interview, he was “wearing literally women's clothing” back in Twisted Sister’s early days, and he even said he would like to be a guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race, so that explains why he was such natural performer in the Doll’s sexy wiggle skirt, corset top, and “six-inch heels.” All these years later, the 68-year-old, 6-foot-1 rock god still had the legs to pull it off, too — those long, lean gams were a big tip-off to his true identity.

“Let me tell you: Gene Simmons? Iggy Pop? No one can work pumps like I do!” Dee quipped. "It's like riding a bike. I wore them in the '70s, and it all came back to me when I put them back on."

But the Doll's voice was the real giveaway. Dee had clearly tried to tone down his signature Stay Hungry screech during his Masked Singer run, but, as the recent Heavy Metal Hall of Fame inductee once famously declared, you can’t stop rock ‘n’ roll — so there was just no disguising his vocals. Judge Nicole Scherzinger actually observed that the “grit in his voice” was even more noticeable during this week’s cover of Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock” than it had been on last week’s ‘80s Night. (Side note: I really wish Dee had performed Twisted Sister’s own Pee-wee’s Big Adventure-popularized cult hit, “Burn in Hell,” for Movie Night instead.)

With Dee exiting the competition and no longer being Season 9’s leader of the pack, that meant we had a new Group C reigning champ, the Dandelion. The obvious Dandelion guess, based on the vocals alone, is this is Vanessa Williams; many of comments on the YouTube clip that Fox uploaded ahead of Wednesday's episode cited Vanessa by name, and "Vanessa Williams" started trending on Twitter before this week's episode was even over. But I know I’m going to sound like Ken Jeong here with this totally wild guess, but hear me out: I think this flower child could be Renée Zellweger...

First, the Dandelion sang “Over the Rainbow,” and she sounded a lot like Oscar-winner Renée doing that song in Judy. A quick compare-and-contrast listen to Renée “Here’s to Love” duet with Ewan McGregor in the retro rom-com Down With Love or her new “Two Steps” duet with singer-songwriter CM Talkington also reveals a strong sonic resemblance.

This blossoming singer also talked about “charting next to Olivia Rodrigo” (the Judy soundtrack was released around the same time as the first High School Musical: The Musical: The Series album); “laying down roots in a musical city” (Renée lives in Austin, the music capital of the U.S.); and “a devastating twister” that hit her home (in 2017, Renée volunteered to helped pets affected by Texas’s Hurricane Harvey). The Dandelion also said she’d rubbed shoulders with Madonna, Elton John, and Flea (the sort of names that would be in an A-lister like Renée’s contacts list) and had worked with “the living and the dead” (two of Renée’s earliest roles were in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation and the 1993 zombie film My Boyfriend’s Back). We also saw an apple, possibly a reference to the new AppleTV+ series Renée is executive-producing with Cynthia Erivo. I just wish, if this is really is Renée, that she’d done a Rex Manning cover from the Empire Records soundtrack on Movie Night instead.

Oh, who am I kidding? It's Vanessa. But whoever the Dandelion is — Vanessa, Renée, or one of the panel's guesses like Zooey Deschanel, Emmy Rossum, or Reese Witherspoon — after that stunning “Rainbow” performance, Jenny McCarthy-Wahlberg declared her “the new frontrunner” and said, “I guarantee, we are going see her in the finale!”

It remains to be seen if Wednesday’s other new contestant, the Mantis, who covered Bob Seger’s Risky Business-popularized “Old-Time Rock ‘n’ Roll,” will make it to the finale as well. But for now, he’s still in the game — because the judges used their Ding Dong Keep It on Bell on this singing stick insect. More specifically, Robin Thicke went rogue with his executive decision to ring the final Bell of the season on the Mantis, and it was unclear if his fellow panelists agreed with him. I personally thought the Mantis didn't deserve it, and O would have preferred if the Bell had tolled for the Doll! But, what's done is done. So… who is the Mantis?

This one’s a toughie. The Mantis is definitely some shape-shifting method actor, because he sounded like two completely different people doing the Seger song and then “(I’ve Got a) Golden Ticket” during his Battle Royale against the Dandelion. (The judges guessed he was Dennis Quaid, Cole Hauser, Kevin Bacon, or Keanu Reeves, but the latter is very unlikely — just take a listen to Keanu’s infamous ‘90s band Dogstar, in which he just played bass and didn’t sing at all.) At first the Mantis seemed like a joke contestant — he mentioned that “almost won an Emmy” for being “really freakin’ good at comedy” — but his second, more theatrical Willy Wonka number proved that he was, as Nicole put it, a “professional” who “knew exactly what he was doing up there.”

Among the Mantis’s visual clues were a helicopter, poker chips, and an acoustic guitar. He’s a published author, has acted in everything from Broadway to Shakespeare, and said “representing a legend was instrumental to my success” (indicating that he may have had a breakthrough role in a biopic — hence the judges’ Quaid guess). And now he “wants to less loose and dance with the wolves,” although I really do not think this is Kevin Costner.

Whoever the Mantis is, he will now move on to a pre-quarterfinals purgatory round to compete against fellow Ding Dong recipients the Medusa (who’s either Bishop Briggs or Fergie) and the Gargoyle (some sort of sports dude, which means I have no idea) for a spot in the Season 9 finale. In the meantime, the Dandelion will try to hold on to her reigning champ title next week, when she faces off against two new Group C mystery contestants on a theme night called “Masked Singer in Space” — which sounds absolutely bonkers and amazing. Perhaps the show really is saving the best for last! See you then.

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